Nov 4, 2014 6:27 PM

Hot races, big stakes on midterm election ballot

The Associated Press

Republicans rolled up a string of victories Tuesday night in their bid for control of the Senate, the biggest prize at stake in the midterm elections.

Altogether, they needed to gain six seats to win back the Senate majority they lost in 2006. They swiftly moved toward that goal.

Republicans switched West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana to their column, as widely expected, then added Arkansas, where incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor lost a closely fought race.

Colorado made it five pickups, as Democratic incumbent Mark Udall lost to Rep. Cory Gardner.

Democrats' hopes for a turnover in Kentucky were dashed when GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell won re-election in one closely watched race.

Polls and pundits see about 10 Democratic seats that could switch to the GOP and a few that could go the other way.

Voters also were picking a new House of Representatives, choosing governors in three dozen states and deciding more than 100 ballot measures.



Democrats entered the night with a 53-45 Senate majority, and they usually have the support of two independents.

On Tuesday, 36 seats were contested. Senators serve six-year terms, meaning those elected Tuesday will serve through the next president's first term.

The GOP swept the seats of three retiring Democratic senators, in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. Iowa was another possibility.

The GOP is also looking to flip seats in North Carolina, Alaska and Louisiana. They failed in New Hampshire, where Democrat Jeanne Shaheen held off a high-profile challenge from Republican Scott Brown.

There could be GOP losses in Georgia and Kansas.



Republicans now hold a 234-201 majority in the House. Every election puts all 435 House seats in play. No one doubts the GOP will keep control of that chamber; the question is how many seats they'll gain.

Some two dozen Democrats, along with four Republicans, are seen as vulnerable. If Republicans defeat the most endangered Democratic incumbents and win open seats in North Carolina, Utah and New York, they might end the night with as many as 246 seats, the most for the party since World War II.



The GOP is defending 22 governor's seats, Democrats 14.

Many of the nation's incumbent state CEOs are vulnerable, more so than usual. A half-dozen Republican governors who swept into office, some with tea party support, in 2010 are struggling to hang onto office.

They include GOP Gov. Sam Brownback in solidly Republican Kansas and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is on the ballot for the third time in four years.

Walker's chances as a candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination rest on whether he survives a challenge Tuesday from Democrat Mary Burke. Democrats and their labor allies salivate at the prospect of defeating the governor who effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers in the state after his election in 2010.

Elsewhere, voters re-elected Republican Govs. Bill Haslam in Tennessee and Robert Bentley in Alabama.

Several Democrats entered the day struggling to win election, too, most notably in reliably blue New England.

Topping that list is Martha Coakley, who ought to be a shoo-in as a Democrat in Massachusetts. But the state's attorney general, who also lost a bid for Senate in 2010, could fall to Republican Charlie Baker.



Voters experienced sporadic glitches but there were no immediate signs of anything serious enough to affect the outcome of an election.

Virginia officials reported problems with 32 machines that prevented voters from immediately casting accurate ballots. A judge in New Mexico ordered a county to issue provisional ballots after lawyers complained that voters were being turned away due to software problems.

A Georgia website designed to help voters locate polling places directed many users instead to an error messages. A Connecticut judge ordered two polling places in Hartford to stay open a half hour late. Democrat Charlie Crist's campaign for Florida governor filed a motion to extend voting by two hours in Broward County. It was denied.



Americans historically vote in lower numbers in midterm elections than when motivated by a presidential race.

Both parties used sophisticated methods to find and recruit voters from the 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Democrats had the most at stake, since their voters are more likely to drop off in a midterm.

There were signs the strategy was working. More than 20 million people in 35 states had voted in advance, either in person or by mail, according to figures compiled as of early afternoon Tuesday.



Like Walker and Brownback, GOP governors Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, Rick Scott in Florida, Paul LePage in Maine and Rick Snyder in Michigan won with tea party support in 2010 and are standing for re-election for the first time. Corbett lost on Tuesday.

In Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy and Republican Thomas Foley are in rematch of their 2010 race, which Malloy won by fewer than 6,500 votes.

In Kansas, independent Greg Orman could become the kingmaker of the Senate if he defeats Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. Orman could align himself with either party, possibly determining which of them controls the chamber.

In Colorado: Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican Bob Beauprez were in a fierce race going into Election Day.



Among nearly 150 ballot measures being decided Tuesday: legalization of recreational marijuana use in Alaska, Washington, D.C., and Oregon. Anti-abortion measures in Colorado, North Dakota and Tennessee. Labeling requirements for certain genetically modified foods in Colorado and Oregon.


Associated Press writers Kimberly Hefling, Nedra Pickler and Eric Tucker contributed to this story.


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