our full days after Election Day, the improbable 2022 midterms have reached their penultimate chapter in dramatic fashion, with confirmation that Democrats will maintain control of the U.S. Senate in the next Congress.
This article first appeared in Salon.
All major news outlets declared Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada the projected winner over Republican Adam Laxalt on Saturday night, after a near-final count of mail ballots in the Las Vegas area pushed her ahead by a few thousand votes. Combined with Sen. Mark Kelly's re-election in Arizona over Republican Blake Masters, which was confirmed on Friday, that will give Democrats 50 seats in the Senate — enough for a majority, given Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote.
One seat in the Senate remains undecided, but is now less consequential: The Georgia contest between incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker will be decided in a Dec. 8 runoff election. Warnock finished slightly ahead of Walker, but did not reach the 50 percent threshold required by state law.
Even more implausibly, it now appears possible that Democrats could hold their majority in the House of Representatives as well, something that seemed virtually inconceivable to most observers going into this election, and even in the first day or two after it concluded. Such a victory remains relatively unlikely — it would require Democrats to win nearly all of the undecided races on the West Coast, some of which are currently led by Republicans — but the 2022 midterms have already made clear that the unlikely and the impossible are different things
MSNBC analyst Steve Kornacki (once a Salon reporter) has projected an approximate House total of 219 Republicans and 216 Democrats, which would be the narrowest majority in recent political history. As Kornacki and other analysts have observed, there are hundreds of thousands of mail ballots yet to count in California House races. Those generally tend to break in Democrats' favor. and it's not inconceivable that late-arriving ballots could push Democrats to the required 218 seats, or even beyond.
Vote counting, and in some cases recounts, may continue for another week or longer. The neck-and-neck race in Colorado's 3rd congressional district between far-right Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert and Democrat Adam Frisch, for example, may take weeks to decide, with late-arriving military ballots and "cured" ballots still being counted and a likely recount ahead.