- November 6, 1998
Democrats fare well around the nation, Republican leadership questioned
In Lewiston, Dean of the College Carignan gains city council seat, Ito falls short in bid for State House
By MATTHEW EPSTEIN
The surprises in the national political scene aside, Maine elections were
relatively sedate this week.|
Governor Angus King, an independent, was reelected to a second term as expected in an election where none of the other candidates gathered more then 19 percent of the vote.
Bates alumnus Tom Connolly was third in the race with 12 percent of the vote as a Democrat. Before the election there were concerns that Connolly would get less then the 5 percent necessary to keep the party's name on the ballot for the next election, a threat that Connolly held off despite meager finances and result that was largely considered predetermined.
On campus, two Batesies ran for offices. Dean of the College James Carignan ran unopposed for Lewiston City Council in a special election.
The job, which is nonpartisan, is part time, and Carignan expects to continue his work at the college with his victory.
Running for the State House in district 89 (which includes the college) was Tom Ito, a senior at Bates.
"I though about it, and I thought it would be interesting. I don't really aspire to politics," said Ito on why he ran.
"It was a phenomenal learning experience, I meet so many people... it gave me a new prospective that I'd never really seen before," he continued.
Ito lost to the Democratic incumbent Albert Gamache by 725 votes to 221.
Gamache, who won his fourth trip back to Augusta has said that he will retire after this two year term. Recently, he underwent abdominal surgery at Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center.
Aside from Gamache's incumbent status the election was little surprise due to the overwhelmingly Democratic nature of Lewiston.
n National Elections
Unlike the tranquillity in Maine, it was a big and mildly surprising night for national politics.
The Democrats gained 5 seats in the House of Representatives, crushing Republican hope of a wider majority with to proceed on the impeachment of President Clinton.
In the Senate, each party stole three of the other's seats, keeping the total numbers at 55 Republicans and 45 Democrats.
The evening's biggest surprise was the election New York Congressman Charles E. Schumer to the Senate seat of three-term incumbent Alfonse D'Amato.
Non only did Schumer upset an incumbent in a year when most incumbents won easily, he did so strongly, winning by 400,000 votes, a 9 percent victory.
The race, one of the nations' most expensive, and almost certainly the nastiest, kept the Democrats from an expected loss of seats in the Senate, where Democratic incumbent Carol Moseley-Braun went down to a somewhat expected loss after a single term that was marred by personal scandals for the nation's first black female Senator.
Another Democratic incumbent who faced a stiff challenge, Senator Russell D.. Feingold, held off his Republican challenger despite being heavily outspent.
Feingold, who has led the fight in the Senate for campaign finance reform, refused all offers of "soft money" from the Democratic National Party.
As a result, his challenger, U.S. Representative Mark W. Neumann had far more television advertising then Feingold, however, the Senator apparently gained support for his willingness to stand by the campaign.
In California, Democrats gained the Governorship for the first time since 1982, with the Lieutenant Governor, Gray Davis taking control of the nation's largest state, with the world's seventh largest economy.
Despite being outspent 2-1, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer held onto her seat in California as well. She defeated the State Treasurer, Matt Fong.
With California poised to gain House seats in the 2000 census, the Democrats made the state a priority, with the President, Vice President and the First Lady all appearing in the state.
The Democrats used their still popular leadership all over the nation, with Vice President Al Gore appearing for 224 candidates during the election.
n What it all means
For the Republican Party, the election was a major setback. Aside from Moseley-Braun, they failed to pick off vulnerable Democrats all over the nation.
The last time a President's party gained House seats was 1934 (when Democrats had the impressive coattails of Franklin Roosevelt at his most popular to ride on).
For the Democrats to gain five seats indicates that the Republicans blundered badly in how they approached the election.
"If you make it a referendum on a President with a 67 percent approval rating, as they tried to do, you shouldn't be surprised if the election goes against you," said Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, a Republican who was reelected easily.
Ridge, like many Republicans, appeared to be distancing himself from the strategy that was pushed by Republicans in Washington.
The failure of the Republicans indicates that a shakeup in the Congressional leadership may be coming on November 18, when Republicans in the house will select their leadership for the next year.
Though Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has survived challenges in the past, he may be seen as an appropriate sacrificial lamb now, particularly after he personally approved TV advertisements that ran in the last week of the campaign focusing on President Clinton's involvement with Monica Lewinsky.
For the Democrats, especially Vice President Gore, the election was wildly successful.
Gore injected new evidence of his popularity for his own probable run for the Presidency in 2000.
For the party, the election may have marked the beginnings of a return to a much more issue-oriented outlook. Democrats successfully painted the Republican dominated Congress as having accomplished little other then a costly and increasingly unpopular investigation into the Lewinsky scandal.
As "the party of issues," the Democrats were able to bring out a high turnout, historically favorable to them. Even ethnic minorities that have seen turnout fall dramatically in recent years returned to the polls as Democrats paid more attention to blacks and Hispanics for the first time in years.
Among many liberals, the reemergence of compassionate politics is very welcome, particularly with the extreme right-wing violence that has been seen in New York and Wyoming this fall. Public education and the cities may get more attention again as Democrats remember that urban areas, which are still almost half of the nation, are reliably Democratic, and can be effectively mobilized with the right tactics.
This article contains information from the New York Times.
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Last Modified: 11/08/98
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