Election 2008

congress, congressional profile, election 2008
Susan Walsh/AP
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Senate's Final Tally Weeks Away

November 07, 2008 11:57 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
With Republican Sen. Gordon Smith's concession in the Oregon Senate race, Democrats inch closer to a filibuster-proof Senate.

Oregon Senate Race Goes to the Democrats

Democrats have moved one step closer to the "filibuster-proof Senate" they've hoped for throughout the election. On Nov. 6, Republican Sen. Gordon Smith called Democratic opponent Jeff Merkley to concede Oregon's Senate race.

However, Democrats will have to wait a while longer before learning what the final tally for their numbers in the Senate will be.

Although it first appeared that Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss had defeated Democratic challenger Jim Martin, it now seems the Georgia Senate race isn't resolved. With all but 1 percent of precincts reporting, neither candidate appears to have received enough votes to settle the race under Georgia law.

Absentee ballots need to be counted and disputed ballot issues must still be resolved. Depending on the outcome, a runoff between candidates could be necessary on Dec. 2.

Other Votes Still Left to Be Counted (and Recounted)

Even if Democrats don’t earn 60 Senate seats, they “were within reach of a working coalition on major policy issues,” according to The New York Times.

Republican losses like those by Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina and John E. Sununu in New Hampshire helped the Democratic cause.

But a few more cliffhangers remain undecided. In Minnesota, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken will have to wait a while longer for the final results of their race. Early Wednesday, Coleman was ahead by less than 1,000 votes out of the 2.9 million-odd ballots cast, a margin small enough to require a recount under Minnesota law, according to the Associated Press.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said the recount could last into December. “No matter how fast people would like it, the emphasis is on accuracy,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Alaska, Republican Sen. Ted Stevens holds a slim lead over Anchorage mayor Mark Begich, with 99 percent of Alaska’s precincts reporting.

Election officials still have plenty of work to do in counting absentee ballots and mail-in ballots, though. That effort probably won't begin until Nov. 14, according to The Dutch Harbor Fisherman. The delay stems from the fact that some individuals managed to vote twice in Alaska's primaries, and absentee and Election Day ballots must be cross-checked to make sure nobody tried to repeat that offense (which is considered a class C felony).

If he wins, Stevens will be the first senator found guilty of criminal charges to be re-elected to office, the Boston Herald wrote.

Opinion: Things to fix

The possibility that one party could dominate both houses of Congress and the White House was worrisome to some election candidates. Sen. Gordon Smith, the Republican incumbent in Oregon, warned, “One-party dominance, a blank check, no checks and balances, could be a very unfortunate thing for our country,” according to Jeff Mapes of The Oregonian.

The new Congress has a “poor image” to repair, writes Robert Schroeder of MarketWatch. Some of the first issues lawmakers will be expected to address are the economy and the Iraq War, along with corruption scandals such as the case involving Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.

“What they need is the appearance of dealing with and finding solutions to the nation’s toughest problems,” Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report told MarketWatch.
The House of Representatives will also have “more maneuvering room” with Democrats picking up additional seats there, the International Herald Tribune reported. Analysts had predicted that a gain of 30 seats was possible, but it appeared the party would fall short of that number the day after the election.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the Democrats’ gains could “increase bipartisanship, civility and fiscal responsibility,” she was quoted as saying by the International Herald Tribune.

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