©Reuters. Workers sort ballots in delayed processing at the Clark County Election Department for the Nevada midterm elections in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., November 9, 2022. REUTERS/David Swanson
By Tim Reid and Richard Cowan
PHOENIX (Reuters) – Democrats were one seat away from majority control of next year’s US Senate on Saturday as vote counting resumed in deeply divided Nevada after Tuesday’s midterm elections and campaigning for a December 6 runoff in Georgia started.
If incumbent Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto defeats Republican Adam Laxalt in Nevada, her party would control 50 of the 100 Senate seats.
A Democratic victory in Georgia next month would then give the party absolute majority control of a Senate by 51 votes to 49 votes. A Democratic defeat in Georgia and a victory in Nevada would still leave the Democrats responsible for a 50-50 Senate as Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris can break the tie.
The Senate is currently split 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans. The newly elected Senate will be sworn in on January 3rd.
Ballot processing in Clark County, Nevada, which includes Las Vegas and is heavily Democratic, progressed with over 22,000 additional votes that may have been counted late Saturday, said county registrar Joe Gloria.
Such a large new number of votes on the statewide tally raised the possibility that this Senate race could be decided late Saturday.
This morning, Laxalt led with nearly 97% of the vote in the Nevada Senate race by around 800 votes. However, untold votes from Cortez Masto’s strongholds could help her win.
At a press conference, Gloria was asked if his office had received any complaints of fraud or other irregularities from either campaign. “We have not heard from any campaign related to fraud or questioning” about the process or the results, he replied.
Control of the Senate was controversial, as it was not yet known which party would hold the majority in the US House of Representatives in the next two years. Republicans continued to have an advantage, but returns were still pouring in for several races, including many in liberal-leaning California.
It could be at least a few more days before the outcome of enough house races is known to determine party control of this 435-seat chamber.
Democrats received a major boost late Friday when Democratic Senator Mark Kelly was expected to retain his Arizona seat and defeat Republican Blake Masters, who is yet to concede the race.
Kelly, a former Navy fighter pilot and astronaut, delivered a brief victory speech to supporters in Phoenix on Saturday with his wife, former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, at his side. His remarks focused on bipartisan work in Congress.
Kelly didn’t mention Masters, but said, “We have seen the consequences that come when leaders refuse to accept the truth and focus more on conspiracies of the past than solving the challenges we face today.”
In Tuesday’s midterm elections, many Republican candidates, including Masters, repeated former President Donald Trump’s false claim that he lost the 2020 election to Biden over massive voter fraud.
No winner has yet been forecast in the Arizona governor race, where Democrat Katie Hobbs has a narrow lead over Republican Kari Lake.
(Live election results from around the country are here)
JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS AT Stake
A Democrat-controlled Senate would give President Joe Biden assurances that his nominees for dozens of federal judgeships, led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, would get confirmation.
That would be especially important for Democrats if a seat on the US Supreme Court, which now has a conservative 6-3 lean, becomes vacant in the last two years of Biden’s tenure.
When the outgoing Senate returns Monday for a post-election working session that could last through late December, Schumer wants to immediately confirm two more federal judges awaiting final votes.
However, if Cortez fails to overtake Masto Laxalt and the Democrats also lose in Georgia, Schumer will have to spend much more time pushing through judicial nominations before relinquishing power on Jan. 3, after which Senate Republicans would have the option to deny either or to slow down. Biden nominees walk endorsement.
Throughout the year, Trump has hovered over the 2022 midterm election, using his enduring popularity among far-right conservatives to influence the candidates the Republican Party nominated for congressional, gubernatorial and local elections.
With Republicans’ lackluster performance on Tuesday — even if they win control of the Senate or House by a narrow margin — Trump has been accused of promoting candidates who were unable to appeal to a broad enough electorate.
Both Laxalt and Herschel Walker, the Republican running in Georgia against Senator Raphael Warnock, won Trump’s support. Republican defeats in either of those two races could further dampen Trump’s popularity as advisers say he is considering announcing a third presidential nomination in 2024. House Republicans have vowed to try to roll back Biden’s victories if they can pull off a victory to fight climate change and make a string of tax cuts expiring in 2017 permanent. They have also planned investigations into the activities of the Biden administration and probings of the president’s son, who had deals with Ukraine and China.