House Democrats won their 218th seat on Tuesday, putting them firmly in the majority for the next Congress.
It will give the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden a much-needed boost in leverage in Washington as he navigates Capitol Hill, where Republicans could hold onto the Senate if Georgia GOP Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler hang onto their seats in January runoffs.
These aren’t the results House Democrats — or even Republicans — expected coming into election day, though. Many projections had Democrats bolstering their majority by 10 to 20 seats, but it is the Republicans who appear poised to flip at least seven districts, with the possibility of adding more.
Nonetheless, House Democrats celebrated on Tuesday as the party’s retention of control was confirmed. “We have the gavel, we have the gavel,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will likely retain her position as the House leader of the party, after she won her own re-election in California.
While she bemoaned Democrat losses in districts where the Republican votes proved “almost insurmountable,” she told reporters: “We’ve lost some battles but we’ve won the war.”
The Democrats, who made historic gains in the 2018 midterms, will now have control the House for four consecutive years for only the second time since 1995.
Thirty Democrats have already been declared the winners of races in congressional districts that broke for Mr Trump in 2016.
Congresswomen Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, and Lucy McBath of Georgia are three such Democrats whose success in the suburbs of Richmond, Detroit, and Atlanta, respectively, have helped House Democrats keep power in Washington.
Republicans, led by an unprecedented number of woman candidates for the party, took down the likes of Congressman Joe Cunningham in Charleston, South Carolina, Harley Rouda in Orange County, California, and Abby Finkenauer in Iowa.
“Though it was a challenging election, all of our candidates — both Frontline and Red to Blue — made us proud,” Ms Pelosi wrote in a letter to her caucus earlier this week.
“Our discipline in building a massive battlefield proved essential in keeping the Majority. Our success enabled us to win in our ‘mobilization, messaging and money,’ forcing Republicans to defend their own territory,” she said.
House Democratic campaigns chairwoman Cheri Bustos will step down from her position, she announced on Monday.
Ms Bustos only won re-election in her own district by 4 percentage points, a race that should not have been close in the first place.
Ms Bustos’ chaotic two-year stewardship of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has come to an end after accusations that she hired a senior staff that did not reflect the diversity of the party’s broad racial and cross-cultural coalition. And her decision to step down comes amid ongoing feuds between moderates and the left fringe of the party over its direction and message to voters.
Blame for House Democrats’ failure to add seats this cycle has been cast by and against all corners of the party in the days after the election.
House Democratic moderates such as Ms Spanberger and Pennsylvania Congressman Conor Lamb have assailed progressives such as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others for promoting politically hazardous slogans such as “defund the police” and the “Green New Deal.”