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Democrats Take Majority in House; Pelosi Poised to Become Speaker
Democrats reached the 15-seat threshold by knocking off Republicans in three districts in Indiana, two districts in Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and New York, and one each in Connecticut, Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio.
Additional Democratic victories over GOP incumbents then began to come in from others states, including Texas, where the Republicans lost the Houston-area seat formerly held by Tom DeLay, the once-powerful House majority leader. DeLay resigned in June after being indicted on charges of conspiring to violate campaign finance laws. Republican Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, a dermatologist and member of the Houston City Council, ran as a write-in candidate but lost to Democrat Nicholas V. Lampson, a former congressman who lost his House seat after a controversial 2004 redistricting that DeLay helped engineer.
White House officials privately acknowledged that Democrats appeared almost certain to win significantly more seats than needed to gain control of the House for the first time since 1994 -- a result that would dramatically alter the balance of power in Washington for final two years of the Bush administration.
Soon after polls closed in the east, Democrats gained three of the six seats they needed for control of the Senate, knocking off Republican incumbents in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Rhode Island.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic challenger Bob Casey Jr. defeated Republican Sen. Rick Santorum in a closely watched race. In Ohio, Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown ousted two-term incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine. In Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic former state attorney general, defeated Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee, a Republican moderate.
Santorum, a staunch conservative who chairs the Senate Republican Conference, making him the party's third-ranking leader in the chamber, conceded to Casey tonight, congratulating him on running "an excellent campaign."
In one crucial Senate race that the Democrats needed to win to boost their chances of gaining a majority, incumbent Robert Menendez in New Jersey held off Republican Thomas H. Kean Jr., son of a former New Jersey governor.
Another incumbent, Joseph I. Lieberman, running as a third-party candidate in Connecticut, held onto his Senate seat, defeating Ned Lamont, who won the Democratic Party's nomination over Lieberman in the state's primary. Lieberman, who was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, has said he plans to caucus with the Democrats.
In Maryland, television networks and the Associated Press projected Democratic Rep. Benjamin Cardin as the winner over Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele after a tough campaign for the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Democrat.
The first of the Republican House seats to fall into the Democratic column was in Indiana, where Rep. John N. Hostettler was beaten by challenger Brad Ellsworth. More Democratic pickups in the House came in Kentucky, where John Yarmuth toppled Republican incumbent Anne M. Northup, and Indiana, where Democrat Joe Donnelly took the seat of Republican Rep. Chris Chocola. In Connecticut, Democrat Chris Murphy, a 32-year-old state senator, knocked off veteran Republican Rep. Nancy L. Johnson.
In Florida, Republican Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr., 67, a 25-year veteran of the House, lost his seat to Ron Klein, 49, the minority leader in the state Senate.
In North Carolina, Heath Shuler, a conservative Democrat and former Washington Redskins quarterback, defeated GOP Rep. Charles H. Taylor.