Nov. 3 (UPI) — Republicans held onto a three-state lead in the fight to keep control of the U.S. Senate with wins in Kentucky, South Carolina and Alabama, while Democrats flipped a seat blue in Colorado.
With about 33 percent of South Carolina counties reporting, Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham won re-election over Democratic challenger Jamie Harrison.
In Alabama, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, a newcomer to politics, defeated Democratic Incumbent Doug Jones, the first Democratic Senator from Alabama in 25 years.
Jones had won his seat in a special election in 2017 to fill the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, who temporarily served as President Donald Trump’s attorney general.
In the first Senate race to be called in Tuesday’s election, Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell easily won re-election against Democratic challenger Amy McGrath.
In South Carolina, Graham’s tabulated votes had reached a lead of 54.92% compared to Harrison’s 44.09%.
Harrison was a former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, and raised more than $108 million, the most of any U.S. Senate candidate this year. Graham raised $74 million, in a race that appeared in polls to be very close.
In Alabama, with 49 of 67 counties reporting, Tuberville’s vote tally was at 61.14% of the vote with Jones trailing at 38.70%.
In the first of what Democrats hoped would be a round of U.S. Senate seats to flip from red to blue, Colorado’s former governor, John Hickenlooper, defeated incumbent Republican Cory Gardner.
With 69% of counties reporting, Hickenlooper was the top vote-getter with 55.44% of the 2.3 million counted votes. Gardner had tallied 42.59% of the vote.
Hickenlooper, who briefly ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, formerly served as Colorado’s governor between 2011 and 2019. He was in office when the state legalized recreational marijuana, although he opposed the move. He has appealed to Colorado’s newly Democratic base.
“Thank you, Colorado! Serving you is the honor of my life, and I can’t wait to be your senator,” Hickenlooper tweeted.
In Kentucky, with more than 60 percent of ballots in the state counted, McConnell was ahead 56.3% to McGrath’s 40%. McConnell had a clear majority in most counties except around Louisville and Lexington, and in Franklin County.
Serving as Senate majority leader, McConnell, elected in 1984, is one of the longest-serving and most powerful members of the chamber. He has served as President Donald Trump’s supporter in expediting the confirmation of federal judges.
In Georgia, where both U.S. Senate races are in play, a special election between incumbent Republican newcomer Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock will face off in a runoff election Jan. 5, after GOP challenger Doug Collins conceded Tuesday.
The race for the U.S. Senate is being watched closely, as Democrats believe they have a chance to take control of both houses of the U.S. Congress if they flip enough seats blue. With 45 seats, plus two independent senators, Democrats needed to win four seats to guarantee a majority in the Senate.
If Democrats were to take control of the Senate and the presidency, the win will result in a trifecta of control of the federal government for the first time in 11 years.
On the agenda for the newly Democratic Senate might be fast-tracking the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion rescue bill passed by the U.S. House in May.
Democrats have been blocked by Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, for their efforts at tackling climate change, immigration and healthcare, and they may bring those issues to the U.S. Senate. They also may vote to end the Senate filibuster.
Here’s a look at other races in the Senate that may change hands in this election:
N.C.: Incumbent Thom Tillis vs. Democrat Cal Cunningham
Thom Tillis, elected six years ago, faces a challenge from Democrat Cal Cunningham, a former state lawmaker.
A member of the Senate judiciary committee, Tillis has taken some criticism for being present at the White House Rose Garden nomination for Barrett, after which many attendees tested positive for COVID-19.
Cunningham, also a former Army Reservist, broke fundraising records with almost $80 million in one quarter. But the release of racy text messages and an extramarital affair with a public relations strategist may have sullied some of his support.
Georgia: Incumbent David Perdue (R) vs. Jon Ossoff (D)
Georgia drew extra attention because both Senate seats are up for election.
Incumbent Republican David Perdue, a freshman senator, is being challenged by Jon Ossoff, a Democrat who nearly flipped Georgia’s House seat in the 6th District during a special election three years ago.
Ossoff won more than 48% of the vote in that contest, but didn’t meet the 50% threshold to win the seat outright. He was later defeated in the runoff, but his campaign inspired many Georgia Democrats who will again be voting for him to unseat Perdue.
Ossoff, at 33 one of the youngest Senate candidates in the United States, is a former media executive and investigative journalist.
Perdue, 70, is a close ally of Trump and a former chemical industry consultant. He also has repeatedly praised Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Arizona: Incumbent Martha McSally (R) vs. Mark Kelly (D)
McSally is in a closely contested race with Kelly, a former astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey two years ago to complete the term of the late Sen. John McCain, McSally has not followed McCain’s maverick, independent-minded strategy — which famously put him at odds with Trump.
Instead, McSally, a regular Trump supporter, has appeared at multiple rallies for the president and has pinned her hopes on appealing to the right-leaning rural base of the state’s Republican voters.
On the other side, Kelly has tried to pick up McCain’s maverick mantle and has promised to look for bipartisan solutions.
Demographic shifts and almost 1 million new residents are helping to shift Arizona’s partisan leanings. Many of the new Arizonans are from California, a state that’s long been solidly Democratic.
Maine: Incumbent Susan Collins (R) vs. Sara Gideon (D)
Collins has received criticism from both sides of the aisle during Trump’s presidency. Republicans have chided her for opposing Trump on several issues, like the failed GOP healthcare proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act, and she was the only Republican senator to oppose Barrett’s nomination.
Democrats have criticized her for taking a more conservative stance on other issues, like voting to acquit Trump during his Senate impeachment trial.
First elected in 1996, Collins follows a tradition of middle-of-the road New England Republicans and has tried to display her independence from the Trump presidency.
Gideon is the speaker of the Maine House and is looking to return the state to its deep Democratic roots in the Senate.
Iowa: Incumbent Joni Ernst (R) vs. Theresa Greenfield (D)
Ernst played up her farm roots during her last campaign, saying her experience castrating hogs taught her how to “cut pork.”
She was criticized for fumbling a question, though, about the price of soybeans in a recent debate with Greenfield, a real estate executive with no political experience.
Greenfield has attracted out-of-state money into the race and amassed a war chest totaling twice that of Ernst’s.