Election 2022: Democrats Will Hold Senate After Midterms

By Terrance Turner

Nov. 8, 2022 (updated Nov. 9)

Voters nationwide took to the polls today for the 2022 midterms. At stake is the Democrats’ majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, along with statewide races like governor and attorney general. This post brings together the results in some of the biggest races; some predictable, some surprising, some historic.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott held on to win a third term as governor, defeating Democrat Beto O’ Rourke. Even after banning abortion (with no exceptions for rape or incest), declaring gender based health care as child abuse, mounting a lamentable response to the Texas winter storm AND bungling his response to the Uvalde shooting, he still managed to draw enough support to remain in power.

In McAllen, about 150 Abbott supporters gathered at the city’s historic Quinta Mazatlán, a sprawling Spanish estate. Abbott credited the Rio Grande Valley for helping secure his win. (He’s focused intensely on border security over the last two years.

“We started this campaign in South Texas, we celebrated my primary victory in South Texas, and tonight we return to South Texas to celebrate my being your governor for four more years,” he said. Flanked by his wife and daughter, the governor congratulated the other Republicans who won or were expected to win in Texas, and reiterated his focuses as state leader. He called for lowering crime and property taxes, defending the oil and gas industry, and securing the U.S.-Mexico border. He also called on Congress to take the lead on border security efforts.

“Tonight, Texans sent a very resounding message,” he said. “They want to keep Texas a beacon of opportunity that we have provided over the past eight years.”

Greg Abbott, governor of Texas, arrives to speak during an election night rally in McAllen, Texas, US, on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Abbott beat Democratic candidate Beto ORourke to win re-election for a third term as governor of Texas, signaling voters approved of his hardline conservative views. Photographer: Jordan Vonderhaar/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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According to the Texas Tribune, “O’Rourke sought to make the race a referendum on Abbott’s eventful second term, emphasizing the grid failure and arguing Abbott had become too extreme on issues like guns and abortion. Both the Uvalde massacre and overturning of Roe v. Wade bolstered O’Rourke’s case, as Abbott resisted any new gun-control measures and his near-total abortion ban took effect.”

But his efforts came up short. And now the question becomes whether O’Rourke has a political future. According to NBC affiliate KPRC, “At this point, O’Rourke is better known for the races he’s lost than the ones that he won — including serving as an El Paso councilman from 2005 to 2011 and a congressman from 2013 to 2019. After three high-profile losses in a four-year span, O’Rourke will have an uphill battle to convince skeptical voters that he should launch another bid for a major office.

Georgia

BREAKING: CNN projects that Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has won the governor’s race. He won after maintaining a comfortable lead over Democrat Stacey Abrams. Before the projection: he had fifty four percent of the vote compared with forty five percent for Abrahams. That’s a lead of over 300,000 votes.

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This was a rematch of the previous race. Four years ago, Abrams ran for governor. She lost to Kemp by about 53,000 votes, but refused to concede. Instead, Abrams sued state election officials, alleging that they “grossly mismanaged” the election.

Abrams also launched Fair Fight 2018, a voting rights organization to promote fair elections around the country. Fair Fight encourages voter participation and educates voters about their rights. Also, the organization raised $34.5 million in just 39 days from late October to the last week of November, funneling a large chunk of the money into helping Democratic candidates, per the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

It was Abrams’ efforts that helped re-enfranchise Georgia voters. Vox credited her with helping a record surge of Georgia voters to the polls in November. “Abrams’s group Fair Fight and other voting rights groups like the New Georgia Project have been putting a ton of effort into registering and turning out Black voters at high rates this year. And those efforts have been successful. The state has already hit record registration levels, with about 7.6 million voters registered.” 

In the end, however, Kemp won a resounding victory. CNN reported earlier that Abrams has already called Kemp to concede. It’s the logical move. There’s no path forward for her in the race. Kemp’s victory is very clear. The Senate race is more complicated.

Race to the Senate

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Herschel Walker leads Sen. Raphael Warnock by a mere 30,000 votes (less than a percentage point. Walker has forty nine percent of the vote; Warnock, forty eight percent.) The race has seesawed all night. Both candidates have had leads at least twice during the tabulation of votes tonight. 85% of the vote was counted as of ten pm CST.

UPDATE: Fifteen minutes before midnight CST, Warnock maintains a lead of just 0.3% over Walker, with 93% of the vote in. Warnock has just over forty nine percent to Walker’s 48.8%, a difference of roughly twelve thousand votes.

UPDATE (NOVEMBER 9): The race will likely head to a runoff. Warnock maintains a 0.5% lead over Walker. And neither candidate has garnered more than 50% of the vote, so there will almost certainly be a runoff election one month from now.

The Candidates

Warnock won election to the Senate after the 2020 campaign. He’s a preacher who previously served as senior pastor for Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. (That church was once pastored by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

By contrast, Walker gained fame as a running back for the Georgia Bulldogs, who won the national championship in 1980. He went on to become a star RB in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. Walker’s beloved by many sports fans in Georgia. But he has also come under fire for his checkered past and his stance on abortion.

Pennsylvania

BREAKING (November 9, 10:56 AM) In Pennsylvania, the race for Senate is called. CNN projects that Democrat John Fetterman has won the election. With 93% of votes counted, Fetterman has 50% of the vote, versus 47.2% for Republican candidate Mehmet Oz.

PITTSBURGH, PA – NOVEMBER 09: Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman speaks to supporters during an election night party at StageAE on November 9, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Fetterman defeated Republican Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

CNN reports that Oz has already conceded. He called Democrat John Fetterman to concede the Pennsylvania Senate race at 9:30 a.m. ET this morning, according to Fetterman campaign spokesperson Joe Calvello. Oz campaign manager Casey Contres confirmed the call to CNN.

Later this morning, Oz released a statement of concession. “This morning I called John Fetterman and congratulated him. I wish him and his family all the best, both personally and as our next United States Senator,” the statement reads.

Fetterman won despite health concerns; he suffered a stroke the week of the Pennsylvania primary. Fetterman’s victory would symbolize an unusual victory for an unusual candidate. Standing 6-foot-8, he is bald, bearded and tattooed, favoring shorts over suits. As CNN put it: “Fetterman is difficult to pin down politically and looks nothing like a traditional politician, something that set him apart from his primary opponents.”

UNITED STATES – APRIL 5: Braddock, Pa., Mayor John Fetterman, left, speaks with former Rep. Joe Sestak following their televised Senate Democrats primary debate with Katie McGqinty at WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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The Issues

Fetterman rose to national prominence as the mayor of a faded manufacturing town, Braddock, PA. (He served as mayor from 2006 to 2019). According to the Washington Post, he has embraced much of his party’s orthodoxy, supporting no government-imposed limits on abortion, an end to the Senate filibuster, a higher minimum wage, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and higher refugee quotas. A past supporter of Medicare-for-All, he has described health care as a “fundamental human right” during the current campaign.

Fetterman supports legalizing marijuana. “Weed should be legal, nationwide — for jobs, justice, veterans, farmers, and revenue. It’s far past time we end the failed war on drugs,” he says on his website. He also supports LGBTQ rights. He’s pledged to vote for the Equality Act, which would ensure that civil rights protections against discrimination in employment and housing apply to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Fetterman’s even performed same sex marriages. “Back in 2013, when same-sex marriages were still banned in Pennsylvania, I was the first and only elected official in western Pennsylvania to solemnize same-sex weddings,” he said. “This was one of my proudest moments as mayor.”

Unlike Oz, Fetterman has the experience of having run and won a statewide race before. He cast Oz as an outsider, a New Jerseyan who has more in common with Hollywood. Oz (who lives in New Jersey) tried to gain ground in suburban areas by trying to portray himself as a centrist.

Dr. Oz

According to CNN: “As a candidate, Oz has offered a health care policy of his own, describing on his website that he would “expand access to private sector plans expanded by President Trump and beloved by seniors for their low costs and high quality that could be available to all Americans who want them.”

That plan, which he does not name on his website, is known as “Medicare Advantage for All.” That plan would expand the Medicare program that enables seniors to choose private plans to deliver their health coverage to all Americans not covered by Medicaid.”

On abortion, he confused and perhaps alienated voters with his response at a debate. “There should not be involvement from the federal government in how states decide their abortion decisions,” Oz said. “As a physician, I’ve been in the room when there’s some difficult conversations happening. I don’t want the federal government involved with that, at all.”

“I want women, doctors, local political leaders, letting the democracy that’s always allowed our nation to thrive to put the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves,” he added.

Governor’s Race

BREAKING: Josh Shapiro is the projected winner of the governor’s race. He defeats the Republican candidate Doug Mastriano.

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According to NBC NEWS: “Shapiro, the state attorney general, framed his opponent as an extremist and sought to make his campaign about protecting Pennsylvanians’ freedom to vote, to access abortion care and to unionize. Mastriano, a state senator who led the charge to try to overturn President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in the state, generated a core of grassroots GOP supporters during the primary but was unable to broaden his coalition.

A former Army colonel, Mastriano centered on culture-war issues throughout his candidacy. He wove themes of Christian nationalism into his campaign, including expressing disdain for the separation of church and state. For his part, Shapiro sought to define himself as the rational, moderate alternative to Mastriano’s hard-line political brand, while countering GOP messaging on crime by touting his support for hiring more police officers and promoting endorsements from law enforcement officials.”

Breaking News; Dems Keep Senate

BREAKING (November 12, 2022) CNN projects that Democrat Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto will win reelection in Nevada, defeating Republican Adam Laxalt (her successor in the attorney general’s office). Cortez Masto — the first Latina senator — has secured a second term. Her victory means that Democrats will retain control of the Senate.

According to NBC News, “The outcome follows days of protracted mail-in ballot counting, with the results resting largely with the state’s most populous county, Clark County, which posted updates once a day since Tuesday. (Officials in that county estimated that 22,000 mail in ballots were still uncounted, per CNN.) “A race long predicted to be within the margin of error was indeed close through the end.”

Laxalt acknowledged today that the mostly mail-in ballots being counted favored Democrats by higher margins than expected. “This has narrowed our victory window. The race will come down to 20-30K Election Day Clark drop off ballots,” Laxalt tweeted. “If they are GOP precincts or slightly DEM leaning then we can still win. If they continue to trend heavy DEM then she will overtake us,” he added.

And she did indeed overtake him, despite being a vulnerable Democrat in a state with a highly transient populace that may not have been familiar with her. Nevada is also a state that relies largely on tourism for its economy. And it was battered particularly hard by inflation, making one of Republicans’ strongest campaign attack lines even stronger.

But the senator fought back. The New York Times notes, “Nevada’s largest union, the 60,000-strong Culinary Workers, has sent members — cooks, cleaners, food servers — door to door to make the case for Ms. Cortez Masto and other Democratic candidates. More than half of the union’s members are Latinos, a group Mr. Laxalt has courted in Spanish-language commercials.”

And the gambit appears to have worked. Despite predictions from her opponent that she’d struggle with Latinos, 62 percent said they voted for Cortez Masto and 33 percent backed Laxalt, according to the NBC News Exit Poll.

Photo from Getty Images.
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The Issues

Ms. Masto made abortion a central issue in her campaign, speaking out against a proposed ban by Sen. Lindsey Graham. She stressed the need to protect women’s reproductive rights, echoing liberal outrage over the Dobbs decision. By contrast, Laxalt veered sharply to the right in his campaign, echoing unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud in 2020 and calling Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision protecting abortion access, a “joke.”

Laxalt made the comments during a June 6 pancake breakfast with pastors and faith leaders in Reno. The Nevada Independent obtained audio from that event. It marks some of the bluntest language used by Laxalt on the subject of abortion this election cycle.

Roe v. Wade was always a joke. It was a total, complete invention,” Laxalt said. “It has created decades and decades of political turmoil. Not to mention, the most important thing that it allowed across the country. So, I think its return back to the states is important.”

His opponent responded forcefully. According to NBC News, “Cortez Masto’s campaign leaned heavily on the issue of abortion and vigorously attacked Laxalt in both English and Spanish ads. After the primary, she immediately went on the offensive on rising gas prices, hitting Laxalt on ties to major oil companies, which have enjoyed record profits.”

She won. This win gives Democrats a total of 50 seats in the Senate, versus 49 for the Republicans. And it comes on the heels of another Democrat victory in an unlikely place. Democrat Mark Kelly has won re-election in Arizona, defeating his far-right Republican challenger Blake Masters.

Arizona

BREAKING; Democrat Katie Hobbs has defeated Republican Kari Lake in the race for Arizona governor. Hobbs’ narrow victory came after a long, protracted, and often bitter contest that underscored themes of inflation and election denial.

Hobbs, who is Arizona’s secretary of state, won office four years ago after three terms in the state Senate. According to the Associated Press, she was thrust into the center of a political storm as Arizona became the centerpiece of the efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election he lost. She appeared constantly on cable news defending the integrity of the vote count. That attention allowed her to raise millions of dollars and raise her profile. But she ran a low key campaign, sticking largely to choreographed public appearances.

By contrast, Lake had a high public profile. A former Phoenix news anchor, she appeared often on cable news and even sparred with reporters on air. And she made herself prominent with a hard right image and confrontational stance. According to the New York Times, “Former friends and colleagues of Ms. Lake described her as a liberal and a Buddhist who had a close circle of gay friends before she entered politics. But as she ran for office, she refashioned herself as a Christian conservative.”

Accordingly, she became an ally of the GOP’s leading conservative voice. She aligned herself closely with former president Donald Trump, repeating his lies about widespread voter fraud. She repeatedly said she would not have voted to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the state, per CNN. “He lost this election, and he shouldn’t be in the White House,” Lake said of Biden. And she went further than that.

Election Lies

At a debate in July, Lake claimed the election was “stolen” and “corrupt”. Lake falsely said that 34,000 Arizona ballots “were counted two, three and four times. We had major election fraud.” She said ballots were trafficked by mules. And Lake even said that Hobbs should be imprisoned based on these phony election claims. She also suggested she’d refuse to concede if she lost.

“We need honest elections and we’re going to bring them to you, Arizona, I assure you of that. The system we have right now does not work,” Lake said on Tuesday night. “We had November 3, 2020, that was called incompetency 101,” Lake said. She went on to suggest there was “incompetency” at play in both the August primary and in Tuesday’s election – a not-so-subtle critique of her opponent.

She taunted Ms. Hobbs as a “coward” and ridiculed her as “chicken” for refusing to debate her onstage. (Hobbs had refused to agree to a debate, saying it would’ve turned into a spectacle.) She disparaged the late Senator John McCain as a “loser” — again echoing Mr. Trump — and claimed that she and her followers had driven “a stake in the heart of the McCain machine.”

Kari Lake. Photo from NBC NEWS.
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“I am honored to have been selected to serve as the next Governor of Arizona,” Hobbs said in a statement Monday night. “I want to thank the voters for entrusting me with this immense responsibility. It is truly an honor of a lifetime, and I will do everything in my power to make you proud.”

Republicans Take House

BREAKING (November 16, 2022) Republicans have taken control of the House of Representatives.

Eight days after Election Day, the Republican Party won the needed 218 House seats needed to take control of the House. Seven close races remain undecided. Those races will determine how large a majority the Republicans have.

But the path forward is unclear. Kevin McCarthy resoundingly won a closed-door nomination vote to become the next speaker, dispatching the protest candidacy of Representative Andy Biggs, Republican of Arizona. (Biggs was an influential figure in the efforts to overturn the 2020 election results on behalf of Mr. Trump.) Mr. McCarthy won the secret-ballot vote 188 to 31. But that vote was the easy part. The hard part comes next year.

To officially claim the speakership, he will require the nearly unanimous support of his conference in a formal floor vote in January. The narrow Republican majority means he can afford to lose only a small number of supporters.

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