GOP sweeps to victory in momentous power shift Glendening, Sauerbrey finish in dead heat

GOP takes control of both House, Senate Sarbanes, Curran win on day of neck-and-neck races ELECTION 1994

November 09, 1994|By Paul West | Paul West,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Republicans took a giant step toward becoming America's dominant party yesterday, taking over the Senate and revoking the Democrats' 40-year lease on the House.

In one of the most momentous political shifts in decades, Republicans took control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 1954. With returns still trickling in from a host of close races, Republicans were projected to capture more than the 40 seats they needed to take over the House of Representatives.

Democrats had held a 256-178 majority in the last Congress, which also included an independent.

Republicans also scored major gains in governors' contests and now control the statehouses in eight of the nine most populous states.

The Republican wave was broad and deep. It was particularly strong in the South and Southwest, once Democratic bastions. In a contest that seemed to capture the GOP's remarkable turnaround, Republican George W. Bush unseated Texas Gov. Ann W. Richards, exactly two years after his father lost the White House.

Some of the nation's best-known Democrats were swept from power by the Republican tide, including New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, who failed in his bid for a fourth term, and indicted Illinois Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, once one of the most powerful men in Congress.

Also, House Speaker Thomas S. Foley of Washington was fighting for survival last night, and appeared likely to become the first House speaker since 1860 to be thrown out of office.

Gingrich is somber

Republican Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, a conservative gut-fighter whose partisan tactics helped pave the way for his party's surprising return to power, sounded an uncharacteristically somber note last night.

"I can tell you, it is a very sobering and, I think, a very humbling experience," said the man who could become the first Republican speaker of the House since Dwight D. Eisenhower's first term.

Mr. Gingrich said the House would immediately move in January to pass the 10-point "Contract for America" signed by more than 300 GOP candidates. It calls for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, a middle-class tax cut and a term limit on members of Congress.

'A burden to carry'

Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, who is in line to become the majority leader in January, acknowledged that the voters had given Republicans "a burden to carry, and they expect us to respond," citing "this anti-government mood out there."

"We better demonstrate that we can produce," said Mr. Dole, a potential 1996 GOP presidential contender.

As stunned Democrats began to sift through the devastating returns, they and their allies back home began to adjust to a new reality: one of diminished clout after decades of virtually unchallenged power on Capitol Hill.

Heavily Democratic Maryland, for example, will lose the influential committee posts of its two senators, including Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes, who was re-elected yesterday but will now have to settle for the lesser role of ranking minority member of the Banking Committee, instead of the chairmanship.

Bitter setback for Clinton

The midterm election was a particularly bitter setback for President Clinton, whose unpopularity was a burden for many Democratic candidates and whose personal campaign efforts largely came to naught. Mr. Clinton, who remained out of public view last night, now faces the prospect of a Congress controlled by the opposition party for the remainder of his term.

Conservatives led the Republican charge, despite the defeat of Oliver L. North, who failed in his attempt to unseat Democratic Sen. Charles S. Robb of Virginia.

GOP conservatives won Senate seats in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee (two), Arizona and Michigan, all of which had been held by Democrats.

A Republican moderate, Rep. Olympia Snowe, picked up the Maine seat of retiring Sen. George J. Mitchell, for a GOP gain of eight Senate seats and a 52-48 Republican majority.

Republicans also won the governorships of seven of the eight most populous states, picking up New York, Texas and Pennsylvania and failing only in Florida, where Gov. Lawton M. Chiles Jr. , a Democrat, turned back a spirited challenge from another Bush son, Jeb. Republicans already controlled North Carolina and New Jersey.

Republicans now hold a majority of state governorships for the first time since 1970, having also picked up those in Tennessee, New Mexico, Wyoming, Rhode Island and Oklahoma, all of which had been in Democratic hands.

Although voters were clearly sending a sequel to the message of change they delivered in the 1992 election, about 90 percent of the incumbent members of Congress running yesterday won re-election. Only two Democratic senators, Pennsylvania's Harris Wofford and Tennessee's Jim Sasser, were defeated.

But those House members who did lose were mainly Democrats. Roughly half the seats that Republicans gained were "open" seats -- ones that had been vacated by Democrats who either decided to retire or to seek another office.

Kennedy escapes scare

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