Dems Gain House Seats in Special Elections
by Joseph P. Tartaro
The Democrats got a bounce in a June 1 South Dakota special election to fill a vacant House seat. With an earlier victory in a special election in Kentucky, the Democrats have narrowed the gap slightly for control of the House of Representatives.
Stephanie Herseth, a member of a well-known political family, defeated Republican Larry Diedrich in the race for South Dakotas one statewide House district.
It was the second loss that the GOP had sustained since the beginning of this year. In February, Democrat Ben Chandler won an open seat in a Kentucky special election.
Given several congressmen retiring this year, many of them Republicans, open races may give the Democrats more opportunities to further close the gap between parties in the House, if not put control of the House and its committees in the hands of the Democrats.
While party affiliation is not the only yardstick for measuring pro- and anti-gun strength in Congress, the chairs of key committees would definitely be prominent anti-gunners if the Democrats become the majority.
However, GOP leaders are not ready to concede any seat in the Nov. 2 congressional elections. For instance, Herseth and Diedrich will face off again in November in a state that President Bush carried in 2000 and is expected to win handily in November.
Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (R-NY), chairman of the Republican National Congressional Campaign, told The Buffalo News that the South Dakota race results could change next time around. He noted that Herseth had started the special election race in South Dakota with a 90% name recognition rating and a 30% lead in the polls. By the June 1 balloting, Diedrich had cut that to less than 1%.
In another hot congressional primary contest, another long-term House Democrat, Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (VA) won renomination on June 8 in a Democratic primary that became a debate between the seven-term Northern Virginia congressman and his relatively little-known opponent, Andrew M. Rosenberg, about the incumbents fitness for office.
Moran defeated Rosenberg, a lawyer and lobbyist from Alexandria, with a door-to-door, low-tech campaign in which he sought to reassure voters that his seniority and record of delivering for his suburban district outweighed his personal and political missteps.
Facing his first primary challenge, Moran, 59, ran with the fervor of an underdog to win back those constituents he feared he had estranged.
It was all about me, he said before thanking supporters at his Arlington headquarters after the polls had closed. In 25 years in public service, Ive invested a lot in this community.
Morans victory, 59% to Rosenbergs 41%, was substantial, but he said he was disappointed that the margin was not larger.
Its a good vote total, but from my point-of-view, it should have been 90 to 10, he said.
Moran, who lives in Arlington County, was heavily favored to win, according to Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper. He had the backing of a majority of the 8th Congressional Districts elected Democrats and more than double his opponents campaign cash.
But a week before the primary, Morans pollster, Alan Secrest, said he quit the campaign after the congressman made a remark that Secrest said was anti-Semitic during a private meeting of campaign advisers. Moran and two other advisers who were in the room said the accusation was untrue, and Secrest would not disclose what Moran said.
Supporters and opponents alike said the controversy raised the races profile and brought them to the polls.
Rosenberg, 36, a former aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), said he was proud he had offered voters a Democratic alternative to Moran.
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