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Al Franken and Norm Coleman

Al Franken and Norm Coleman

Democratic contender for the Minnesota Senate seat Al Franken took a 250-vote lead over Republican incumbent Norm Coleman in the still undecided Senate race Friday, but thousands of ballot challenges remain unresolved.

Coleman led Franken in election night returns and held a 188-vote lead before the board decided to review challenged ballots. However, both sides acknowledged that the lead could flip a few times before the long recount ends.

About 5,000 challenges were withdrawn after election officials asked that both camps pull back on unnecessary or frivolous claims in the interest of a faster recount.

The five-member Minnesota State Canvassing Board denied Coleman’s proposal to reject 150 duplicate ballots that weren’t run through a ballot machine and couldn’t be matched to their originals, the Minnesota Star Tribune reported.

Board members ruled duplicates should be resolved by “another forum,” yet to be determined, as they focused on ballots where there “are questions about the intent of the voters who cast them,” according to the Star Tribune.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said Thursday the board’s goal of finishing the recount by Friday would not be met, the Washington Post reported.

“The only real concern is accuracy and transparency,” he said. “Our job is to make sure we are absolutely certain how Minnesotans voted.”

Franken’s 250-vote lead over Coleman marks the Democrat’s first lead since the disputed recount began, but Coleman’s spokesman Mark Drake said numbers are expected to change as the vote counting continues.

“Because of procedural reasons regarding the way the process has been playing out this week, you will likely see the numbers continue to flip flop around and go upside down as a good-sized chunk of withdrawn challenges from the Franken campaign have not yet been awarded back into Norm Colman’s column,” he said, according to TheHill.com.

The recount’s final result will be delayed by the outstanding issue of which rejected ballots will end up being counted.

More than 12,000 ballots that were originally rejected must be sorted through to determine which should be counted. Officials estimate more than 1,000 will be recounted, the Washington Post reported.

Also delaying the final decision will be the consideration of absentee ballots, which must be accounted for before Dec. 31.

Source: PBS

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Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) conceded his reelection race to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) on Wednesday afternoon, averting a potential recount and solidifying a seventh takeover for Senate Democrats.

Stevens congratulated Begich, who less than a half-hour earlier told reporters that he had not heard from the incumbent.

Begich’s win was called by The Associated Press on Tuesday night and hands Democrats a 58th seat, with two GOP-held seats still outstanding. A large portion of absentee ballots delayed the result.

Stevens’s campaign said in a statement: “Given the number of ballots that remain to be counted, it is apparent the election has been decided and Mayor Begich has been elected.

“My family and I wish to thank the thousands of Alaskans who stood by us and who supported my reelection. It was a tough fight that would not have been possible without the help of so many Alaskans — people who I am honored to call my friends. I will always remember their thoughts, prayers and encouragement.

“I am proud of the campaign we ran and regret that the outcome was not what we had hoped for. I am deeply grateful to Alaskans for allowing me to serve them for 40 years in the U.S. Senate. It has been the greatest honor of my life to work with Alaskans of all political persuasions to make this state that we all love a better place.

“I wish Mayor Begich and his family well. My staff and I stand willing to help him prepare for his new position.”

The Hill

490px-ted_stevens_109th_pictorial_photo ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Just as Sen. Ted Stevens appeared set to return to Congress, felony conviction and all, his re-election bid has faltered. If he loses, it also closes a possible door into the Senate anytime soon for Gov. Sarah Palin.

As counting of early and absentee ballots continued in Stevens’ race against Democrat Mark Begich, the contest for Alaska’s only House seat was settled Wednesday, with the re-election of Republican incumbent Don Young for his 19th term.

In the Stevens race, Begich jumped to an 814-vote lead, after trailing by 3,200 when the day began. The tally late Wednesday was 132,196 to 131,382, with an estimated 30,000 ballots remaining to be counted, some on Friday and some next week.

“After watching the votes today, I remain cautiously optimistic,” Begich, a two-term Anchorage mayor, said in a news release. “We ran an aggressive campaign, especially when it came to early voting and absentee.”

Stevens’ campaign did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Last month, a federal jury in Washington convicted Stevens of lying on Senate disclosure forms to conceal more than $250,000 in gifts and home renovations from an oil field services company.

That might have spelled quick political doom for a lesser figure, but Stevens is revered here for his decades of public service — and especially for scoring the state enormous sums of federal money.

Begich would be the first Democrat to win a Senate race in Alaska since the mid-1970s, and a victory would put his party one step closer to a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate. Democrats are also trying to unseat Republicans in unresolved contests in Georgia and Minnesota.

Fellow senators have called on Stevens to resign if he wins, and he could face expulsion if he declines to step down. In either case a special election would be held to determine his replacement. Palin, fresh from her failed run at the vice presidency, said Wednesday she’d be interested in serving in the Senate.

“My life is in God’s hands,” Palin said. “If he’s got doors open for me, that I believe are in our state’s best interest, the nation’s best interest, I’m going to go through those doors.”

In the House race, The Associated Press declared Young the winner with 50 percent of the vote compared with Democrat Ethan Berkowitz’s 45 percent.

Berkowitz campaign spokesman David Shurtleff said the Democrat was not ready to concede, although he acknowledged dim prospects.

Election officials Wednesday counted 57,000 of the estimated 90,000 outstanding ballots, which include absentee, early, questioned and provisional ballots.

Should the Senate results remain close a recount is possible. In Alaska, the losing candidate or a collection of 10 voters has three days to petition for a recount unless the vote was a tie, in which case it would be automatic.

If the difference between the candidates is within 0.5 percent of the total votes cast, the state pays for the recount, to be started within three days of the recount petition. The state Elections Division has 10 days to complete the recount.

If Stevens holds onto his seat, he might remain in the Senate for some time. As a practical matter, Stevens can’t be expelled by the full Senate until after an Ethics Committee investigation and a majority vote of that panel. That won’t happen until next year at the earliest.

Stevens also plans to appeal his conviction after he’s sentenced, in February at the earliest. The appeal could take months or years.

President George W. Bush could also pardon him.

latimes-logo

WASHINGTON (AP) — Barack Obama has now added Iowa’s seven electoral votes to his total, as he builds on his commanding lead over John McCain.

Obama now has 202 electoral votes out of the 270 he needs for the nomination.

He earlier won in Pennsylvania and in Ohio — both states that were key to John McCain’s hopes. No Republican has ever been elected president without capturing Ohio.

McCain adds five electoral votes with his victory in Utah. That gives him 75 in all.

Democrats are adding to their Senate majority. Among the Democrats re-elected to Senate seats are Tom Harkin in Iowa and Max Baucus in Montana.

Republican Thad Cochran won re-election in Mississippi.

Connecticut Republican Rep. Chris Shays, a perennial target for Democrats, lost his bid for an 11th term in one of the more significant losses tonight for congressional Republicans.

With Shays gone, the Republican Party no longer represents any congressional districts in the six states–Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hamp

Jim Himes, Obama

Jim Himes, Obama

shire and Maine—that make up New England.

Shays was perhaps best known for his work with presidential candidate John McCain to pass sweeping 2002 campaign finance reform laws.

Shays was ousted by Democrat Jim Himes, a former Goldman Sachs executive. Barack Obama at the top of the ticket may have helped Himes as the Illinois senator easily dispatched McCain in Connecticut.

The Connecticut Republican had been realistic about his re-election prospects this year. Even Shays’ brother, Peter, expressed doubts for a victory. Peter Shays told the Associated Press that his brother refused to run a negative campaign “and he got hurt a little bit with that.”

Source: WSJ

The Republican National Committee has taken out a $5 million line of credit to help fund last minute efforts to keep Senate Democrats from winning a filibuster-proof 60 seat majority, according to an official with the committee.

Of the $5 million, $2 million is being directly transferred to the National Republican Senatorial Committee while $3 million is being devoted to coordinated expenditures that began over the last week.

“This effort not only helps fortify senators but it’s good for the whole Republican ticket,” said the RNC official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “This is an investment in the entire ticket in addition to an unprecedented get out the vote effort.”

With the White House apparently slipping away and House Republicans looking at losses of 20 or more seats, the Senate is being painted as the last, best chance for Republicans to hold some semblance of power within Congress.

Right now, three states are largely seen as near-certain Democratic pickups: Virginia, New Mexico, and Colorado.

The RNC line of credit is almost certain to be spent on a handful of vulnerable Republican incumbents who face varying levels of peril. That list includes North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens among others.

The decision by the RNC to help fund a series of Senate contest shows that national GOP strategists see the Senate as their firewall in next week’s election.

Will it change things? It’s very hard to know with so much volatility in the environment. But, it does show the RNC is willing to do everything it can to hold strong against the onrushing Democratic wave.

Washington Post

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Kay Hagan for U.S. Senate (North Carolina)

 
As a state Senator in North Carolina, Kay Hagan has been an effective leader in the fight for better public schools and fiscal responsibility. Hagan is taking on incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Dole. If elected, Hagan will fight for sustainable energy, access to health care and more in the Senate. Hagan is in a tight race with an opponent who knows how to raise a lot of money. However, it’s one of the most competitive Senate races for a Democratic challenger. Can you pitch in to help flip this seat? (FEC ID: C00440859)   

Jeff Merkley for U.S. Senate (Oregon)

 
Jeff Merkley is running for Senate against Gordon Smith. Merkley is the Democratic Speaker of the House in Oregon. The Oregonian called Jeff’s session as Speaker, “Oregon’s most productive in a generation.” Merkley is pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-worker and supports an exit from Iraq. His opponent, Gordon Smith, was once known as the Senator with the “golden putter.” (FEC ID: C00437277)   

Jim Martin for U.S. Senate (Georgia)

 
This is an exciting race that is tightening up as we speak. Martin is a Vietnam veteran running against conservative Republican, Saxby Chambliss. Chambliss won his seat by smearing another Vietnam veteran, Max Cleland in one of the ugliest races of the last eight years. Martin wants to cut taxes for the middle class, increase consumer protections and end corporate welfare. He also opposed the Wall Street bailout. Can you chip in to help him win? (FEC ID: C00447714)  

Betsy Markey for Congress (Colorado’s 4th District)

 
Betsy Markey is running against one of the most conservative members of the House–Marilyn Musgrave. Musgrave is famous for leading the charge for a Constitutional amendment to bar any recognition of same-sex marriage or “legal incidents thereof.” Markey is unequivocal about the need to end the war in Iraq and wants to expand access to affordable healthcare for all Americans. Can you chip in to help her win? (FEC ID: C00436063)