- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Republicans took control of the Congress early this morning when Rep. James Talent claimed a Senate seat in Missouri, defeating Jean Carnahan. Mrs. Carnahan conceded defeat at 2 this morning (EST).
The Republicans earlier expanded their majority in the House of Representatives. The dramatic night of upsets and close races gave an incumbent Republican president a mid-term gain in Congress for the first time in nearly a century.
Now that the Republicans hold at least 50 seats in the Senate, they will control the chamber thanks to Vice President Richard B. Cheney's tie-breaking vote.
Democrats defeated Republicans' most vulnerable incumbent, Sen. Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas, but Republicans countered with an upset of Sen. Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat and the victory in Missouri.
Results from the races for Democrat-held seats in Minnesota and South Dakota were still not available early this morning, but Democrats must defend the seat of Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, who failed to win 50 percent of the vote in Louisiana, and will have to win a December run-off to keep her seat.
In South Dakota, Sen. Tim Johnson, a Democrat, was virtually tied with Republican Rep. John Thune in a race where both men were widely seen as surrogates respectively for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, and President Bush.
Vote-counting was also going slowly in Minnesota, where elections officials were plodding through ballots that had to be reprinted after Sen. Paul Wellstone died while running for re-election. Vice President Walter F. Mondale took his place on the ballot, and was trailing Republican Norm Coleman in early returns.
"I ask you to be patient, keep your optimism up," Mr. Mondale told supporters in Minnesota just after 1 a.m. "We have a good chance of winning this thing."
Before the Missouri race was called, Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, predicted on Fox that the Republicans would win all three seats.
"President Bush and the Republican Party made history tonight," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said at 1:30 this morning. "It appears that we will actually gain seats in the House. This is the first time since the Republican Party was founded around the Civil War that the Republican Party has gained seats in the president's first mid-term election. That's historic."
"I think it's very fair to say that a good portion of the results and history being made is attributable to the president's popularity and his hard work on behalf of the candidates," the spokesman told The Washington Times.
Republicans set the stage for a takeover last night by holding Colorado, with Sen. Wayne Allard defeating Democrat Tom Strickland, and retaining all four of their seats left open by retirements, plus the seat in New Hampshire, in which Rep. John E. Sununu defeated Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.
Mr. Sununu had defeated Sen. Robert C. Smith, the Republican incumbent, in the party primary, Mr. Smith was perhaps the GOP's most vulnerable incumbent.
"What a great night, what a great victory. This is a victory you made possible," Senator-elect John E. Sununu, currently a congressman, told the crowd in New Hampshire. "We were outspent, but we weren't outworked."
Republicans had promised a thorough effort to turn out their voters in this midterm election, and yesterday their efforts seemed to be paying off as they bucked the historic trend of the president's party losing seats in midterm elections.
Attention will now shift to Sen. Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island Republican, who was not up for election but whom many party members think might flee the party and deliver control back to Democrats, reminiscent of last year's switch by Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont.
Republicans defended all four of their seats left open by retirements from the Senate Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee and also made a key pickup in Georgia when Rep. Saxby Chambliss defeated Mr. Cleland.
In the governorship battles, Gov. Jeb Bush, President Bush's brother, held off a strong challenge by Democrat Bill McBride to win a second term in Florida, according to projections.
The Republican governor had been a prime target of Democrats, and the president made more than a dozen appearances to stump and raise funds for his brother.
Republicans also retained the top job in Massachusetts, where Mitt Romney defeated Shannon O'Brien, and captured the governorship of Maryland, where Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican congressman, defeated Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
Republicans also unseated incumbent Democrat governors in South Carolina and Georgia, the latter of which may have been the upset of the night. Governor-elect Sonny Perdue, who unseated Roy Barnes, will become the first Republican governor of the state since Reconstruction.
Republicans had some early good news in the race for control of the U.S. House, where Democrats needed to net just six seats to win control.
They won an early bellwether seats in Kentucky, won three of the four incumbent-incumbent matchups, won open-seat redistricting contests in Florida and protected open seats in places such as South Dakota. They were poised to net several seats, increasing their margin of control from the current six.
"I think we actually made a pretty good case to keep the House in Republican hands," House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, said on CNN last night. "People are tired of this gridlock they've seen in Congress with the Senate holding up all this legislation."
In an early bellwether race, Republican Rep. Anne N. Northup of Kentucky, who represents a Democrat-leaning region near Louisville, squeaked through to win a fourth term. Her seat was one of the districts that national Democrats had hoped to pick up as part of their mission to capture the House, and her victory set Democrats a step back.
Republicans were also making the most of redistricting in Florida, which gained two House seats due to the 2000 census. Katherine Harris, the former Florida secretary of state who became a public figure during the 2000 presidential recount battle, won a newly drawn seat, and several other Republicans were leading in early returns for newly drawn districts.
Returns late last night showed Republicans winning or leading in 200 House races, Democrats ahead in 158 races, and an independent winning in Vermont.
Control of the Senate was too close to call late in the night, with Democrats having 47 seats, including seats not up for election this year, Republicans holding or winning 49 races, and an independent holding a seat from Vermont. The other three seats were still undecided.
Republican Elizabeth Dole, a former presidential candidate and wife of Bob Dole, a former senator and presidential candidate himself, beat Erskine Bowles, who served President Clinton as chief of staff, to hold onto the seat being vacated by Sen. Jesse Helms in North Carolina. In Tennessee, Republican Lamar Alexander, also a former presidential candidate, also won his contest to keep a seat Republican.
One of the Senate seats Democrats held onto last night was in New Jersey. Frank Lautenberg, who retired from the Senate in 2000 but ran again this year, beat Republican Doug Forrester. Mr. Lautenberg replaced current Sen. Robert G. Torricelli on the ballot in early October after Mr. Torricelli dropped out of the race, citing his poor candidacy and his desire not to be the reason Democrats lose control of the Senate.
Democrats also held onto Iowa's open Senate seat, with Sen. Tom Harkin defeating Rep. Greg Ganske. Mr. Harkin once again staved off defeat when Mr. Ganske's campaign didn't catch on the way Republicans had hoped.
A handful of Democrats running against token or outgunned opposition were early winners, including Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Carl Levin of Michigan.
Several Republican Senate incumbents also were returned without serious challenge. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky won his fourth term, while Sen. John W. Warner, who ran virtually unopposed, won a fifth term in Virginia. Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Susan Collins of Maine and James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma also won as expected.
And while Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota was fighting to help re-elect his state's other Democrat, Sen. Tim Johnson, Minority Leader Trent Lott's fellow Mississippi senator, Republican Thad Cochran, won easily.
Right now the Senate is split 49-49, with one independent who supports Democrat leadership and one member of the Independence Party. Dean Barkley was appointed by Gov. Jesse Ventura, also a member of the Independence Party, and was sworn in. He will serve in the seat left open by Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone's death until the newly elected senator is seated.
That race, between Republican Norm Coleman and former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, a Democrat who also once served as a senator from Minnesota, was a weeklong sprint to the finish, and there was no clear winner early in the evening.
Currently there are 223 Republicans, 208 Democrats, one independent and three vacancies in the House, and Democrats had hoped to net the seats necessary to take control.
If history was a guide, Democrats should have been favored to complete a takeover; the president's party almost always loses seats in a midterm election, and in modern times has only gained seats once in the middle of a president's first term.
But Republicans last night were defying that history and ready to pick up a few seats if incumbents won as expected in the West. Nationwide, the vast majority of incumbents won election, thanks to seats shored up by redistricting.
However, after years of trying, Maryland Democrats were able to use redistricting to finally defeat Rep. Constance A. Morella. State Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. defeated Mrs. Morella, one of the nation's most prominent liberal Republicans, in the Montgomery County district.
And in New York, Rep. Felix J. Grucci Jr., a Republican, lost a race he had seemed sure of winning during the summer.
At one point Mr. Grucci ran an ad charging that his Democratic opponent, Tim Bishop, covered up campus rapes when he was an administrator at Southampton College. The backlash from the charges completely changed the race to where Mr. Grucci was considered the underdog last night.
In Connecticut, Rep. Nancy Johnson, a Republican, handily defeated Rep. Jim Maloney, a Democrat, in a matchup caused by redistricting in states that lost seats in Congress after the 2000 census.
In Pennsylvania, Rep. Tim Holden, a Democrat, narrowly defeated Republican Rep. George W. Gekas. In pairing the two men, state Republicans drew the district lines to be more Republican and to include more of Mr. Gekas' old district than Mr. Holden's. Mr. Holden, one of the more conservative Democrats in Congress, argued that Mr. Gekas has become a rubber stamp for Republicans.
Mississippi lawmakers set up another incumbent-incumbent matchup in which Rep. Ronnie Shows, a Democrat, faced Rep. Charles W. "Chip" Pickering Jr., a Republican. Mr. Pickering defeated Mr. Shows. Mr. Pickering's father, a federal judge, was denied a seat on a federal appeals court by Senate Democrats this year, a move that even some conservative Democrats predicted would hurt Democratic candidates in the South.
In Illinois, Rep. David Phelps, a Democrat, lost to Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican, in a matchup in a conservative-leaning district.
Competitive races for many of the seats Democrats had hoped to win never materialized.
In Nevada, Democrats thought they had a winner with Dario Herrera, chairman of the Clark County Commission, in the state's new seat just outside of Las Vegas. That seat was drawn with even registration between Democrats and Republicans.
Voters there tend to vote conservative in national elections, and Mr. Herrera was hurt by ethics complaints about his performance in local government. Republicans expected to pick this seat up.
In Ohio, former Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., who was expelled from the House in July and is serving a sentence in federal prison for tax evasion and bribery, failed to win his jailhouse bid for re-election. The former Democrat, who was running as an independent, lost to Democrat Tim Ryan. Republican Ann Womer Benjamin also ran.
All told, voters selected governors in 36 states, including all of the nation's largest states: California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Democrats felt they had a reasonable shot at capturing enough Republican-held governorships to control a majority of them.
In California, Republicans struggled to capitalize on damaged Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat. Mr. Davis was poised to beat Republican businessman Bill Simon in a race where polls showed most voters would have preferred another candidate to either of them.
In the Republican primary Mr. Simon defeated former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a liberal Republican, but even some national Republican leaders said Mr. Simon ran a terrible general election campaign.
Republicans got a rare bit of good news from traditionally liberal Massachusetts, where Mitt Romney, whom Republicans had recruited as their ace candidate, retained the seat for their party against Democrat Shannon O'Brien. Mr. Romney won the state by 50 percent to 45 percent.
Republicans also retained Florida and in New York, Gov. George E. Pataki cruised to a third term over Democrat H. Carl McCall and B. Thomas Golisano, a billionaire who ran from the Independence Party and outspent the other two candidates with his own money.
Despite Mr. Bowles' loss in North Carolina and a Florida primary loss by Janet Reno the year wasn't a total loss for members of former President Bill Clinton's administration. His Energy Secretary, Bill Richardson, won the governorship in New Mexico and Rahm Emanuel, a presidential advisor, won a seat in Congress from Illinois.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide