Sununu captures seat in U.S. Senate

by Megh Duwadi | 11/6/02 6:00am

Rep. John E. Sununu captured New Hampshire's hotly-contested Senate seat yesterday from Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) in a dramatic conclusion to a race that inspired enormous turnout in many regions of the state.

As the victor in one of this year's tightest congressional battles, Sununu helped throw control of the Senate to the Republicans, who will hold at least 50 seats to a Democratic maximum of 49.

At press time, the Senate races in Minnesota and South Dakota were too close to call. The current breakdown of the Senate is 48 Republicans, 48 Democrats and two independents.

The House of Representatives remains in Republican control, as the Democrats suffered a net loss of three seats. The GOP had a net gain of four seats in the election.

Reversing a pattern of widespread midterm-year losses in Congress for the president's party -- the last time such a phenomenon took place in a president's first term was 1934 -- almost no Republican incumbents in the House and Senate lost in yesterday's election. This was largely due to heavy campaigning by President George W. Bush, who enjoys high popularity as the war on terror continues.

In other New Hampshire races, Republican businessman Craig Benson defeated state Sen. Mark Fernald (D) by a margin of 59 to 38 percent. Incumbent Rep. Charles Bass '74 (R) retained his seat in the Second District, garnering 57 percent of the vote. Forty-one percent of yesterday's voters chose his Democratic opponent, Katrina Swett.

Filling Sununu's current House seat next year will be state Rep. Jeb Bradley, who defeated fellow state Rep. Martha Fuller Clark (D) by approximately 40,000 votes.

Those who cast their ballots in Hanover, however, voted overwhelmingly for the three major Democratic candidates on the ballot, favoring Shaheen, Fernald and Swett by significant margins.

Town officials said that they did not know how many voters took advantage of New Hampshire's same-day registration policy, although they acknowledged that the number of Dartmouth students at the polls was unusually high for a midterm election year.

In other high-profile races nationwide, former Labor and Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., was elected to occupy retiring Sen. Jesse Helms' (R) seat, defeating former Clinton administration chief-of-staff Erskine Bowles (D).

Voters also chose former Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), who replaced scandal-plagued Sen. Robert Torricelli (D) last month on the New Jersey ballot.

In Missouri, former Rep. Jim Talent (R) edged out his opponent, Sen. Jean Carnahan (D), for her seat. Carnahan was appointed to the Senate in 2000, after her husband, Gov. Jim Carnahan (D), died before Election Day that year.

At the time of publication, Republican candidates held a slim lead in both Minnesota and South Dakota, but the two races remained undecided. In the Gopher State, former Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale (D) was engaged in a one-week long campaign with Norm Coleman (R). Mondale was tapped to run soon after Sen. Paul Wellstone (D) was killed in a plane crash last month.

Maryland Rep. Connie Morella, widely considered to be the House's most vulnerable Republican, was defeated by Democrat Chris Van Hollen. Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (R), who gained notoriety in the 2000 ballot-counting fiasco that engrossed the nation, won a seat in the House.

Also in Florida, the president's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush (R), succeeded in his attempt for reelection against Democrat Bill McBride. Fellow Republican Mitt Romney was elected to the statehouse in Massachusetts, defeating Democrat Shannon O'Brien. And popular New York Gov. George Pataki (R) beat Dartmouth alumnus Carl McCall '58 (D) to serve a third term in office.

But although the polls have closed, the balance of power may still not be set. Due to a Louisiana statute mandating that the winner of an election must garner 50 percent of the vote, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) must participate in a Dec. 7 runoff. Landrieu, who faced three Republican challengers yesterday, won only 46 percent of the vote.