The Democrats have seized control of the House for the first time in twelve years and could also take control of the Senate if they hold on to win two tight races in Montana and Virginia. Tuesday’s election marked a major defeat for the Bush administration and its Iraq war policy. The vote effectively ended the twelve-year Republican Revolution on Capitol Hill. In the House, the Democrats won at least 28 Republican-held seats. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is poised to become the country’s first female House Speaker. On Tuesday she said President Bush’s policy in Iraq must change.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: “We cannot continue down this catastrophic path. And so we say to the president. Mr. President we need a new direction in Iraq.”
Election lawyers are flooding into Montana and Virginia. As we begin this broadcast, the Senate races in both states remain too close too call. In Virginia, with over 99% of the votes counted, the Democratic challenger James Webb has an 8,000 vote lead over incumbent George Allen. Webb proclaimed himself the winner last night but no news outlet has called the race. A state-financed recount seems all but certain and could mean the final outcome won’t be known for weeks. In Montana, the Democratic challenger Jon Tester is leading incumbent Conrad Burns by around 1,700 votes. Election officials in Yellowstone County said voting machine problems were delaying further results until later today.
Republicans suffered losses throughout the country. Incumbents lost in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Texas. The defeated Republicans include four incumbent senators. In Ohio, Sherrod Brown ousted Mike Dewine. In Missouri, Claire McCaskill overcame an early deficit to defeat Jim Talent. In Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse beat Lincoln Chafee. And in Pennsylvania, Bob Casey won a landslide victory over Rick Santorum. Santorum was the chair of the Senate Republican Conference — the third highest ranking position in the party leadership. He conceded defeat last night.
Sen. Rick Santorum: “I can not tell you what a privilege it”s been to serve this commonwealth.”
In another closely watched Senate race, Republican Bob Corker defeated Harold Ford in Tennessee to fill the seat held by Bill Frist. Ford was attempting to become the first African-American Senator elected in the South since Reconstruction. He was the target of a Republican ad campaign that was widely viewed as racist. One television ad featured a white woman with blonde hair acting as a Playboy model. At the end of the ad she winks and whispers “Harold call me.” Critics said the ad made an implicit appeal to deep-seated racial fears about black men and white women. Last night in his concession speech, Ford described the campaign as debasing.
Harold Ford: “I love my country more than I love this process. And as sometimes demeaning and debasing as this process can be, sometimes we sometimes easily forget that when politics works, people live better lives and safer lives.”
Exit polls showed voters were most concerned with corruption and scandals in government, the Iraq war, the economy and the issue of terrorism. The White House has said little about the election outcome but President Bush is scheduled to hold a news conference later today.
In other races of note, Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, running as an independent, beat Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Alan Schlesinger. In New York, Hillary Clinton was re-elected to the Senate and Elliot Spitzer was elected governor. Arnold Schwarzenegger was re-elected governor of California. In Texas, Democrat Nick Lampson won Tom Delay’s former House seat. In Florida Democrat Tim Mahoney won Congressmember Mark Foley’s former seat. In another closely watched Florida race, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson beat Katherine Harris. In California, the Democrat Jerry McNerney upset Republican Richard Pombo, the powerful chair of the House Resources Committee. In Massachusetts, Democrat Deval Patrick became the state’s first African-American governor. In Ohio, the state’s Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell lost the governor’s race to Democrat Ted Strickland. In Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison was elected as the nation’s first Muslim member of Congress.
Meanwhile over two hundred ballot initiatives were also decided on Tuesday. In the most closely watched measure, South Dakota, voters rejected a law that would have banned nearly all abortions in the state. Voters in Missouri approved a measure backing stem cell research. Seven states passed bans on same sex marriage. In Arizona, voters rejected a ban on gay marriage but approved making English the state’s official language. Five states approved minimum wage increases. Michigan also passed a measure banning some types of affirmative action.
With around eighty percent of the electorate casting at least one vote electronically, voting problems were reported in scores of districts across the country. In Denver, hundreds of people were forced to wait long past the 7 p.m. voting deadline. Voting hours were extended in eight states. Hundreds of precincts in Florida, Indiana and Ohio turned to paper ballots amid problems with electronic voting machines. The Electronic Frontier Foundation reported dozens of complaints that touch-screen machines recorded votes for the wrong candidates. There were also scattered reports of voter intimidation. In Virginia, voters reported receiving telephone calls telling them to stay home or face criminal charges. In Arizona, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund reported Latino voters were stopped and questioned by three armed men outside a precinct in Tucson.
In international news, the Israeli government is being accused of a new massacre with the killing of at least eighteen Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. Another forty people were wounded. Ten children and seven women are among the dead. Thirteen of the dead were members of the same family. The attack occurred earlier today in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun. The victims were sleeping when Israeli artillery shells slammed into their homes.
Beit Hanun resident: “Why is all of this happening? Where is the international community and America. This is a genocide, a genocide.”
The attack comes just one day after Israel said it had ended its week-long assault on Gaza that killed at least sixty Palestinians. Hamas government spokesperson Ghazi Hamad called on the United Nations to expel Israel over the attacks.
Hamas government spokesperson Ghazi Hamad: “I think this is an indescribable crime. This confirms that Israel is not a human being state–it is an animal state. These people are coming just for kill, just for murder, just to increase the number of victims, just to make more massacres in the Palestinian territories. It is just kind of retaliation and revenge against our people.”
At least two Hamas officials called on Palestinians to resume attacks inside Israel, including suicide bombings. Meanwhile, Hamas leaders have repudiated a call from the group’s military wing for attacks on the United States. Israel says it shelled Beit Hanun to stop Palestinian rockets from hitting Israeli towns. Israeli government spokesperson Miri Eisin vowed the attacks will continue.
Israeli government spokesperson Miri Eisin: “We will continue with our operations in the Gaza Strip to stop the rocket firing, to stop the terrorist attacks and to stop the smuggling of weapons. We will try and do so in a targetted, pin-pointed manner as much as we can.”
In Nicaragua, Sandinista frontrunner Daniel Ortega has been declared the victor in the country’s presidential elections. Ortega has thirty-eight percent of the vote with ninety-one percent of ballots counted. His closest rival, the US-backed Eduardo Montealegre, came second with twenty-nine percent. Ortega spoke Tuesday in Managua.
Nicaraguan President-elect Daniel Ortega: “We need to give Nicaragua a sign of stability, a sign that goes above all of our political stances. the responsibility that we have, above all else, is to take Nicaragua out of poverty.”
The Bush administration has not yet responded to Ortega’s victory after threatening economic sanctions if he won.
In Pakistan, at least thirty-five soldiers were killed today in a suicide bombing on their military base. The attack in the town of Dargai comes just over a week after an air strike on an Islamic school in a nearby province that killed at least eighty people. Local Islamic militants had vowed retaliation for the attack.
At the UN, the standoff over an open seat on the Security Council came to an official end Tuesday with the election of Panama. Venezuela and Guatemela agreed to nominate Panama last week after neither country could win enough votes. Venezuela’s nomination came under intense pressure from the United States.
Venezuelan UN Ambassador Francisco Javier Arias Cardenas: “The election had interventions that the assembly clearly witnessed in the same room. the ambassador of the United States says this is a triumph for his country, for the United States, that it achieves its objective, when a developing country such as ours does not achieve a seat in the Security Council.”
And back in the United States, the Chicago-based Tribune Company has forced out Los Angeles Times editor Dean Baquet over his refusal to cut as many one hundred newsroom jobs. His ouster comes one month after the Tribune Company fired Los Angeles Times publisher Jeffrey Johnson on the same grounds. Chicago Tribune managing editor James O’Shea has been named as Baquet’s replacement. The Chicago-based Tribune company also owns 10 other papers including the Chicago Tribune, two dozen TV stations including KTLA in Los Angeles and the Chicago Cubs baseball team.