Friday, November 7, 2008

Election Reaction: In Congress

OK, more election reactions; let's look down ballot across the land.

The Dems picked up a chunk of seats in the Senate and House, and depending on the results of a few outstanding races, they stand to pick up some more. That includes Senate races the afore-mentioned MN, the about-to-runoff-on-December-3rd GA race, and the still-counting AK, and a number of House races mostly too obscure for me to know about them, save Darcy Burner (D) vs. Dave Reichert (R - i) in the Washington 8th, where the Burner, a former Microsoft project manager, got a raw deal from the Seattle Times throughout the campaign. Trivia!

A theme this year seems to be "Re-elect Your Corrupt Congressman or Congresspeople!" Like Michelle Bachmann but for different reasons, Reps. Jack Murtha (D, PA) and William Jefferson (D, LA) are embarrassments, and should not be in their offices. The former was re-elected, even after calling his constituents racists, and the latter, who apparently STILL hasn't been indicted for corruption despite it being almost two years since the Feds found he had a freezer full of cash (literally, literally!), advanced to a run-off later this month. I don't understand how elections in Louisiana work, but it seems to take about as long as the NBA post-season.

And then there's Alaska. Oh, Alaska. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, who had been on top of Alaskan corruption rumors and investigations long before Palin was selected by McCain, jokes that the rest of the nation should take the Alaska Independence Party up on their offer to secede. They seem to be on their way to re-electing not only their soon-to-be-indicted Representative-at-large Don Young but their Septuple-felon Senior Senator Ted Stevens. Both of these despite polling that in the final days of the campaign reliably showed both of them losing. And, despite having their governor on the presidential ticket, apparently turnout is looking like it was down around 10% from 2004, even though early voting records in the state were shattered. Zuh? Really, rhetorical flourish aside, this is truly bizarre and I'm not sure I buy it. I guess they're still counting early and absentee ballots, of which there are many, but this is weird.

I wouldn't be sad to see Stevens or Young go, neither of whom I would be happy about in the Congress if they were Democrats, either. Getting Ted "Series of Tubes" Stevens as far away from oversight of the internet as possible seems to me to be a worthwhile project. Despite being convicted two (?) weeks ago on seven counts of corruption by accepting undisclosed gifts of great value, he subsequently claimed that he is not, in fact, convicted until he has exhausted all appeals. That's true in every way except fact and spirit of the law.

Actually, Stevens' re-election may not be as irrational as it appears. Thanks to the nepotistic shenanigans of former governor Frank Murkowski (appointed his daughter), Alaska voters stripped the governor of the ability to appoint Senators to vacancies. So while Sarah Palin may not be able to pick the next Senator if Stevens goes to jail, resigns, or is kicked out (the latter of which is likely if he is indeed re-elected), she may run for the open seat in the proscribed special election. And I suspect she'd win. So maybe the conservative voters of the Last Frontier are crazy like foxes.

In South Carolina, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) is gone, after describing the agenda of her opponent Kay Hagan (D), who is in fact a Sunday school teacher, as "godless" and an "atheist agenda." Good riddance to Dole and welcome another moderate Dem to the mid-Atlantic seabord.

It took a couple days to call, but it seems that Democrat Jeff Merkley may have unseated incumbent Republican Gordon Smith in Oregon. Smith is a Republican Senator I wouldn't have minded if he'd stayed. He's moderate on a lot of issues, gay-friendly, and has a history of working with Democrats. He even touted projects he'd worked on with Sen. Obama in campaign ads. Also, he is second cousins with the two Udalls who were elected to the Senate in New Mexico and Colorado. Had he stayed, the Smith-Udall family would have made up 3% of the Senate.

If Franken pulls it off in the recounts here in MN, and Stevens loses as the remainind votes are counted in AK, and (this is the big stretch) Saxby Chambliss loses the runoff in GA, the Democrats will hold a 60-vote majority in the Senate. Filibuster-proof. Neat, except it doesn't really matter. Having a simple majority grants control of the body, of course. But voting on cloture on an issue isnt automatic. You actually have to have 60 votes on a given issue, regardless of party. This swings both ways. Liberal Republicans like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, have voted with Democrats on divisive issues on occasion, as has John McCain, for that matter. So even without 60 Democrats, they can get to 60 votes to end debate if they put together a workable coalition. By the same token, conservative Democrats could join in a filibuster if so inclined. Honestly, I'm just relieved that the Democratic majority is now Lieberman-proofed.

Next time: Prop. 8. Boo Prop. 8.

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