The United States Senate building
The US Senate considered four amendments to the immigration reform bill on Tuesday. Reuters

Polls closed last week, but the possibilities for Democrats are open after Catherine Cortez Masto, Democratic incumbent in Nevada and the first Latina elected to the Senate, narrowly defeated Republican Adam Laxalt on Saturday, according to projections. Masto’s win secures Democrats’ control of the Senate, giving way for President Joe Biden to have policy successes in the second half of his term.

According to an NBC News Exit Poll, 62% of Latino voters said they voted for Masto, whose campaign prioritized abortion and criticized Laxalt for his big oil ties and 2020 election denial. Masto, who previously stated at an event in October that “there should be consequences for people who undermine our democracy, who peddle the ‘big lie’ and conspiracy theories,” thanked Nevada voters on Twitter.

Republicans hoped for a “red wave” under Joe Biden’s presidency, including former president Donald Trump who endorsed several trailing candidates and has since been advised to delay his 2024 Presidential Campaign. Before Masto’s win, Republicans were left disappointed as counted votes revealed a narrow majority in the House of Representatives.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi previously said that Democrats were “strongly outperforming expectations” in the race for control of the House, which requires either party to reach 218 seats. Democrats currently hold 203 seats while “Republicans, despite losing several seats they were expected to win handily, have 211 and are closing in on the majority.”

“It’s not a wave for sure,” said Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, though several polls predicted a Republican surge in this election. The New Yorker reported that Democrats delivered “the best midterm performance by a party controlling the Presidency in two decades.”

The party not in control of the Presidency historically flips Congressional control during the midterms, leaving some to call Masto’s win “remarkable.” Others posit that while Tuesday’s election results deviate from this pattern, it does not necessarily mean this year’s midterms were completely unusual.

“What I think we saw was that in a handful of states—well, more than a handful—something unusual did happen. In states where abortion rights or threats to democracy were truly at stake, something that defied the normal rules of national politics took place,” said Nate Cohn, chief political analyst at the New York Times.

Democrats poised a newly successful strategy this election to fuel the campaigns of far-right, “Stop the Steal” candidates who they believed would be easier to beat. In high-profile races where this strategy was used, “all of the Republicans they helped have either lost or are trailing,” NPR reported.

One of those races was in Arizona, which was a toss-up until Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly gripped hold of his Senate seat against Republican candidate Blake Masters, an election conspiracist.

Previous midterm takeaways named Arizona, Georgia and Nevada as the final calls for determining the Senate majority after John Fetterman, a champion for the working class, flipped Pennsylvania blue against Mehmet Oz. With Georgia going to a runoff in December between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican candidate Herschel Walker after none of the candidates on the ballot reached the 50% threshold needed to secure a seat, Senate control came down to Nevada.

“In pulling out the win, Democrats will be sure to keep Republicans from a full Capitol Hill takeover (the control of the House has yet to be decided),” Vanity Fair reported.

This year’s election had other pockets where history was made, with a record-breaking number of women nominated for governorships and state legislatures than ever and a handful of Latino firsts. A total of 37 Hispanic women were nominated for the House this year, and some broke through as the first Latin representatives in their districts, the New York Times reported. Latino candidates remain underrepresented, however, as Latinos account for 19% of the U.S. population but only 8% of candidates for the House and 5% for the Senate.

Yadira Caraveo, a pediatrician and daughter of Mexican immigrants, was elected as Colorado’s first Latina to Congress, where she’ll represent the state’s largest Latino district. In Illinois, Democrat Delia Ramirez was elected as the first Latina to Congress from the state, and previously made history as the first Guatemalan-American elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 2018. Anna Paulina Luna, a veteran of the Air Force and conservative Republican who denies the 2020 election results, was elected as Florida’s first Mexican-American woman to Congress.

In California, Democrat Robert Garcia was elected as the first openly LGBTQ+ immigrant to Congress, and Democrat Alex Padilla is the first Latino in the Senate. New York’s George Santos will also be the first LGBTQ+ Republican in Congress.

Maxwell Alejandro Frost, a 25-year-old Democrat and Afro-Cuban, will be the first Congressperson from Generation Z. Frost, a community organizer and national organizing director for March For Our Lives, the Parkland-born youth movement against gun violence, just makes the cutoff for the House age requirement of 25 and will stand amongst House representatives whose ages average at 58.

Gun violence was a focal point of Frost’s campaign, which earned him endorsements from Fred Guttenberg, “one of the most high-profile parent activists to emerge from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.”

With a cheering Orlando crowd of supporters on Tuesday night, Frost celebrated his win. “Central Florida, my name is Maxwell Alejandro Frost,” he said, “and I’m going to be the first Generation Z member of the United States Congress.”

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