With key battleground states continuing to tally votes into Wednesday, the future of the Senate Armed Services Committee remains undecided, while several members faced critical reelection campaigns that could shape control of the chamber in the next Congress.
For the House Armed Services Committee, the Democrats are set to retain Democratic leadership of the panel with the party controlling the chamber, but overall they underperformed. A handful of freshman HASC members lost their races and the Democrats fell short in ousting Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a district many predicted would flip to their column. Reps. Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) and Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) lost their races, while Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.) is down 10 points with nearly 95 percent of the votes tallied in his race.
While Democrats had pointed to polling as a sign for potentially expanding the party’s position in the House, current election results don’t include flipping any Republican seats.
Bacon, a retired Air Force brigadier general, represents Nebraska’s second district adjacent to Offutt Air Force Base and has been a proponent for securing funds to pay for training and ground mission equipment for RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft damaged in storms in the Midwest over the last year.
Meanwhile, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), both members of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, appear to have won reelections that were considered “toss-ups” leading up to Tuesday.
While polling showed a tightening race for Graham in the lead-up to Tuesday, the South Carolina Republican had a decisive victory over Democrat Jaime Harrison.
Graham had received more than $20,000 from General Atomics and over $17,000 from Boeing toward his reelection bid, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Collins had been trailing her Democrat Sara Gideon in nearly every poll prior to election day, but ultimately finished with a lead of nearly 10 points when her opponent conceded the race early Wednesday afternoon.
The Maine Republican’s tough reelection bid included Gideon receiving the endorsement of the Maine State Council of Machinists, which includes General Dynamics’ [GD] Bath Iron Works’ two largest unions. Bath Iron Works is one of the largest employers in Maine.
Democrats’ best chance for regaining the Senate majority hinged on the reelection bids of several SASC Republicans in tight races, with about half of results finalized as of Wednesday afternoon and the rest still too close to call.
Republican Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) lost her reelection campaign to Democrat and former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.
McSally, a retired A-10 pilot, has long advocated for the aircraft’s continued operations and pushed for a provision in the Senate’s version of the next defense policy bill seeking to prohibit the Air Force from retiring the platform (Defense Daily, June 25).
The GOP’s chance of retaining the Senate became a bit clearer with Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), chair of the Senate Emerging Threats Subcommittee, beating Democrat Theresa Greenfield.
Polls had Ernst and Greenfield in a tight race leading up to election day, with the incumbent ultimately retaining the seat by about six points. During the campaign cycle, Ernst received about $31,000 from Raytheon [RTN] toward her campaign (Defense Daily, Oct. 29).
As of Wednesday afternoon, three other SASC Republican races were not officially called but the incumbents appeared in position to win reelection.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), chair of the SASC Subcommittee on Personnel, Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), chair of the Seapower Subcommittee and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), were all in the lead, with final votes counts expected over the next few days.
For SASC Democrats, Sen. Doug Jones has lost his reelection bid to Republican Tommy Tuberville, the former head football coach at Auburn.
Jones has been a strong advocate for basing the new U.S. Space Command in Alabama, with a decision expected to be made after the election, but faced tough reelection prospects as a Democrat in the deep red state.
In Michigan, Sen. Gary Peters, ranking member on both the SASC Emerging Threats Subcommittee and Homeland Security Committee, is in a neck-and-neck race with Republican John James.
Peters’ reelection is considered key for Democrats’ hopes of taking control of the Senate, with Michigan expected to finish counting votes over the next day.
Democrats have already picked up at least one seat with former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper defeating Republican Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who had recently established the Senate Space Force Caucus.
In the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, both Chairman Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) won their reelection bids.
For HASC, while Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) secured an easy victory on Tuesday, the ranking member spot is open with the Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) retiring from his chair.
Republican Ronny Jackson, the former White House physician and retired Navy admiral, won the election for the Texas 13th district to replace Thornberry.
Reps. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), who both won their reelection bids handily, could potentially fill Thornberry’s seat as the top Republican on the panel, while Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) would be the most senior member of the committee.
Turner, in particular, has been a vocal opponent of defense budget cuts, calling progressive lawmakers push for a 10 percent reduction in spending “sequestration on steroids,” as well as a strong proponent for continued nuclear modernization efforts (Defense Daily, July 21).