GOP's Senate Hopes for Gain Dashed
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 4, 1998; Page A27
Democrats thwarted Republican hopes of significantly expanding their 10-vote margin in the Senate yesterday as political newcomer John Edwards unseated Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R) in North Carolina and Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D) defeated Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R) in New York.
Three of the most endangered Democratic Senate incumbents, Sens. Ernest F. Hollings (S.C.), Russell Feingold (Wis.) and Barbara Boxer (Calif.) managed to cling to their seats, and a fourth at-risk Democrat, Nevada Sen. Harry M. Reid, was leading in early returns.
Democrats suffered a major although not unexpected defeat in Illinois, where Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, the Senate's only African American and the first black woman elected to the chamber, lost to state Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R). In Kentucky, Rep. Jim Bunning (R) narrowly defeated Rep. Scotty Baesler (D) to succeed Democratic Sen. Wendell H. Ford, according to the Associated Press.
"I think this was sort of a status-quo election," Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said last night. Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles (R-Okla.) took a dimmer view of the outcome, saying: "I'd say it's disappointing."
The Democratic victories were especially sweet in the South, where, in addition to Edwards and Hollings, former Rep. Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D) won her race to succeed retiring Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.) in President Clinton's home state. Once dominant in the South, Democrats had suffered big losses in the region in recent elections.
In North Carolina, Democrat Edwards, a wealthy trial lawyer who financed much of his own campaign, withstood a last-minute assault by Faircloth, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and other leading Republicans who attempted to link Edwards with Clinton as two "tobacco-taxing liberals" who can't be trusted.
Faircloth, who was seeking a second term, served as chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee for the District of Columbia, where he was a leading force in stripping outgoing Mayor Marion Barry of most of his operational control over the city government.
"I feel like I let you down because we should have won," Faircloth said in a concession speech to supporters.
In Kentucky, with 99 percent of the votes counted, Bunning was ahead by several thousand votes after an extremely close, see-saw count through most of the evening.
In the closest race in the Midwest, Feingold survived a tough challenge from Rep. Mark W. Neumann (R), despite Feingold's self-imposed restrictions on some outside advertising on his behalf that led some Democrats to fear he would lose.
In New York, where D'Amato and Schumer staged the country's most expensive and bare-knuckled race, D'Amato, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, finally ran into an opponent who could fight as tough as he could as he sought a fourth term in the Senate.
Hollings, 76, seeking his sixth full term, defeated Republican Rep. Bob Inglis, according to partial election returns. Inglis is a member of the House Judiciary Committee that will consider whether to pursue the impeachment of President Clinton.
Lincoln's victory over Republican Fay Boozman was expected, although the race had tightened in the last couple of weeks. Republicans won Arkansas's other Senate seat two years ago.
Moseley-Braun was plagued by ethics controversies throughout her term and they played a major role in the campaign. Exit polling showed that Moseley-Braun enjoyed a significant advantage among women but trailed Fitzgerald overall among white voters, 37 percent to 62 percent, with 41 percent of white women supporting her and only 32 percent of white men. With black voters, however, she enjoyed overwhelming support, 95 percent of those polled.
For a time yesterday, it appeared that Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.) might be in trouble, but he gradually surged past Democrat Michael Coles, founder of the Great American Cookie Company. Coles had gotten 44 percent of the vote against House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) two years ago.
Democrats picked up the first victory of the evening as former Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh (D), as expected, defeated Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke (R) for the seat now held by retiring Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.). Bayh, a moderate Democrat, is the son of former senator Birch Bayh (D), who was defeated for reelection in 1980 after 18 years in the Senate.
But the Democratic gain was soon canceled out by the victory of Ohio Gov. George V. Voinovich (R) over Democrat Mary Boyle for the seat of retiring Sen. John Glenn (D), who was watching from space on his second Earth-orbiting voyage as his constituents chose his successor.
With incumbents the runaway favorites to win more than half of the 34 Senate seats at stake in yesterday's elections, early victories were also racked up by incumbent Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Don Nickles (R-Okla.), Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.).
Leahy won handily over Fred Tuttle, the 79-year-old dairy farmer who caught the country's fancy by starring in a 1996 documentary that gently ridiculed American politics and admitted he had no interest in serving on Capitol Hill.
Also reelected with ease were Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) and Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), John Breaux (D-La.), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (R-Ore.).
Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), who had once been seen as vulnerable, won reelection with ease, as did Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), who had been high on the Democrats' target list.
Rep. Michael D. Crapo (R-Idaho), as expected, breezed into the seat being vacated by Sen. Dirk Kempthorne (R), who left the Senate to run for governor of his home state.
There were 34 Senate seats at stake in yesterday's elections, 18 held by Democrats and 16 by Republicans. Of these, five three Democrats and two Republicans chose to retire rather than seek reelection.
From the start, there appeared to be virtually no chance of the Democrats reclaiming control of the Senate, which they lost to Republicans in the tidal wave that swept the GOP to power in both houses during the last mid-term elections in 1994.
In the recently concluded 105th Congress, Republicans had 55 votes, compared with 45 for Democrats, a major turnabout from the Democratic majority of 57 votes before the 1994 elections.
From this year's elections, Democrats hoped to pick up a seat or two, figuring it would boost their prospects for a takeover in 2000, when Republicans would be defending more seats than they were. But they conceded they would be relieved if they held Republicans to their current numbers.
Especially after President Clinton's admission of sexual relations with Monica S. Lewinsky in mid-August, Republicans entertained hopes of a five-seat gain that would give them a filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes. But they subsequently pulled back to their earlier prediction of more modest gains: anywhere from one to three seats.
Money was a big factor in many races, with the poll numbers often rising and falling in lock-step with large buys of time for television ads. By the campaign's end, most candidates in close races were competitive in their spending.
In the five open-seat races, candidates from the two parties raised essentially the same amount: $11.6 million for Democrats and $11.7 million for Republicans.
The Republican Senate campaign arm dramatically outraised its Democratic counterpart, $78 million to $49 million, according to the latest figures from the Federal Election Commission. But Senate Democrats were able to pump significantly more money than Republicans into "issue ads" bolstering candidates in some key races.
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