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Harry Reid, Democrats lose control of the U.S. Senate

Harry Reid

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

In this Sept. 16, 2014, photo, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks with reporters after a Democratic policy lunch at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Updated Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 | 8:46 p.m.

Nevada's Sen. Harry Reid has lost his majority leadership position after a Republican wave swept the country and knocked Democrats out of power in the U.S. Senate today.

Republicans won Senate races in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina.

That gave Republicans a net gain of six seats and the party control of a gridlocked Senate for the first time since 2007. Republicans will hold both chambers of Congress for President Barack Obama's last two years in office.

Reid did not make himself available to the media today and his spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

In a statement, Reid said: "I'd like to congratulate Senator McConnell, who will be the new Senate Majority Leader. The message from voters is clear: they want us to work together. I look forward to working with Senator McConnell to get things done for the middle class."

Democrats voted Reid the majority leader after the party took control of the Senate in 2006.

This time around, Republicans swept into power amid an unpopular president and an electoral map that put a series of Democrats defending seats in red states up for re-election.

Reid's formidable team did everything they could to push against these powerful political headwinds. Senate Majority PAC, an outside group with close ties to Reid, accounted for one out of every 20 Senate ads this election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who won his own re-election bid Tuesday, is expected to be the next majority leader of the Senate. He and Reid have feuded openly over Senate procedure.

The power shift will take effect in January, when Reid's fellow Senate Democrats will also vote on whether Reid will serve the party as Senate minority leader. The 74-year-old Nevada veteran is expected to stay in a leadership position as he gears up for a sixth re-election bid in 2016.

So, what does this all mean for the average Nevadan? Reid will lose his ability to control which bills get a vote, including potential legislation on Yucca Mountain. Nevada's junior senator, Republican Dean Heller, will legislate from the majority for the first substantial time in his career. But Nevada's political insiders of both parties think Reid will still have enough leverage to continue helping the state as a leader in Congress.

Here's how the election played out in key races, state by state.


Alaska: Sen. Mark Begich is one of six Democratic senators defending seats in Republican-leaning states, a task made tougher in an election cycle that favors Republicans. His challenger is Republican Dan Sullivan. Obama lost Alaska with 41 percent of the vote in 2012.

Louisiana: This race won't be decided until Dec. 6. In the state's open primary, neither vulnerable Democratic incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu nor Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy got 50 percent of the vote, and the two will go to a runoff next month. Cassidy will enter that race the slight favorite. On Tuesday, he got 44 percent to Landrieu's 41 percent.

Virginia: This state wasn't originally on our list of toss ups, but results filtering in show Republican challenger Ed Gillespie holding onto a slight lead against incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Warner. More bad news for Democrats.


Arkansas: One of the marquee races of the cycle went to Republicans. Rep. Tom Cotton easily ousted Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, a two-term senator. It was always a battle for Democrats: Obama lost the state with 37 percent of the vote in 2012.

Colorado: In a perennial swing state and one of the closest races of the election cycle​, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner ousted incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall. Obama won Colorado with just 50 percent of the vote in 2012, and the Senate race in 2014 is a very bad sign for Democrats and Reid.

Georgia: Democrats needed to win this seat to stay competitive, but it didn't happen. With Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss retiring, this Republican seat was in play. Republican David Perdue beat Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn, who put up a good fight.

Iowa: Republicans came out on top of this hard-fought campaign as well. Longtime Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin retired, andRepublican state Sen. Joni Ernst bested Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley. It's outcome was considered crucial for Democrats. "If we win Iowa, we're doing just fine," Reid told fellow Democrats on Saturday. ​

Kansas: Republican Sen. Pat Roberts appeared to be in trouble after the Democratic candidate bowed out of the race in hopes of uniting the liberal and nonpartisan vote for Independent Greg Orman. But Roberts eeked out a win on a night that has been very good for Republicans. ​

Kentucky: In some of the first results of the night, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has won his race against Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes. If Republicans take the majority, McConnell is expected to fill Reid's vacated slot as Senate majority leader.

Montana: After a plagiarism scandal, Democratic Sen. John Walsh quit his re-election campaign and basically handed Republicans a victory in a state that has elected Democrats to the Senate for the past century. On Tuesday, Republican Rep Steve Daines handedly beat his new Democratic challenger, Amanda Curtis.

North Carolina: Sen. Kay Hagan was another red-state Democrat who lost her job in an unpopular year for the party. GOP challenger Thom Tillis beat her in 2014. Obama lost the state with 48 percent of the vote in 2012.

South Dakota: Another Democratic retirement, Sen. Tim Johnson, turned into a gain for Republicans. Former Republican Gov. Mike Rounds easily beat Democrat Rick Weiland.

West Virginia: Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller is retiring, and Republican candidate Shelley Moore Capito took his seat on Tuesday, giving a boost to Republicans and the party its first West Virginia U.S. senator since the early 1900s.


New Hampshire: Democrats keep their seat in this state. It was a close race, but former Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown is couldn't overthrow incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Amber Phillips, the Sun's Washington correspondent, will be monitoring Senate elections across the country all day. She'll post live updates here. Feel free to send her your questions at [email protected] or find her on Twitter @byamberphillips.

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