Post-Election Uncertainty Lingers in Senate, House Races

By Christine Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

( - The presidential race is not the only election taking time to produce a winner. A Washington Senate race and two House races in New Jersey and Florida are drawing to a close, weeks after the election itself.

And the winner is? Florida and New Jersey appear to have winners in Republican incumbent Clay Shaw and Democratic incumbent Rush Holt, respectively. But Washington's Senate race between Republican incumbent Slade Gorton and Democratic challenger Maria Cantwell is still up in the air, with less than 2000 votes separating the two right now. Cantwell, a dot-com millionaire and former employee of Microsoft critic RealNetworks, has taken over the lead. Ninety-nine percent of the vote count has been completed.

In Washington, Gorton's loss would still mean a Republican majority in the Senate, even though it would split the chamber 50-50. Under one scenario, if Gorton loses, Republicans will have a one-seat majority in the Senate. That's because if Republicans George W. Bush and Dick Cheney win the presidency, a Vice President Cheney would be the tie-breaker, in effect preserving a Republican majority.

But a win by Democrats Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman would benefit the Republicans in the Senate even more, ironically. If Gorton loses and Gore-Lieberman wins, it becomes a 51-49 Republican majority once Lieberman's vacated Senate seat is filled with an appointment made by Connecticut's Republican governor, Jim Rowland.

Gorton's Senate committee appointments include appropriations and budget. The American Conservative Union's annual rating of Congress gave Gorton a 96 percent approval rating in 2000 and a 70 percent rating lifetime average. The ACU uses its rating system as a measure of a legislator's commitment to conservatism.

Florida's 22nd district race is important for somewhat different reasons. In that district, which includes West Palm Beach, Shaw etched out a victory only last week following three vote recounts. Shaw's win is significant because he chairs the House Social Security subcommittee and has become a contender for chairmanship of the full Ways and Means Committee. Outgoing chairman Bill Archer (R-Tex.) is retiring. With Social Security's impending financial troubles, either chairmanship would be a key position to influence any reform legislation. Shaw received an ACU lifetime vote rating of 82 percent.

In New Jersey's 12th district race, Holt appears to have edged out Republican challenger Dick Zimmer by less than .05 percent of the vote, 253 votes by Associated Press counts. Zimmer is asking for a recount while Holt is waiting for a final vote total before declaring a victory. Holt is a freshman congressman who serves on the House budget, education and resources committees. He received a 10 percent lifetime vote rating from the ACU.