Election Results Unresolved, But Clarity Coming To Congressional Races

Election Day has come and gone, but the outcomes of some of this year’s elections remain unknown. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the expanded use of mail-in balloting, the process of counting votes is taking much longer than usual.

As of November 11, the results of the 2020 presidential election are disputed. While former Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE) and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) have declared victory, and while major media outlets have declared Biden and Harris to be the winners, President Donald Trump has questioned the validity of the election results and is challenging some of those results in court.

Control of the United States Senate remains up in the air.  Before Election Day, some observers predicted that Democrats would wrest control of the Senate from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his Republican colleagues (Senate Republicans went into Election Day with a 53-47 enrollment advantage). Several Democratic candidates raised astonishing sums of cash for their campaigns. Nevertheless, at this writing, Senate Republicans hold a 50-48 lead over Senate Democrats. (This figure includes the two Senate independents—Sens. Angus King of Maine and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont—who caucus with the Democrats.) Senate Democrats picked up seats in Arizona and Colorado, while Senate Republicans gained a seat in Alabama. However, Senate Democrats missed pickup opportunities in Iowa, Maine, Montana, and North Carolina. Because neither of Georgia’s incumbent Republican senators—Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler—received 50% of the vote on Election Day, each of them will face a runoff election on January 5, 2021. If one or both senators prevail, Republicans will retain their Senate majority. If both senators are defeated, each party will have 50 votes in the Senate; in that event, the party that controls the White House will control the Senate because of the Vice President’s tiebreaking vote. The Georgia runoff elections are likely to be expensive and hotly contested, given that control of the Senate hangs in the balance. At this point, Albany Update predicts that Republicans will hold a Senate majority once the votes from the January 5 runoff in Georgia are counted.

While many 2020 elections remain unresolved, the status of the U.S. House of Representatives has become clearer since Election Day.

Prior to the elections, Democrats held a majority of 232-197 in the 435-member body. (One member of Congress, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, is an enrolled Libertarian; also, there are five vacant seats in the House.) House Democrats were optimistic that their ranks would increase following the elections, and some even believed that they would see double-digit gains. To date, the election results have not met their expectations.

As of November 12, Democrats have prevailed in 218 House races, while Republicans have won 202. Fifteen races remain unresolved. The Democrats’ 218 seats are enough to guarantee the Party a continued majority in the House; the extent of that majority depends on how many of the 15 unresolved contests swing the Democrats’ way. However, at least seven House Democrats will not be returning to Washington in 2021, and it seems clear that the Party’s House ranks will decrease. Albany Update expects that once the dust has cleared, the Democratic Party will begin 2021 with somewhere in the neighborhood of 225 House seats.

According to Politico, House Democrats were “shell-shocked” at the election results. A post-election conference call included “finger-pointing, befuddlement and a few tears as Democrats acknowledged being blindsided after losing a number of key races in an election some were projecting as another blue wave.” The unmet expectations have exacerbated existing tensions between progressives and moderate Democrats, who believe that the rhetoric of their far-left colleagues damaged their prospects in swing districts. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) asserted, “‘We need to not ever use the words “socialist” or “socialism” ever again because while people think it doesn’t matter, it does matter. And we lost good members because of that.’” Rep. Spanberger also expressed concern about the “defund the police movement” and predicted that if Democrats did not learn their lesson from this year’s elections, they would be “torn apart” in 2022. Following the elections, House Democratic campaign chair Cheri Bustos (D-IL) announced that she would step down from her campaign leadership role.  

In New York, eight congressional races remain outstanding.