Voters chose the status quo Tuesday, returning control of the House and Senate to Republicans and sending President Clinton back to the White House.
With only one seat undecided, Republicans won at least one more Senate seat. Of the 34 Senate seats on the ballot, four changed parties, one going to the Democrats and three to the Republicans. If Republican Sen. Gordon Smith holds the open seat in Oregon, the last undecided race, Republicans will have a 55-45 seat majority in the Senate, a net gain of two seats.
Many of the new faces are more conservative than those they replaced. Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., who tracked the races as leader of the Democratic campaign effort nationwide, said the Senate “is going to be much more conservative than it was before.”
Early returns showed continued Republican control of the House was also likely, though with a smaller margin. Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who easily won re-election to his suburban Atlanta district, appeared certain of a second term as speaker of the House.
Incumbents of both parties generally did well at the polls.
In the House, with all 435 seats on the ballot, Republicans hold 235 seats and the Democrats have 197. There are two vacancies and one seat is independent. The party with at least 218 seats controls the House.
Republicans captured three open Senate seats that had been held by Democrats. In Arkansas, Republican Tim Hutchinson won retiring Democrat David Pryor’s old seat. In Nebraska, Chuck Hagel captured the seat of retiring Democrat James Exon. In Alabama, state attorney general Jeff Sessions won the seat held by retiring Democrat Howell Heflin.
In South Dakota, Democrats toppled incumbent Larry Pressler, who was defeated by Rep. Tim Johnson.
Voters scored a historic first in Louisiana by electing Democrat Mary L. Landrieu the first woman senator from the state.
In New Hampshire, incumbent Sen. Robert C. Smith, R, defeated former Rep. Dick Swett in a squeaker. TV networks used exit polls to declare Swett the winner early in the evening but later backtracked when poll results put Smith ahead.
In New Jersey, Democrat Rep. Robert Torricelli defeated Republican Dick Zimmer in what was one of the year’s nastiest races. They competed for the seat left vacant by retiring Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley.
An ABC News exit poll in New Jersey showed Zimmer’s prospects were harmed by negative voter views of Gingrich and his program. Torricelli’s campaign regularly claimed that Zimmer was a close ally of Gingrich’s.
In Georgia, Democrat Max Cleland, Georgia’s secretary of state, beat GOP businessman Guy Millner for the seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn.
Incumbent Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry beat back a stiff challenge from Republican Gov. Bill Weld. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., one of the chamber’s most controversial conservatives, defeated former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt.
Getting close attention were the 73 House members of the Republican class of 1994 who helped their party win control of the chamber for the first time since 1954. Six GOP freshmen including four targeted by organized labor’s expensive television ad campaign - were defeated.
Republicans defeated two incumbents and won eight open Democratic seats, four in the South. Democrats successfully defended more than a dozen others. Democrats won 11 seats from Republicans.
Losing GOP House freshmen included Rep. Fred Heineman, R-N.C., Rep. David Funderburk, R-N.C., and Long Island Rep. Dan Frisa, R-N.Y., was another casualty. Frisa was defeated by Carolyn McCarthy, a nurse turned gun-control activist after her husband was killed and her son gravely injured during a massacre by a gunman on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train in 1993.
Other GOP freshmen who lost included Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., who once suggested that the constitutional right to bear arms included nuclear weapons; and Rep. Michael Patrick Flanagan, R-Ill., a giant-killer who defeated Democratic powerbroker Dan Rostenkowski two years ago.
New Jersey freshman Bill Martini lost to Democrat William Pascrell.
Rep. Gary Franks, one of two black Republicans in the House, lost to Democrat James Maloney. Maloney’s campaign was aided by Democratic National Committee chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn. Franks, who had won his seat by a narrow margin, had talked about running for Dodd’s Senate seat. Two-term Republican Peter Blute lost in Massachusetts to Jim McGovern, a Democratic congressional aide.
Rep. George Brown, D-Calif., a 16-term Democrat whose district has become increasingly Republican, kept his seat.
In Senate races
Maine: Republican Susan Collins defeated Democrat Joseph Brennan for the seat of retiring Sen. William Cohen. Collins had served as an aide to Cohen.
Illinois: Democratic Rep. Dick Durbin won a Senate seat in a cliffhanger against GOP conservative state Rep. Al Salvi. Durbin highlighted Salvi’s pledge to repeal the ban on assault weapons.
South Carolina: 93-year-old Strom Thurmond won re-election to the seat he first won in 1954, defeating Democrat Elliott Close.
Kansas: Conservative Republican Rep. Sam Brownback won a bitter struggle against stockbroker Jill Docking for Bob Dole’s old seat. Republican Rep. Pat Roberts won the other open Senate seat.
In all other Senate races, incumbents won, including Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Montana Democrat Max Baucus; Texas GOP Sen. Phil Gramm; Minnesota Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone; Larry Craig, R-Idaho, John Warner, R-Va., Joseph Biden, D-Del., Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., Carl Levin, D-Mich., James Inhofe, R-Okla., Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
The GOP kept its open seats in Wyoming, where State Rep. Mike Enzi captured the seat vacated by Alan Simpson, and in Colorado, where Wayne Allard kept Hank Brown’s old seat. In Rhode Island, Rep. Jack Reed easily held a seat for the Democrats.
In key House races
Georgia: Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., won a tight race against attorney John Mitnick. McKinney, who is black, is one of several members of Congress whose districts were redrawn after the Supreme Court said that they had been racially gerrymandered.
Indiana: Democrat Julia Carson in Indianapolis beat Republican Virginia Blankenbaker for an open seat. Her victory gives blacks their first gain in this election. They now hold 38 House seats.
Vermont: The House’s lone independent, socialist Bernard Sanders, won easily.
MEMO: Changed in the Spokane edition