An evening that started out great for Republicans continued to improve all the way to the California border.
Republicans took control of the Senate yesterday, gained seats in the House of Representatives and fared better than expected in gubernatorial races, although the GOP had little to cheer about as Gov. Gray Davis finally pulled ahead of Republican Bill Simon, capping a strong performance for Democrats in California.
Election night took a Republican tone early. John Sununu, R-N.H., beat out New Hampshire Gov. Jean Shaheen handily, although the race was expected to go down to the wire. Then Max Cleland, D-Ga., whom most pundits figured would win reelection, lost to Rep. Saxby Chambliss, the first Republican governor since Reconstruction.
Although by the end of the evening Republicans would suffer a net loss in gubernatorial races, the GOP took the biggest prize as Jeb Bush, R-Fla., won comfortably over Democratic challenger Bill McBride. Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe had guaranteed victory for McBride as late as Sunday, but several stumps from relentless campaigner President George W. Bush helped keep the powerful family member in office.
The GOP also looked strong in two gubernatorial races held in widely Democratic states. In Massachusetts, Republican Mitt Romney beat Democratic State Treasurer Shannon O’Brien. Although Massachusetts is widely considered one of the most liberal states in the Union, no Democrat has had the office since Michael Dukakis decided not to run for re-election in 1990. Such is not the case in Maryland, where 36 years of Democrat governorship ended as Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of former attorney general and presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy, lost to Republican Robert Ehrlich.
Democrats did take governorships away from the Republicans in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois, where Pepperdine Law School graduate Rod Blagojevich defeated Republican state Attorney General Jim Ryan.
The world’s oldest political party found another boost in the Senate races when Sen. Tim Hutchinson, D-Ark., could not overcome a dip in popularity caused by his divorce and remarriage to a former staff member and lost his reelection bid against state Attorney General Mark Pryor.
Democrats had their backs against a wall once in Colorado incumbent Wayne Allard, R-Colo., would not have as difficult a time again defeating Tom Strickland, the same man he defeated six years ago.
In order to avoid losing control of the Senate, Democrats needed to win three of the remaining races in Missouri, Minnesota and South Dakota. Senator Jean Carnahan, D-Mo., lost to former Rep. Jim Talent, who came up short two years ago when he ran for governor but would not be denied a second time.
Republicans scored another victory in Minnesota when St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman finally squeezed out a victory against Fmr. Vice President Walter Mondale. The 74-year old former presidential candidate found his name on the ballot after Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash two weeks ago. Mondale lost every state but Minnesota when he ran for president in 1984, thus the loss yesterday gave him a defeat in every single state he bid for over his last two campaigns.
The evening’s closest race was decided by slightly more than 500 votes as Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., did not defeat Republican John Thune until all precincts had submitted results. A Democrat loss in South Dakota would have caused a second big blow to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who would have had to face losing a seat in his home state along with his demotion to Senate minority leader. Because the election was so close the results will be recounted.
Democrats could finally breathe some relief in California when Bill Simon officially ended his error-prone campaign and conceded defeat to Gov. Davis.
Davis appeared around midnight to accept victory.
“I want to thank (Californians) for the opportunity to finish the job,” he said.
The job will not face much opposition from Republicans throughout the state. Democrats won lieutenant governor, treasurer, secretary of state and attorney general. The only tight statewide-race came in the battle for controller when Steve Westley barely beat out his Republican challenger Tom McClintock.
Dusty Farned, who along with about 15 other members of the Pepperdine’s Young Democrats club attended Davis victory celebration, said he enjoyed being a spoiler to George Bush’s successful evening.
“We were the only state that somehow resisted the Republican sweep,” he said.
Local Assemblymember Fran Pavley won an easy reelection against Michael Wissot, 62 to 35 percent. Although Republicans statewide gained two seats, Democrats still hold a sizeable majority in the Assembly.
Although Democrats can smile in California, College Republican Seth Mitchell said he believes the national success of the GOP bodes well for California in 2004.
“If the Republican Party can get its act together … it really could become a greater force (in California).
Arnold Schwarzenegger flexed his muscle behind Proposition 49, which proposed an increase for after school programs throughout the state. The action star turned activist backed away from running for governor this year, but still fought hard for this measure. The proposition also gave him some campaigning experience should he choose to run for governor in 2006.
Proposition 50 also passed, which provides for more than $3 billion in bonds to improve water quality.
Voters rejected a measure to allow Election Day voter registration as well as a Proposition 51, which would have changed the allocation of motor vehicle taxes.
Voters locally decided not to split Los Angeles from the Valley. The measure would have created to separate cities, but citizens of both Los Angeles and the Valley to remain together.
Submitted November 07, 2002