|Election 2002: Control of Congress|
Even while their Labor Day hotdogs and burgers were being digested, voters were being fed a helping of hi-frequency campaigning for Election 2002, the Nov. 5, 2002 mid-term election and its grand prize -- control of the United States Congress. [Election 2002: Results]
What's at stake for Congress
All 435 seats in the House and 34 of 100 Senate seats are up for election in November. Republicans currently hold a slim majority in the House, while Democrats control the Senate by a single vote.
Vacant Seats: 2 (Ohio's 17th District and Hawaii's 2nd District)
Traficant Expelled from House
U.S. Rep. James Traficant (D) of Ohio's 17th District has been expelled from The U.S. House of Representatives for nine violations of the House Code of Conduct arising from his recent felony conviction. Ohio's governor must decide whether to call a special election to replace Traficant or wait until the November national elections.
U.S. Rep. Patsy T. Mink (D) of Hawaii's 2nd District died on Sept. 29 at age 74. Mink, who easily won her party's primary, will remain on the ballot for the Nov. 5 general election. Should she win, a special election would be held later in 2003 to replace her. Mink died after a long illness with pneumonia and chicken pox.
A total of 11 incumbent Representatives -- 8 Republicans and 3 Democrats -- are retiring and will not be running for re-election.
* Reflect the death of Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota on Oct. 25
Of the 34 incumbent Senators up for re-election, 20 are Republicans, 14 are Democrats. Four Senators -- all Republicans -- are retiring and not running for re-election. They are: Phil Gramm (TX), Jesse Helms (NC), Fred Thompson (TN) and Strom Thurmond (SC).
See: Election 2002: Who's Up and Who's Retiring? for a complete list of Senators up for re-election, and Senators and Representatives not running due to retirement.
10/25/02 - Senator Wellstone Killed in Plane Crash
Incumbent US Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) died Oct. 25 in the crash of a small plane near the town of Eveleth, Minnesota. Also killed were Wellstones wife and daughter.
10/30/02 - Mondale Agrees to Run in Wellstone's Place
Realizing his candidacy could determine control of the U.S. Senate, former Democratic Vice President Walter Mondale has agreed to run in place of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota.
In addition to control of the U.S. Congress, 36 states will elect or re-elect governors, including electoral vote powerhouses California, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
What's at stake for the White House
While President Bush is not up for re-election, the outcome of the November elections will have a major impact on his chances for re-election in 2004.
While his response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks took President Bush's public approval ratings to all-time highs, Democrats hope concerns over corporate scandals and the still-lagging economy will help their candidates win enough key races to take control of both House and Senate.
Democratic control of Congress for the next two years would doom much of the president's social policy agenda, including the meat of his Faith Based Initiative and health care reform, while severely degrading his chanced for election to a second term.
Republican control of Congress would clear the road for Bush's legislative agenda and allow the White House to establish the major campaign issues to be debated in 2004.
Mid-term history favors Democrats
Since the election of Republican President Eisenhower in 1952, the party of a newly elected president has lost congressional seats in every mid-term election. In the 1996 mid-term elections held during President Clinton's first term, Republicans did well enough to take over control of both chambers of Congress.
Democrats hope this history will work in their favor in 2002. Republicans hope President Bush's public approval ratings -- the highest of any new president going into a mid-term election -- will help break the 50-year trend.
Key Races - Senate Up for Grabs
While most pollsters and pundits think Republicans will retain control of the House, every seat in the Senate is critical and a number of very competitive races are developing.
Democratic incumbent Senators in Missouri, South Dakota, Minnesota and New Jersey face strong Republican challengers, while Republican incumbents in Arkansas, New Hampshire and Colorado are expecting challenging races.
Update: 02/30/02 -- Torricelli of New Jersey Withdraws
Democratic incumbent Sen. Robert Torricelli of New Jersey withdrew his re-election bid, thus reducing the Democrats' chances of retaining their 1-vote control of the Senate. Torricelli had come under criticism from a Senate ethics panel earlier this year for allegedly accepting gifts from an imprisoned businessman. Torricelli was opposed in the race by GOP candidate Doug Forrester. Making a campaign issue of the accusations of corruption, Forrester had opened up a 13 point lead over Torricelli in recent polls. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on October 7, allowed New Jersey Democrats to replace Torricelli on the Nov. 5 ballot with former U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg. [See: Torricelli's Withdrawal Dims Dems' Senate Hopes]
Republicans will also be challenged to protect four Senate seats left open by the retirements of incumbents Phil Gramm of Texas, Jesse Helms of North Carolina, Fred Thompson of Tennessee and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Republican candidates are currently polling ahead of Democrats in all but Texas, where the race between Democrat Ron Kirk and Republican Texas Attorney General John Cornyn polls too close to call.
Look for Republican House and Senate candidates to zero in on President Bush's leadership in the war on terror, his tax-cutting initiatives, his attempts to revitalize the U.S. economy and his almost 90-percent public approval rating.
Hoping to steer voter attention away from the war on terror, Democratic candidates will focus on recent corporate accounting scandals and President Bush's ties to big-business, the weakening economy, the return to deficit government spending and the Bush administration's plans for dealing with Iraq and Saddam Hussein.