House Democrats hung on to President Obama’s coattails and eked out victories throughout the Northeast, leaving the GOP shut out from New England’s 21 House seats.
The region was almost a perfect mirror image of what happened in the South, where Republicans solidified their majority by picking off almost all of the remaining white Southern Democrats.
A handful of tight races in the Northeast tipped into the Democrats’ column on Tuesday night, stemming the Republican majority. Democrats picked up seats in New Hampshire, Maryland, and New York, while the GOP clawed one back in conservative-leaning western Pennsylvania and in western New York.
New Hampshire was a sweep for Democrats. Freshman Republican Frank Guinta was taken down by former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter—whom he ousted in 2010. Meanwhile, Charlie Bass, who returned to the House in 2010 in a comeback, was again denied reelection, this time by lawyer Ann McLane Kuster, whom he bested last cycle.
Democrats also played effective defense in New England. Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island and John Tierney of Massachusetts overcame scandal to defeat moderate GOP challengers, and Democratic nominee Elizabeth Esty narrowly bested another moderate Republican for an open Connecticut seat.
All three candidates had serious liabilities, but Republicans couldn’t capitalize with President Obama attracting Democratic voters to the polls in droves.
New York Democrats also rolled back some GOP gains from 2010, sending former Rep. Dan Maffei back to Congress. He defeated freshman Republican Ann Marie Buerkle. Democrats successfully painted Buerkle and fellow GOP freshman Nan Hayworth—who also lost—as tea party extremists. It didn’t help that redistricting took away Republican communities and added Democratic areas to both districts.
The GOP took advantage of its own redistricting gains against Rep. Kathy Hochul, who won a special election in 2011 that Democrats widely touted as a bellwether in their favor for this cycle. Republican Chris Collins had the honor of wrenching a newly drawn 26th District seat from her. Similarly, Rep. Mark Critz lost a redrawn central Pennsylvania seat to Keith Rothfus.
A Democratic pickup in Maryland was expected after the Legislature gerrymandered 20-year veteran Rep. Roscoe Barlett into a heavily Democrat-leaning district. Democrat John Delaney led Bartlett, 59 percent to 38 percent, with half of the precincts reporting.
Perhaps the biggest surprise victory for Democrats was holding on to Rhode Island’s 1st District. Cicilline came close to losing the district—which is 15 points more Democratic than the national average, according to The Cook Political Report—thanks to reports of his mismanagement of the city of Providence’s finances when he served as mayor.
But Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee money helped Cicilline fend off challenger Brendan Doherty, the state's former police superintendent. Cicilline won 53 percent of the vote, according to CNN, with 97 percent of precincts reporting.
Bay Stater Tierney will return for a 17th year in the House after just barely beating back state Sen. Richard Tisei, 48 percent to 47 percent, according to CNN, with 98 percent of precincts reporting.
Tierney was dogged by scandal after his wife took a plea deal for filing false tax returns on behalf of her brother’s illegal offshore-gambling operation. Tierney struggled to convince voters that he did not know about his wife’s involvement in the gambling scheme.
Tisei was a particularly challenging Republican candidate: He would have been the first openly gay Republican to enter Congress. But Democrats had a better-than-expected night in New England, bolstered by Obama’s spot at the top of the ticket. Tierney’s victory means Massachusetts Democrats retain their monopoly in the state’s House delegation, which they've held since 1994.