Democrats edge closer to control of U.S. Senate with key win in Arizona and close race in Nevada


With Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly’s victory on Friday night, Democrats are just one seat away from retaining control of the U.S. Senate as all eyes turn to neighboring Nevada, where the competitive Senate race is trending. more and more towards the Democrats.

The win for Kelly, who was elected in 2020 to fill the term of the late GOP Sen. John McCain, capped a string of victories for Democrats on Friday night as ballots continued to be painstakingly counted in the West. . Kelly’s loss to venture capitalist Blake Masters, which echoed former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election, marked yet another voter rejection of a Trump-backed candidate that Democrats described as an extremist.

So far, Democrats will hold 49 Senate seats and Republicans 49 – meaning Democrats only need one more seat to clinch a majority in the Senate (Vice President Kamala Harris casting the vote decisive). They could hit that critical 50-seat threshold if they succeed in Nevada, where Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is closing in on Republican Adam Laxalt, the former state attorney general – who called the 2020 presidential election a “rigged” and sued Trump’s name is trying to overturn Biden’s 2020 win in the Silver State.

The Nevada Senate race has been deadlocked for months, but it could ultimately determine the balance of power in the upper house. Democrats are also defending a seat in Georgia, where Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker are heading for a Dec. 6 runoff, CNN projects.

Control of the U.S. House is still at stake. But it’s clear that even if Republicans win a majority, it will be by a much thinner margin than GOP leaders had hoped. This unexpected result has already produced recriminations and doubts about Republican leaders, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who had hoped to emerge from these contests with a clear mandate to become the next majority leader in bedroom.

Friday night’s run of Democratic victories marked a stunning reversal of fortune for a party that appeared to be in serious trouble ahead of Tuesday’s election. Candidates like Kelly and Cortez Masto were laboring under President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings, an unfavorable economic climate — with inflation and high gas prices pinching family budgets across the country — and doing against historical trends that tended to lead to heavy losses in the first midterm cycle of a new president.

But it has been a complex cycle with many different cross-currents affecting voter behavior, including the Supreme Court’s decision in June striking down abortion rights that angered many voters across the country. Republicans have also been crippled by Trump’s decision to boost far-right candidates who were loyal to him but often too extreme to appeal to swing voters who decide the election. Ultimately, many independent and moderate voters appear to have rejected candidates they viewed as too extreme or too close to Trump — and Democrats showed up in droves to protect their incumbents.

The Masters defeat in Arizona came after prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, rushed to the state in the final days of the election, warning that the very fate of the nation’s democracy lay in the balance. the ballot. Voters in Grand Canyon State also rejected the candidacy of GOP state Rep. Mark Finchem, a strident Trump-backed Holocaust denier, to become Arizona’s top election official. Instead, they will elect Democrat Adrian Fontes as Arizona’s next secretary of state, CNN reported Friday night.

The only bright spot for Republicans was in Nevada, where voters elected Republican Joe Lombardo as the state’s next governor – eliminating Democrat Steve Sisolak, CNN projected. Lombardo, the popular Clark County sheriff, had reminded voters of their struggles during the Covid-19 pandemic, when unemployment in Nevada peaked at nearly 30%. Although the economy rebounded, Lombardo had argued that Sisolak’s policies had been too restrictive and had hindered the state’s economic recovery.

In an echo of 2020, some Republicans, including Masters, are already trying to stoke controversy over the counting of ballots in Maricopa County, Arizona – suggesting the count was unreliable there due to the manipulation of certain ballot papers. The Masters and GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake suggested the count was moving too slowly.

On Friday, Masters made a similar argument to Lake, calling the counting process in Maricopa County — Arizona’s largest county and home to Phoenix — “incompetent,” pointing to a problem with printers that led to that some ballots were not tabulated correctly on Tuesday. , although election officials said that issue was resolved within hours on Election Day.

Masters also accused the county of mixing uncounted ballots with already counted ballots. The Republican National Committee and the Arizona Republican Party released a statement saying the election “exposed deep flaws in Maricopa County’s election administration.” Arizona deserves better – transparency, certainty, efficiency – and above all, accurate and timely announcement of election results that can be accepted by all voters.

A spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Department of Elections told CNN’s Kyung Lah that the county office has “redundancies in place that help us ensure that each legal ballot is counted only once. “.

“Because the ballots are compiled in batches, we are able to isolate the results from those specific locations and reconcile the total ballots with the records to make sure they match. This is done in the presence of political party observers and it is a practice that has been in place for decades,” the spokesperson said.

Bill Gates, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, rejected Masters’ suggestion that the county should wipe the slate clean and start counting again, saying “it’s just not allowed under the law of the Arizona”. Gates said the county’s pace for counting ballots is consistent with previous years.

Asked on CNN about specific accusations from the Republican National Committee, Gates said he would prefer that they bring those concerns directly to him. “I am a Republican. Three of my board colleagues are Republicans. Raise these issues with us and discuss them with us, instead of making these baseless claims,” he said.

“Let the count continue and in the end, if they have issues that they choose to take to court, they have every right to do so, and we will let that process unfold,” Gates added.

Kelly entered the 2022 cycle well positioned to weather the headwinds facing Democrats — even in a purple state like Arizona that Joe Biden narrowly won — due to his formidable fundraising and personal brand. unique as a retired astronaut, Navy veteran and husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords.

Masters, a first-time candidate, was able to navigate the GOP lead gauntlet with significant financial backing from conservative tech billionaire Peter Thiel, his former boss. He appealed to Republicans by promising to prioritize immigration issues, and in a campaign video released last year he said he believed Trump had won the 2020 presidential election.

Masters then appeared to modulate his tone on the 2020 election results as well as the conservative positions he had sought in the abortion primary – in what initially appeared to be an effort to appeal to a more broadband of the Arizona electorate. (Although Republicans constitute a plurality in Arizona, independents make up about a third of the electorate and often influence close elections.)

After his primary victory in August, Masters cleaned up his website of language that included the false claim that the election was stolen. When asked by the moderator during a debate with Kelly, Masters acknowledged that he had not seen evidence of fraud in the vote count or the results of the 2020 election in any way that would have changed the result. In that debate and on the trail, Kelly had argued that the “wheels” could “come off our democracy” if Holocaust deniers like Masters were elected.

But Masters appeared to backtrack after receiving a phone call from Trump urging him to “go louder” on election denial, a conversation that was captured in a Fox documentary. In the final week of the campaign, Masters told CNN’s Lah he didn’t believe moderates were bothered by his comments about the 2020 election, insisting voters were much more focused on their concerns about inflation, crime and the border.

Throughout the campaign, Kelly portrayed Masters as a candidate who was outside the mainstream, who would jeopardize abortion rights, as well as Social Security and Medicare. In a state where lawmakers passed a new abortion ban 15 weeks earlier this year — and legal efforts are underway to ban abortion in almost all cases — Kelly’s campaign has focused without relax on Masters’ anti-abortion positions.

Masters had said he would support a national abortion ban after 15 weeks, a proposal put forward by South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. This bill includes exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother.

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