Republicans tighten grip on US House of Representatives

2014-11-05 10:34
Barack Obama. (File: AP)

Barack Obama. (File: AP)

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Washington - Republicans tightened their grip on the US House of Representatives on Tuesday with a blizzard of victories over rival Democrats that also gave the party control of the Senate.

With all 435 seats in the US House of Representatives up for election on Tuesday, Republicans expanded their majority amid dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama, whose approval ratings have dipped to 38%.

Republicans, who currently control 233 out of 435 seats in the House, may pick up 10 or more once all votes are counted from Tuesday's balloting - not enough to override a presidential veto but likely to increase the party's clout as it accumulates what could be its biggest majority since the late 1940s.

California, district 7

In a state where urban areas tend to skew Democratic, the eastern suburbs of Sacramento have long been a battleground between Democrats and Republicans, and the state's dramatic redistricting process two years ago created a district that could go back and forth between the two parties for years.

Democrat Ami Bera, a physician who eked out a win against the Republican who held the seat in 2012, faced a fierce battle against Republican Doug Ose in what became one of the most closely watched contests in the country.

The two traded places as the returns came in, with Bera initially ahead by about 400 votes and then Ose ahead by the same amount later in the evening.

With 74% of precincts reporting, Ose had 36 337 votes compared with Bera's 36 756 votes in a race that was too close to call on Tuesday night.

As of 15 October, Bera had raised $3.7m during a campaign cycle that began in 2013, spending most of it to end the period with $347 000 cash on hand. Ose raised $1.6m during the same period, and also reported loans of $1.8m, according to federal campaign finance records.

California, district 52

Leading narrowly: Republican Carl DeMaio

In a race that has been targeted as a priority by both parties, San Diego Democrat Scott Peters trailed challenger Carl DeMaio in early returns, winning 49% of the vote compared to DeMaio's 51% with 28% of precincts reporting at 23:00 local time.

DeMaio is openly gay and calls himself a "new generation Republican". Both candidates are former San Diego City Council members.

Colorado, district 6

Winner: Republican Mike Coffman

After redistricting shifted a traditionally conservative district in Colorado to include part of more liberal suburban Denver, Republican incumbent Mike Coffman found himself the target of a well-funded campaign by the Democratic former speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, Andrew Romanoff.

The race was one of the most expensive in the country, with Coffman raising $4.4m during the 2013-2014 campaign cycle, and Romanoff raising $4.7m.

Romanoff conceded the election on Tuesday night, as returns showed Coffman with about 54% of the vote versus 42% for Romanoff at 23:00 local time.

Florida, district 2

Winner: Democrat Gwen Graham

In Republican-leaning north Florida, Democrats won a rare upset against Tea Party Republican Steve Southerland, who has served two terms in the state's 2nd Congressional District. With nearly all votes counted, challenger Gwen Graham led Southerland by just over a percentage point, with 50.6% of votes to Southerland's 49.4%. The candidates were separated by 2 934 votes out of 245 444 cast.

Graham sought to unseat Southerland by playing up the enduring appeal of her family name, campaigning alongside her famous father, former US Senator Bob Graham.

Graham has downplayed her Democratic label, painting herself as an independent voice for the "North Florida Way". The race was widely viewed as a test of her party's ability to reconnect with white southern voters who have largely abandoned its national ticket.

Florida, district 26

Winner: Republican Carlos Curbelo

Republicans in south Florida won back a seat they lost in 2012 in an all-Cuban-American tussle between incumbent Democrat Joe Garcia and rival Republican Carlos Curbelo. Curbelo led with 52% of the vote compared to Garcia's 48%.

Garcia, 51, who conceded the race, was the first Cuban-American Democrat elected to Congress in Florida, after a long line of Republicans.

Curbelo, despite being only 34 and in his first congressional bid, is an experienced political hand, having run the campaigns of some senior south Florida Republicans. His hard-line anti-Castro conservatism appears to have stood him well with older Cuban-American voters.

Iowa, district 3

Winner: Republican David Young

Republican David Young beat Democrat Staci Appel on Tuesday night, leading with 53% of the vote compared to Appel's 42% with 98% of precincts reporting.

The contest between Young and Appel had been tight, but Young opened up a lead and kept it, disappointing Democrats who had hoped to pick up a seat in Iowa. The two were vying to replace Republican Tom Latham, who is retiring from a district that includes Des Moines, the largest city in the state.

A recent poll showed Appel ahead, but when the margin of error was considered, the race was nearly a tie.

Massachusetts, district 6

Winner: Democrat Seth Moulton

In northeast Massachusetts, four-tour Iraq war veteran Seth Moulton, a Democrat who ran a successful primary campaign against US Representative John Tierney, beat Republican former lawmaker Richard Tisei.

The race upended some typical assumptions about US politics, with the Democrat campaigning hard on veterans' issues, while Tisei, a gay man who is married, positioned himself as socially liberal.

In his victory speech, Moulton cited his service in the Marines and said he would work on improvements to the Veterans Administration medical system, as well as lower taxes for small businesses and equal pay for women.

New York, district 11

Winner: Republican Michael Grimm

In one of the more colorful races of the season, Republican Michael Grimm's effort to hold on to his seat in New York's 11th Congressional District after he was indicted for fraud, perjury and conspiracy in a tax fraud case proved a success Tuesday night.

Grimm pulled in 53% of votes in the once-tight race, compared to 41% for his opponent, Democrat Domenic Recchia Junior, with all election districts reporting.

Grimm famously made headlines earlier this year after he was caught on camera threatening to throw a reporter off a balcony in the US Capitol, saying: "I'll break you in half. Like a boy."

North Carolina, district 2

Winner: Republican Renee Ellmers

"American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken, a Democrat, collected another second-place finish in his challenge to US Representative Renee Ellmers in North Carolina's heavily Republican 2nd Congressional District.

Ellmers, who initially won the seat during the Republicans' national electoral sweep in 2010, trounced Aiken with 59% of the vote to 41%.

Aiken, who taught special education in North Carolina before his 2003 "American Idol" stint, argued that the district was ready for a representative who would spend more time listening to constituents back home and be less consumed by partisan politics. He conceded in a speech at his election party in Sanford, North Carolina, and in a nod to his near-American Idol win he noted that "we've walked down this path once or twice before."

Texas, district 23

Leading: Republican Will Hurd

Incumbent Texas Democrat Pete Gallego was trailing Republican challenger Will Hurd, a former CIA operative who says his background gives him expertise in national security and public service, but the race remained fairly tight and Gallego had not conceded the race as of midnight local time.

The two fought over a district that stretches for 500 miles from San Antonio to El Paso and is bigger than 29 states, according to Gallego's congressional website.

With 98% of the vote counted, Hurd led with 49.72% of the vote, compared to Gallego's 47.74%.

Utah, district 4

Winner: Republican Mia Love

Former Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love became the first black Republican woman elected to the House of Representatives on Tuesday, as the Mormon daughter of Haitian immigrants pulled ahead of Democrat Doug Owens as the last few precincts were counted, finishing with just over 50% of the vote to Owens's 48%.

Love is opposed to abortion and supports gun rights, and holds a concealed weapons permit.

She and Owens faced each other in a tight race for an open seat in a district created after the 2010 Census, which encompasses parts of Democratic-leaning Salt Lake City, then runs south along the Wasatch Front into parts of rural Utah that are typically Republican strongholds.

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