Regional Election Summary: The Northeast
A strong economy and general comfort with the status quo helped Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland (R) and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D) easily win reelection.
Rowland squeaked into office in 1994, and was neck-and-neck with Rep. Barbara B. Kennelly as recently as a year ago, but he pulled away on the strength of his first-term record of tax cuts and welfare reforms and ended up with 63 percent of the vote. Dodd, a liberal stalwart and a staunch ally of President Clinton, was tarred a bit by campaign fund-raising scandals during his recent term as Democratic National Committee chairman, but he also rolled to a landslide victory over former representative Gary A. Franks (R).
Freshman Rep. James H. Maloney (D), who ousted Franks in the Waterbury district two years ago, won a close victory over state Sen. Mark Nielsen (R). Meanwhile, former state Senate President John Larson (D), a narrow winner in his party's primary, won a comfortable victory over lawyer Kevin O'Connor (R).
It was a relaxing night for the nation's only Independent governor, Angus King, an anti-tax, pro-environment, budget-cutting populist who has become the state's most beloved politician. King squeezed into office in 1994 by a single percentage point. But he will return for a second term with a sweeping 59 percent mandate, after beating back nominal opposition from former Rep. James B. Longley (R) and lawyer Thomas Connolly (D). The state's two Democratic representatives, Tom Allen and John E. Baldacci, also cruised to reelection.
Acting Gov. Paul Cellucci (R), a former car dealer and town selectman from blue-collar Hudson, finally stepped out of popular ex-governor William F. Weld's shadow, nipping state Attorney General L. Scott Harshbarger (D) by a 51 percent to 47 percent margin to retain the job he has filled since Weld quit to pursue his failed quest to be ambassador to Mexico. Cellucci cannot match Weld's jaunty personality, razor-sharp mind or upper-crust breeding, but he was probably the Commonwealth's most active lieutenant governor ever, and voters there have grown fond of the fiscally conservative, socially liberal "Weld-Cellucci" philosophy.
Cellucci has been dogged by unanswered questions about personal debts, and by a reputation as an unimaginative patronage pol. But Harshbarger is considered somewhat of a prig by much of the Massachusetts establishment, and some of his fellow Democrats resent his zealous criminal investigations of party operatives. Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D) and John F. Kerry (D) campaigned for Harshbarger, but he may have lost some of his liberal support by unveiling a tax-cutting economic plan during the primary. With state finances so robust that Cellucci could boost social services while cutting taxes, Harshbarger failed to mobilize loyal Democrats.
In the House, though, Massachusetts will continue to toe a straight Democratic line. The only new face will be Somerville Mayor Michael Capuano, who emerged from a 10-person primary field to replace outgoing Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II (D). Capuano will represent the reliably liberal district which in years past sent John F. Kennedy and Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill to Congress.
Liberal Rep. Jim McGovern (D) of Worcester, former aide to beloved Rep. Joe Moakley (D) of South Boston, beat back a challenge from state Sen. Matthew Amorello (R). And Rep. John Tierney (D) won a comfortable victory over former Rep. Peter Torkildsen (R), whom he defeated by only 360 votes two years ago.
Granite State governors usually get a second two-year term without much difficulty, and Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) was no exception. She swept past GOP challenger Jay Lucas and can return to the education issues that have dominated New Hampshire politics in recent years. Sen. Judd Gregg (R), a former two-term governor and son of a former governor, earned a second term by defeating Democratic businessman and political neophyte George Condodemetraky with a better than 2-to-1 margin.
In the state's most competitive House race, Rep. Charles F. Bass (R) won 53 percent of the vote in defeating Mary Rauh (D).
The one prominent northeastern incumbent to lose his job was Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R), whose legendary attention to constituent services earned him the nickname "Senator Pothole" during his 18 years in Washington. D'Amato, who oversaw the Senate's highly partisan hearings on Whitewater as chairman of the Banking Committee, has always been a prodigious fund-raiser, a wily dealmaker and an enthusiastic brawler, but he met his match in Brooklyn Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D), an equally hard-nosed politician who turned D'Amato's offhand use of the word "putzhead" into a winning political issue. Schumer -- whose campaign got a lift from visits by President Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice President Gore -- emphasized his opposition to handguns and his support for abortion rights en route to winning 54 percent of the vote. D'Amato tried repeatedly to highlight Schumer's missed votes in the House, but Schumer blunted the issue by pointing out the more than 900 votes D'Amato had missed while serving on the Nassau County board of supervisors.
It was a better night for D'Amato's onetime protege, Gov. George E. Pataki (R), who was a little-known state senator from Peekskill when D'Amato recruited him to run against Democratic mainstay Mario Cuomo in 1994. After beating Cuomo during the GOP landslide, he piloted a moderate course as governor, cutting taxes and emphasizing education. He had no problem winning a second term against underfinanced New York City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D), and is likely to be mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2000. Lt. Gov. Elizabeth McCaughey Ross, a former Republican who launched an unsuccessful Democratic primary campaign for governor after tangling with Pataki in Albany, garnered 2 percent of the vote on the Liberal Party line.
Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey won a fourth term in the House, soundly defeating businessman William Walker (R) and Randall Terry, head of the antiabortion group Operation Rescue.
The House seat formerly held by Schumer went to Brooklyn Councilman Anthony Weiner (D). Assemblyman Joseph Crowley (D) rolled to an easy victory in the contest for the seat held by retiring Rep. Thomas J. Manton (D).
Upstate, Pataki aide John Sweeney (R) swept to victory in the race to replace retiring Rep. Gerald B.H. Solomon (R), while Assemblyman Thomas Reynolds (R) won the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Bill Paxon (R).
The march of incumbents continued in this predominantly Democratic state, as Gov. Lincoln C. Almond (R) won his second straight race over state Sen. Myrth York (D). Almond, a former U.S. attorney, won high marks for managing the economy and he avoided any ethical problems in a state notorious for corruption. York was a few points ahead in the polls in the final days of the campaign, but she never managed to excite the Democratic establishment in Providence.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D) garnered 72 percent of the vote to defeat a 79-year-old retired dairy farmer with no desire to move to Washington. After an amiable campaign in which both candidates agreed that Leahy was the best man for the job, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee saved local folk hero Fred Tuttle (R) from a six-year stay in Washington. Leahy will return to Washington for his fifth term while Tuttle will stay in Vermont and get a knee operation.
Gov. Howard Dean (D) faced more serious opposition from former state legislator Ruth E. Dwyer (R), but he still earned his fifth two-year term with 56 percent of the vote.
Rep. Bernard Sanders, an independent who almost always votes with Democrats, was easily reelected as well.
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