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Dems score string of upsets on way to winning House

Since President Harry S. Truman's tenure, the incumbent president's party has averaged a loss of more than 28 House seats in his first midterm election.
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A string of upsets, particularly spurred by suburban voters and a spike in voter enthusiasm, propelled Democrats to reclaim a majority in the House on Tuesday, heralding a new era of divided government in the nation's capital.

By 6:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, the party had picked up 28 seats in the House, more than the 23 needed to take the majority, disrupting the Republican power-hold on Washington, which will likely lead to a influx of investigations into the Trump administration that could stymie the president in the lead up to 2020. Several West Coast results were still outstanding Wednesday morning.

The first big pick-up for Democrats came early, when NBC News projected that incumbent GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., would lose her House seat in that state's 10th Congressional District to Democrat Jennifer Wexton. The race, in a suburban northern Virginia district Hillary Clinton won by 10 percentage points in 2016, had been regarded by many observers as critical to Republican hopes of maintaining control of the lower chamber.

Also in Virginia, GOP Rep. Dave Brat, who defeated former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a major upset in a 2014 primary, lost Tuesday to Democrat Abigail Spanberger.

“Mr. President, ready or not, here we come,” said Democrat Donna Shalala, former Health and Human Services secretary under President Bill Clinton, who was projected to win Florida's 27th Congressional District. The Miami seat had been held by retiring GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who had represented the area since 1989.

Elsewhere in the Miami area, moderate GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., lost his seat to Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

As the night continued, Democrats appeared to score several unexpected upsets.

Kendra Horn was on her way to victory in Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District, which covers the Oklahoma City area and hadn't been held by a Democrat since 1975.

And on Staten Island, New York, Democrat Max Rose was projected to pull off a surprise upset of incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan on a night in which Democratic candidates north of the New York metropolitan area won two toss-up races against the GOP incumbents.

"Thanks to you, tomorrow will be a new day in America," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told volunteers at a Democratic celebration in D.C. Tuesday night.

"Every call you made, every door you knocked, every text you sent, every conversation you had made the difference between winning and losing in this election," she said standing alongside other Democratic House leaders. "Thanks to you, we owned the ground."

President Donald Trump called Pelosi Tuesday night to offer congratulations, her office said. She is likely to face resistance as she vies for the speakership in the House.

The House could also be divided on how hard to pursue investigations into President Trump’s business endeavors, the plight for his tax returns and answers on whether or not anyone in the administration colluded with Russia in an effort to influence the 2016 election. Resistance will also come from the Senate, as Republicans remained in control, NBC News projects.

But Democrats on the House side were projected to defeat other high-profile Texas incumbents.

“If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level. Two can play that game!,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning.

He concluded that Tuesday’s results were a “Big Victory,” adding, “To any of the pundits or talking heads that do not give us proper credit for this great Midterm Election, just remember two words - FAKE NEWS!”

The president said he would hold a press conference at 11:30 a.m. ET Wednesday.

Eleven-term GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, who has served as chairman of the powerful Rules Committee since 2013, was projected to lose his Dallas-area seat to Democrat Colin Allred, a former NFL player and civil rights attorney. And Rep. John Culberson, who has served in the House since 2001, was on track to be defeated by Democrat Lizzie Fletcher in a district that Clinton carried by 1 percentage point two years ago.

In Pennsylvania, Conor Lamb, who surprised Washington when he won a special election in the state, beat Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus in a new district. Other red districts in Pennsylvania turned blue.

Republican-held seats in New Jersey also flipped. Democrat Mikie Sherrill, a former navy pilot, was projected to win her suburban Newark seat.

Still, Republicans appeared to hold on in some closely-fought contests, such as Virginia's 5th Congressional District: the seat, which had been held by GOP Rep. Tom Garrett, was projected to go to Republican Denver Riggleman over Democrat Leslie Cockburn.

In Kentucky's 6th Congressional District, Rep. Andy Barr was projected to hold off a stiff challenge by Democrat Amy McGrath. Republican Bryan Steil will hold onto the seat in Wisconsin held by Speaker Paul Ryan, who is set to retire at the end of the year.

And Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who was accused of racism and anti-Semitism, won his northwestern district anyway.

Two Republican incumbents who were indicted this year — Duncan Hunter in California and Chris Collins in New York — also won their races.

In New York though, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who identifies as a democratic socialist, handily won the 14th Congressional District, becoming the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at 29.

The younger, more diverse crop of Democratic candidates seemed to invigorate voters and led to other history-making results. As of Wednesday morning, 99 women had won seats, breaking the current session's record of 84 women. Two of them are the first Native American women elected to the House, and two more are the first Muslim-American women elected.

"It's just a very robust class of candidates that really reflects who we are as a country,” said Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, co-chair of House Democrats' recruitment efforts.

Democrats began the evening hoping for a wave election similar to the 2006 midterms when they captured 31 GOP-held seats amid voter discontent with President George W. Bush and the Iraq War, while Republicans had been hopeful the booming economy this year could give their prospects a boost.

Except for two recent midterm elections — in 1998, amid President Bill Clinton's impeachment saga, and in 2002, the year after the Sept. 11 attacks — midterm elections have generally been unfavorable to the party in control of the White House. Since President Harry Truman's tenure, the incumbent president's party has averaged a loss of more than 28 House seats in his first midterm election.

“A party in power always faces tough odds in its first midterm election,” Ryan said in a statement. “We don’t need an election to know that we are a divided nation, and now we have a divided Washington.”