Republicans hailed their candidate’s lopsided victory in a special House election in Northern California’s Silicon Valley Wednesday, saying it repudiated the Democrats’ tactic of making the race a referendum on House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.
State Sen. Tom Campbell, a Republican, defeated Democratic San Jose stockbroker Jerry Estruth Tuesday to replace former representative Norman Y. Mineta, a Democrat, who resigned to join Lockheed Martin Corp. after 21 years in Congress. Campbell won 59 percent of the vote to Estruth’s 36 percent.
The results are evidence that “running against Newt Gingrich and our House Republican agenda is a political loser,” said Rep. Bill Paxon, R-N.Y., head of his party’s House campaign operation. “If it was a referendum … 59 percent of the people said they didn’t buy it,” said Gingrich, who called the outcome “a good sign for what ‘96 would be like.”
In other elections Tuesday, Chicago voters sent the son of a civil rights leader to the House and a flamboyant state legislator to the San Francisco mayor’s office.
Jesse L. Jackson Jr., 30, rolled over his Republican opponent, lawyer Thomas Somer, 42, to win the House seat vacated by Mel Reynolds (D).In San Francisco, Willie Brown, the legendary state Assembly speaker, became the first black elected mayor, defeating incumbent Frank Jordan in a nonpartisan runoff election, 57 percent to 43 percent.
Tuesday’s election in California’s 15th Congressional District returns Campbell, 43, to the House, where he represented a neighboring district from 1989 to 1993.
Democrats sought to make Gingrich and the GOP agenda the focus of the race. But the label did not stick to Campbell, whose moderate record was familiar to voters. Campbell, a Stanford University law professor, supports abortion rights, homosexual rights and gun control and was often at odds with conservative House Republicans.
Gingrich said Wednesday that he welcomed Democratic candidates focusing on him. “I can’t think of anything more likely to keep them in a permanent minority,” he said. But Rep. Martin Frost of Texas, head of the Democrats’ House campaign committee, did not shy from that theme for next year’s congressional campaigns. House Republicans “will have to go to the voters and explain why they voted with Newt Gingrich to harm middle-class families,” he said.
After Campbell and Jackson take their seats, there will be 236 Republicans, 197 Democrats and one independent in the House.