Key Senate, House races as Republicans, Democrats wrestle for Capitol Hill control

James McCarten
·4 min read

WASHINGTON, Wash. — The presidential race is just one part of the shifting political landscape in the United States, which could look very different after Nov. 3.

Most of the suspense is in the Republican-led Senate, where Democrats need a net gain of three seats — four if Joe Biden misses out on the White House and Republican Vice-President Mike Pence holds a tiebreaking vote — to take over majority control. In the House of Representatives, the 35-seat Democrat majority is likely safe.

Here are just a few of the most compelling races for seats on Capitol Hill.

Alabama

Democrats are bracing for a Senate loss in Alabama, where allegiance to President Donald Trump isn't the liability it is elsewhere. Former Auburn University football coach and political rookie Tommy Tuberville is capitalizing on the struggles of Sen. Doug Jones, who defeated the scandal-ridden Roy Moore in a special election in 2017.

Arizona

This battle of former fighter pilots is a dogfight: Republican Sen. Martha McSally is ex-Air Force, while Democratic challenger and former naval aviator Mark Kelly became a gun-control champion after the near-fatal 2011 shooting of his wife, former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Georgia

There are two Senate seats up for grabs in a state transformed in recent years by an influx of diversity: white voters, once 70 per cent of the voter base, now comprise barely half the population. Polls suggest U.S. Sen. David Perdue and Democrat rival Jon Ossoff are neck-and-neck, as are Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins, two Republicans vying to take on the likely Democrat contender, Atlanta pastor Raphael Warnock. Both cases point to likely runoff votes in January.

Iowa

Sen. Joni Ernst played a prominent role during the Republican National Convention, cheering Trump for bringing new attention to the plight of Iowa farmers and leaning in to the president's proclivity for fiction over facts. But the polls suggest support for Trump is fading in Iowa, which could bode well for Ernst's nemesis, Theresa Greenfield, who has dramatically outstripped her Republican rival in the fundraising race.

Maine

Sen. Susan Collins made a point Monday of voting against sending Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. But she continues to be haunted by the decision in 2018 to do the opposite in the case of Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination was plagued by allegations of sexual misconduct as a high-schooler. The moderate four-term incumbent may have finally met her match in Sara Gideon, the speaker of the state House, who has capitalized on fears of what a second term of Trump could mean for the Affordable Care Act.

Montana

Democrats are anxiously watching Montana, where they believe their nominee, Gov. Steve Bullock, has a good chance to steal a Senate seat away from incumbent Sen. Steve Daines. Polls suggest the race is statistically tied in a part of the country where Trump still enjoys robust support.

North Carolina

One of the best examples of anti-Trump sentiment is playing out in the Tar Heel state, where Democrat Cal Cunningham is still going strong against Trump-allied Republican Sen. Thom Tillis despite a full-blown sex scandal. Cunningham, whose campaign originally portrayed the Iraq War veteran as a loving husband, father and family man, was found to have sent sexually suggestive text messages to a woman other than his wife. The Tillis campaign has been hammering the family-values hypocrisy hard ever since, and Republicans aren't yet writing off a race that's closer than it would otherwise be.

South Carolina

Prior to the Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Sen. Lindsey Graham could feel Democrat Jaime Harrison breathing down his neck. Graham's frequent Fox News appearances often included brazen pleas for financial support, while Harrison was setting the all-time Senate quarterly fundraising record. But Graham's role as chairman of the Senate justice committee, and his deft handling of the Amy Coney Barrett nomination — despite having publicly denounced an an identical late-stage effort by Barack Obama to appoint Merrick Garland in 2016 — may be helping to ease the pressure on the senator most closely aligned with Trump.

Texas

Rep. Will Hurd, the only Black Republican in the House of Representatives, narrowly defeated Gina Ortiz Jones in 2018. But Hurd is not running again, and Jones is leading the fundraising race against her new rival, Tony Gonzales, who may be in trouble if the unprecedented voter turnout across the U.S. breaks for Biden.

Utah

Burgess Owens, a former NFL defender and Fox News fixture who's a vocal supporter of Trump, could be poised to sack Democratic incumbent Rep. Ben McAdams, a former district mayor who’s leading the fundraising race in Utah’s 4th District, where the president was popular in 2016.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2020.

James McCarten, The Canadian Press