Allen Concedes; Senate Control to Dems

Thursday, November 09, 2006

By JIM KUHNHENN and DAVID ESPO, Associated Press Writers


WASHINGTON — Virginia Republican Sen. George Allen conceded Thursday in the ultra-close election that sealed his defeat and transfers Senate control to the Democrats, an improbable shift that dramatically alters the government's balance of power.

"This season, the people of Virginia, who I always call the owners of the government, have spoken _ and I respect their decision,"said Allen, who had sought a second term.

Two days after losing the election and trailing by more than 7,000 votes, Allen said he called and congratulated Democrat Jim Webb.

Democrats completed their sweep Wednesday evening by ousting Allen, the last of six GOP incumbents to lose re-election bids in a midterm election marked by deep dissatisfaction with the president and the war in Iraq.

In the House, Democrats won 230 seats and led in two races, while Republicans won 196 seats and led in seven races. If current trends hold, Democrats would have a 232-203 majority _ 14 more than the number necessary to hold the barest of majorities in the 435-member chamber. Without losing any seats of their own, Democrats captured 28 GOP-held seats.

"In Iraq and here at home, Americans have made clear they are tired of the failures of the last six years,"said Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, in line to become Senate Majority leader when Congress reconvenes in January.

The changing of the guard leaves President Bush without GOP congressional control to drive his legislative agenda. Democrats hailed the results and issued calls for bipartisanship even as they vowed to investigate administration policies and decisions.

As watershed elections go, this one rivaled the GOP's takeover in 1994, which made Newt Gingrich speaker of the House, the first Republican to run the House since the Eisenhower administration. This time the shift comes in the midst of an unpopular war, a Congress scarred by scandal and just two years from a wide-open presidential contest.

Allen lost Webb, a former Republican who served as Navy secretary in the Reagan administration. A count by The Associated Press showed Webb with 1,172,538 votes and Allen with 1,165,302, a difference of 7,236. Allen was awaiting the results of a statewide postelection canvass of votes and did not concede the race.

Democrats will have nine new senators on their side of the aisle as a result of Tuesday's balloting. Six of them defeated sitting Republican senators from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Rhode Island, Montana and Virginia. The other three replaced retiring senators from Maryland, Minnesota and Vermont.

Their ideologies are as varied as their home states. Bernie Sanders, an independent who will replace Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords, is a Socialist who has served in the House and voted with Democrats since 1990. Bob Casey Jr., who defeated Republican Sen. Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, is an anti-abortion moderate. Webb once declared that the sight of President Clinton returning a Marine's salute infuriated him.

Beside the Webb-Allen race, the Montana Senate contest also was too tight to call early Wednesday. But by midday, Democrat Jon Tester outdistanced Republican Sen. Conrad Burns, who had to fight off campaign miscues as well as his ties to Jack Abramoff, the once super-lobbyist caught in an influence-peddling scheme.

In the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who would become the first female speaker in history, called for harmony and said Democrats would not abuse their new status.

She said she would be"the speaker of the House, not the speaker of the Democrats."She said Democrats would aggressively conduct oversight of the administration, but said any talk of impeachment of President Bush"is off the table."

In the Senate, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the head of the Democrats'Senate campaign committee, said,"We had a tough and partisan election, but the American people and every Democratic senator _ and I've spoken to just about all of them _ want to work with the president in a bipartisan way."

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