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GOP blazes through the South on its way to a U.S. Senate majority

Republicans take Democratic seats in Arkansas, North Carolina and West Virginia without losing any of their own

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

southern states smELECTION CENTRAL (CFP) — Southern Republicans are jubilant after voters in the midterm elections gave them three Democratic seats and forced another into a December runoff, helping to usher in a GOP majority in Washington.

Republicans managed to make those gains without losing either of their two seats that were in jeopardy, in Kentucky and Georgia.

With those losses, the number of Democrats representing Southern states was cut from eight to three, with two Democrat-held seats still undecided in Louisiana and Virginia.

In West Virginia, U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito defeated her Democratic challenger, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, by a margin of 62 percent to 39 percent. The seat opened with the retirement of Democratic U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller.

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan

In North Carolina, Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan lost narrowly to Republican State House Speaker Thom Tillis, taking 47 percent to Tillis’s 49 percent

In Arkansas, the GOP challenger, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, defeated the incumbent Democrat, U.S. Senator Mark Pryor, by double digits, 57 percent to 39 percent.

Likewise, in Kentucky, Democratic hopes of knocking off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell went up in smoke when McConnell defeated Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes by a margin of 56 percent to 41 percent.

With Republicans taking control of the Senate, McConnell will become the new Senate majority leader.

In Louisiana, the Senate race is headed for a December 6 runoff between the incumbent, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, and her closest Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy. Landrieu came in at 42 percent, with Cassidy right behind at 41 percent. An outright majority was needed to avoid a second round of voting in the state’s all-party “jungle” primary.

U.S. Senate nominee David Perdue

U.S. Senate nominee David Perdue

Despite pre-election polls that showed a tight race in Georgia, Republican David Perdue had an surprisingly easy time defeating Democrat Michelle Nunn. Perdue captured 53 percent compared to 45 percent for Nunn.

In the surprise of the night, U.S. Senator Mark Warner nearly lost to Ed Gillespie, the former head of the Republican National Committee.

Though Warner’s lead was just 17,000 votes, out of more than 2.1 million cast in the Old Dominion, Gillespie decided not to ask for recount, saying he was unlikely to prevail.

Elsewhere across the South, Republican incumbents cruised to re-election victories in Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, with the GOP holding a second open seat in Oklahoma.

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