Facebook Twitter

Deseret News’ election night guide: Key bellwether races to watch

Will it be a “Red Wave” or “Blue Hold” election? These early election results are most likely to forerun the rest of the nation

SHARE Deseret News’ election night guide: Key bellwether races to watch
An early morning pedestrian is silhouetted against sunrise as he walks past the U.S. Capitol Building.

An early morning pedestrian is silhouetted against sunrise as he walks through the U.S. flags on the National Mall and past the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, one day before the midterm election will determine the control of the US Congress.

J. David Ake, Associated Press

If you’re like me, you are done reading the tea leaves (i.e. polls) and are ready to see what election night will bring. But with 435 House races, 35 Senate races and 36 governors’ races, election night will be a whirlwind of numbers, endless ‘breaking news’ banners and enough red and blue flashes to trigger psychosis in the best of us — hence the inevitable premature hot takes by your cousin on social media. 

You’ve been warned.

(It’s probably best to stay off Twitter Tuesday night, unless you’re following me, @WJoshLee, for my election night national coverage.)

So, what election results should a burgeoning political expert, such as yourself, look for to accurately label the midterm elections a “red wave” for the Republicans or a “blue hold” for the Democrats? Here are the bellwether races that will most likely forerun the results in the rest of the nation: 

5 p.m. MST (7 p.m. EST)

Virginia 2nd Congressional District, Toss-up: Democratic incumbent Rep. Elaine Lauria is facing a tough challenge from Republican state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans. Lauria, who sits on the Jan. 6 committee, has made “defending democracy” a centerpiece of her campaign. Kiggans is enjoying the support of Gov. Glenn Youngkin and is running a campaign in his same mold. Her campaign literature features promises to protect education, fight inflation and back the local police departments in the district.

Virginia 7th Congressional District, Toss-up: Two-term Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger’s reelection is facing strong headwinds from Republican nominee Yesli Vega. The district is significantly more blue after redistricting which makes Vega’s strong challenge more surprising. Vega has a connection to Latino voters, about 20% of the district, and is running on a platform of keeping the streets safe and groceries affordable for families. Spanberger is campaigning on her bipartisan efforts in Congress and, what she refers to as her moderate stance on abortion.

Virginia is known for counting ballots quickly. The early results in these two districts should demonstrate which party has the momentum.

6 p.m. MST (8 p.m. EST)

Pennsylvania 17th Congressional District, Toss-up: This open seat sitting just outside Pittsburgh will tell the country a lot about what working class Americans are thinking this year. Democratic nominee Chris Deluzio and Republican Jeremy Shaffer are in an old-fashioned sprint that could end up with a photo finish.

Incumbent Democrat Rep. Conor Lamb gave up the seat to run for U.S. Senate, but he lost in the primary to now-Democratic nominee John Fetterman. The Keystone state’s Senate race between Fetterman and Republican nominee Mehmet Oz could decide the balance of power in the Senate. Unfortunately, the state doesn’t start counting ballots until after polls close, so if the race is close, we might not know the results of the Senate race until Wednesday or even later. While we’re waiting, the results of the 17th Congressional District should give us a better understanding of what’s happening in Pennsylvania. 

New Hampshire 1st Congressional District, Toss-up: Rep. Chris Pappas, the Democratic incumbent, is facing former Trump White House staffer Karoline Leavitt, a Republican, in a surprising neck and neck race. Pappas won the fundraising battle, but Leavitt has campaigned hard. The 25-year-old Republican drew media attention to her race from around the world. A quick google search of her name brings up over 10,000 news articles. Her former boss is surely proud of her media prowess. If elected, she will become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

New Hampshire is also featuring a late-breaking competitive Senate race between incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan and Republican challenger Don Bolduc, who was considered so extreme that Democratic funders supported him in the primary because they thought it would throw the race to Hassan. At first that tactic seemed to pay off. Summer and fall polls indicated Hassan leading by so much that a super PAC associated with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pulled its money out of the state. However, Bolduc’s campaign has pulled the race within striking distance in the last two weeks. Similar to Pennsylvania’s 17th, the New Hampshire 1st’s early standings should tell onlookers whether the GOP have a chance of taking both. If Republicans win the Senate seat in New Hampshire, they dramatically increase their chances of controlling the upper chamber.

Michigan 3rd Congressional District, Lean Democrat: The “candidate quality problem” is seen as the stumbling block for Republicans who hope to take back control of Congress. Many Republican nominees have been labeled as too extreme or are accused of being election-deniers for backing former President Donald Trump’s election fraud claims. John Gibbs is an example of a GOP candidate who will be put to the test Tuesday night. If his Democratic challenger, Hillary Scholten, edges him out of the seat, perhaps other “problematic” Trump-endorsed candidates will face similar difficulties as well.

7 p.m. MST (9 p.m. EST)

New York 17th Congressional District, Toss-up: In a normal year, Democrats would lose no sleep over this House district, which is just up the river from New York City, but this isn’t a normal year. Surprisingly the New York 17th seat is competitive even though it is currently held by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. This race isn’t the only one where a typically deep-blue district is in play in the greater New England area. If Maloney loses, it could signal bigger problems for the Democrats. If GOP challenger Mike Lawler pulls off an upset, or even comes uncomfortably close, it might spell trouble for Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul who is trying to stave off a challenge from Republican gubernatorial nominee Lee Zeldin.

Iowa 3rd Congressional District, Lean Republican: This race is at the center of the battle for control of Congress. Democratic incumbent Rep. Cindy Axne won the seat in the 2018 midterm elections. Now, after redistricting and in a year that favors Republicans, prevailing wisdom says the GOP challenger, state Sen. Zach Nunn, should win handily — if the polls indicating a “red wave” are correct. But if the polls are off, then the hopes of a Democratic blue hold of Congress will first appear in this district.