Democrats Gain Several Seats in Senate, Hillary Takes New York

By Lawrence Morahan | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

( - Squeakers in the Michigan and Washington state U.S. Senate races create the possibility that Democrats will actually end up with as many seats as Republicans in January.

If Democratic Rep. Debbie Stabenow wins her race against Republican incumbent Spencer Abraham in Michigan and Democrat Maria Cantwell manages to edge by GOP Senator Slade Gorton in Washington, races still too close to call, Democrats will net four seats from Tuesday's elections, elevating their numbers to 50.

The new vice-president would break any ties and determine which party held majority status. If Al Gore ends up winning the presidency, Joe Lieberman will become vice-president and control of the Senate will shift to Democratic hands.

The highest-profile Senate race took place in New York State, where First Lady Hillary Clinton crushed her Republican opponent Rick Lazio for the seat vacated by the retiring Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. And Democrats picked up seats in Missouri, Florida, Minnesota and Delaware while Republicans gained seats in Nevada and in Virginia.

The Missouri race pitted Republican incumbent John Ashcroft against the ghost of his Democratic opponent Mel Carnahan, the former governor who was killed in a plane crash in October, but whose name remained on the ballot. The state's new governor promised to appoint Carnahan's widow, Jean, to the seat if Carnahan got more votes than Ashcroft, which he did.

In Florida, state Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson, a former member of the U.S. House, beat Republican Rep. Bill McCollum for the seat being vacated by the GOP'S Connie Mack. McCollum had served as one of the House managers during the impeachment of President Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Minnesota Republican Rod Grams and Delaware Republican William Roth, both incumbents, fell to Democratic challengers Mark Dayton and Thomas Carper. Roth's age - he is 79 - was an important underlying issue to voters, especially after the six-term Senator and chairman of the powerful Finance Committee fell twice during campaign appearances.

Rep. John Ensign beat Democrat Ed Bernstein for Nevada's open Senate seat, giving the GOP its first Nevada Senate seat since 1988. Ensign's victory was a pick-up for Republicans, after Democratic Senator Richard Bryan decided not to seek re-election.

In Virginia, Republican George Allen ousted two-term incumbent Sen. Chuck Robb.
In the final day of a hard-fought campaign, the Republican and Democratic parties each invested more than $2 million in what they called the biggest get-out-the-vote operations in Virginia history.

Although he was running for vice president, Lieberman was still able to run simultaneously for re-election to the Senate. Lieberman won a third term, beating his Republican challenger, Waterbury Mayor Phillip Giordano.

If Lieberman does become vice-president, it will fall to Connecticut Governor John Rowland to appoint a replacement to fill the Senate seat until a special election is held in 2002.

Rowland told wire services he is considering long-time Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson for the position.
In a tight race, first-term Republican Senator Rick Santorum defeated Democratic challenger Ron Klink, a four-term congressman, in Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate race.