Dems gain in quest for House control but GOP retains Senate
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats were gaining significant ground in the battle for House control Tuesday night, while Republicans held onto their majority in the Senate as voters weighed in on the first nationwide election in Donald Trump’s turbulent presidency.
With control of Congress, statehouses and the president’s agenda at stake, some of the nation’s top elections were too close to call.
Democrats won half the seats they needed to claim House control with dozens additional competitive contests remaining. Victories in contested races across Florida, New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Minnesota gave them cause for optimism.
The Democrats’ narrow path to the Senate was slammed shut after setbacks in Indiana, Tennessee, North Dakota and Texas.
Trump’s team immediately sought to give him credit for retaining their narrow Senate majority, even as their foothold in the more competitive House battlefield appeared to be slipping.
Dems flip a string of GOP seats in early House returns
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democrats picked up at least a dozen Republican-held House seats across almost all regions of the country as returns were still coming in Tuesday but fell short in some closely watched races as they fought to wrest control of the chamber from the GOP.
The party needed a net gain of 23 seats to break the Republicans’ eight-year hold on the House and place a check on President Donald Trump.
Democratic candidates flipped seats in several suburban districts outside of Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago and Denver that were considered prime targets for turnover because they were won by Hillary Clinton in 2016.
And in Kansas, Democrat Sharice Davids beat a GOP incumbent to become the first Native American and gay woman elected to the House.
But the Democrats’ push into Trump country remained uncertain. In Kentucky, one of the top Democratic recruits, retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, lost her bid to oust to three-term Rep. Andy Barr in the Lexington-area district.
Democrats chip away at GOP dominance in state governments
Democrats took back the governor’s offices in Illinois and Michigan on Tuesday, major steps in their nationwide strategy to reverse years of Republican gains in state capitols.
In Michigan, a perennial presidential battleground state, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer defeated Republican Bill Schuette, upending years of Republican control in the state. The former legislative leader will become the second female governor in a state where Democrats heavily targeted other statewide and legislative offices.
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in Illinois lost his bid for a second term to Democrat J.B. Pritzker. The billionaire appears to have capitalized not only on Rauner’s lack of popularity but broader dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump.
Democrats Andrew Cuomo in New York and Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania easily won re-election.
Elsewhere, there was better news for Republicans.
Massachusetts voters protect transgender rights
NEW YORK (AP) — In the first statewide referendum on transgender rights, Massachusetts voters on Tuesday beat back a repeal attempt and reaffirmed a 2016 law extending nondiscrimination protections to transgender people, including their use of public bathrooms and locker rooms.
Supporters of the law had feared a vote to repeal would prompt a wave of similar efforts to roll back protections in other states. Already, some protections at the federal level are under threat from President Donald Trump’s administration.
“When transgender rights are being threatened nationally, we absolutely must preserve the rights we have secured at the state level,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.
Civil-rights activists also scored a major victory in Florida, where voters approved a ballot measure that will enable more than 1 million ex-felons to regain their voting rights. That could alter the future election landscape in the nation’s most populous swing state.
Floridians also approved a measure aimed at phasing out greyhound racing in the state, the last stronghold of the sport in the U.S.
Machine breakdowns, long lines mar vote on Election Day
ATLANTA (AP) — Problem signs that arose during weeks of early voting carried into Election Day as some voters across the country faced hours-long lines, malfunctioning voting equipment and unexpectedly closed polling places.
Some of the biggest backups were in Georgia , where the governor’s race was among the nation’s most-watched midterm contests and was generating heavy turnout.
One voter in Gwinnett County, Ontaria Woods, waited more than three hours and said she saw about two dozen people who had come to vote leave because of the lines.
“We’ve been trying to tell them to wait, but people have children,” Woods said. “People are getting hungry. People are tired.”
The good-government group Common Cause said high turnout combined with too few voting machines, ballots and workers was causing delays.
AP VoteCast: Trump a dominant force on voters’ minds
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump was a dominant force in the 2018 midterm elections as attitudes toward the polarizing leader influenced the decisions of more than 6 in 10 voters.
Nearly 40 percent of voters cast their ballots to express opposition to the president, according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate, while about 25 percent said they voted to express support for Trump.
While Trump is not on the ballot, his controversial presidency has animated voters on both sides of the aisle, with 2018 likely to set turnout records for a midterm election. Democrats have been activated in opposition to Trump since the moment of his election, while in recent weeks Trump has driven Republicans to the polls by trying to cast the race as a referendum on his administration. The outcomes of Tuesday’s races, which will determine control of Congress, stand to alter the course of the Trump presidency.
The snapshot of who voted and why comes from preliminary results of VoteCast, a nationwide survey of more than 115,000 voters and about 22,000 nonvoters conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.
Democrats looking to seize control of Congress have pinned their hopes on women and minority voters, while Republicans have hoped to retain majorities by preserving support among the bloc of voters who propelled Trump to the White House in 2016.
GOP keeps Senate control for 2 more years, triumph for Trump
WASHINGTON (AP) — Triumphant Republicans retained control of the Senate on Tuesday, ousting Democratic incumbents in Indiana and North Dakota and ensuring they will remain as guardians of President Donald Trump’s conservative agenda for two more years.
Despite Trump’s deeply polarizing effect on voters, the GOP harnessed his rock-solid popularity with hard-right voters in rural, deep-red states. They held onto seats in the South, Midwest and West and ensured at least a 50-50 Senate — enough to give Republicans control because Vice President Mike Pence as president of the Senate would tip the balance to the GOP.
Republicans paved their path to victory by defeating Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. They also held on to competitive seats in Texas, where Sen. Ted Cruz fended off Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the well-financed liberal darling, and in Tennessee, where Rep. Marsha Blackburn prevailed.
Trump awaits results of midterm voting with friends, family
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump knows he’s on the line.
The president spent election night watching returns with family and friends at the White House, after concluding a six-day rally blitz in Missouri late Monday. Trump packed his closing argument with hard-line immigration rhetoric and harsh attacks on Democrats as he stared down the prospect of Republican losses that could shadow his presidency.
“Everything we have achieved is at stake,” he said. “Because they can take it apart just as fast as we built it.”
Faced with the possibility of keeping the Senate but losing the House, aides have begun laying out the political reality to Trump, who could face an onslaught of Democratic-run investigations and paralysis of his policy agenda. In turn, Trump has already been trying out defensive arguments, noting that midterm losses are typical for the party in the White House, pointing out a high number of GOP retirements and stressing that he had kept his focus on the Senate.
In the hours after the first polls closed Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that the administration was cautiously optimistic and downplayed the possibility of a Democratic rout, saying “maybe you get a ripple, but I certainly don’t think that there’s a blue wave.”
Out of many, several firsts elected across country
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House is getting its first two Muslim women and Massachusetts is getting its first black congresswoman while Arizona and Tennessee stand to elect their first woman senators in Tuesday’s midterm elections.
The high-profile midterm cycle that produced a record number of women contenders and candidates of color meant several winners will take office as trailblazers, marking firsts for their race and gender.
What is already the most diverse Congress ever could become even more so after Tuesday’s elections and will include several trailblazers.
Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley will represent Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District in the next Congress. Pressley stunned the political establishment in September, defeating a 10-term incumbent in the Democratic primary, and was unopposed on Tuesday.
Also in the House, Democrats Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan will be the first Muslim women to serve in Congress. And regardless of who wins in Arizona’s competitive Senate race, the state will elect either Republican Martha McSally or Democrat Kyrsten Sinema as the state’s first woman to serve in the chamber.
Apologizing for cover-up, diocese vows to ID accused priests
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A Roman Catholic diocese issued an apology Tuesday for covering up an Iowa priest’s sexual abuse of boys for decades and promised to identify all priests who have faced credible allegations.
The actions by the Diocese of Sioux City come in response to an investigation by The Associated Press, which last week broke the church’s 32-year silence on serial abuse by the Rev. Jerome Coyle.
In a lengthy statement Tuesday, the diocese said more disclosures of misconduct may be forthcoming. It urged all victims to come forward and vowed to use their reports and other files to create and publish a list of credibly accused priests — a step the diocese had long resisted.
Coyle admitted to then-Bishop Lawrence Soens in 1986 to having sexually abused 50 boys over a 20-year period. The diocese said that it should have notified parishes and asked victims to come forward back then, and apologized that its former leaders failed to do so. Instead, the diocese sent Coyle to a treatment center for accused priests in New Mexico, where he lived and worked as a civilian for decades.
The diocese said that its current leadership should have notified the public this summer when Coyle was placed at a retirement home near a Catholic school, which he moved out of last week following AP’s disclosure of his history. But the statement said that its bishop, R. Walker Nickless, “inherited many issues from the past,” including the challenging of finding housing for accused priests who were never charged and aren’t listed as sex offenders.