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Republicans appear poised to retain control of U.S. Senate as Democrats win in Arizona, Colorado

Control of the Senate is a razor-close proposition in the election as Republicans fight to retain their majority against Democratic candidates who are challenging President Donald Trump's allies across a vast political map. 

Republican Susan Collins to serve 5th term in seat coveted by Democrats

Republican Sen. Susan Collins speaks on Wednesday to supporters in Maine, where she was the first to reveal that Democratic challenger Sara Gideon had conceded Tuesday's election. (Robert F. Bukaty/The Associated Press)

Control of the Senate is a razor-close proposition in the election as Republicans fight to retain their majority against Democratic candidates who are challenging U.S. President Donald Trump's allies across a vast political map.

Securing control of the Senate is vital for the winner of the presidency. Senators confirm administration nominees, including the cabinet, and can propel or stall the White House agenda. With Republicans now controlling the chamber, 53-47, three or four seats will determine party control, depending on who wins the presidency, because the vice-president can break a tie.

The Republicans maintain a slight advantage as votes continue to be counted. 

Democrats picked up seats in Arizona and Colorado, and Republicans picked up one in Alabama in the battle for control of the Senate in Tuesday's elections.  

Democrats failed to capture a seat in Maine as Susan Collins — seen as a moderate Republican not always in favour of Trump's approach — fended off Sara Gideon, the state House Speaker. Both candidates said a concession call was made, with Collins heading back for a fifth term in the Senate.

Collins said the outcome was "affirmation of the work that I'm doing in Washington."

The Democratic Party was also disappointed by a clear win in South Carolina for Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham after reportedly pouring in more than $100 million US for the campaign of Jaime Harrison. Graham, in securing a fourth term in his defeat of Harrison, had made direct appeals for cash on Fox News.

Republicans were also threatening to flip a seat in Michigan, as John James, a Black Republican businessman, was running neck-and-neck with Democratic Sen. Gary Peters with 95 per cent of the vote in by Wednesday afternoon. But by Wednesday evening, the vote had flipped just enough, and Peters was declared re-elected. 

Speaking before the Collins win, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Trump's campaign helped his colleagues in their races but that it was still too soon to declare victory as state election officials count ballots.

"We're waiting — whether I'm going to be the majority leader or not," McConnell told a news conference in his home state of Kentucky after earning a seventh term with a win over Democrat Amy McGrath.

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Republican Steve Daines of Montana won a second Senate term early Wednesday, dealing another blow to the Democrats' hopes. The former business executive and Trump loyalist defeated Gov. Steve Bullock.

In Iowa, Republican Sen. Joni Ernst won a second term, fending off a competitive challenge from Des Moines real estate developer Theresa Greenfield. Ernst has been an ardent supporter of Trump.   

Democrats flip 2 seats, lose 1

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado was defeated by Democrat John Hickenlooper, a popular former two-term governor who repeatedly tied Gardner to Trump politically during the race.

Democrats have won every statewide race since Gardner's election, with the exception of a board of regents position in 2016.

"It's time for a different approach," Hickenlooper said in a live video message posted on Facebook.

Mark Kelly, right, Arizona Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, waves to supporters along with his wife, Gabrielle Giffords, second from right, and daughters Claire Kelly, left, and Claudia Kelly on Tuesday in Tucson, Ariz. Kelly unseated Republican Martha McSally. (Ross D. Franklin/The Associated Press)

In Arizona, Democrat Mark Kelly won the Senate seat once held by John McCain, riding Arizona's changing electorate to flip a Republican Senate seat in a state long dominated by the GOP.

Kelly, a former astronaut and husband of former congresswoman and gun-control activist Gabby Giffords, defeated Republican Martha McSally.

Several other Democrats were re-elected, including Dick Durbin in Illinois, Ed Markey in Massachusetts, Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, Cory Booker in New Jersey, Mark Warner in Virginia, Tina Smith in Minnesota and Jack Reed in Rhode Island. 

Republican Tommy Tuberville defeated Sen. Doug Jones, who had been widely considered the Senate's most endangered Democrat. (Butch Dill/The Associated Press)

Early on Tuesday night, Republicans took back Alabama as expected, with former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville heading to Congress. Democratic Sen. Doug Jones had been widely considered the Senate's most endangered Democrat.

Tuberville, who has never held public office, aligned himself closely with the president and declared in the primary campaign, "God sent us Donald Trump," as the president endorsed him over his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

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Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas defeated Democrat MJ Hegar in his hardest-fought battle in almost two decades as Democrats poured millions of dollars into Hegar's campaign.

Key contests still undecided

When Johnny Isakson retired in Georgia, fellow Republican Kelly Loeffler was appointed by the governor to take his Senate seat.

On Tuesday, Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock advanced to a Jan. 5 run-off in the special election for Loeffler's Senate seat.

Loeffler faced her first electoral test not just from Warnock but also from Republican Rep. Doug Collins, who was eliminated from the race.

In a three-person race, the top two candidates compete in a run-off election on Jan. 5 if no candidate reaches 50 per cent of the vote, according to Georgia's rules.

In the other Georgia Senate race, Republican Sen. David Perdue, a former business executive Trump calls his favourite senator, tried to stave off Democrat Jon Ossoff, another candidate who has benefited from the "green wave" of campaign donations. It, too, could go to a run-off.

North Carolina's race between incumbent Republican Thom Tillis and Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham was relatively close and yet to be officially called, with Tillis leading.

The Alaska race had yet to be called with votes still coming in, but Republican congressman Dan Sullivan appeared on his way to jumping to the Senate with a healthy lead over Al Gross.

Potential 2024 presidential candidates win

In Arkansas, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton won re-election in a race that's allowed him to lay the groundwork for a potential 2024 White House bid.

Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse was re-elected, beating Democrat Chris Janicek. Sasse, also a potential 2024 candidate, benefited from an overwhelming Republican advantage after having heavily criticized Trump on a call to constituents.

Ben Sasse was able to withstand criticism from President Donald Trump, returning to the Senate to represent Nebraska. (Susan Walsh/The Associated Press)

Shelley Moore Capito became the first West Virginia Republican to be re-elected to the Senate in more than a century.

In a repeat of a 2018 special election, Cindy Hyde-Smith defeated Democrat Mike Espy in Mississippi.

The Senate will welcome some newcomers as others retire. In New Mexico, Democrat Ben Ray Lujan, a member of the House leadership, was elected to the seat held by Democrat Tom Udall. Tennessee Republican Bill Hagerty won the seat held by Republican Lamar Alexander. Republican Cynthia Lummis, the former congresswoman from Wyoming, won the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Mike Enzi.

Democrats secured a seat in Oregon but weren't able to defeat the Republican opponents in Idaho and Kansas, where Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier had managed to raise more than $25 million US for the campaign.

Democrat majority in House potentially reduced

Disappointed Democrats drove Wednesday toward extending their control of the House for two more years but with a potentially shrunken majority as they lost at least seven incumbents and failed to oust any Republican lawmakers in initial returns.

By midmorning on Wednesday, Democrats' only gains were two North Carolina seats vacated by Republican incumbents after a court-ordered remapping made the districts more Democratic. Though they seemed likely to retain House control, their performance was an unexpected disappointment for the party, which hoped for modest gains of perhaps 15 seats.

After decades of trying, Republicans defeated 15-term Rep. Collin Peterson from a rural Minnesota district. He was defeated by Republican Michelle Fischbach, the former lieutenant governor.

Rep. Donna Shalala, left, stands with fellow Floridian congresswoman Debbie Wasserman before an appearance by former president Barack Obama at a campaign rally Monday in Miami. Shalala was one of several Democrats to lose in the House of Representatives. (Lynne Sladky/The Associated Press)

Also losing were freshmen Democrats Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala, health secretary under president Bill Clinton, in adjacent South Florida districts where Trump seemed to consolidate support among Cuban voters.

Others that were defeated were Democratic freshmen Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico and Kendra Horn in Oklahoma, who had surprising victories in 2018 in districts Trump carried decisively in 2016.

Max Rose, a New York congressman who upset many of his Staten Island constituents by voting for impeachment, appeared headed to defeat against Republican challenger Nicole Malliotakis, a member of the state assembly.

Illinois's Cheri Bustos, another prominent Democrat, was in a tight race after having won by 24 percentage points in 2018.

The Democrats will send two new members to Washington from New York: Jamaal Bowman, seen as a progressive in the mould of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ritchie Torres, who will be the first openly gay Hispanic member of Congress.

Democrats controlled the House 232-197 heading into the election, with five open seats and one independent. It takes 218 seats to control the chamber.

A smaller Democratic majority would make it tougher for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, to unite her lawmakers as a handful of progressive freshmen arrive for the new Congress.

"Our purpose in this race was to win so that we could protect the Affordable Care Act and so that we could crush the virus," Pelosi told reporters, citing former president Barack Obama's health-care legislation. She declared that Democrats had won the House majority, which seemed highly likely but hadn't been officially declared by The Associated Press.

From left to right, congresswomen Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib are shown at a Capitol Hill news conference on July 15, 2019, called shortly after the president launched verbal attacks directed at them. All four women were victorious on Tuesday night. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

Cortez (New York), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts) and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan) — the so-called Squad subjected to verbal attacks by Trump that many Democrats have branded as racist — all won their contests as expected.

At the other end of the political spectrum, Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado's Lauren Boebert — who've espoused unfounded QAnon conspiracy theories — will debut in Congress. Trump has called Greene a "future Republican star."

QAnon asserts that Trump is quietly waging a battle against pedophiles in government, but the FBI says it is potentially a domestic terror threat.

"Certainly we have had cases where that properly predicate cases involving violence where people have been motivated by some of those conspiracy theories," FBI director Christopher Wray said in recent congressional testimony.

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With files from CBC News and Reuters