In the wee hours of the night, long after the presidential race had been called and everyone had gone home, three senate races dragged on, undecided, in Nevada, Montana, and North Dakota.
By early morning Wednesday, Nevada was finally called for Sen. Dean Heller, the Republican incumbent, who beat back a challenge from Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley to hold onto his seat.
Shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday morning, Montana was called for Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, who will return to the Senate to serve his second term. He beat Republican Denny Rehberg, Montana’s lone congressman. The win gave Democrats their 54th vote in the Senate, counting the two independents — Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats, and Maine’s Angus King, who is expected to do so.
“This is a very big win for the people of Montana and for Americans across the country,” said Sen. Patty Murray, Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Jon Tester knows his state like the back of his hand, and he is exactly the type of quality leader we need in the US Senate. Montanans saw right through the millions in attack ads from Karl Rove and others. Jon Tester fights every day for Montana values, and I am so proud of the campaign he ran and the work he has done and will continue to do in the United States Senate.”
Rehberg conceded shortly after the race was called.
“The voters of our state have spoken, and I respect their decision,” he said. “Senator Tester and I share an abiding love for Montana and America, a value which transcends political party or disagreements on matters of policy. I congratulate Jon on his victory in this hard-fought campaign.”
But North Dakota remains too close to call.
Heidi Heitkamp leads Republican Rep. Rick Berg by 2,996 votes with all districts reporting. But Berg has said he will not yet concede.
“This is a very close election, which is why North Dakota has a process in place to properly count each ballot and officially certify the result,” Berg said in a statement released around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. “This canvassing process will certify the election and provide an official result. The Berg for Senate campaign will await the results of the canvassing process before making any other announcements regarding the status of the election.”
The vote count is not close enough to trigger an automatic recount of the vote, by North Dakota law, but it is close enough that Berg can demand a recount.