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An Early Look at Next Year's Senate Races
Political Junkie
Send your questions about campaigns and elections.

By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, February 16, 2001

Question: How do you see the battle for control of the Senate in 2002 shaping up? – Daniel Metraux, Staunton, Va.

The Carolinas may see open Senate contests next year. (Collection of Ken Rudin)
Answer: My initial reaction to your question was that it seems far too early to be talking about the 2002 Senate contests, since we donít know for sure who will stand for re-election or even the identities of their opponents. But when I read this week that Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) is planning a speech next month in Iowa, and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) is doing a fundraiser in Florida, apparently 2004 is already on the minds of some people. So it canít be too early to talk about 2002.

Of the 34 Senate seats up next year, 20 are held by Republicans:

Wayne Allard (Colo.) Max Baucus (Mont.)
Thad Cochran (Miss.) Joe Biden (Del.)
Susan Collins (Maine) Jean Carnahan (Mo.)
Larry Craig (Idaho) Max Cleland (Ga.)
Pete Domenici (N.M.) Richard Durbin (Ill.)
Mike Enzi (Wyo.) Tom Harkin (Iowa)
Phil Gramm (Tex.) Tim Johnson (S.D.)
Chuck Hagel (Neb.) John Kerry (Mass.)
Jesse Helms (N.C.) Mary Landrieu (La.)
Tim Hutchinson (Ark.) Carl Levin (Mich.)
James Inhofe (Okla.) Jack Reed (R.I.)
Mitch McConnell (Ky.) Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.)
Pat Roberts (Kan.) Robert Torricelli (N.J.)
Jeff Sessions (Ala.) Paul Wellstone (Minn.)
Bob Smith (N.H.)
Gordon Smith (Ore.)
Ted Stevens (Alaska)
Fred Thompson (Tenn.)
Strom Thurmond (S.C.)
John Warner (Va.)


• On numbers alone, Republican control looks to be in jeopardy, but the truth is that very few are seen as vulnerable. That's not the case, however, regarding New Hampshire's Bob Smith, who ruffled quite a few feathers when he bolted (albeit briefly) from the GOP. Some think that his career will end should Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) challenge him, or if another Republican, such as former Gov. Steve Merrill, takes him on in the primary.

• Democrats are also talking up the potential challenge to Oregon's Gordon Smith by Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), but it remains to be seen if that matchup will occur.

• Of everyone who is up, South Carolina's Thurmond, who turns 99 in December, is the only certain retiree. But Republicans appear confident that they will retain the seat, with Rep. Lindsey Graham, one of the House impeachment managers, listed as an early favorite.

• In Maine, first-termer Collins's vote to confirm John Ashcroft could come back to haunt her, but itís hard to argue that the vote will be an issue. Rep. John Baldacci (D) reportedly wants to be governor, but if he runs against Collins he could have the advantage.

• In North Carolina, there have been rumors that the 79-year old Helms, who has health problems, will retire, but he has not tipped his hand about a sixth term. Some wonder if Republicans might have a better shot at retaining the seat without Helms, but he can never be counted out.


There are fewer seats for the Dems to defend, but there may be more of them that need watching. Cleland, Harkin, Johnson, and Landrieu all may face stiff opposition, and ethics problems could endanger Torricelli.

• In Georgia, there is no shortage of GOP House members anxious to take on Cleland, but a divisive and fractious primary will not help their cause.

Iowa's Harkin may face Rep. Greg Ganske, and Louisiana's Landrieu could be challenged by Rep. John Cooksey, two potentially tough battles facing the Democrats.

• Rep. John Thune (R) of South Dakota is looking at the governorship, but if he sets his sights on Sen. Johnson, it could be a tough contest.

Montana's Baucus dodged a bullet when popular former governor Marc Racicot (R) said he wouldnít run.

• It will be interesting to see if a strong Republican challenger emerges in Missouri to take on Carnahan, who was appointed to the seat when her late husband ousted Sen. Ashcroft last year. Rep. JoAnn Emerson (R) had expressed interest in running but later shied away.

Minnesota's Wellstone reneged on a two-term pledge, but that issue has not provoked the outcry that the term-limits lobby hoped it would. Rod Grams, the Republican who was ousted from his Senate seat in 2000, has hinted he wants another shot, but his dismal performance last year could encourage the GOP to look elsewhere.

Question: Time Magazine reported that Sen. John McCain "thinks he finally has the 60 votes it takes to break a filibuster and is determined to press ahead" with his campaign finance reform bill. If McCain eventually does bring the bill to the Senate floor, how many senators are needed to sign the bill into law? Fifty percent of the Senate? Or a two-thirds majority? – Maureen Madden, Oro Valley, Ariz.

Answer: In the past, opponents of campaign finance reform have used parliamentary tactics, such as the filibuster, to keep the measure from reaching the Senate floor. This year, however, Republican leaders have discounted talk of a filibuster, and Majority Leader Trent Lott has in fact promised it would come to a vote. While it takes 60 votes (or three-fifths) to break a Senate filibuster, a mere plurality would be required to pass the measure. Of course, the House would also have to pass it, and any differences between the two bodies must be ironed out in conference.

Question: I am a John McCain supporter and still hold on to the faint hope that he will one day become president. Are there are any historical precedents for an incumbent president losing the nomination to a challenger during the primaries? – Grace Olson, Los Angeles, Calif.

Answer: Since the advent of our current system in 1972, in which the nomination is won through primaries and caucuses, no incumbent president has lost his bid for renomination. The closest struggle faced by any chief executive since that time came in 1976, when President Gerald Ford was able to beat back the challenge of Ronald Reagan at the Republican convention. The last incumbent to be denied renomination by his party was Chester Alan Arthur (R). Arthur became president in 1881 following the assassination of James Garfield, but his bid for the GOP nomination in 1884 was thwarted by James Blaine. The only president in history elected to office only to be denied the nomination four years later was Franklin Pierce, who won the White House in 1852 but lost renomination in 1856 to James Buchanan.

Question: In the coming reapportionment, in which states is the process controlled fully by the Democrats, which by the Republicans, which have their control split, and which have an independent election board? Also, in going back to a previous column regarding "faithless electors" (see Nov. 20, 2000), you failed to note that in 1960, six Kennedy electors from Alabama voted for Sen. Harry Byrd (D-Va.). – Robert Maher, Melbourne, Australia

Answer: Republicans control the process in seven states: Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Virginia. Democrats also have complete control in seven states: Alabama, California, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, and West Virginia. Redistricting in Arizona will be conducted by an independent commission. Seven states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming) have just one House member, so congressional redistricting is moot. In the remaining states, control is split.

Segregationist electors attempted to rally behind Byrd in 1960. (Collection of Ken Rudin)
As for the six Alabama electors who voted for Harry Byrd in 1960, it is perhaps a matter of semantics why they are not listed among the "faithless." Usually these "faithless" electors are individuals who decided for their own reasons to vote for someone else. Thatís not exactly what happened in 1960 in Alabama.

In 1960, there was a concerted effort by several Southern Democratic segregationist leaders, notably Gov. Ross Barnett of Mississippi, to hold back electors from voting for John Kennedy because they were opposed to JFK's position on race. Mississippi, in fact, voted for a complete slate of unpledged electors (instead of Kennedy or Republican Richard Nixon) that year. In Alabama, neither the Democratic nor Republican presidential nominees were listed by name on the ballot. Thus, voters were not selecting Kennedy or Nixon, they were voting for electors who ran under party banners – though the electors were not required by state law to vote for their party's presidential nominee. In 1960, Alabama voters opted for the slate of Democratic electors over their GOP counterparts by the margin of 324,050 to 237,981. But six of the state's 11 electors, in addition to the eight from Mississippi, met in Jackson, Miss., a month after the election and agreed to cast their votes for Byrd in an effort to stop Kennedy and throw the election into the House. When the electoral college ultimately met, Byrd got 15 votes (including one Nixon elector from Oklahoma) – not nearly enough to stop Kennedy, with 300 electoral votes, from becoming president.

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: junkie@washingtonpost.com

Ken Rudin, political editor at National Public Radio, is also the creator of washingtonpost.com's ScuttleButton contest.

© Copyright 2001 Ken Rudin

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