WASHINGTON — Democrats won a majority in the U.S. House Tuesday night after flipping the Republican seats they needed to prevail, ending the GOP monopoly on power.
In picking up at least two dozen seats, Democrats captured the 218 seats needed to break Republicans’ eight-year hold on the House that began with the tea party revolt of 2010.
Republicans retained control of the Senate.
As returns trickled in from the East Coast and Midwest, Democrats captured many of the Republican House districts they had targeted in Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, Kansas, Colorado, New York and Michigan and Colorado.
On Long Island, both GOP incumbents in the House — Rep. Peter King, of Seaford, and Rep. Lee Zeldin, of Shirley — won re-election, while Democrats Kathleen Rice, Thomas Suozzi and Greg Meeks all won re-election.
President Donald Trump called House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to congratulate her for her party’s victory, according to White House officials.
Capturing the House majority gives Democrats the power to investigate Trump and help shape the nation’s political agenda for the next two years.
“Thanks to you tomorrow will be a new day in America. Remember this feeling. Know the power to win,” said Pelosi, who may be poised to once again become House speaker despite dissent in her party.
At a Democratic victory party, Pelosi praised the Democrats’ “dynamic, diverse and incredible candidates” for winning so many races, and celebrated what appeared to be a return to the majority by promising to restore “the Constitution’s checks and balances to the administration.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is retiring from Congress, said in a statement that the president’s party “always faces tough odds in its first midterm election,” frequently losing dozens of seats.
Ryan said he was proud of the campaign that GOP candidates ran “in a challenging political environment,” and he congratulated Democrats on winning the House majority. He also praised Senate Republicans for maintaining control of the upper chamber.
In the end it was an extraordinary midterm election that broke records for voter turnout as well spending on campaigns, negative ads and partisan division.
The stakes were high, as voters rendered a verdict on Trump, who made himself central to the election, as they handed Democrats a victory that represented a rejection of the president — and pose a check on his agenda.
The blue wave that Democrats had hoped would sweep them to a big victory in the Senate and House appeared to have hit a red wall that Trump built in frenetic traveling to attend rallies in strongholds of his base supporters.
But Democrats won enough to put them over the top in the House with candidates who will change the face of Congress by electing more women, people of color and LGBTQ candidates.
House Republicans faced a map that worked against them as Democrats campaigned on protecting health care and women’s access to abortion in suburban districts, many of which had supported Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The 70 most competitive House races were in districts held by Republicans, as rated by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Of those districts, 29 were considered pure toss-ups, the report said. Only five or six Democratic districts were deemed so competitive.
The outcome of this district-by-district battle emerged in waves of election results — some quickly, others delayed.
Early on, Democrats won a key suburban race in Virginia, on the border of Washington, D.C., as their candidate Jennifer Wexton ousted Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock, but lost in a race to unseat Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.). The last poll in that district reported a tie at 44 percent.
Among the most watched states counting votes was Pennsylvania, where a court-ordered redistricting gave Democrats an edge and put nine districts in play.
Texas, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and Kansas each had two to four hot contests.
Closing their voting booths at 9 p.m. were Minnesota, with high-priced battles in five of its eight districts, and New York with five competitive races.
Meanwhile, the voting was over in the competitive 1st District in Wisconsin, a seat held by Ryan, as well as in close races in Arizona and Colorado.
Among the highly watched races were the challenge to Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), whose support of white nationalists drew a rare rebuke, and cutoff of funds, by the GOP House campaign chairman.
There were two other competitive districts in Iowa and two open districts held by Democrats in Nevada.
California, with five Republican incumbents in races considered too close to call and another eight deemed close, and Washington state with two competitive races, shut down their voting at 11 p.m. EST.
Alaska, whose lone Republican representative faced a tough challenge, closed most of its polls at midnight and the rest at 1 a.m.
To prevail, Democrats needed to win all the red districts leaning their way, pick up a net two seats in districts that likely will flip from one party to the other, and then win at least seven of the tossups to prevail. Political analysts said it was possible but no sure thing.
On the other hand, Republicans could hold off the blue tide by depriving Democrats of victories in all the GOP leaning districts, staving off challenges for their seats considering leaning Democratic and winning 23 or more of the tossups. Also possible. Also not sure.
The stakes were higher than usual this year. Trump amped the election in an unorthodox scorched-earth campaign at rallies for his faithful supporters in GOP territory across the country as he seeks to elude the usual losses for the president’s party in a midterm.
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) said Tuesday morning said he was “confident Democrats will win the majority” in the House. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she was 100 percent confident of victory. Republicans have held the House majority since 2011.
Trump put his mark on the election with an ambitious schedule of rallies where he returned to his signature issue — immigration — stoking fear of a caravan of Central American asylum-seekers that’s traveling hundreds of miles south of the U.S. border.
Trump’s energetic and dark message, often criticized for exaggerating or misstating the facts, appears to have succeeded in boosting turnout of his base of supporters, resulting in what is shaping up to be one of the biggest turnouts for a midterm in decades.
Democrats in turn raised fears that Republicans will strip away health care, especially requirements that insurers continue to cover those with pre-existing conditions at affordable rates.
Democrats say Republicans seek to impose those health care coverage changes by seeking to legislatively repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and in court with a lawsuit by GOP state attorneys general.