It was a wild election night in the United States as Republicans who'd expected to cruise to victory in the House of Representatives and take over the Senate were thwarted by a backlash against the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade and hobbled by a series of extremist candidates. Though Republicans blew the doors off in Florida, and Democrats struggled badly in New York, Team Blue overperformed compared to forecasts in many other races around the country.
Yet control of both chambers of Congress is still very much in play more than 36 hours after polls closed — as are a number of other important races. Here's everything you need to know about the five most crucial races that had yet to be called as of Thursday:
In Arizona, incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly looks like the clear favorite against Republican Blake Masters, but the governor's race may hang in the balance for some time yet. Democrat Katie Hobbs is running well behind Kelly and is locked in a tough race against GOP election-denier Kari Lake for the seat vacated by outgoing Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. Lake's closing promise to the media to be their "worst frickin' nightmare" for eight years if she is elected may or may not come true.
If Hobbs loses, she may look back on her decision not to debate Lake as a critical misstep. But if she pulls it off, Republicans will likely regret nominating the more extreme candidate in the race when they could've fronted with the more moderate Karrin Taylor Robson. The fact that Lake is already trying to cast doubt on the outcome is perhaps not a great sign for the GOP.
Democrat Kyrsten Sinema wasn't declared the winner in a similarly close race in 2018 for almost a week after Election Day, so we might be in for a long wait on this one.
Incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock narrowly leads his Republican challenger, former NFL star Herschel Walker, with more than 95 percent of the votes counted in Georgia. In most states, that would be enough to declare victory, but Georgia's election laws call for a runoff if no candidate gets more than 50 percent percent of the vote — and it now looks like that runoff is inevitable.
Walker's history of personal scandal, including domestic abuse, adultery, and paying for abortions, made him one of the GOP's weaker candidates of the cycle; he's running almost 5 points behind Gov. Brian Kemp, who was re-elected easily. If control of the Senate comes down to this race — which it might, if Democrat Catherine Cortez-Masto is defeated in Nevada — expect it to be a high-profile, high-stakes contest. But because Democrats would love to have a one-seat cushion in their majority, and because Warnock is regarded as a rising star, they will continue to spend big to defend his seat no matter what happens elsewhere.
The Georgia runoff will be held on Dec. 6.
As of Thursday morning, vote counting is stuck at 75 percent in Nevada, with incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez-Masto trailing her Republican opponent, election denier Adam Laxalt, by more than 22,000 votes.
The state reportedly had significant tabulation issues on Tuesday night, and it's not clear when the rest of the ballots will be processed. Only 78 percent of the vote is in for Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. Cortez-Masto will need significant margins there to overcome Laxalt's advantages elsewhere. For what it's worth, the state's dean of election projections, reporter Jon Ralston, seems to think Cortez-Masto can pull it off.
Nevada wasn't called for Joe Biden until four days after the 2020 presidential election, so the outcome here may not be known until this weekend.
California's 27th Congressional District
Democrats went to bed on Tuesday night thinking they had narrowly lost the House of Representatives, but there appears to be a small chance that they could actually hold onto it — if they hang onto their biggest stronghold of California. One of the most critical races there is in CA-27, where incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Garcia is trying to stave off Democrat Christy Smith. It's not the only seat Democrats need to flip to have a chance at the House majority, but it's representative of the kind of toss-up race they'll have to prevail in to do it.
The state's 13th, 22nd, and 41st Congressional Districts also loom large here. Harrison Lavelle of the forecasting site Split Ticket sees a path for Democrats to hold the chamber, and they'll need this seat to do it. Smith is currently down 17,000 with just 45 percent of the votes in.
"it could take days or weeks for winners to become clear" in the House races in the Golden State, CNN reports. What's more, California can take up to 38 days to certify its results, so don't expect a resolution here anytime soon.
Nevada secretary of state
State election administrators were ground zero for the GOP's effort to put election deniers in critical offices in the run-up to 2024. So far, that effort has not been going great, with conspiracy theorists losing their races for secretary of state in pivotal states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
But in Nevada, Republican Jim Marchant currently leads Democrat Francisco Aguilar. Marchant might be the most "dangerous" of the bunch, Rolling Stone writes, advising its readers to "fire up the gravity bong with some legal Las Vegas kind bud and launch yourself into oblivion along with our democracy" if he wins.
What has the publication so alarmed? Last month, Marchant posted an online ad that questioned whether prominent Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Nadler, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer were actually legitimately elected. His obsession with billionaire George Soros is regarded by many as antisemitic. He says he wouldn't have certified Biden's 2020 win — and "he's proposed reviving a practice — common in the Jim Crow South — to 'wipe out the voter rolls completely and then have everybody re-register,'" Rolling Stone adds.
Given the number of ballots remaining Clark County, Aguilar is probably the favorite here, but a Marchant win would be an absolute nightmare, New York Times editorial board member Michelle Cottle argues: "Putting America's election infrastructure in the hands of Big Lie zealots such as Jim Marchant . . . is a bit like putting Harvey Weinstein in charge of your teenage daughter's acting class."