Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine has won the hardest-fought race of her career, turning back a tough challenge by Democrat Sara Gideon and chilling Democrats’ hopes of gaining a Senate majority.
Collins, one of four candidates on the ballot, won a majority of first-place votes, according to The Associated Press. That meant no additional tabulation rounds were necessary under Maine’s ranked-choice voting system, strengthening Republican prospects for retaining control of the US Senate.
“I am the first person since Maine directly elected its senators, to win a fifth term,” Collins said.
Democrats had a disappointing night in the battle for Senate control, although it was too soon for Republicans to take a victory lap after brushing back multiple challengers to protect their majority.
Still, with ballot counting continuing in several key states, indications are that, even if Democrat Joe Biden wins the presidency, he would have to work with a narrowly divided US Senate potentially still controlled by Republicans.
Collins, 67, turned back one of the strongest challenges in her career as she defeated Gideon, 48, the well-known speaker of the Maine State House of Representatives.
Gideon said she called Collins to concede the race and congratulated her on the win. Collins won 407,254 votes compared with 338,617 for Gideon, with 85 percent of precincts reporting.
Collins touted herself in the fiercely independent state as a bipartisan centrist who is willing to work with both parties to get things done.
But opponents accused her of being an enabler of President Donald Trump, citing her votes to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and for tax cuts that favour the rich.
The result is a setback for Democrats, who hoped to pick up three to four seats to win control of the 100-seat Senate. Collins had been viewed as one of the most vulnerable Republicans.
Republicans controlled the Senate by a 53 to 47 majority before the election. The present state of play in the Senate is Republicans have secured 48 seats, and Democrats have 47. The focus now is on pending outcomes in Michigan, North Carolina and Georgia.
In Michigan, Democrat Gary Peters is trailing his Republican challenger John James by a razor-thin margin with the count continuing.
In Georgia, Republican incumbent David Perdue leads Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff.
A second Georgia race for Senate between Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler and Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock will go to a runoff election to be held in the first week of January.
North Carolina incumbent Republican Senator Thom Tillis is leading Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham with 94 percent of the vote reported.
Winners have been declared in other key races.
Republican candidate Tommy Tuberville picked off Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama and Republicans survived a challenge to Iowa incumbent Joni Ernst.
Democrats won in Arizona with challenger Mark Kelly who defeated Republican incumbent Martha McSally. In Colorado, former Democratic governor John Hickenlooper defeated Republican incumbent Cory Gardner.
In Alaska, Republican incumbent Dan Sullivan leads Democratic challenger Al Gross with votes still being counted. Sullivan expressed confidence on Tuesday night he would emerge the winner.
“We are on a clear path for a resounding victory for our state and our country because of that positive future that we have laid out,” Sullivan told supporters in Anchorage.