There was little chance that Democrats would seize control of the House this year, but after their brutal losses in the Tea Party takeover just two years ago, there were some congressional races that could grow their ranks. Former Republican presidential candidate and lightening rod Michele Bachmann was at risk in a newly redrawn district, while Democratic firebrand Alan Grayson of Florida was seeking to reclaim a seat. With most results in, here are results from the races to watch Tuesday night:
Jim Renacci (R) v. Betty Sutton (D)
The presidential election’s most-wanted swing state has surprisingly few House races worth holding one’s breath to watch. Perhaps the tightest was the result of redistricting that pitted incumbents Jim Renacci (R) and Betty Sutton (D) against each other. Late polls showed Ohio slouching toward the president, whose coattails were expected to help carry Sutton. Also in her favor was the National Republican Congressional Committee considering Renacci a Top 10 cash-strapped GOP House member seeking reelection, according to a document leaked to Politico. This in a race in which outside groups’ spending approached $10 million, according to the Sunlight Foundation. Result: Renacci beat Sutton in a race that turned out less close than expected, retaining another GOP seat.
Steve King (R) v. Christie Vilsack (D)
Iowa’s former first lady, Christie Vilsack, was hoping to oust Steve King, a Republican known for tone-deafness. He has defended dog fighting, asserted that President Obama’s election would bring a terrorism nightmare to the U.S., and—already—broadly dismissed the need for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
Vilsack had long studied the politician's role up close: her husband, Tom, is the U.S. secretary of agriculture. Of moving from first lady to candidate, Vilsack told The Daily Beast, “the transition for me is about confidence and gaining confidence.” Result: King will return to Congress, defeating Vilsack for a sixth term with nearly 53 percent of the vote, with 96 percent of precincts reporting, according to The New York Times.
Alan Grayson (D) v. Todd Long (R)
Grayson lost his seat in 2010, a defeat he’s blamed on a conservative seniors group that spent $1 million against him. Voters have missed the tough talk of the champion for the public option during floor discussions of the Affordable Care Act. Now he was seeking a comeback—attacking his opponent, Todd Long, mercilessly in email blasts—to help save his older constituents from “dying” under a Romney regime, as he put it to The Daily Beast. Long runs a small business and hosts a right-wing talk-radio show. Result: Grayson toppled Long easily, winning by 25 points.
Joe Walsh (R) v. Tammy Duckworth (D)
By repeatedly ramming his foot down his throat, incumbent Joe Walsh looked like he could well lose the seat he won in the 2010 Tea Party takeover. He mocked Tammy Duckworth’s stump speech and its mention of her Iraq war veteran credentials (she is also a double amputee). Walsh’s most recent inflammatory statement denied that pregnant women would ever need a life-saving abortion. “There is no such exception,” he said. He was also sued by his ex-wife for overdue child support. (They settled out of court.)
The final polls showed the race neck-and-neck, though Duckworth told Chicago reporters Tuesday, “I’m very confident.” Result: Duckworth will now serve Illinois’s 8th, ousting Walsh by nearly 8 points.
Michele Bachmann (R) v. Jim Graves (D)
Democrats would love to claim the seat now held by former presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann, who moved to ban falafel from schools, accuses the federal government of harboring Muslim Brotherhood members, and consistently attacks anything and everything Obama. She outraised her opponent, Democratic challenger and local businessman Jim Graves, by a stark margin, but the 2010 redistricting left her with far more difficult territory to hold. Result: Bachmann and Graves remained neck and neck as of 2 a.m. ET Wednesday, with 50.3 percent for the incumbent to 49.7 percent for Graves, with 75 percent reporting.
Allen West (R) v. Patrick Murphy (D)
Mouthy Tea Party freshman and prolific fundraiser Allen West may face legal action from his challenger, Democrat Patrick Murphy, over an ad he bought alleging that the 29-year-old Murphy assaulted a police officer. That about sums up the tenor of this race in a newly drawn, Democratic-leaning district in which the candidates raised more than $20 million combined. West, a former Army colonel, is one of two black Republicans in Congress. He has proposed rooting out the country’s communists and is admired by Glenn Beck. Political observers speculated that a West loss could signal an end to the Tea Party as we know it. Result: Sheldon Adelson’s last hope flamed out. The firebrand West won’t return to the House—he was defeated by Murphy.
John Tierney (D) v. Richard Tisei (R)
Democrat John Tierney risked being unseated by a popular state legislator who is socially liberal and openly gay. Richard Tisei is a rare well-liked Republican in a deeply Democratic state, and he had the cash reserves to prove it. Meantime, Tierney couldn’t seem to shake swirling accusations that his wife may be involved with her fugitive brother’s illegal gambling empire. The GOP was eager for a win here: John Boehner, whose social politics surely don’t jibe with Tisei’s, personally fundraised for him. Result: This was a close one, but Massachusetts once again chose Tierney as its 6th District congressman. He beat out Tisei by just 1 point.
New Hampshire 2nd
Charlie Bass (R) v. Ann McLane Kuster
Everyone loves a rematch. Former energy consultant Charlie Bass, who has spent a total of 12 years in Congress, eked out a win in 2010, but the Granite State seemedto be trending blue, which boded well for Ann McLane Kuster, who led the cash battle in recent months. The pair’s paths are similar, from grandfathers who were colleagues in state government to both claiming Dartmouth as their alma mater—though that didn’t stopped them from aggressively attacking each other. If Kuster won and Carol Shea-Porter beat Frank Guinta, New Hampshire would boast an all-women federal force of senators and House representatives. Result: Kuster won her standoff against Bass, picking up a new House seat for the Democrats.
Kyrsten Sinema (D) v. Vernon Parket (R)
In yet another new district, history was set to be made if longtime Arizona state legislator Kyrsten Sinema snagged a victory. If she defeated Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker, Sinema would become the first openly bisexual House member. After a tough and at times dirty primary battle to defeat former Clinton aide Andrei Cherny, PAC spending gave Sinema the edge. Parker said he would crack down on employers hiring undocumented workers, and he dismissed Obamacare. Sinema supported the president’s health-care reform and passage of the DREAM Act. Result: It was a dead heat, with Sinema claiming 47.5 percent of the vote, ahead of Parker’s 46.1 percent, with 97 percent of returns in.