GOP, Democrats notch victories in competitive midterm races
WASHINGTON (AP) — Both parties were notching victories in some of the most competitive races in Tuesday’s midterm elections, with several Democratic incumbents winning key suburban House districts and Republicans holding an open Senate seat in Ohio. Many of the races that could determine control of Congress remained too early to call.
In Virginia, Rep. Elaine Luria, a Navy veteran who serves on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, was the first Democratic incumbent to lose a highly competitive House district, falling to former Navy helicopter pilot Jen Kiggans. But Democratic Reps. Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton held off spirited Republican challengers in districts the GOP had hoped to flip.
Other Democratic incumbents in Rhode Island and Kansas also won reelection to key House seats, raising hopes among Democrats that a Republican wave may not materialize.
In the Senate, Republican JD Vance won in Ohio, defeating 10-term Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan to hold the seat for the GOP. Other Senate races in Pennsylvania, Georgia and New Hampshire were too early to call but will be pivotal to which party controls the chamber. Vance’s win represents a major victory for former President Donald Trump, who endorsed the author and first-time candidate during the GOP primary and held several rallies on his behalf.
The outcome of races for House and Senate will determine the future of Biden’s agenda and serve as a referendum on his administration as the nation reels from record-high inflation and concerns over the direction of the country. Republican control of the House would likely trigger a round of investigations into Biden and his family, while a GOP Senate takeover would hobble Biden’s ability to make judicial appointments.
GOP’s Abbott wins 3rd term as Texas governor, beats O’Rourke
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott decisively won a third term Tuesday night, defeating Democrat Beto O’Rourke in a midterm race that tested the direction of America’s supersized red state following the Uvalde school massacre and a strict new abortion ban.
The victory underlined Abbott’s durability. Despite record spending in the race that topped more than $200 million combined, O’Rourke was in danger of losing by double-digits just four years after his narrow U.S. Senate loss that was the closest by a Texas Democrat in decades.
“Tonight, Texans sent a very resounding message,” Abbott said during a victory speech in the southern border city of McAllen.
In rapidly changing Texas — a booming juggernaut of 29 million people that is becoming younger, less white and a magnet for major companies — Abbott remained a bulwark for the GOP in the face of a high-profile and hard-charging challenger. Abbott capitalized on anxieties about crime and inflation against a charismatic rival who took up the fight for voters soured by mass shootings, an abortion ban and the deadly failure of the state’s power grid in 2021.
The outcome now puts two of Texas’ biggest political figures — one who has already run for the White House, the other potentially eyeing a bid of his own — on opposite trajectories.
Stacey Abrams concedes to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in rematch
ATLANTA (AP) — Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams conceded to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday in a rematch of their 2018 race.
Abrams called Kemp to concede, according to his campaign, and went on stage minutes later to congratulate the governor.
“I may no longer be seeking the office of governor, but I will never stop doing everything in my power to make sure the people of Georgia have a voice,” she said.
Kemp, who was a developer before serving as a state senator and secretary of state, clinched another term despite attacks from former President Donald Trump that threatened to snuff out support in his own party.
“Well, it looks like the reports of my political death have been greatly exaggerated,” Kemp told supporters after Abrams’ concession.
Maryland legalizes marijuana; 4 other states also voting
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Voters in five states were deciding on Election Day whether to approve recreational marijuana, a move that could signal a major shift toward legalization in even the most conservative parts of the country.
The first result came in Maryland, where voters approved legalization, making it the 20th state to take that step. Measures also were on the ballot in Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota.
“By voting for legalization, Marylanders have rejected the failed ideas of the past and have chosen to reform their laws to protect civil liberties and promote racial justice,” Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, one of the nation’s oldest legalization advocacy groups, said in a statement.
The state voting follows moves by President Joe Biden toward decriminalizing marijuana. Biden last month announced he was pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of simple possession of marijuana under federal law.
Advocates of the marijuana initiatives have said Biden’s announcement may give a boost to their efforts.
In Maryland, Moore elected as state’s first Black governor
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Democrat Wes Moore was elected Maryland’s first Black governor Tuesday, defeating Republican Dan Cox in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1.
Moore’s victory flips a governor’s office from Republican to Democratic. Of the 36 governor’s races this year, Maryland and Massachusetts represented the best chances for Democrats to regain a governor’s office at a time when the GOP holds a 28-22 edge in governor’s seats. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is term limited.
Only two other Black politicians have ever been elected governor in the United States — Virginia’s Douglas Wilder in 1989, and Deval Patrick of Massachusetts in 2006. Democrat Stacey Abrams would become the nation’s first Black female governor if she wins her Georgia rematch against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
With the slogan “leave no one behind,” the combat veteran and former CEO of one of the nation’s largest anti-poverty organizations campaigned on creating equal opportunity for Maryland residents.
“When I was an Army captain and led soldiers into combat in Afghanistan, we lived by a simple principle: Leave no one behind … Real patriotism means bringing people together,” Moore told a crowd gathered in downtown Baltimore during his victory speech. “It means lifting each other up and improving each other’s lives.”
Powerball ticket sold in California snags record $2.04B win
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Someone who bought a Powerball ticket in Southern California has won a record $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot after more than three months without anyone hitting the top prize.
The winning numbers were selected Tuesday morning, nearly 10 hours after the scheduled Monday night drawing because of problems processing sales data at one of the game’s member lotteries. Lottery officials acknowledged the unprecedented delay for such a high-profile drawing but said the game’s security process took precedence.
“Protecting the integrity of the draw is of utmost importance, and we were able to do that during this historic drawing with the cooperation of all participating lotteries,” said Drew Svitko, the chairman of the Powerball Product Group and executive director of the Pennsylvania Lottery.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Minnesota Lottery acknowledged their sales verification system caused the lengthy delay.
The winning numbers drawn Tuesday morning at the Florida Lottery draw studio in Tallahassee were: white balls 10, 33, 41, 47 and 56, and the red Powerball was 10.
Twitter to add ‘official’ mark to verified big accounts
Twitter said Tuesday it will add a gray “official” label to some high-profile accounts to indicate that they are authentic, the latest twist in new owner Elon Musk’s chaotic overhaul of the platform’s verification system.
The site’s current system of using what are known as “blue checks” confirming an account’s authenticity will soon go away for those who don’t pay a monthly fee. The checkmarks will be available at a yet-to-be-announced date for anyone willing to pay a $7.99-a-month subscription, which will also include some bonus features, such as fewer ads and the ability to have tweets given greater visibility than those coming from non-subscribers.
The platform’s current verification system has been in place since 2009 and was created to ensure high-profile and public-facing accounts are who they say they are.
Experts have expressed concern that making the checkmark available to anyone for a fee could lead to impersonations and the spreading of misinformation and scams. The gray label — a color that tends to blend into the background whether you use light or dark mode to scroll Twitter — is an apparent compromise. But it might lead to more confusion, as Twitter users accustomed to the blue check as a mark of authenticity will now have to look for the less obvious “official” designation.
Esther Crawford, a Twitter employee who has been working on the verification overhaul, said Tuesday on Twitter that the “official” label will be added to “select accounts” when the new system launches.
Tropical Storm Nicole churns toward Bahamas, Florida
MIAMI (AP) — Tropical Storm Nicole churned toward the northwestern Bahamas and Florida’s Atlantic coastline on Tuesday, gradually gaining strength as it neared hurricane strength, forecasters said.
Nicole reached 70 mph (110 kph) late Tuesday, just shy of the 74 mph (119 kph) to become a Category 1 hurricane.
A range of warnings and watches remain in place. Many areas are still reeling from damage caused by Hurricane Ian, which hit Florida’s southwestern Gulf Coast as a Category 4 storm in late September before dumping heavy amounts of rain across much of the central part of the state. Forecasters said heavy rain could fall on areas still recovering from Ian’s flooding.
Hurricane warnings were in effect for the Abacos, Berry Islands, Bimini and Grand Bahama Island, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in an advisory. Other areas of the Bahamas, including Andros Island, New Province and Eleuthera remained under a tropical storm warning.
Residents in at least three Florida counties — Flagler, Palm Beach and Volusia — were ordered to evacuate from barrier islands, low-lying areas and mobile homes. The evacuation orders are set to take effect Wednesday. Officials at Orlando International Airport, the seventh busiest in the U.S., said commercial operations would stop Wednesday afternoon until it was safe to resume flights.
Myanmar tops Asian summit’s agenda as global issues loom
BANGKOK (AP) — Southeast Asian leaders convene in the Cambodian capital Thursday, faced with the challenge of trying to curtail escalating violence in Myanmar while the country’s military-led government shows no signs of complying with the group’s peace plan.
U.S. President Joe Biden will be on hand for the Phnom Penh summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which comes as Washington and Beijing are increasingly jockeying for influence in the Asia-Pacific region. It sets the stage for the Group of 20 meetings in Bali, Indonesia, that immediately follow and are expected to include Chinese President Xi Jinping and possibly Russian President Vladimir Putin, then the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bangkok.
In addition to Myanmar, the four-day meetings are expected to focus on ongoing disputes in the South China Sea, pandemic recovery issues, regional trade and climate change.
Neither Xi nor Putin is expected to attend the ASEAN talks or the parallel East Asia Summit, though both China and Russia are thought to be sending high-level delegations headed by Prime Minister Li Keqiang and possibly Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Looming large over ASEAN, the G-20 and APEC are the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and Russia’s consequent search for new markets for its energy resources, as well as resulting supply chain and food security issues, China’s increasingly aggressive saber-rattling over Taiwan, and rising tension in the Korean Peninsula.
Jeff Cook, co-founder of country band Alabama, dies at 73
NEW YORK (AP) — Guitarist Jeff Cook, who co-founded the country group Alabama and steered them up the charts with such hits as “Song of the South” and “Dixieland Delight,” has died. He was 73.
Cook had Parkinson’s disease and disclosed his diagnosis in 2017. He died Tuesday at his home in Destin, Florida, said Don Murry Grubbs, a representative for the band.
Tributes poured in from country stars, including Travis Tritt who called Cook “a great guy and one heckuva bass fisherman,” and Jason Aldean, who tweeted: “ I got a chance to perform with him multiple times over the years and I will never forget it.” Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, added: “Everything he did was rooted in his deep love of music, a love he shared with millions.”
As a guitarist, fiddle player and vocalist, Cook — alongside cousins Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry — landed eight No. 1 songs on the country charts between spring 1980 and summer 1982, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame. That run included the pop crossover hits “Love In The First Degree” and “Feels So Right,” as well as “Tennessee River” and “Mountain Music.”
“Jeff Cook, and all of the guys in Alabama, were so generous with wisdom and fun when I got to tour with them as a young artist,” Kenny Chesney said in a statement. “They showed a kid in a T-shirt that country music could be rock, could be real, could be someone who looked like me. Growing up in East Tennessee, that gave me the heart to chase this dream.”