Newly elected House members face uncertain Capitol landscape
▶ Watch Video: Control of Congress remains unknown three days after midterm elections
The multi-billion-dollar midterm elections were punctuated by vicious campaign ads, personal attacks and hundreds of candidates who had made baseless claims of fraud about former President Donald Trump’s defeat in 2020.
But in the ashes of the political firestorm, some of those projected to win their races and become first-time House members are striking a conciliatory tone and pledging to work across party lines. Those include some of those projected to win tough fights in battleground districts.
Based on the latest CBS News projections, the incoming class of dozens of new members of Congress is expected to include an openly gay Republican from the New York City area; a Democratic immigration rights advocate from West Michigan who flipped a red district to blue; an upstate New York Republican who won a narrow victory just months after losing a high-profile special election; and a former local prosecutor from Maryland who said midterm election voters have started to put an end to “sore loser politics.”
“The era of cry-baby politics should now be quieting down,” said Democrat Glenn Ivey, who is projected to win the overwhelmingly-Democratic seat in the Prince George’s County, Maryland, suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Ivey said both parties will potentially have to work together to prevent federal government shutdowns and ensure the nation’s debt limit is responsibly handled.
Democrats outperformed expectations in the midterms, which featured 308 federal and statewide candidates categorized as election deniers. Ivey said the failure by dozens of those candidates shows Americans were tiring of unfounded claims and extreme rhetoric.
“America doesn’t tolerate sore loser politics for very long,” Ivey said.
Republicans who secured victories in some battleground races said they’ll seek to bridge divides and work to cool the passions that roiled the 117th Congress.
“There’s not an ounce of me that’s extreme,” said Republican George Santos, projected to win a heated congressional race to represent Long Island, New York.
The 34-year-old Santos, a Wall Street financier, is an openly gay man who said he has never been discriminated against within the Republican party. Santos said he’ll disavow the culture wars and any vilification of the LGBT community.
“Culture wars are ripping our country to shreds,” said Santos, who told CBS News he is planning to make a run for president of the incoming House freshman class.
“My district isn’t red or blue, it’s purple. I’m going to fight rising prices, opioid addiction and work to create some jobs,” said Republican Marc Molinaro, Dutchess County executive, who is projected to narrowly win New York’s 19th Congressional District seat.
His projected win comes less than three months after suffering political heartbreak when he lost a high-profile special election for a House seat in late August, in a race heavily defined by arguments over abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs vs. Mississippi ruling.
Molinaro, who ran in a slightly redrawn district against a different opponent, told CBS News he intends to put a primary focus on constituent services, a distinctively non-partisan aspect of service for House members.
“As Dutchess County executive, the joke about me is: I’ll show up at the opening of … an envelope.”
Molinaro said he intends to a frequent participant at events and ceremonies in his large upstate New York district.
Democrat Hillary Scholten is projected to win a battleground race near Grand Rapids, Michigan, against a candidate categorized by CBS News as an “election denier.”
Scholten’s Republican challenger, John Gibbs, ousted incumbent Republican Rep. Peter Meijer in the state’s GOP primary earlier this year. Gibbs had made unfounded claims about the 2020 election, an issue that helped define the race between him and Scholten.
Scholten said she will be “authentic” for her congressional district, and work with both parties. She is a former Justice Department official who championed immigration rights. Her family has had roots in the West Michigan region for generations, and she plans to work collaboratively in Washington. She told CBS News her race has already served to cool temperatures in the Capitol.
“I’ve already begun (to do so). I defeated an extremist,” Scholten said.
There is nevertheless some pessimism among the newly-elected about the potential for an immediate flurry of bipartisanship.
“I’m not hearing bipartisan overtures from people in the House Freedom Caucus,” said Democrat Jeff Jackson, who is projected to win North Carolina’s 14th Congressional District race.
Jackson is an Army National Guard member who has served in the North Carolina state legislature. He said he will seek out bipartisan one-on-one meetings with every Republican in his state’s Congressional delegation.
“No matter how bad things get here, we need to be able to have a conversation (as North Carolinians),” Jackson told CBS News.
The promise of cooperation and pining for bipartisanship are common in the weeks after American elections. But the rousing defeat of some of the most fervent election denying candidates offers the promise of eased tensions in the 118th Congress.
Incumbent Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pennsylvania), who is projected to win a third term representing Philadelphia, said the incoming group of freshmen House members has the potential to bridge political gaps.
“Playing to the fringes is not in America’s interest,” Scanlon said.
The newly elected House members will gather in Washington, D.C., beginning Sunday for a week of orientation events and information sessions. Bonds are often formed during these post-election orientations.
Democrat Wiley Nickels, projected to represent North Carolina 13th Congressional District, told CBS News he’ll spend some time during or after next week’s orientation seeking a Republican partner to join the House’s “Problem Solvers Caucus.”
Nickels, a North Carolina state senator who previously worked in the Obama administration, said congressional campaigns have grown fiercer in the past decade.
“Our politics are so coarse,” Nickels said. “I want to change the tone.”
Ivey, a former local prosecutor, told CBS News that, “with respect to democracy, I think we got a good ratification” from the elections.
“We’re ready to roll our sleeves up and get to work,” he added.