Most members returned to Congress, but some incumbent governors lose

November 07, 1990|By Stephen E. Nordlinger | Stephen E. Nordlinger,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Despite signs of anger and frustration, voters re-elected almost all members of the Senate and House who were running yesterday, but they turned their fire on some incumbent governors, who are closer to home and whose policies are often more controversial.

Of the 31 incumbent senators who were running, all but Rudy Boschwitz, R-Minn., appeared to have won re-election. Mr. Boschwitz was trailing according to unofficial returns early today.

In the House, about 98 percent of the incumbents were re-elected, about the same percentage as in 1988, according to initial returns and television projections.

Among governors, Florida's Bob Martinez, a Republican, lost to former Democratic Sen. Lawton M. Chiles Jr., and in a surprise, Kansas Republican Gov. Mike Hayden was defeated by Democratic state Treasurer Joan Finney.

In neighboring Nebraska, Republican Gov. Kay A. Orr was slightly trailing Ben Nelson, a wealthy businessman. All three incumbent governors were targets of tax revolts.

Gov. James Blanchard, D-Mich., was also marginally behind Republican state Senate Majority Leader John Engler in a race in which Mr. Blanchard's strong abortion rights stand was a key issue.

Rhode Island Republican Gov. Edward D. DiPrete lost to wealthy businessman Bruce Sundlun in a race cast against the state's depressed economy.

John R. Silber, the president of Boston University, who ran a tough anti-incumbent, protest campaign for Massachusetts governor, lost to Republican William F. Weld, according to unofficial returns.

In a closely watched race testing anti-incumbent sentiment, freshman Representative Peter Smith, who disagreed with President Bush's policies while introducing him at a recent Vermont fund-raiser, lost to independent Bernard Sanders, the socialist former mayor of Burlington. Mr. Sanders thus becomes the first socialist elected to the House in more than 60 years

In another incumbent loss, conservative Republican Stan Parris, who represented the Virginia suburbs of Washington, lost to Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr., who had criticized Mr. Parris' anti-abortion stand.

At least five House incumbents were in extremely tight races, including Representative Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., the House minority whip who battled President Bush on the issue of raising taxes. Early today, Mr. Gingrich was running neck-and-neck with Democratic challenger David Worley, although Mr. Gingrich was declared the winner in one report early today.

About seven incumbents were believed to have lost.

Representative Denny Smith, R-Ore., tainted by the savings and loan scandal, lost a rematch against Democrat Mike Kopetski. In an upset, veteran Representative Robert W. Kastenmeier, D-Wis., lost his seat to former broadcaster Scott Klug, who called Mr. Kastenmeier "torn, worn and outdated."

In Senate races, Bill Bradley, D-N.J., fought off an unexpectedly close race against former Public Utilities Commissioner Christine Todd in a race that reflected public unhappiness with higher state taxes.

Long before the dust settled in yesterday's most heated races, returns suggested that the voters would return Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, giving the country at least two more years of divided government.

A Gallup Poll issued a week before the election indicated that voters, while discontented over the economy and politics, were not about to vent their spleen against individual incumbents on a grand scale.

The survey showed that 61 percent of Americans approved of their own congressional representatives.

The Republicans had hoped as recently as early September to reverse the trend of midterm elections, when the party in power at the White House usually loses House seats, by taking advantage of President Bush's popularity ratings in the Persian Gulf crisis.

But as a result of the president's flip-flops on taxes and the budget and growing signs of a recession, Democrats went into yesterday's races expecting to pick up a few House seats, mostly in open races involving no incumbent, and perhaps one or two in the Senate.

There were 29 open seats in the House this time -- 11 that had been held by Democrats and 18 by Republicans.

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