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National Govt & Politics
Tale of two elections as Dems take House, GOP expands Senate majority
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Tale of two elections as Dems take House, GOP expands Senate majority

Tale of two elections as Dems take House, GOP expands Senate majority
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Tale of two elections as Dems take House, GOP expands Senate majority

Americans rendered a split verdict on the Congress under President Donald Trump, as Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate by knocking off a series of incumbent Democratic Senators, while Democrats strung together a series of victories in all corners of the country to win back the majority in the House for the first time since big GOP victories in the 2010 elections.

"President Trump called Leader Mitch McConnell to congratulate him on the historic Senate gains," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as she said the President also spoke with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who could be in line to become Speaker for a second time.

For Democrats, their victories in the House were tempered by bruising defeats in the Senate, as incumbents lost in Missouri, Indiana and North Dakota.

In Florida, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) refused to concede, trailing in his re-election race against Gov. Rick Scott (R), while Democratic Sen. Jon Tester was also behind in Montana, as the GOP was poised to add maybe as many as four seats to their Senate majority, up from the bare 51-49 advantage they have currently.

At almost 2 am, President Trump was still watching the returns, and basking in the glow of the big Senate victory, which came after he targeted a number of Democratic incumbents.

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

One of the few Democrats who was the subject of repeated Trump rallies - but survived - was Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia - he was also the only one who voted for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

"Every Democratic Senator in a red state who voted against Judge Kavanaugh has so far lost their election," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

Democrats were able to win back one GOP seat, as Rep. Jacky Rosen (R-NV) defeated GOP Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada.

In the House, Republicans had mocked the idea that Democrats would have a "Blue Wave" sweep over Congress - but in many ways, that did happen, as Democrats picked off seats in a variety of states, powered by a series of victories from female candidates.

Many of the Democratic victories came in districts which had voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but elected a Republican to the U.S. House.

The return to power started in the East, as Democrats flipped three GOP seats in New York, three in New Jersey, three in Pennsylvania, and three in Virginia.

It wasn't just in the East, as Democrats also added two seats in Iowa, two in Illinois, two in south Florida, two in suburban districts in Texas, and flipped GOP seats in red states like Kansas, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

And if not for some late rallies by a number of GOP lawmakers, the outcome could have been even worse for House Republicans, who will head back to the minority next year.

"Tonight history has repeated itself," said outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan in a written statement, referring to expected losses for the party that holds the White House. "A party in power always faces tough odds in its first midterm election."

"One of the things associated with a wave is upsets," said political expert Stu Rothenberg. "One party significantly outperforms. That is happening in the House."

"In the House, where the entire country got to vote, Dems are winning with ease," said elections expert Harry Enten. "Further, there have been some surprises, which is indicative of a wave in my mind."

One of those upsets was in Oklahoma, where Democrats have been shut out of Congress for a number of years - but then, Kendra Horn unexpectedly defeated Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK).

"When we #FlipThe5th, I will be only the 3rd woman OK has ever sent to Congress," Horn wrote on Twitter back in January, as she followed through with a win.

"Upset City in Oklahoma!" said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI).

As of 7 am, there were still almost two dozen races undecided in the House, and four in the Senate, as President Trump scheduled a news conference for 11:30 am ET.

"Tonight was a great night for our campaign and for Democrats across the country," said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA).

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News

  • Police in New York said Tuesday that they've located the grandparents of a 3-year-old boy found sleeping Monday morning in a box on a woman's porch. >> Read more trending news  The boy was found about a mile away from a burned car that contained possible human remains, though authorities did not immediately link the two incidents. Police released images Tuesday of the boy's parents and a family friend, who remained missing. Update 3:35 p.m. EDT Sept. 17: Police released photos Tuesday afternoon of three people who were last seen Sunday, before a woman found a 3-year-old boy in a box on her porch in Buffalo. The people were identified as the boy's mother, Nicole Merced Plaud, 24; the boy's father, Miguel Anthony Valentin-Colon, 31; and a family friend, Dhamyl Mirella Roman-Audiffred, WIVB-TV reported. All three are from the Orlando, Florida, area, police said. Investigators asked that anyone who has had contact in recent days with Merced Plaud, Valentin-Colon or Roman-Audiffred contact police. Authorities opened an investigation into the trio's disappearance after a woman found Merced Plaud and Valentin-Colon's son, Noelvin, sleeping in a box on her front porch Monday morning, WGRZ-TV reported. Police said they found a burned car containing human remains about a mile from where Noelvin was discovered, but they stressed Tuesday that investigators were continuing work to identify the remains. Buffalo police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo said the car was so badly damaged by the flames that officers were unable to positively identify its make or model. 'We will not know the identities of the people found in the vehicle for quite some time,' he said Tuesday at a news conference. Forensic anthropologists are assisting in the investigation. Update 1:40 p.m. EDT Sept. 17: Two women identified as grandmothers of the boy found Monday morning on Potomac Avenue have traveled from Florida to New York, according to WGRZ-TV. Buffalo police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo said Tuesday at a news conference that police were working with the women and with Child Protective Services to reunite them with their grandson. 'I am praying that they return him today to us. It's all I want. Please return him back to us,' Zenaida Colon, one of the boy's grandmother's, told WGRZ-TV. 'He is a loved child. His parents loved him very much and was always with him. They were great parents.' Family members told WKBW-TV they last heard from the boy's parents, 24-year-old Nicole Mersed and 31-year-old Migel Valentin, on Sunday. Colon told WIVB-TV she believes Noelvin was vacationing in Buffalo with his parents and a friend. The whereabouts of the boy's parents and their friend remained unknown Tuesday, though Rinaldo said investigators believe they arrived in Buffalo late Sunday. Police plan to release images of the trio later Tuesday. Police said they found a burned car Monday about a mile from where Noelvin was discovered. Investigators were working Tuesday to identify human remains found inside the vehicle, which was so badly damaged that officers were unable to positively identify its make or model. Rinaldo said it remained unclear Tuesday whether multiple remains had been recovered from the burned car. 'We will not know the identities of the people found in the vehicle for quite some time,' he said, adding that forensic anthropologists were assisting in the investigation. Original report: Authorities in Buffalo, New York, found a burned car containing possible human remains just one mile away from the home where a woman discovered a sleeping toddler on her porch Monday morning, police said. According to WIVB-TV, Buffalo police found the vehicle about 6 p.m. Monday outside a Black Rock storage facility on Tonawanda Street. Investigators did not say whose remains may have been inside or whether the incident was connected to the 3-year-old boy found alone on nearby Potomac Avenue hours earlier. Homeowner Lori Ausberger told WIVB that she spotted the child on her porch, curled up with a blanket in a box, about 8 a.m.  'I said, 'Where's your mommy, honey?'' she told WKBW. 'He said, 'The car's on fire.' That's all he kept saying.' Investigators are trying to identify the parents of the boy, who was placed in Child Protective Services' care, WHEC reported.
  • A Florida man suspected of being the “Daytona Beach Serial Killer,” who killed at least four women over the span of a decade, has been charged with the 2016 homicide of a Palm Beach County woman, and genetic genealogy is being credited with his capture. Robert Tyrone Hayes, 37, was arrested Sunday at his West Palm Beach home. He is charged with first-degree murder in the strangulation death of Rachel Elizabeth Bey. Hayes has also been tied by DNA and ballistics to the 2005 and 2006 shooting deaths of Laquetta Mae Gunther, 45, Julie Ann Green, 34, and Iwana Patton, 35, more than 200 miles away in Daytona Beach, according to authorities. He has not been charged in the Daytona Beach slayings, but charges are expected. >> Read more trending news  “We have been able to take what we believe is a serial killer off the streets,” Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said Monday during a news conference. “Had we not done this, we’re pretty sure that he would have killed again.” Daytona Beach police officials said detectives there are looking into the possibility that Hayes was responsible for the Jan. 2, 2008, killing of Stacey Gage. No physical evidence links him to that crime. Authorities also believe there may be additional victims Hayes has not yet been tied to. “I believe you’ll be hearing a lot about Robert Tyrone Hayes in the months to come,” Special Agent Troy Walker, of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said Monday. Hayes’ neighbors were stunned by the arrest, according to The Associated Press. Hayes, a cook who graduated from Bethune-Cookman University in 2006 with a criminal justice degree, lived in an apartment in the Pinewood Park neighborhood with a woman and their toddler daughter. It was not immediately clear if the couple is married. “He was always friendly with me,” neighbor Craig Brown told the AP. Authorities believe Hayes, who is being held without bond, targeted prostitutes and drug users. The AP reported that the shootings in Daytona Beach caused a panic that led some of the area’s prostitutes to help detectives. They memorized license plate numbers and vehicle descriptions of anyone they deemed to be suspicious, the AP said. Volunteers from a local ministry also worked to warn people of the apparent danger lurking on the streets. The known killings stopped for a decade -- until Rachel Bey. Court records show that Bey, a 32-year-old known prostitute who worked an area of West Palm Beach, was strangled March 7, 2016, and dumped on the side of a highway. A close friend told police she’d last seen Bey walking toward the intersection she usually worked around 2 a.m. the day she was killed. Bey was fully clothed at the time and carried her cellphone. Her naked body was found about six hours later by a road worker along Beeline Highway just west of Jupiter, several miles from where she was last seen alive. Her clothes and cellphone were missing. Bey’s autopsy showed that, besides being strangled, she had been severely beaten. She had fractures to her jaw, multiple broken teeth and defensive injuries to her arms and hands that showed she fought for her life. DNA evidence was found during a rape examination, and DNA was also found on the back of Bey’s left hand, where her killer would have grabbed her to drag her to the spot where her body was found, the affidavit says. Lab workers were able to obtain a complete DNA profile from the semen, the affidavit says. In December 2016, detectives assigned to Bey’s case were notified that there was a DNA hit in CODIS, or the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, tying the genetic profile in Bey’s case to that obtained in the Daytona Beach case. Watch Palm Beach County officials discuss Hayes' arrest below.  According to the court records, the profile found on Bey’s body matched that left on two of the three women killed in Daytona Beach. Authorities there said DNA evidence linked Bey’s killer to the slayings of Gunther and Green. Additionally, ballistic evidence at the scene of two of those killings showed the women had been killed with the same .40-caliber weapon. Daytona Beach officials said Patton’s killing was linked to the others through that forensic evidence. Hayes was developed as a potential suspect in the killings through genetic genealogy, the same technique that resulted in the arrest of the suspected Golden State Killer in California last year. Since then, dozens of other cold cases have been solved using public genealogy databases that contain thousands of customers’ DNA profiles. Four of those case have taken place in Florida, according to Lori Napolitano, the FDLE’s chief of genetic genealogy. Napolitano explained that cold case suspects are identified by comparing their DNA profiles to those of potential family members found in the databases. “Investigators upload the crime scene DNA profile of the suspect and receive a list of matches,” Napolitano said. “Those matches are people who share DNA with the suspect. The more DNA they share, the more closely they’re related.” Two companies allow law enforcement to use their databases: GEDMatch and Family Tree DNA. “Killers like Robert Tyrone Hayes are the reason genetic genealogy is so important to public safety,” Walker said Monday. “Without genetic genealogy, predators like Mr. Hayes will continue to live in our neighborhoods, visit our parks, our libraries (and) restaurants and go to our nightlife and entertainment districts to continue to hunt for victims.” Napolitano offered condolences to Bey’s brothers, who attended Monday’s news conference. “Please know that we worked countless hours on her case to bring it to resolution and to give Rachel the voice that she lost,” Napolitano said. One of Bey’s brothers, Aliahu Bey, described his sister in 2016 as a “loving and caring girl” who got caught up with the wrong crowd as a teen. At one time a certified nursing assistant, she ended up working on the street after getting deeper into drugs. “We all wanted to rescue and steal her away (from Florida),” Bey told The Palm Beach Post at the time. “But we knew that choice had to be hers. And she wanted to have that kind of change.” In their last phone conversation, Bey told the Post, his sister asked when she would get to meet his children. She told him “life was hard, but that she was trying.” The probable cause affidavit states that Hayes lived in Daytona Beach when the initial three killings took place in late 2005 and early 2006. His home was in the same area in which all three women were last seen before they were killed. In March 2016, when Bey was slain, Hayes lived about a mile from where she was last seen alive in West Palm Beach. “Hayes was questioned twice during the initial stages of the Daytona Beach murders due to him owning a .40-caliber firearm,” the affidavit states. “Hayes purchased the firearm at the beginning of December 2005, with one of the murders then occurring Dec. 26, 2005.” Read the probable cause affidavit for Robert Hayes' arrest below. Robert Hayes Probable Cause Affidavit by National Content Desk on Scribd Hayes told Daytona Beach investigators the following March that he had given the gun to his mother, who lived in West Palm Beach. “However, Hayes also reported a 40-caliber firearm as being stolen from his vehicle in Riviera Beach, Florida, in December 2006,” the affidavit states. Phone records showed that Bey’s missing cellphone remained sporadically active in the days after she was killed, the court records show. The cell tower that facilitated the majority of that activity was the cell tower that also covered Hayes’ home. Agents with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office’s Fugitive Task Force were watching Hayes Friday when they spotted him smoking a cigarette as he waited for a bus near his home. After he discarded the cigarette butt and left, they collected it and sent it for DNA testing, the affidavit says. The DNA obtained from the butt matched the profile found on Bey and from two of the Daytona Beach victims, the document states. Watch Daytona Beach police officials discuss Hayes' arrest below.  The AP reported that Gunther was the first of the Daytona Beach victims killed. Her body was found the day after Christmas 2005 in a gap between an auto parts store and a utility building. Green was found Jan. 14, 2006, on a dirt road at a construction site and Patton was found Feb. 24 on a separate dirt road. All three women were shot in the head and left naked and lying face down. Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri credited Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood, who was police chief in Daytona Beach at the time of the killings, with pushing the department to embrace the type of technology that led to Hayes’ arrest. “Before that, we didn’t really know much about technology or embrace technology,” Capri said. “Without that type of forward thinking, we might not be here today.” Chitwood said solving the slayings of Gunter, Green and Patton was the only thing left undone when he left the position of police chief. “I just can’t tell you how proud I am of Chief Capri and how proud I am of the men and women of the Daytona Beach Police Department,” Chitwood said. Bradshaw said during his own news conference that it was a “fantastic team effort” that led to Hayes’ arrest. Florida 7th Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza said charges against Hayes would be forthcoming in the three Daytona Beach homicides. No decision had been made as of Monday on whether authorities would seek the death penalty. “These were brutal crimes and the State Attorney’s Office is very fortunate to have the caliber of law enforcement folks that we have working these cases,” Larizza said. “It’s not just working the streets anymore. It’s working with DNA. It’s working with technology. “We are truly in a brave new world.”
  • An inmate at a Florida county jail rushed at a guard while naked and injured the female deputy, authorities said. >> Read more trending news  Awanda Baker, 46, faces additional charges after the Thursday incident at the Manatee County Jail, according to the Bradenton Herald. According to jail records, Baker was jailed because she failed to answer a summons for n a prior misdemeanor battery charge. According to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, Baker was housed in a special section of the jail reserved for disruptive inmates, the newspaper reported. Deputies said Baker became disruptive after 8 p.m. Thursday and was warned she would be pepper-sprayed, WWSB reported. When the deputy attempted to use the pepper spray, Baker covered herself with a blanket.  The deputy pulled off the blanket, and that's when Baker allegedly rushed the guard, the Herald reported. According to the Sheriff's Office, the two fell to the ground and Baker bit the deputy, the newspaper reported. Surveillance video at the jail allegedly shows Baker throwing several punches at the deputy and hitting her on the back the head, WWSB reported. The deputy was taken to an area hospital and was treated for bite wounds and a neck injury, the television station reported. Baker now faces two felony charges of battery on a law enforcement officer with violence. She remains in custody in lieu of bonds totaling $11,500.
  • The first hotel in orbit above the Earth is set to open in just over six years, according to the ambitious plans of the company anticipating the world’s first space tourists. >> Read more trending news  The Gateway Foundation unveiled its designs for a rotating space station that will produce differing levels of artificial gravity and will accommodate up to 100 tourists a week when it opens in 2025, according to news reports. Named the Von Braun Station after rocket technology pioneer Wernher von Braun, Gateway said on its website that it’s working with national space agencies to research low gravity while assembling the station and also providing “space tourists who want to experience life on a large space station with the comfort of low gravity and the feel of a nice hotel.” Using technology for the construction of the International Space Station, the Von Braun station will consist of two concentric structural rings connected together by spokes that will support a so-called Habitation Ring of large, pressurized modules, Gateway officials said. The foundation said the station will include an array of modules, including an air water power module, a gym module, a kitchen, restaurant and bar module. There will also be a crew quarters; privately owned modules for villas, hotels and commercial uses and government-owned modules for research and training. Initial activities for tourists might include low-gravity basketball, low-gravity rock climbing and trampolining, Von Braun Station design architect Tim Alatorre said, according to ABC News, which sited the architecture and design magazine Dezeen. Alatorre predicted travel to the station would compare with a cruise or a Disney World vacation with activities like concerts, movies and seminars. Others are getting in on the race to commercialize space, including NASA, which announced this summer it expected to open the International Space Station to tourists by 2020.
  • A Texas teen was arrested for hitting a woman with his car when driving drunk, according to police. KAGS reported that around 2 a.m. Saturday, Pedro Puga, 17, was driving in College Station, Texas, when he hit a woman with his vehicle and kept driving, according to court documents.  >> Read more trending news  WFAA reported that Puga hit Carlynn Beatty, a sophomore at Texas A&M.  Beatty was walking home with friends on campus when Puga hit her with his SUV. According to court documents obtained by KAGS, a witness told police Puga pulled into a parking lot and inspected his vehicle for damage. He then got back in his vehicle and continued to drive.  The vehicle was found parked at a gym, KAGS reported. When College Station Police Department officers confronted Puga, he said he would have outrun them had he not taken Xanax and cocaine earlier that day. KBTX reported Beatty is in critical condition at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston. She has had four surgeries, WFAA reported. 'You can tell, like, that she’s fighting for her life and that she’s fighting to be here and that she wants to live,' Beatty’s friend Bri Copeland told KBTX. 'She’s still in very critical condition, we’re just worried about her brain right now, it’s the main thing we’re worried about.' Puga has been charged with intoxication assault, evading arrest and accident involving serious bodily injury. He was booked at Brazos County Jail Saturday and released the next day on bond, according to jail records.
  • An assistant football coach at a California high school is accused of soliciting nude photographs from a 15-year-old female student, police said. >> Read more trending news  Victor Perez Carillo, 26, of Modesto, was arrested Monday and charged with solicitation of child pornography and arranging to meet with a minor for lewd purposes, according to a news release from the Escalon Police Department. He was booked into the San Joaquin County Jail and remains there in lieu of a $505,000 bond, according to KCRA Carillo, who is an assistant football coach at Escalon High School, was arrested after a woman reported discovering inappropriate messages on her daughter's phone, KCRA reported. Police said a detective went to the high school and discovered Carillo had communicated with the girl on Snapchat, The Modesto Bee reported. Carillo also tried to arrange a meeting with the girl after school, the newspaper reported. Carillo is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday, KCRA reported.