Republicans Expand Their Numbers in the House, but Democrats Hold Majority

November 4, 2020 Updated: November 4, 2020

Democrats are likely to retain their control of the House for two more years, but their majority had shrunk by at least seven as results come in on Wednesday.

Democrats were hoping to gain at least 15 seats in the House, but only gained two North Carolina seats vacated by GOP incumbents. The GOP made gains, but did not get the 218 seats they need to control the House.

Republicans defeated 15-term Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) from a rural district that backed President Donald Trump in 2016. He was defeated by Republican Michelle Fischbach, Minnesota’s former lieutenant governor.

Republicans attacked Peterson in television ads, tying him to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and progressive Democrats like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), causing Peterson to push back by touting his vote against impeachment and support for law enforcement.

In Iowa, GOP state Rep. Ashley Hinson, a former news anchor, defeated freshman Democratic incumbent Abby Finkenauer by a modest 51 percent.

Ashley Hinson
Republican candidate for Iowa’s First Congressional District Ashley Hinson speaks to supporters at Jimmy Z’s in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Nov. 3, 2020. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette via AP)

In addition, freshmen Democrats Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.) and Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) also lost in districts where Trump had Cuban support. Democratic freshmen Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico, and Kendra Horn in Oklahoma, who had surprising victories in 2018 in districts Trump carried decisively in 2016, also lost their seats.

With a smaller Democratic majority and a growing progressive wing of the party, it might be harder for Pelosi to unite her caucus around key issues.

“Our purpose in this race was to win so that we could protect the Affordable Care Act and that we could crush the virus,” Pelosi told reporters, restating Democrats’ support for Obama Healthcare Law.

While the GOP did know it would be difficult to capture the majority in the House, they were happy with the increase in their numbers.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters, “President’s Trump monumental help has expanded the House Republican coalition from Miami to Minnesota to California, from every single pundit, even from the Cook report to upping the number of losses they said the Republicans would have, up to 20.” He added, “If you listen to Speaker Pelosi or Sherry Bustos who runs the DCCC, or the majority leader Steny Hoyer, they all said it was double digits … that they would win, they were all wrong.”

Democrats lost a majority Hispanic district in West Texas they expected to win when the GOP incumbent retired. And they lost a series of what seemed coin-flip races, failing to defeat GOP incumbents in Cincinnati, rural Illinois, central Virginia, and the suburbs of St. Louis and Texas.

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Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) testifies before a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on “The Trump Administration’s Child Separation Policy: Substantiated Allegations of Mistreatment.” in Washington, D.C., on July 12, 2019. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In a district between Austin and San Antonio, freshman GOP Rep. Chip Roy withstood a challenge from Democrat Wendy Davis. Davis gained fame as a state legislator by waging a 2013 filibuster against an anti-abortion bill, then lost a race for governor the following year. The conservative Club for Growth made her its biggest target, spending over $6 million against her this year.

As if symbolically, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), who leads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, held her seat by a slight lead of 51 percent over her Republican challenger.

Some endangered Democratic freshmen like Texas’s Lizzie Fletcher, Georgia’s Lucy McBath, and New Jersey’s Tom Malinowski and Andy Kim held on.

But the party notched no victories in long-shot races they’d hoped would bolster their majority. Republicans retained such districts in central North Carolina; Montana; Omaha, Nebraska; and around Little Rock, Arkansas.

As Wednesday morning progressed, other hotly fought races remained undecided in Indiana and Virginia.

Most of both parties’ incumbents from safe districts were reelected. These included progressive Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York City and House leaders, James Clyburn (D-S.C.), and Liz Cheney (R-Wy).

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New York Democratic House candidate Jamaal Bowman greets supporters in Yonkers, N.Y., on June 23, 2020. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Also new to Congress will be progressives Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Cory Bush (D-Mo.), who were backed by a socialist organization called Working Families Party, and Ritchie Torres, who will be Congress’ first openly gay Hispanic.

In another controversial result, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has spoken in support of QAnon, won a vacant seat in northwest Georgia.

In the 29 districts that the GOP was targeting and Trump succeeded in, only Peterson, Cunningham, and Torres Small lost.

Nearly all Democratic incumbents in potentially vulnerable districts were outspending their GOP challengers, often by vast margins, according to an AP analysis of Federal Election Commission campaign reports.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.