Democrats padded their House majority in turbulent elections that cost several veterans in both parties their seats and threw a scare into others, including Republican Whip Newt Gingrich.
Roughly 96 percent of incumbents were re-elected Tuesday, but some big names, including Rep. Robert Kastenmeier, a Democratic House subcommittee chairman, felt the wrath of burgeoning voter disgust with government.Democrats seemed assured of a net pickup of 10 seats - strengthening their majority to 267 in the 435-member House and heightening their ability to override President Bush's vetoes. They won 266 seats and were leading in one other. In addition, the election of a socialist who will line up with the Democrats for organizational purposes gives them an effective majority of 268.
Republicans won 162 contests and led in five others. That would give them 167, compared with their previous 175, a net loss of eight seats.
While the GOP loss was well below the historic average of 27 for a party holding the White House in midterm elections, it left them with their lowest House numbers since 1982.
House Democratic leaders touted the results as evidence that voters accepted their pitch about tax fairness and had identified the Republicans more as the party of the rich.
"The results are clear: George Bush cannot win the Congress and must no longer rule by veto," said Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo. "Next year, he must come to Capitol Hill with an action plan for reviving the economy and reworking the system to the benefit of working families."
House Speaker Thomas S. Foley, D-Wash., said a strengthened Democratic majority will carry a mandate to undertake "a serious review of our national health delivery system."
But GOP House campaign chief Ed Rollins said he didn't think either party should feel comfortable with the results.
"I don't think the anti-Washington mood ends today," Rollins said. "Even though a lot of incumbents are not being defeated, they're being scared. They're not getting the 60 percent margins they had two years ago."
Notwithstanding the generally stand-pat nature of the results, history was made in several respects:
- Bernard Sanders, the socialist former mayor of Burlington, Vt., ousted incumbent freshman Republican Peter Smith to become the first socialist in the House since Victor Louis Berger of Milwaukee, Wis., six decades ago.
Sanders handily defeated Smith, who publicly disagreed with Bush's position on taxes when the president appeared with him at a campaign event.
- Gary Franks, an alderman from Waterbury, Conn., became the first black Republican to serve in the House since Oscar De Priest of Illinois during the Depression. Franks vanquished former Democratic Rep. Toby Moffett for a seat vacated by a Republican.
- Voters in New Hampshire's 2nd District elected Democrat Dick Swett, an architect, over one-term incumbent Republican Chuck Douglas - the first time a Democrat has won that seat since 1912, the year the Titanic sank.
Although the Democrats kept intact the majority they have held in the House since 1954, the results of several contests showed an underlying voter restiveness.
In Kentucky, three-term Rep. Carl Perkins won a razor-thin victory over Republican Will T. Scott.
Gingrich, the fiery second-in-command House GOP leader, nearly lost his rematch against Democrat David Worley in a suburban Atlanta district. Gingrich had led the opposition to the bipartisan budget deal reached by Bush and Congress.
Kastenmeier had been in the House for 32 years, but was ousted by a 37-year-old former Madison newscaster, Scott Klug. Kastenmeier was chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on courts.
In Oregon, an incumbent tainted by the savings-and-loan scandal also went down to defeat. Five-term Rep. Denny Smith was defeated in his second round with Democrat Mike Kopetski, who had narrowly lost to Smith two years ago.
The S&L mess also helped bring down six-term Rep. Charles Pashayan Jr., R-Calif. Farmer and businessman Calvin Dooley, a 36-year-old Democrat, won narrowly, in part by pointing to Pashayan's receipt of $26,000 from Lincoln Savings and Loan Chairman Charles Keating. Pashayan later returned the money.
Minnesota voters ousted Republican Rep. Arlan Stangeland, a congressman since 1977, and replaced him with Democrat Collin Peterson.
Stangeland, who is married, was stung by reports that he had used his congressional credit card to make hundreds of telephone calls to and from the home of a female lobbyist.
Conservative Republican Stan Parris decisively lost his seat in the Virginia suburbs of Washington to Alexandria Mayor James Moran, who had made Parris' anti-abortion stand a major issue.
In Pennsylvania, attorney Rick Santorum shocked seven-term Democratic Rep. Doug Walgren's bid for re-election from an affluent district in Pittsburgh.