Tuesday, November 7, 2006

US elections 2006, the returns

10:12 EST (0312 Wednesday GMT): So far, so good ... the Democrats have held on to every incumbent seat, but more importantly they've made big gains at the expense of the GOP. Mike Dewine: Out. Lincoln Chafee: Out. Rick Santorum: Out. Chris Chocola: Out. At this point, they still need to pickup three of the following four states to win the Senate: Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, Montana. Your guess is as good as mine, folks.

11:11 PM (0412 Wednesday GMT): CNN has just called the House of Representatives for the Democrats. Nancy Pelosi will be the first ever female Speaker of the House of Representatives, and third in line to the Presidency.

11:31 PM (0431 Wednesday GMT): Voters in South Dakota have overturned the law that would have banned virtually all abortions in the state, by a wide margin. Planned Parenthood lives for another day -- but the issue is by no means settled.

12:38 AM Wednesday (0538 GMT): The four Senate races are still too close to call ... and I can't stay up all night. Interesting one from California, though: Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown, once the state's very controversial Governor, will now be the Democratic Attorney General, providing a strong check against Ahnold who has won a full term as Gubernator. You can't win them all, but it's nice to see Brown has cleaned up his act. I'll add to this post and provide a wrap-up -- such that it is -- in the morning.

8:20 AM (1320 GMT): The Democrats will finish with roughly 230-235 seats in the House when the returns are finalized, much more than the 218 needed to win outright. What's important is where they've made their gains, in mostly conservative areas -- suburban and rural Pennsylvania, western Connecticut, rural Kentucky and Tennessee and in the shock of shocks, Kansas and south Texas. This means at least on the House side, the donkey is a national party again.

Tennessee will still be held by the Republicans, but Harold Ford Jr ran a strong campaign and proved evangelicals aren't all elephants; a hopeful sign for 2008 and breaking the religious right's lock on the executive. Missouri will be represented by Claire McCaskill who pulled a come from behind win bolstered by the issue of stem cell research; which narrowly passed. As of this morning, two races in the Senate are still close to call -- Montana and Virginia, but the Dems have a slight lead in both and if they can hold on they will win Congress; as two independents -- the still nominally Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont and a Socialist -- will caucus with the Dems for committee assignments. If the so-called Karl Rove "firewall" is broken when it's all over in MT and VA, it may be the beginning of the end of one party rule in the South and West.

The Democrats also have a majority of governorships again -- also a good step. A lot of the initiatives for change at the national level begin at the state level, and after a decade the country south of us does need a new perspective.

Several observations on the ballot measures.
Gay marriage continues to get the thumbs down in America, but what's interesting is that at least a third of those voting for the bans are Democrats. This is not a partisan issue in the States as the MSM wanted us to believe; and Democrats need to understand a lot of hearts and minds have to be changed on the issue before even common-law marriages between opposite-sex couples are accepted, let alone same sex partnerships. (Currently common-law alliances are legal in maybe less than ten states.)
Also, the issue of eminent domain was a hot topic; as in every state where the issue was up for discusion, voters from both sides overwhelmingly demanded it be clawed back. This in the wake of a US Supreme Court decision last year that allowed expropriation of residential properties for private, commercial real estate -- where local tax levies are higher. People have said, correctly, eminent domain should only be used when it comes to creating public property such as public infrastructure; or state or national parks. The abuse had to stop.
In every state where the minimum wage was on the ballot, people voted to increase it above the national standard of $5.15 per hour. The Dems have vowed to revisit the issue when they get the gavel in January and the President needs to understand the nine year freeze on the minimum has to be lifted.
Besides the South Dakota abortion ban that was defeated, voters on the West Coast also shied away from one of the major threats to physician-patient privilege, the concept of parental notification when it comes to pregnant female teenagers. (Actually, California, one of the states where it went down -- Oregon was the other -- does have such a law although it's never been enforced as is the case in New York.) While it is on the books in a number of other states (including Pennsylvania -- where the son of the law's late author won the Senate seat last night), there may be a trend going away from that as parents begin to realize kids can make mistakes and they shouldn't be held to a higher standard than adults are.
Two of the oddest measures also were defeated. In Massachusetts, voters defeated a proposal to allow wine sales in supermarkets -- something peculiar as it's permitted in most states. And in Arizona, an offer of a lottery where a million bucks was going to be awarded in each election cycle to one person who actually showed up to vote went down two to one -- thank God, because people need other reasons to vote than the carrot of cash.

All in all, change is good. The big issue, though, remains Iraq -- and with at least one House in Congress changing hands, the power of appropriating money does as well; and it's there that Bush may be finally nudged into an exit strategy. Let's hope the Democrats don't abuse their power but use it for good both in the Middle East as well as on other issues; and makes America a country the world respects again. A lot more is at stake than crushing the planet's terrorists.

1:13 PM EST (1813 GMT): Donald Rumsfeld has just resigned as Secretary of Defense, and will be replaced by Robert Gates who used to run the CIA. Meanwhile, Montana's Senate seat has gone to the Democrats -- which leaves Virginia and which is still very tight.

9:16 PM EST (0216 GMT Thursday): Virginia has just gone over the top for the Democrats, so they win it 51-49. With both Houses, they have the ability to shape the agenda over the next two years. Nancy Pelosi has promised to pass the 9/11 Commission Report and all of its recommendations with the first 100 hours of the new session of Congress convening -- and Americans are going to hold her and Harry Reid to that. Bush would be wise to sign the bill and protect the homeland for a change -- including America's seaports and air points of entry.

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