Control of the United States Congress at stake in voting in seven states

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: US Representative Grimm of New York seen at a press conference after his guilty plea in New York

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A bitter New York showdown between a convicted felon seeking to regain his congressional seat from a former prosecutor is among dozens of races in seven U.S. states on Tuesday as voters select candidates for the November elections to determine control of Congress.

Voters in Colorado, Maryland, South Carolina, Utah, Oklahoma and Mississippi are also selecting competitors for the Nov. 6 election, when Democrats will seek to wrest control of Congress from the Republican Party of President Donald Trump.

Democrats need to invest 23 of 435 seats to take over the House of Representatives, which would hamper much of Trump’s agenda and open up new avenues of investigation into his administration. They would have to win two seats to take the Senate, but they face higher odds there, analysts say.

Residents of the Staten Island district of New York City will decide whether to give Republican Michael Grimm, fresh out of prison for tax fraud, a chance to return to Congress, three years after he resigned after pleading guilty.

Grimm, a bombastic former FBI agent known for once threatening to throw a television reporter off a balcony, has traded barns with current Republican Rep. Dan Donovan, a former borough district attorney, about who is a staunch Trump supporter.

Both invoked the president in an effort to boost voter turnout on Tuesday.

“Let’s do this! #MAGA,” Grimm said in a Twitter message, referencing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. Donovan noted that the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., had recorded a promotional call to his followers.

The district is considered within reach of the Democrats in November.

“They should have a reality show: ‘The Real Candidates of Staten Island,'” said Douglas Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College. “It’s unpleasant, it’s personal, and it’s nice to watch.”

DEMOCRATIC BATTLES

Voters in upstate New York will choose from seven Democrats in one of the most expensive House campaigns this year. First-term Republican Rep. John Faso is deemed vulnerable in November, and his would-be rivals have collectively raised more than $ 7 million.

In Colorado, an establishment-backed Democrat and a liberal insurgent are vying to take on incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, whose district favored Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.

Jason Crow, a veteran of the Iraq war backed by the national party, takes on Levi Tillemann, who was endorsed by Our Revolution, a group born out of Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid in 2016. Tillemann came to attention this month with a anti-gun violence video in which he attacks himself in the face with pepper spray.

The Republican race for governor of South Carolina is the latest test of Trump’s influence among the party’s voters. The president campaigned Monday alongside Governor Henry McMaster, who is in a close nomination battle with businessman John Warren. The winner is likely to prevail in November.

Voters will also choose Senate candidates in states like Utah and Maryland. Analysts say Democrats face a sharp escalation trying to take over that chamber, as they are defending seats in states like Indiana, Montana and North Dakota that supported Trump two years ago.

Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is expected to win his party’s Senate nomination in Utah, while Chelsea Manning, who served seven years in military prison for leaking classified data, is a long shot in the Democratic nomination race of Maryland against current Senator Ben Cardin.