By: Daniel Wachman — Correspondent
***Live updates will be posted starting 8 pm Tuesday, November 3
Control of the United States Senate is highly competitive this election cycle, with millions of dollars being poured in from each party to try to claim the majority. Republicans are on defense this year – the independent election forecasters Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate nineteen Senate races as competitive: five seats held by Democrats, fourteen held by Republicans. With a 53-47 Republican majority in the Senate going into the election, Democrats are eyeing Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Maine, and Iowa as key seats to flip, while Republicans are focusing on defending those seats and defeating Democratic incumbents in Alabama and Michigan. Republican-held seats in Georgia, Montana, Kansas, Alaska, and South Carolina are also highly competitive this year; while they all lean Republican, there is significant potential for Democratic upsets in one or more races. Election forecasts look grim for Republicans, with a roughly 3-in-4 average chance of Democrats flipping the Senate. In almost every competitive race, Democrats have significantly outraised their Republican opponents, with some candidates shattering statewide and nationwide fundraising records. Polling averages put Democrats ahead in all five of their key targets, and only one Democratic incumbent is projected to lose re-election. If these results hold, the Democrats are likely to control the Senate for the first time since 2015. Whoever wins the presidential race will be given four years to achieve their policy goals; whether or not they can successfully do that depends on which party controls the Senate come January 2021.
New Hampshire: Incumbent Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen has been declared the victor in the Granite State, whose Electoral College votes barely went for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Shaheen faced Republican Corky Messner, who faced an uphill battle against the 12-year incumbent. Polls consistently put Shaheen ahead, which the results of the election now decisively agree with.
Kentucky: Despite raising millions of dollars from across the country, Democrat Amy McGrath fell to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tonight, who earned his 7th term in the Senate. While polls consistently indicated McConnell would cruise to re-election (in a tighter race than ever before, though), many Democrats held out some hope that McGrath could topple the Majority Leader, though those hopes were quickly squashed tonight.
Texas: NBC News has just called the Texas Senate race for incumbent Republican Senator John Cornyn, who faced a challenge from Air Force veteran MJ Hegar. Cornyn led in the polls for the entire campaign by steady margins, and as of this update, he is running well ahead of President Trump’s margins in the Lone Star State. Like Amy McGrath in Kentucky, Hegar raised millions from around the country, though her war chest could not propel her to victory in historically red Texas.
Colorado: Democrats earned their first flip of the night in the Sunshine State: FOX News has just projected that incumbent Republican Senator Cory Gardner will be denied a second term by former Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper. Hickenlooper unsuccessfully ran for president last year and quickly jumped into the Senate race once his presidential campaign fell through. Gardner consistently trailed Hickenlooper in the polls and Hickenlooper successfully raised millions, meaning Colorado will now have two Democratic senators.
Alabama: The New York Times has called the Senate race in Alabama for Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville, former Auburn University football coach. Incumbent Democratic Senator Doug Jones, who narrowly won a special election in 2017 and trailed Tuberville in the polls since the Republican jumped in the race, will be defeated. Democrats did not make major investments in Alabama like they did in other states with contested Senate seats, though Jones seemed doomed from the start.
South Carolina: Incumbent Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has fended off the toughest challenge of his career as the New York Times projects that he will defeat former South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison. Harrison shattered Senate fundraising records and polled closer to Graham than any Democratic challenger before him, raising Democratic hopes across the nation. However, in deep-red South Carolina, where President Trump was declared the victor earlier tonight, defeating Graham, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was a near-insurmountable task for Harrison.
Georgia: The Georgia special Senate election to fill the seat of former Senator Johnny Isakson will head to a runoff, says NBC News. Though the candidates in the top-two contest have not been declared yet, it is very likely that Reverend Rapahel Warnock of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, a Democrat, will face either Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, the incumbent, or Doug Collins, currently the congressman for Georgia’s 9th district. The candidates in the runoff will be determined later in the night.
Georgia: In the Senate special election, Republican Rep. Doug Collins has conceded to Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who will advance to the two-way runoff alongside Democratic Reverend Raphael Warnock. The runoff will take place in January and is looking to be a critically important race to determine control of the Senate – both Democrats and Republicans will likely pour in millions of dollars in this heated race.
Mississippi: For the second time in as many years, Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith has defeated former Democratic Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy. Hyde-Smith, who succeeded longtime Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran, beat Espy in a special election in 2018 and has now fended off a challenge from him again. In a state with one of the heaviest Republican leans in the nation, Espy always faced a very tough race; despite some national support, including from former President Barack Obama, Espy was unable to defeat the incumbent Senator. Hyde-Smith has now won her first full term in the Senate.
Kansas: Politico has called the race to fill retiring Senator Pat Roberts’s Kansas seat for Republican Roger Marshall, the current congressman for Kansas’s 1st district. Marshall faced Democratic State Senator Barbara Bollier, a physician and former Republican who ran a very competitive race in Kansas. Bollier was unable to overcome the partisanship of her state, which usually breaks for Republicans, to beat Marshall, despite garnering national attention and millions of dollars in fundraising in her run. Marshall, who faced a competitive primary and positioned himself as a relative moderate, was backed by President Trump and financially supported by GOP Senate PACs, allowing him to claim Kansas’s open Senate seat.
Arizona: Democrats have flipped a crucial Senate seat in Arizona, where astronaut Mark Kelly, a Democrat, is projected by Fox News to defeat incumbent Republican Senator Martha McSally. McSally, formerly the congresswoman for Arizona’s 2nd district, ran in the 2018 Senate election and narrowly lost to now-Senator Kyrsten Sinema. Shortly after, McSally was appointed to fill the seat of the late Senator John McCain. Kelly, the husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, proved himself to be a prolific fundraiser as he consistently led McSally in polls of the competitive race. Since the Arizona Senate seat is technically a special election, Senator-elect Kelly will be sworn in this month. With Kelly’s win, Democrats have currently netted one seat in the United States Senate.
Iowa: Local news outlets are projecting that incumbent Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa will defeat her Democratic challenger, real estate executive Theresa Greenfield. Ernst, first elected in 2014, has been described as a “rising star” in the Republican Party and appeared to be struggling in the polls until recently. Greenfield garnered the support of national Democrats and, like many Democratic Senate candidates across the country, raised millions of dollars in her unsuccessful attempt to flip Iowa’s red Senate seat. With this loss for Democrats in Iowa, the prospect of Democrats flipping the Senate seems grim, especially given the unexpectedly close Senate races in Maine and North Carolina.
New Mexico: Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján has defeated Republican journalist Mark Ronchetti, holding the Senate seat in New Mexico for the Democratic Party. Luján, the current congressman for the 3rd district of New Mexico, will succeed retiring Democratic Senator Tom Udall in the typically blue state. Ronchetti consistently trailed Luján in the polls, and given the lack of attention to New Mexico from the national parties, Luján was able to handily defeat his Republican opponent.
Minnesota: Democratic incumbent Senator Tina Smith beat former Republican Congressman Jason Lewis of the 2nd district. Smith, who was appointed to finish the term of former Democratic Senator Al Franken, has consistently led Lewis in the polls in the under-the-radar Senate race. Republicans hoped Minnesota would be more competitive than it was tonight, though Democrats will be holding the state’s Electoral College votes and Senate seat.
Montana: Republicans successfully protected another contested Senate seat tonight as incumbent Senator Steve Daines defeated his Democratic challenger, Governor Steve Bullock. Bullock launched an unsuccessful campaign for president last year, and after much goading from Democratic party leaders, jumped into the Senate race at the last minute. Bullock raised millions and gave Daines a close race, running up the numbers in a red state known to occasionally elect Democrats statewide, but was ultimately not able to unseat the incumbent Senator. With Montana out of the running for Democrats, it seems that the Republicans are on track to maintain control of the United States Senate.