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Senate control remains a jump ball

Georgia race in runoff territory, with counting ongoing in Arizona and Nevada

John Fetterman was declared the winner in the Senate race in Pennsylvania, which could give Democrats one more Senate seat than they have now — but they could still lose some uncalled races.
John Fetterman was declared the winner in the Senate race in Pennsylvania, which could give Democrats one more Senate seat than they have now — but they could still lose some uncalled races. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate control remained a jump ball into the early morning hours Wednesday, with winners in several key contests potentially not known for days.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer was far from knowing whether he would retain that title in the next Congress when he appeared to give a victory speech Tuesday evening in his own Senate race, which was called by The Associated Press when the polls closed at 9 p.m.

The New York Democrat showed no sign of a leader looking for what went wrong, speaking of accomplishments in the current Congress, including bipartisan legislation to boost microchip manufacturing — including in upstate New York — before pivoting to a potential agenda for next year, assuming Democrats control it.

“So, here’s what we want to get done in the next Senate. We want to protect a woman’s right to choose. We want to protect the right to marry those who you love by passing the Marriage Equality Act,” Schumer said. “We want to fight to protect our democracy by securing the right to vote, we want to strengthen our unions and expand the rights of workers to organize for a better day.”

Schumer again said Democrats want to protect immigrants, including the group known as the Dreamers, who came to the United States as children. Schumer’s race was called before any key Senate races, much less the New York governor’s race, where incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul held off a stiff challenge from Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin.

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., prevailed in her reelection contest, and it would have been seen as a dire sign for Democrats if she had lost. Other incumbent senators who faced competitive challengers but were not at the top of the most vulnerable list saw their races called quickly, including Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who had been out for Republican candidates this cycle, told NBC News, “It’s not a wave for sure, but I think it will be a very good night,” anticipating the possibility of reaching 51 Republican Senate seats.

The road to 51 for the GOP may still run through a Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia. Neither Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock nor Republican challenger Herschel Walker showed signs of pulling too far ahead as votes were counted in the Peach State, which saw record early voting.

“We aren’t sure if this journey is over tonight, or if there’s still a little work yet to do, but here’s what we do know — we know that when they’re finished counting the votes from today’s election that we are going to have received more votes than my opponent,” Warnock said shortly before 2 a.m. Wednesday in Atlanta. Georgia law requires the winner to get a majority of votes to avert the runoff.

There were also signs there could be no final result for a while in the closely watched Nevada race. The Nevada Independent reported that Clark County, the populous area that includes Las Vegas, was not expected to begin counting mail-in ballots placed in drop boxes on Election Day until Wednesday or Thursday, creating a possibility that Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto could see her share of the vote improve in the coming days.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman won the Senate contest over GOP candidate Mehmet Oz. The victory there gives Democrats one more seat than they have now, since it’s currently held by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

But along with Cortez Masto in Nevada, other races could subtract that gain, including in Arizona, where Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly was battling Republican Blake Masters.

Among other races still on the board was one in Wisconsin, where incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson faced Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

The night saw some members who were said to be in trouble win reelection comfortably, especially Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Mike Lee of Utah, as well as Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

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