AMERICAN ELECTIONS: Democrat gains in the key states

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The Independent Online
THE US elections showed the Democrats holding off strong Republican challenges to their incumbents across the country, and making some high- profile gains. Though the Republicans also won some important battles, these were overshadowed by the fact that their expected gains never materialised, and they lost seats in the House of Representatives.

The Democrats scored their two biggest victories in the nation's two biggest states. In California, Gray Davis snatched the Governorship from the Republicans, while Barbara Boxer held on to her Senate seat. The Democrats lost a House seat in California, but increased their majorities in the state legislature. In New York, the Democrats took the Senate seat held by Alfonse D'Amato after a nasty race that saw plenty of mud-slinging. They lost a House seat in New York, but can't complain.

The Republicans - and the Bush family in particular - scored well in the third and fourth largest states. George W Bush held the Governorship of Texas, and in Florida his brother Jeb won the Governor's mansion from the Democrats.

While Florida and Texas are vital states for the 2000 Presidential elections, there was plenty of bad news for the Republicans elsewhere. In the South, the Democrats had a good night as voters turned out in large numbers.

In South Carolina, John Edwards beat Lauch Faircloth for the Senate seat, while Jim Hodges beat the Republican incumbent to take the state's Governorship. Democrat Ernest Hollings held on to his North Carolina Senate seat, where the Republicans also picked up an open House seat. Blanche Lincoln won the open Arkansas seat, keeping it for the Democrats. Don Siegelman won the Governorship of Alabama from the Republicans, and the Democrats held the Governor's mansion in Georgia. The Republicans picked up the Kentucky Senate seat, however, in a very closely fought race won by Jim Bunning, while losing a Kentucky House seat which they had held for 32 years. The Democrats also picked up House seats in Kentucky and Mississippi.

Elsewhere in the country, there was no clear pattern. Races tended to be very individual, with the only common factor a stronger Democratic performance than expected.

In the Mid-West, the biggest surprise was the victory of wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura in the Minnesota Governor's race. Republican challenger Peter Fitzgerald won the Illinois Senate seat from Carol Moseley-Braun, the first black woman in the Senate. The Democrats scored a big win in Iowa, where Tom Vilsack took the Governorship in a surprise victory, but Mike Johanns defeated a Democrat to win the Governorship of Nebraska. Russell Feingold held his Senate seat in Wisconsin. The Republicans lost a House seat in Kansas, but picked one up on Wisconsin.

Nor was there a clear pattern in the North-East. The Democrats lost the Ohio Senate seat, formerly occupied by John Glenn, to George Voinovich, but picked up the Senate seat in Indiana for Evan Bayh. Republican incumbent Jon Fox lost his House seat in Pennsylvania, but the Republicans picked up another open seat. They also lost a seat in New Jersey.

In the mountain states and the South-West, the Republicans made some high-profile gains. Democratic Governorships in Nevada and Colorado fell to Republican challengers Kenny Guinn and Bill Owens, with Mr Owens the first Republican in 20 years to take the Governor's mansion. But incumbent Republican Bill Redmond lost his House seat in New Mexico to Tom Udall, and the party lost another seat in Nevada. Incumbent Senate Democrat Harry Reid held on in Nevada, one of the tightest fights of the night, and in the North West, Patty Murray kept her Senate seat in Washington. One House seat remained to be determined in Oregon.

Republican governors filled open Democratic seats in Nebraska, Nevada and Colorado with victories by Lincoln Mayor Mike Johanns, businessman Kenny Guinn and Colorado state treasurer Bill Owens respectively. Mr Owens will be the first Republican governor in Colorado in 24 years.

The Senate elections turned on issues that never became a national theme. Ms Boxer, and Charles Schumer in New York, successfully hammered their anti-abortion opponents on that issue. In Kentucky, social security was a key issue between Mr Bunning and defeated Democrat Scotty Baesler.