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Meet the 108th Congress. (Special).

On the evening of November 5, 2002, people across the U.S. danced and cheered, as candidates thanked voters for electing them. Most of the men and women celebrating were Republicans.

Republicans increased their numbers in the House of Representatives, and took control of the Senate. With these victories, the Republicans made history: It was the first time in 68 years that a President's party gained seats in both houses of Congress in a midterm election.

"It was a great win for the President of the United States," said Representative Tom Davis (R-Viurginia), chairman of the Republican campaign committee.

Big Stakes, Big Gains

The stakes were high in these elections, as voters cast their ballots for all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 34 sears in the Senate, and 36 governorships around the nation. Voters decided which party would control the 108th Congress, and whether President George W. Bush would gain support for his political agenda.

Republicans gained at least two seats in the Senate, and now have a 51 to 47 majority. (There is one Independent in the Senate, and one race was still undecided at press time). Republicans also gained four seats in the House of Representative's (and they may win another, depending on one undecided race). The Republicans now have 9 more seats than the 218 that are needed to control this legislative body.

In the race for governorships, the Democrats made gains, but Republicans still hold the majority of Governor's mansions across the nation (see sidebar, p. 18).

Taking the Senate

In the Senate, Republicans won victories in elections from Maine to Alaska. But some Senate races had shocking twists and turns in the weeks leading up to November 5.

Just 11 days before the election, Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota) was killed in a plane crash. Wellstone, one of the leading liberals in Congress, was replaced on the ballot by former Vice President Walter Mondale. The Vice President waged a short campaign against Republican Norm Coleman. In the end, Coleman pulled out a win.

"My challenge will be to... address the needs of all Minnesotans," Coleman said after his victory.

New Jersey also saw some unexpected changes late in the race. In October, Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli was trailing Republican Doug Forrester in the polls. Charges of ethics violations clouded Torricelli's campaign, and he finally stepped down.

It was late in the game, but the New Jersey Supreme Court allowed former Senator Frank Lautenberg to replace Torricelli on the ballot. Lautenberg, who is known for his integrity, defeated Forrester on Election Day. It was one of the few bright spots for Democrats on an otherwise dark day.

"We stand here with a mandate to go to Washington and... do the right thing," Lautenberg said.

In North Carolina, Republican Elizabeth Dole, whose lead in the polls seemed to be slipping, beat Democrat Erskine Bowles by a wide margin.

"We'll never forget this night, will we?" Dole said to supporters at her victory celebration.

Holding the House

After the 2000 Census, congressional districts were reapportioned (redistributed) according to the latest population figures. Eight states gained new Representatives in the House, and 10 states lost seats.

In Connecticut, two incumbent (sitting) Representatives were pitted against each other due to reapportionment. Representative Nancy Johnson, a Republican, beat Representative Jim Maloney, a Democrat.

"I came in with a better record," Johnson said at her victory party.

In Maryland, Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, defeated Republican Representative Connie Morella.

In California, Democrats Loretta Sanchez and Linda Sanchez both won their House races. They are the first sisters to serve in Congress at the same time.

"We were brought up with the same values," Loretta said, "[where] working people issues were important."

In another California race, Democratic Representative Robert Matsui easily won his bid for reelection. Denise Majette (D-Georgia) also won by a wide margin.

And the Winner Is ...

Much of the credit for the Republican victory goes to President Bush. The President campaigned hard all year, and he raised more than $200 million for Republican candidates. He visited 40 states on behalf of Republicans, and went to 15 states in the last five days before the election.

Many criticized the President for campaigning so hard for Republicans, but Bush's efforts paid off.

Even though he wasn't running for office, President Bush may have been the biggest winner in the midterm elections. The Republican Party is now set to decide the legislative agenda in Washington for the next two years.

The President will have increased support on a number of important issues, including Iraq, homeland security, the economy, tax cuts, and Social Security.

For most Republicans, including the new Senate majority leader, Trent Lott (R-Mississippi), "things are looking good."
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Author:Adams, Jim
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Date:Nov 29, 2002
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