by Dennis Dalman
In what was a virtual clean sweep nationally, Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate in the Nov. 4 election and will now hold sway in both houses of Congress.
Republican senatorial candidates gained seats in Arkansas, Iowa, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia, giving them more than the six seats they needed to win control of the Senate. As of press time Wednesday morning, the winners of the races in Alaska and Virginia were yet to be determined. In Louisiana, a run-off election Dec. 6 will decide who will win because in that state, where there was a three-way race, a candidate must get at least 50 percent of the vote in order to win.
When all states’ voting tallies are official, Republicans could hold as many as 55 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate.
Republicans also gained seats in the U.S. House, where they already maintained a majority over Democrats. They now have 242 seats there, with eight of them held by representatives from Minnesota’s eight congressional districts, including newly elected Tom Emmer, who defeated Sartell’s Joe Perske for the Sixth U.S. Congressional District (see related story). The seven other congress members were all re-elected: two Republicans (Erik Paulsen of the third district; John Kline of the second district); Democrats Tim Walz, first district; Betty McCollum, fourth district; Keith Ellison, fifth district; Collin Peterson, seventh district; and, Rick Nolan, eighth district.
Governorships in three so-called blue (Democratic) states were also won by Republicans – in Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts.
Most of the races had been very close, according to polls, right up to election day, but in the last hours voters broke for Republicans, when senatorial candidates won by large margins in states such as Kentucky, Georgia and Arkansas. One exception was New Hampshire, where incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen defeated a challenge by Scott Brown.
Long-time Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will now likely lead the U.S. Senate as majority leader instead of minority leader. He easily beat back a challenge by contender Alison Lundergan Grimes. If his colleagues elect him as majority leader, he will take over from current majority leader, Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada.
Early Wednesday morning, in their victory speeches, the Republican winners vowed to work with Democrats and President Barack Obama to move forward on legislation that would make a stronger nation. Among the legislative efforts they mentioned are tax reform, revision of energy policies and possibly immigration reform.
Commentators attributed the Republican triumph to a mix of interrelated factors: dissatisfaction with the policies enacted by Democrats under President Obama; an anger at the U.S. Congress not getting anything done and thus an anti-incumbent sentiment; a sense of economic malaise among the middle class; and, a slate of electable mostly moderate Republican candidates who do not hold extremist right-wing views.