Press Releases

House, Senate still under GOP control

The Associated Press
Wednesday November 08, 2000

WASHINGTON — Republicans battled Democrats for continued control of the House Tuesday, winning four seats in the East but giving two back in New York and Oklahoma. Democrats looked to California for offsetting gains. – 

On a night extremely kind to incumbents, three Republican lawmakers easily turned aside well-financed Democratic challengers in Kentucky.  

One House member was defeated – first-term Democratic Rep. Rush Holt in New Jersey, who lost his seat by fewer than 1,000 votes out of 280,000 cast.  

Republicans also won Democratic open seats in Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia. 

Voter News Service projected Republicans would retain control, based on interviews with voters as they left the polls across the country.  

At 1 a.m. in the East, the national trend showed Republicans had won 197 seats and were leading for 28 more, with 218 required to seal control. Democrats had won 171 seats, and were leading for 34 more.  

Democrats needed to gain eight seats to guarantee a majority in the House that convenes in January. Republicans had won four seats formerly held by Democrats, and were leading for four more.  

Democrats had won two seats formerly in GOP hands, and were leading for three more. A Republican victory would mean a new term as speaker for Rep. J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, re-elected easily to an eighth term in the House.  

The Democratic leader, Dick Gephardt of Missouri, was leading in his bid for a new term, his 13th – and carefully watching the national trend to see whether he would regain the gavel he handed over to the Republicans nearly six years ago. 

Retirements brought new blood into the House.  

Former University of Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne easily held an open seat for the Republicans with 82 percent of the vote – a rout not unlike some that his teams administered on the gridiron.  

In Oklahoma, Democrat Brad Carson claimed an open seat that Republicans had won in their 1994 landslide. The incumbent, Rep. Tom Coburn, retired after adhering to a self-imposed limit of three terms.  

Republicans also took away a seat in Pennsylvania, where a veteran Democrat opted for an ultimately unsuccessful bid for a Senate seat; and another in New York, claiming the seat held by Rep. Michael Forbes, a Republican-turned Democrat. In Virginia, the GOP also won a seat vacated by veteran Democrat Owen Pickett.  

The GOP also mounted a strong challenge for a Democratic open seat in Missouri, and narrowly held onto a seat vacated by a veteran Republican lawmaker in Florida who unsuccessfully sought a Senate seat.  

In polling place interviews during the day, a majority of voters said government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals. Voters who felt that way favored Republican candidates for the House. Those who thought government should do more to solve problems sided with Democrats.  

The poll, conducted by Voter News Service, found that Republicans fared best among voters who listed taxes as the most important issue. 

Democrats led among voters who named Medicare, prescription drugs, the economy and jobs, education and Social Security. VNS is a consortium of the Associated Press and the television networks.  

The most closely watched contests were scattered in all regions of the country. California, the most populous state, had five competitive seats, and offered Democrats the prospects of several gains.  

In the first hotly contested races settled, Republican Reps. Anne Northup, Ernest Fletcher and Ed Whitfield in Kentucky won new terms, overcoming costly Democratic challenges and benefiting from a strong statewide showing by George W. Bush. President Clinton campaigned for Northup's opponent last weekend as Democrats sought to take away her seat. 

Dozens of incumbents in each party were coasting to new terms by lopsided margins. In Virginia's northern suburbs, Democratic Rep. Jim Moran and Republican Rep. Tom Davis were coasting to re-election with roughly two-thirds of the vote - in adjoining districts.  

Much of the action revolved around open seats, the 26 districts where Republican incumbents were not on the ballot and nine where Democrats were not. A small number of incumbents in each party faced strenuous challenges, as well.  

As the polls closed on the costliest campaign in history, Democrats needed to pick up eight seats to dislodge the Republicans and regain the power they lost in the GOP landslide of 1994.  

The expiring House includes 222 Republicans, 209 Democrats, two independents, one siding with each party, and two vacancies, also split between the parties. One Democrat. Rep. Jim Traficant, has said he will support a Republican for speaker. 

The election marked the end of a campaign that made million-dollar House races commonplace. Candidates raised record amounts of money, none more than in California's 27th District, where GOP Rep. Jim Rogan and Democratic challenger Adam Schiff spent more than $9 million between them.  

But it didn't stop there.  

The political parties lavished tens of millions of dollars on television advertising in a few dozen targeted races. So, too, the special interests – the unions, pharmaceutical companies and others that dropped millions more on commercials designed to sway the voters.  

For the first time in years, Democrats were able to compete financially with the GOP. In district after district, they used their money to accuse Republicans of working side-by-side with special interests to thwart a patients’ bill of rights, prescription drugs for Medicare, campaign finance overhaul and other legislation while pushing a tax cut designed principally to benefit the wealthy. 

Republicans disputed those Democratic assertions, stressing instead that under their congressional leadership the national debt was being paid down at long last, the Social Security trust fund was off-limits to routine federal spending programs and more money was being diverted to defense. In the final months of the congressional session, they repackaged their tax cuts into smaller, more appetizing portions and watched – contentedly – as President Clinton vetoed them anyway. 

Despite the stakes involved, highly competitive races were the exception, not the rule. Dozens of lawmakers had no major party opposition. Scores more in each party faced weak, underfunded opponents, and were assured of new terms.  

Funding was not a problem for contenders in targeted races.  

Apart from the money the candidates themselves raised, the GOP congressional campaign committee reported taking in $130 million during the current election cycle. Democrats countered with $90 million – nearly three times the amount they raised for the 1998 campaign.  

Counting candidates' fund-raising, the money raised and spent on congressional elections was estimated at above $1 billion. Much of the party money went into television commercials, beginning over the summer in California, when Democrats launched their first attacks. By election eve, Democrats had spent about $50 million nationwide in television commercials, roughly 10 times what the party was able to afford two years ago.