|Election 2002 Could be Replay of 2000|
Much like Election 2000, Election 2002 on Nov. 5 may come and go leaving Americans wondering, "So, who won?"
Between the close races and the lawyers lined up to protest them, the question of whether Republicans or Democrats control the next Senate may remain unanswered for weeks.
Going into the Nov. 5 election, the Senate is split 49-49 between Republicans and Democrats, with one independent and one vacancy, created by the recent death of Minnesota's Sen. Paul Wellstone (D). Among the 34 of 100 Senate seats being contested, 20 are currently held by Republicans and 14 by Democrats.
States posing possible post-Election Day suspense include:
Minnesota: Former Sen. Walter Mondale (D) has agreed to run in place of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, who died in an Oct. 25 plane crash. Minnesota election law requires absentee ballots marked for Wellstone to be destroyed and those voters required to re-vote. Absentee ballots with Wellstone's name on them were mailed out before and after his death.
When asked if he expected the election to end up in court, Gov. Ventura told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, "I fully somewhat expect there will be litigation. I can't see a way around this. It's very difficult to say that it's a fair election when they've already said that anyone that voted absentee with the name 'Paul Wellstone' won't be counted, and anyone who voted absentee with the name 'Norm Coleman' will be counted. That to me right there creates an unfair election."
Norm Coleman, the Republican candidate, was reported to have held a slim lead over Wellstone. However, Mondale's political experience, along with an outpouring of sympathy for Wellstone and his family have left the race too close to call.
To further muddy the Minnesota waters, Gov. Ventura, upset by what he considered partisan political overtones of Wellstone's memorial service, has threatened to appoint an independent to serve the remainder of Wellstone's term.
Louisiana: A runoff is likely to delay the final outcome of the Senate race in the Sportsman's Paradise, where incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu, while leading her three opponents, may not win 50 percent of the vote. Under Louisiana law, if no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election between the top two finishers would be held on Dec. 7.
Recent polls showed Landrieu winning up to 48 percent of the vote, with 12 percent undecided. "All she has to do is pick up a third of that undecided, and she is over the top, over that 50 percent," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, (D-South Dakota), "And we are reasonably confident that that's exactly what's going to happen."
A spokesman for Louisiana's Republican Secretary of state disagrees. "Landrieu is a strong candidate, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that she will get 50 percent," said spokesman Scott Madere. "But Democrats and Republicans are pretty evenly split in this state. She'll probably get between 40 and 50 percent. There probably will be a runoff."
Missouri: Despite having been a U.S. Senator for the last two years, Democrat Jean Carnahan's name will appear on the ballot in Missouri for the first time on Nov. 5. In the 2000 election, Carnahan's husband and Senate candidate Mel Carnahan died in a plane crash days before the election. Without time to replace it, the name of Mel Carnahan remained on the ballot. In a close race, the late Mel Carnahan defeated former Governor and now U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Carnahan's wife Jean was appointed to serve in his place until the 2002 election.
Now in her first official election, incumbent Carnahan finds herself in a close race with Republican challenger and former U.S. Representative Jim Talent. Both sides, while claiming to be ahead in polls acknowledge the vote will be extremely close.
Other Close Races to Watch
Colorado: Over the weekend, one poll showed Republican incumbent Sen. Wayne Allard leading, while another showed Democratic challenger Tom Strickland slightly ahead. However, neither candidate was seen winning more than 40 percent of the vote, with many voters still undecided. A margin of victory of less than 100 votes could be the result.
Arkansas: Republicans are worried about the Arkansas race, where GOP incumbent Sen. Tim Hutchinson has been polling slightly behind his Democratic challenger and state Attorney General Mark Pryor. With only days left until the election, Republicans say that President Bush's efforts on Hutchinson's behalf have closed the already small gap and left the race to close to call.
New Hampshire: Republican John Sununu stepped down from his seat in the House to run for Senate, defeating Sen. Bob Smith in the New Hampshire primary. Sununu and his Democratic opponent Gov. Jeanne Shaheen are polling dead even.
North Carolina: Republican Elizabeth Dole, a 2000 presidential candidate is locked in a tossup race with Democrat Erskine Bowles, a name you came to know when he served as Bill Clinton's White House chief of staff.
Georgia: Incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland has his hands full with Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss.