Democrats Flip The House With Big Wins In NY, Women Head To Congress In Record Numbers

People celebrate as they watch election results at a watch party for Democratic congressional candidate Antonio Delgado in Kingston, N.Y
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People celebrate as they watch election results at a watch party for Democratic congressional candidate Antonio Delgado in Kingston, N.Y Seth Wenig/AP/Shutterstock

Democrats wrested control of the House of Representatives in yesterday's midterm elections, gaining at least 26 seats to secure a slim majority. But while their victory is narrow, it comes with significant power: the ability to subpoena President Donald Trump, to control committees and investigations, and provide a check on Republicans' agenda. (15 more tossup seats remained too close to call, the NY Times reports.)

New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler, a longtime foe of Trump who will now become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, issued a statement last night declaring that "the American people have demanded accountability from their government and sent a clear message of what they want from Congress. Donald Trump may not like it, but he and his administration will be held accountable to our laws and to the American people."

In NYC, Democrats scored a crucial win in south Brooklyn and Staten Island, where Democratic challenger Max Rose defeated Republican incumbent Representative Dan Donovan, 95,000 votes to 84,000 votes. Rose's grassroots campaign flipped the last Congressional Republican stronghold in New York City for the Democrats, making Rose Staten Island’s second Democratic House representative in 37 years.

Upstate, Democrat Antonio Delgado unseated Republican incumbent Congressman John Faso, following a bitterly-contested race marred by racist attack ads against Delgado, a Rhodes Scholar who will now become the first non-white representative in the Hudson Valley district, which is 80% white and voted for Trump in 2016.

"Way too much of our political climate is fueled by divisiveness, hatred and fear," Delgado told supporters in his victory speech last night. "It only serves to distract us from our shared struggle and deep inequities that impact so many people here at home and across this country."

In Queens and the Bronx, 29-year-old Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, following her stunning primary defeat of powerful Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley. In her victory speech last night, Ocasio-Cortez said, "We launched this campaign because no one was clearly and authentically talking about issues like the corrupting role of money in politics."

Ocasio-Cortez is one of over 110 women to win seats in Congress yesterday, shattering the previous combined record of 107 in the House and Senate. The majority of the female winners are Democrats; in Massachusetts, Ayanna Pressley became the first woman of color to be elected to Congress in that state. (One-third of the female nominees for the House were women of color, the highest ever.) Four women have joined Pennsylvania's 21-member Congressional delegation, up from zero. (Three of those seats were flipped from Republican to Democrat.)

In Florida, Democrats Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala flipped two seats in Miami-Dade County from Republican to Democrat. In Illinois, political neophyte Lauren Underwood, a Democrat and registered nurse, achieved a surprise upset victory over four-term Republican incumbent Randy Hultgren. The first Muslim Congresswomen won elections for Democrats yesterday: Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota.

In New Mexico, Democrat Deb Haaland made history by becoming the first Native American women elected to Congress. Haaland told Vox that the droughts in her state have made combating climate change a top priority. "The future of our planet depends on us doing whatever we can right now," Haaland said. "And instead of us giving the richest people $1.5 trillion [in] tax cuts, I really feel like we could have paid for some renewable energy infrastructure."

Democrats Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia will become the first two Latino women elected to Congress by Texas. Republican Kristi Noem will become South Dakota's first female governor following a narrow victory over Democrat Billie Sutton in a tight election race. And in Tennessee, Republican Marsha Blackburn became the state’s first woman elected to the Senate. (Newsweek has a roundup of ten women who scored significant victories last night.)

As was widely predicted, Republicans gained an advantage in the Senate, winning formerly Democratic seats in Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri, and fending off challenges in states like Texas. North Dakota’s incumbent Democratic senator, Heidi Heitkamp, was defeated by staunch Trump ally Representative Kevin Cramer in a tight race that saw Heitkamp maligned as a liberal extremist in a red state that voted overwhelmingly for Trump. In Missouri, Republican Josh Hawley defeated moderate Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill in one of the most expensive Senate races in American history, in a state that Trump won by 20 percentage points in 2016.

In Texas, Senator Ted Cruz clung to his seat, fending off a closely-watched challenge from Democrat Beto O'Rourke, who won 48% of the votes to Cruz's 50%. "I’m as inspired, I’m as hopeful as I’ve ever been in my life, and tonight’s loss does nothing to diminish the way I feel about Texas or this country," O'Rourke told supporters after conceding last night. (Political analysts now see O'Rourke as a compelling presidential candidate in 2020.)

New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez won a third term, defeating his Republican challenger, pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin. Mendendez won by nearly ten percentage points, despite having fended off federal bribery charges in a high-profile corruption trial. Three other New Jersey Democrats flipped Republican-held House seats: former Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill, former assistant secretary of state Tom Malinowski, and moderate State Senator Jeff Van Drew. (A fourth race, between Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur and Democrat Andy Kim of Bordentown, remains too close to call.)

In deep red West Virginia, where Trump won by 42 percentage points in 2016, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin defeated his Republican challenger Patrick Morrisey by a comfortable margin, despite Trump's frequent rallies in the state. After Trump's election, Manchin was widely considered to be one of the most vulnerably Democratic Senators, but his long history in West Virginia and broad coalition of supporters carried him through. "I know a lot of people that voted for him, and I don’t know one person that did it happily,” Rusty Williams, a Bernie Sanders supporter, told Politico. “One of the quotes I keep hearing is, ‘Yeah, I threw up in my mouth a little bit when I voted for Joe.'"

Democratic gubernatorial candidates scored significant wins over Republicans in two closely-watched states that Trump won in 2016. In Wisconsin, Democrat Tony Evers eked out a narrow victory over Republican Scott Walker, and in Michigan, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer defeated Republican Bill Schuette. Nationwide, Democrats upset Republicans in seven gubernatorial elections.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo strolled to a third term, easily defeating Republican challenger Marc Molinaro. And in Colorado, Rep. Jared Polis defeated Republican state Treasurer Walker Stapleton to keep that state's governor's office Democratic. Polis becomes America's first openly gay governor, and campaigned on a promise that Colorado will run only on renewable power by 2040.

But Republicans still scored key victories in battleground states, with former Representative Ron DeSantis narrowly defeating Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, to become Florida's next Governor. Florida's outgoing Republican Governor, Rick Scott, declared victory last night over Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, but NBC reports that his lead is too close to call. At less than half a percentage point with nearly all votes counted, the results could trigger a mandatory recount. (As of 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nelson had not conceded.)

And in Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp of Georgia clung to a narrow lead over Democrat Stacey Abrams, who would become the state's first black governor. That race could also go to an automatic recount if neither candidate wins a majority. Kemp appears to have won slightly over 50%, but Abrams has refused to concede.

In a statement to CNN, Abrams said three of the state's largest counties "have reported only a portion of the votes that were submitted by early mail" and four other large counties "have reported exactly 0 votes by mail. These counties also represent heavily-Democratic leaning constituencies, and the majority of those votes are anticipated to be for Stacey Abrams."

Kemp was widely accused of using his position as Secretary of State to suppress likely Abrams voters, and a lawsuit filed yesterday seeks to strip Kemp of his powers over the election, particularly in the event of a runoff.

Despite the lingering questions about the contested gubernatorial elections, the biggest question for Democrats—whether the party could emerge from the wilderness to provide a check on Trump at the federal level—has been answered. As The New Yorker's John Cassidy points out, "Democrats were set to win the popular vote by seven percentage points. That would nearly match the margin the Republicans achieved in the 2010 midterms, which Barack Obama famously described as 'a shellacking.' Only the rampant gerrymandering of the past few decades contained the size of the Democratic majority."

House minority leader and soon-to-be Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared last night that "Tomorrow will be a new day in America. We have all had enough of division. The American people want peace. They want results.”

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