Control of Congress, abortion rights and key election roles in several states are at stake as voters take to the polls for the 2022 midterm elections Tuesday. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Voters will head to the polls Tuesday for a midterm election with the potential to reshape Congress.
Democrats are seeking to maintain their hold on the House and Senate as they hope to protect abortion rights that have come under threat following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
Several candidates who support former President Donald Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election are also vying for key roles in various states, with armed poll watchers staking out ballot boxes.
President Joe Biden warned that the future of the country itself would be at stake if candidates loyal to Trump, whom he referred to as "MAGA Republicans," are elected, as he spoke at Union Station in Washington last week.
"We must vote knowing who we have been and what we're at risk of becoming," Biden said. "We must vote knowing what's at stake and not just the policy of the moment -- but institutions that have held us together, as we've sought a more perfect union, are also at stake."
Several Republicans loyal to Trump are running for key Senate seats. Democrats and Republicans each have 50 senators, although Democrats have the tiebreaker with Vice President Kamala Harris. However, Republicans have remained optimistic that they can regain control of the Senate.
Abortion rights have become a key issue in many Senate races as Biden has promised that if the midterm elections expand Democratic control in Congress, he will sign a bill to codify Roe vs. Wade on the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in the case, which falls a few days after a new Congress is sworn in on Jan. 22, 2023.
Republicans are also seeking to sway the Senate in their favor as, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced legislation in September that would ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
In Pennsylvania, Republican candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz, who Trump campaigned for over the weekend, has been accused of making mixed statements on abortion.
Oz, a retired cardiothoracic surgeon, defended abortion rights in a 2019 interview. But the 62-year-old father of four has more recently described himself as "strongly pro-life." He does favor exceptions in cases of rape and incest and does not support criminal penalties for people seeking or doctors performing abortions.
His opponent, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, has stated he is unequivocally pro-choice.
"I believe it's a decision that should only be between a woman and her doctor. That's all there is to it. Oz can't have it both ways."
In Arizona, Republican Blake Masters is challenging Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Masters has also faced criticism for his flip-flopping on abortion.
In August, he released an ad saying that he supported a ban on very late-term and partial-birth abortions. However, after releasing the ad, his campaign erased many of his positions, including a statement saying "I am 100% pro-life."
In Georgia, Republican candidate Herschel Walker is attempting to use his star power as an NFL legend to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
A Walker win could have major implications in the Senate after Warnock edged out former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., in 2020, to secure the 50-50 split.
Walker has drawn criticism for his anti-abortion stance, despite reports that he'd paid for the procedure for the mother of one of his children. The 59-year-old initially denied the claims before acknowledging he did send a $700 check to the woman.
In the spring, Walker told reporters "there's no exception in my mind" when asked about abortion restrictions.
He softened the stance in a debate last month, saying he supports Georgia's so-called "heartbeat" abortion law that provides exceptions for rape and incest, threats to the mother's life or medical conditions that render the fetus unviable.
"I say I support the Georgia heartbeat bill, because that's the bill of the people from Gov. [Brian] Kemp," Walker said.
In the same debate, Warnock, who is the first Black senator ever elected in Georgia, said he supports legal abortion, because "I trust women more than I trust politicians."
As Republicans look to take back the House of Representatives, they will rest their hopes on several Trump-backed candidates who ousted more moderate Republicans.
In Michigan's 3rd congressional district, John Gibbs defeated incumbent Rep. Peter Meijer, a moderate who had voted to impeach Trump, during the Republican primary. Gibbs is running against attorney Hilary Scholten, who has also made her support for abortion a centerpiece of her campaign.
In Ohio's 9th congressional district, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the longest-serving woman in the history of the House, will look to extend her tenure as she faces Air Force veteran J.R. Majewski. Majewski was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and has recently claimed to have served in Afghanistan with the Air Force. Although the Air Force has said that it can't verify that claim.
Many of the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in 2021 are not even running in this year's election. Just two -- Reps. David Valadao and Dan Newhouse -- managed to make it to the general election.
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol, which has subpoenaed Trump, will also lose its sole Republican members following this term, as Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming lost her primary race against Trump-backed candidate Harriet Hageman and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois is set to retire.
Hageman is set to face off against Democrat Lynette Grey Bull, while Rep. Darin LaHood, who currently represents Illinois' 18th district, will seek to defeat Democrat Elizabeth Haderlein to take Kinzinger's seat following redistricting in the state.
Secretary of State
This year's midterms carry a heightened interest in the races for several secretary of state positions after the Trump campaign pressured several of them to move to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Now candidates who have said they would not have certified the election results are running.
Arizona lawmaker Mark Finchem has denied the 2020 election results, making the topic part of his campaign for secretary of state. Finchem, who has forged close ties with Trump, has said he would not have certified the results.
Finchem has said he would "support law enforcement, clean the voter rolls for accuracy, prosecute fraud, secure [Arizona] elections, increase transparency, communicate with voters and count all legal votes."
The state has also seen accusations of voter intimidation as "vigilante" poll watchers from the group Clean Elections USA have been seen observing ballot boxes, taking photos and recording voters and in some cases carrying weapons.
Last week, Arizona federal Judge Michael Liburdi signed an emergency order barring the poll watchers from "openly" carrying weapons or "visibly" wearing body armor within 250 feet of Arizona drop boxes. It also bars them from taking photos, recording, following or shouting at voters within 75 feet of election drop boxes.
In Nevada, where Republicans feel like they can do well, former Republican state Rep. Jim Marchant also embraces the belief that Trump was victorious in 2020. Marchant has campaigned on overhauling "the fraudulent election system in Nevada." He has also insisted that a number of the state's politicians "have been installed by the deep state cabal."
Some states do not have an election for secretary of state. In Pennsylvania, the secretary of state is appointed by the governor, giving heightened importance to that race. Republican candidate Doug Mastriano, who was also at the Capitol on Jan. 6, is an election denier and could be the one appointing the secretary of state, were he to win.
Supporters of Dr. Mehmet Oz rally for his campaign for U.S. Senate at The Chadwick in Wexford, Pa., on November 4, 2022. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo