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Democrats' odds on regaining control of US Senate take another blow as Susan Collins holds Maine seat

The Democrats appear to have fallen short of the three to four seat gains they needed.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was re-elected in Kentucky
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was re-elected in Kentucky
Image: Manuel Balce Ceneta/PA

Updated Nov 4th 2020, 7:40 PM

EMBATTLED REPUBLICAN INCUMBENT US Senator Susan Collins of Maine has scored a come-from-behind election victory as her challenger conceded, virtually closing Democrats’ pathway to regaining control of the Senate.

“I just received a very gracious call from Sara Gideon conceding the race,” said Collins, 67, who had trailed for months in polling against her Democratic rival.

Republicans are defending their 53-47 majority in the Senate, and Gideon’s loss makes it that much more difficult for Democrats to win back the upper chamber of Congress.

Controlling the Senate is vital as the party in power determines which bills reach the floor and which of the president’s nominees receive confirmation votes.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s party would need to gain four seats to seize the chamber – or three seats if Biden wins the White House, as a US vice president breaks a draw in the Senate in the event of a 50-50 vote.

At the time of writing, the Washington Post called the vote a 46-47, with a flip by the Democrats in Colorado later cancelled out by the Republicans in Alabama.

If Democrats can win two seats, control of the chamber could hang in the balance until a runoff in Georgia’s other special election Senate race is held on 5 January

Democrats drew first blood when Colorado’s former governor John Hickenlooper, a 68-year-old businessman and geologist, handily defeated one-term Senator Cory Gardner to pick up a seat.

However, Republicans got a defensive boost when retired American football coach Tommy Tuberville handily defeated Senator Doug Jones in a race that was widely expected to result in a Republican pick-up. 

Senator Lindsey Graham – who was under intense pressure after overseeing the controversial confirmation process of a Supreme Court justice weeks before the presidential vote – fought back a fierce challenge from African-American Jaime Harrison in the conservative bastion of South Carolina.

“We didn’t get the result at the ballot box that we wanted, but we showed courage and determination,” Harrison, who raised record amounts of campaign funding, said.

Republicans initially fared well elsewhere too, including Kentucky – where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell easily prevailed – and the states of Texas and Montana.

‘Save the Senate’

And Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a close Trump ally whom Democrats were intensely targeting, also defeated her challenger, several US networks projected.

Another hotly contested seat was tilting the Republicans’ way in North Carolina, where networks have yet to call the race but where Senator Thom Tillis claimed a crucial win, with some 94 percent of the vote counted.

“What we accomplished tonight was a stunning victory – and we did it against all the odds, right?” Tillis told boisterous supporters, adding that he was doing his part “to save the Senate”.

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The Democrats would need to gain four seats to seize the chamber – or three seats if Biden wins the race to the White House, as a vice president breaks a tie in the Senate in the event of a 50-50 vote.

But Maine’s embattled Republican Senator Susan Collins was seven percentage points ahead with two-thirds of precincts reporting, and in Georgia incumbent David Perdue was leading Democrat Jon Ossoff with 90 percent of precincts reporting.

Democrats also kept the House of Representatives, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi – Trump’s chief nemesis in Washington – likely to preside over proceedings for two more years, but it remained unclear whether Democrats could increase their majority.

Popular New York progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez comfortably secured a second term, as did the three other members of “The Squad” a liberal quartet that has occasionally faced intense criticism from Trump and his allies.

“I’m very, very proud of the fact that tonight – relatively early – we are able to say we have held the House,” Pelosi said.

© AFP 2020

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