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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Update on 3 Undecided Senate Races

George Wenschhof

Three Senate races remain undecided nine days after the election. They are; Minnesota with Coleman(R) v. Franken(D), Alaska with Stevens(R) v. Begish(D) and Georgia with Chambliss(R) v. Martin(D).

Currently, the Democrats hold 55 Senate seats, a gain of six as a result of the November 4 elections. Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) continue to caucus with the Democrats which, when included, brings the Democratic total to 57. The filibuster proof number of 60 is within reach if the Democrats win the three undecided races.

Many Democrats are livid over the campaigning done by Lieberman on behalf of Republican John McCain in the last election and would like Lieberman to either be kicked out of the Democratic caucus or at least removed from his position as chair of the Homeland Security Committee.

President-elect Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) have instead publicly sent signals they look forward to continue to work with Lieberman. His fate will be determined by the Democratic Senators themselves when they vote after January 20. Indiana Senator Evan Bayh(D) said yesterday that Lieberman should apologize for his attacks on Obama and then be allowed to keep his chairman position.

In Alaska as absentee ballots were counted, Democrat Begich has erased a 3000 vote lead held by Stevens on election night and now leads by 814 votes. There remain about 35,000 ballots to be counted.

The Minnesota state constitution requires a hand re-count of the vote where only several hundred votes separate the Republican incumbent Senator Coleman and Democrat Al Franken. New allegations are out accusing Coleman of accepting $75,000 in gifts. The recount will begin November 19 and will most likely take a month to complete.

Georgia has become a battleground to showcase Republican and Democratic power in the state. Here, the state constitution requires the winner earn a majority of the vote. If a majority of the vote is not won, a mandatory runoff election will take place. Incumbent Republican Senator Chambliss won 49.8% in a three person race with Democrat Jim Martin receiving 46.8% and the third party candidate receiving 3%. The state Board of Elections is expected to certify the results soon and if necessary, begin the runoff election process.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party is planning to send John McCain, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee to Georgia to campaign for Saxby. The Obama campaign offices have remained open in the state.

Although the odds are against it, Democrats could win all three races reaching the 60 (counting the 2 Independents) Senators needed to avoid future filibusters in the Senate. Keep in mind, that although winning 60 seats by the Democrats is a good goal, it does not automatically provide a filibuster proof majority.

Not all Democrats agree on all issues so counting on all Democrats to vote the same way on a issue is not a given. Conversely, the same holds true with Republicans and it is not unreasonable to expect at least a handful of Republican Senators to support a Democratic measure. Which means with the current six seat gain by Democrats in the Senate, you can expect few filibusters during the first term of President-elect Barack Obama.

Stay tuned.


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