Amid Senate split, Dems gain in House, as vote count rolls on

Credit: Jamie Dupree

Credit: Jamie Dupree

It was not a quiet weekend for elections officials around the country, as vote counting gave Democrats the edge in a Senate race in Arizona, while Republicans kept their leads in key races as a recount began for Senate and Governor in Florida. Meanwhile in the House, Democrats continued to slowly pick off more GOP seats, increasing the size of their new majority for 2019, as a small group of races for Congress could remain undecided for days, if not weeks.

Most of the political battling was taking place over the recounts in Florida, where top Republicans repeatedly made charges of vote fraud, but state law enforcement officials made clear their investigations had not found anything to investigate, which led state GOP officials to all but demand an election probe.

Here's a rundown of where the 2018 mid-term elections stand:

1. Florida - Advantage Republicans As the races for Senate and Governor went into a recount on Sunday, it seemed like the only chance left for Democrats to win those races was the discovery of some kind of major tabulation error. Gov. Rick Scott (R) led Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) by around 12,500 votes, a margin that dwindled from almost 60,000 after the elections, amid outcries from Republicans. The margin in the Governor's race was over 43,000 votes for the GOP. It is rare for a recount to overturn a result, especially one that involves a lead of thousands of votes. Unless there is a major mistake in how the votes were added up, a change seems difficult to envision. For now, Florida is Advantage GOP.

Credit: Jamie Dupree

Credit: Jamie Dupree

2. Florida GOP cries fraud, but no investigations. Despite being ahead, Republicans of all stripes in Florida spent the weekend accusing Democrats of trying to "steal" the election in Florida, but that message was undercut a bit by investigators in two Florida state agencies. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement made clear it had no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing, and the Florida Department of State - which had monitors in Broward County's elections offices - told reporters they found "no evidence of criminal activity." That didn't sit well with Gov. Scott, who on Sunday accused Nelson of trying to 'steal' the election, and state Attorney General Pam Bondi - a favorite of President Trump - all but demanded that the FDLE and the Department of State publicly say that they did know of possible election wrongdoing. Democrats said it was all political hyperbole. "Governor Scott and President Trump are spewing baseless claims of voter fraud in Florida," said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.

3. Democrats have edge in Arizona Senate race. While Republicans seem to have the advantage in Florida, Democrats were gaining ground through the weekend in the race for Senate in Arizona, as Rep. Kirsten Sinema (D-AZ) took the lead on Friday, and then built that into an over 32,000 vote edge by Sunday evening, with over 160,000 ballots still to count - mainly from the Phoenix area. While Republicans claimed vote fraud repeatedly in Florida, the GOP Secretary of State rejected allegations about any vote troubles in Arizona, saying there was nothing amiss with the methodical vote count in the Grand Canyon State. "One of the major reasons it takes time to count ballots is that there are hundreds of thousands of early ballots dropped off at the polls on election day," said Michele Reagan, the Arizona Secretary of State. Other Republicans echoed that assessment, rejecting President Trump's talk of a new election, as there were reports that national Republicans were not pleased - as they wanted a tougher message about possible vote fraud.

4. Georgia Governor - GOP edge, but more votes to count. The other state that is still making vote counting headlines is Georgia. On Saturday, the new Secretary of State said no new vote totals would be posted until the next week. A few hours later, there were new vote totals posted by Georgia elections officials, as Democrats threatened legal action, complaining that there were thousands of votes going uncounted, and that state officials were not revealing how many votes remained to be counted. Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp declared victory, and said it was time for Democrat Stacey Abrams to concede. The Abrams camp refused, as they pointed to a break down of the new votes released on Saturday, which clearly showed a large majority of them going to the Democrat, as Abrams still hopes to force a runoff. As of Sunday evening, Kemp was at 50.28 percent.

5. Mississippi race roiled by "public hanging" remark. Most of you probably don't know that there is a runoff for U.S. Senate in Mississippi coming up in a few weeks, between appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and former Democratic Congressman Mike Espy. On Sunday, video surfaced of Hyde-Smith speaking with supporters on November 2, saying that one supporter who had endorsed her was such a good person, that if he 'invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row.' In a statement, Hyde-Smith said she "used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous." It should be pointed out that her opponent, Espy, is black. It should also be pointed out that public hangings don't have much of a positive connotation, especially in Mississippi.

6. Senate remains +2 for GOP. With an edge to Democrats in Arizona, and an edge for Republicans in Florida, right now it seems like the two parties will split those races. If that happens, Democrats would grab a GOP seat in Arizona, and Republicans would take a Democratic seat in Florida. In other words, it would be a wash overall, and would leave the GOP gains at two seats. A loss in Arizona would mean that Republicans lost GOP seats in both Arizona and Nevada, which probably was a surprise for many Republicans on Capitol Hill. There was a time late on Election Night when I thought the Republicans had a chance to win a 6 seat gain - but the Democrats won in Nevada, protected a seat in Montana, and now seem to be on the way to victory in Arizona's Senate race.

7. 10 Undecided races left in the House. Democrats continue to slowly pick up more GOP seats in the House, as they are now at a gain of 32 seats, heading for their largest gain since the 1974 elections, right after Watergate. There are 10 House races still undecided - four of those are being led by Democrats, and the other six by the GOP. The biggest problem for Republicans is in California, where there is an outside chance that Democrats would take six seats away from the GOP. Veteran Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's race was called for the Democrats on Saturday, and the seats of Republican Rep. Jeff Denham (he's behind) and Rep. Mimi Walters (she's still slightly ahead) are in danger. Also, an open seat in CA39 is still in play, though the lead has shrunk for Republican Young Kim, who would be the first Korean-American woman to be elected to Congress. But it's not clear if she can hang on.

8. This extended vote count is normal. I really want to stress this point. It is normal for various states to still be counting votes at this point. The elections don't get wrapped up with a neat bow around midnight on Election night. The vote counting often goes on for days - sometimes weeks in the case of a close race. This is what happens every two years. I pay attention to it, because I'm always watching close races for Congress - especially in California, where they take weeks to count all the votes. States like Arizona and California have hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots come in after Election Day - they just have to be postmarked by that day, and can still arrive until Friday. Then all the signatures have to be matched - this takes time. And it's normal. But for most people, the idea that it is still going is an outrage. I'm sorry, but that's the system that we have. And it's normal.

9. Undecided races for the House. Here's your thumbnail of the ten races still not officially called in the U.S. House:

+ CA10 - Rep. Jeff Denham R-CA may be on his way out of Congress, as the California Republican trails. The late arriving mail-in ballots tend to trend for the Democrats in the Golden State.

+ CA39 - Republican Young Kim's lead continues to shrink, but she may have a chance to hang on, as her lead is about 2,400 votes over Democrat Gil Cisneros.

+ CA45 - Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) has seen her lead drop from 6,000 to 2,000 votes in recent days in her Orange County district. This was once the bastion of conservatism - now there is an outside chance that Democrats could sweep every Congressional seat in this county.

+ GA7 - While his colleague Rep. Karen Handel (R-GA) lost next door in GA6, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) still has a lead of about 900 votes. It's unclear how many votes are still to be counted from absentees, overseas military votes, and/or provisionals.

+ Maine 2 - Elections officials will continue this week to use the "ranked choice voting" process to determine the winner. Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) led in the initial vote, but did not get a majority. Now the votes of those who finished in third and fourth will be reallocated to the top two finishers, as voters had to indicate their second and third choices in the race. Some experts believe the Democrats will win this seat.

+ NJ3 - Democrats seem to have the edge in this final seat in New Jersey, where their candidate has a 4,000 vote edge over Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ). Provisional ballots were counted through the weekend. One county won't count provisionals until Wednesday. A MacArthur loss would leave the Republicans with only one seat out of 12 in the New Jersey delegation, a loss of four seats in the 2018 election.

+ NY22 - Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) is behind by over 1,300 votes, with absentees and provisionals still to be counted in coming days. For everyone who tells me that Republicans never do better after Election Day, she benefited from a tabulation error, which helped her close the lead by over 200 votes.

+ NY27 - Indicted GOP Rep. Chris Collins leads with a number of absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted. He would seem to have the edge, but you never know what might happen with those who sent their votes in early.

+ TX23 - Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) continues to lead by 1,150 votes, with provisionals and absentee ballots still to be counted. Hurd was declared the winner on Election Night, then lost his lead, and grabbed it back late that evening.

+ UT4 - Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) still trails in her race, but did gain some votes in the counts done on Friday. She has already had to endure the ridicule of President Trump last week, who blasted her and other Republicans representing more suburban districts who had spurned his public support during the campaign.

All ten of those undecided races are for GOP seats.

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