Republicans were jubilant on Tuesday night when they realized they had taken control of the House of Representatives. Democrats can take heart that it wasn’t a total loss; they still were the party in power in the upper chamber of Congress.
The 2010 midterm election was one of the most closely watched and hotly contested in American history. Here’s how five of the most important races for U.S. Senate turned out.
Republican Pat Toomey defeated Democrat Joe Sestak in what became one of the closest Senate races during the 2010 general election. Although Pennsylvania was one of the first states to close polling places on Tuesday night, it wasn’t until much later when media outlets called the race in favor of Toomey. The Tea Party favorite won by only 80,000 votes out of nearly four million cast. Toomey was one of a handful of Tea Party-backed senators who won on this night. However, this race was the closest as Marco Rubio and Rand Paul won handily Florida and Kentucky respectively.
Longtime Senator Robert Byrd died in 2009 and a special election was held to fill the seat he held for decades. Democratic two-term Gov. Joe Manchin ran against businessman John Raese in what many were calling a referendum election on Barack Obama. It was called such because Manchin was a popular governor, West Virginia is close to Washington D.C., and there are many conservative-leaning residents in the state. In the end, the governor still had the moxie and popular votes to win as he defeated his challenger easily by 10 percentage points.
Democratic Sen. Harry Reid was in the fight of his political life despite Sharron Angle’s controversial ads about immigration. On Tuesday night, when television channels switched to Nevada to see how Reid was doing, there was always loud cheering in the background — cheering that marked a bright spot for Democrats during a day when they were pummeled in the House. Reid defeated Tea Party hopeful Angle by seven percentage points and 40,000 votes. Reid helped the Dems maintain their majority in the Senate by four places.
California’s Senate race was a contentious affair as incumbent Barbara Boxer held on against former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. In such a large state with late returns, it was a long night for political commentators as they awaited results. In the end, Boxer proved to be the more popular choice as she won by 10 percentage points and garnered 700,000 more votes than Fiorina.
Alaska’s Senate race is the most interesting, even if it is also the quirkiest. It also has yet to be “officially” decided because there are write-in candidates. Incumbent Lisa Murkowski was defeated by Tea Party hopeful Joe Miller in the primary. Murkowski took matters into her own hands and declared herself a write-in candidate.
The write-in campaign may have worked for one of the rare times in American history. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Democrat Scott Adams has 24 percent, Joe Miller has 34 percent, and a “write-in candidate” has 41 percent of the vote. Now the state of Alaska has to examine each of the nearly 82,000 write-in votes to make sure they say “Lisa Murkowski” or something close to that name in order to verify her victory.
What it means
The Senate still belongs to the Democrats, even though it wasn’t clear until about 11 p.m. eastern when Nevada and California would stay with Democratic incumbents. The House is now in control of the previous minority party and both sides must now work together to get anything done. Pessimists are saying we will now have gridlock. Optimists, politicians included, are looking forward to working out their differences. Two years from now, Americans will see what happens when the country holds presidential elections.