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Washington Journal: Democrats Hold On To Seats In Senate

Washington, 4 November 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Democrats held on to their seats in Tuesday's elections to the U.S. Senate despite the troubles of their party's leader, U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The biggest political upset of the night in the Senate races was the defeat of incumbent Republican Senator Alfonse D'Amato of New York. D'Amato lost his re-election bid to the U.S. Senate to Democratic challenger Charles Schumer. D'Amato was the co-chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

Schumer beat D'Amato in one of the nation's most fiercely contested Senate races. Schumer served nine two-year terms in the House of Representatives and served on the banking and judiciary committees. Senators serve six-year terms. Both D'Amato and Schumer were first elected in 1980.

Another major win in the Senate for Democrats occurred in the southern state of North Carolina. Democratic challenger John Edwards beat Republican incumbent Senator Lauch Faircloth. Faircloth won the Senate seat in 1992 after switching from the Democratic to Republican party. Edwards is a lawyer and has not held an elected office before.

But Republicans fought back by beating Democrat incumbent Carol Moseley-Brown of Illinois -- the first black woman ever elected to the Senate -- and picking up a Senate seat in Kentucky.

In other races, former Indiana governor Evan Bayh, a Democrat, easily picked up the Senate seat once held by his father, Birch Bayh. Also, Democrat Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Judiciary Committee, managed to hold on to his seat in a close race.

In the midwestern state of Ohio, Republican governor George Voinovich won the Senate seat now held by Democratic Senator John Glenn, who is retiring. Glenn, the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth, spent election day in space aboard the shuttle Discovery.

Republicans also held on to seats in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

Female Democratic candidates also managed to help their party in the Senate by winning or holding on to their seats.

In Arkansas, the home state of President Clinton, Democrat Blanche Lambert Lincoln easily won the Senate seat, replacing retiring Democratic Senator Dale Bumpers. Lincoln earlier served two terms in the House of Representatives, but stepped down after giving birth to twin sons.

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California managed to hold on to her Senate seat, barely defeating Republican challenger Matt Fong. Boxer is closely associated with the Clinton presidency not only because of her politics, but because her daughter is married to the brother of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In Washington state, incumbent senator Patty Murray won her bid for re-election in the Senate's only race pitting two women against each other. In fact, their race was only the third all-woman Senate race in the nation's history.

There were 34 Senate races to be decided. Before the elections, Republicans had a 55-45 majority in the Senate. In Tuesday's elections, 16 of the 34 seats at stake were held by Republicans and 18 by Democrats.

Overall, the Democrat's gains in the Senate are significant, say experts, because the elections are seen as an unofficial referendum on forthcoming impeachment proceedings against President Clinton. The Senate is responsible for deciding what kind of punishment, if any, Clinton should face as a result of charges of perjury and obstruction of justice arising from his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Observers say Democrats are likely to claim that their electoral victories indicate the American public has no wish to see the president impeached.