WASHINGTON — Republicans have held on to both chambers of Congress, fending off a once-promising bid by Democrats to win the Senate that fizzled in the final days of the campaign with a series of wins last night.
Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania edged out Democrat Katie McGinty in the most expensive political race in Senate history, cinching the GOP’s control of the upper chamber.
Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who jumped back into a re-election race after losing the Republican presidential primary, kept his seat with a victory in one of the most closely watched congressional races in the country — one of a number of high-profile GOP congressional victories last night.
“This is a lot better than the last time I did one of these in Miami,” Rubio said in his victory speech last night after defeating Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.
In his speech, Rubio focused on his vow to help mend the divisions the election season has caused in the Sunshine State and in the nation.
“This is an extraordinary place, Florida,” Rubio said. “It is the collection of all the things that make us the greatest nation on Earth: of people who have lived here for decades, of the descendants of slaves, of the children of immigrants. Florida is America.
“There is no way for this nation to move forward if we leave anyone behind,” Rubio said.
In Wisconsin, GOP U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s victory over Democratic challenger former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold was a major blow to Democrats who looked to pick off that seat in last night’s contests.
In another key Senate race, Ohio Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman defeated Democratic former Gov. Ted Strickland.
Strickland was initially thought to be a potentially formidable challenger to Portman. But Strickland was unable to overcome fundraising problems in the face of the much better-funded Portman and heavy spending by outside groups in the race.
In North Carolina, GOP U.S. Sen. Richard Burr defeated Democratic challenger Deborah Ross. Burr’s victory came despite drawing recent fire for joking that gun owners may want to put a “bull’s-eye” on Hillary Clinton and for vowing to stop her from filling the Supreme Court vacancy if she wins.
Democrats did pick up a Republican seat in Illinois, where Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth unseated incumbent GOP U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who could not recover from controversial comments he made about his opponent — a double-amputee Iraq War veteran and daughter of a U.S. Army veteran whose family served in the military since the American Revolution.
During a debate last month, when Duckworth mentioned her family’s long history of military service, Kirk replied: “I forgot your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.”
Kirk later apologized to Duckworth, whose mother was born in Thailand, but he was not able to recover in the polls, which had already given Duckworth a slight edge over the incumbent.
In Nevada, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto defeated Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, keeping the Senate seat of retiring Minority Leader Harry Reid in the Democratic column.
Democrats held onto an open seat in Maryland, where U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen will replace the longest-serving female senator, Barbara Mikulski, who retired.
Republicans easily held onto control of the House of Representatives as Democrats fell far short of picking up the 30 seats to retake the chamber.
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