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Election 2006

News Staff
November 7, 2006
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton

Former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer
NEW YORK: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton routed her conservative Republican challenger Tuesday to win re-election — the latest milestone in a remarkable political ascent from first lady to freshman senator to the Democratic front-runner for the White House in 2008.

With 38 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton was leading former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, 70 percent to 28 percent.

Addressing supporters about an hour after the polls closed, Spencer said he had mounted his underdog effort "to serve my nation in a time of war, a very complex time, and to serve my fellow New Yorkers."

Spencer, who publicly criticized national Republicans for abandoning any effort to topple Clinton, blamed his defeat on lack of funds. "We didn't have the gunpowder, which was tens of millions of dollars to back up our message," Spencer said.

Sen. Joe Lieberman

Ned Lamont
CONNECTICUT: Sen. Joe Lieberman
Lieberman's win in Connecticut was based on a statistical analysis of the vote from voter interviews conducted for The Associated Press by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.

Lieberman had 49 percent of the vote to Lamont's 40 percent with 2 percent of precincts reporting. Republican Alan Schlesinger trailed far behind with 10 percent.

Lieberman, whose independent bid rankled Democrats who questioned his party loyalty, was with his family in a suite of rooms at Hartford's Goodwin Hotel awaiting results as his supporters gathered in the atrium.

There was nervous optimism as campaign workers and unionized firefighters in yellow shirts milled about in the hall. A 20-foot-tall American flag was hung behind the podium, with the words "Sticking" and "With Joe" hanging on each side.

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Lamont, whose anti-war views made him a darling of liberal bloggers, huddled with his family at a hotel room in Meriden near his campaign headquarters after a frenetic round of final campaigning around the state.

"There's been enormous turnout," Lamont said in a TV interview Tuesday. "I think we're giving people something to vote for."

Voter turnout and Lieberman's unusual ballot placement were seen as factors that could impact the results. Lieberman enjoyed a 12-point lead in a statewide poll Monday.

Because he ran as an independent, his name was low on the ballot, where his campaign feared many voters might miss it. Lieberman used a bloodhound as part of an advertising campaign to educate voters about where to find his name.

"We worry about it," Lieberman told a TV interviewer Tuesday. "That's ... one of the reasons I think it will be closer than people think."

The race was one of four being decided in Connecticut Tuesday that could have national implications. Connecticut's three Republican members of Congress -- Reps. Chris Shays, Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons -- faced strong challenges from Democrats who, like Lamont, used an anti-war message.

Also Tuesday, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell headlined statewide races by winning her first full term, according to a statistical analysis of the vote from voter interviews conducted for The Associated Press by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.

Lieberman, 64, found his 18-year Senate career in jeopardy after a stunning loss to Lamont in the August Democratic primary. Just six years ago, he was the party's vice presidential nominee.

His independent bid, launched the day after the primary, defied party leaders who urged him to drop out.

But he remained popular with unaffiliated voters, who make up the state's largest voting bloc, and consistently outdrew Schlesinger in several statewide polls.

Connecticut is a Democratic-leaning state where the war and Bush are unpopular. Lieberman's aggressive campaign downplayed his support for President Bush's Iraq invasion, and he hammered Lamont as too partisan and too inexperienced to be an effective senator, a classic incumbent re-election message.

If re-elected, Lieberman vowed to work across party lines to deliver for Connecticut, reminding voters that if Democrats capture the Senate, he could become chairman of the Homeland Security panel. He has vowed to caucus with Senate Democrats.

Anticipated Democratic gains have raised the possibility that the Senate could end up in a 50-50 tie, or something close to it. A Lieberman win could spark intense jockeying for party loyalty, particularly among Republicans who have given cash and other support for his re-election bid.

His pro-war views won praise from Bush as well as endorsements and fundraising help from Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

As the race closed, Lamont returned to his signature issue, pounding away at Lieberman on the war.

That's what 60-year-old Ron Bowman, a Democrat from Windsor, had on his mind when he went out to vote first thing Tuesday. "It was a chance for a change," he said, after casting his ballot for Lamont.

Another voter who echoed Bowman's sentiment, Shirley Swanson of Windsor, said that she, too, voted for Lamont. "He's not Lieberman. Joe isn't listening to us," she said.

Lamont favors a deadline of about 12 to 18 months for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. Lieberman warns that prematurely pulling back troops could be disastrous.

Lamont, 52, a wealthy cable TV executive whose previous political experience was on the local level in Greenwich, has pumped $16 million of his own money into the race, including a $2 million loan. Lieberman raised more than $16 million.

Lamont cast himself as an outsider eager to shake up Washington. He accused Lieberman of being too cozy with lobbyists and other powerful special interests on Capitol Hill.

Republicans have largely snubbed Schlesinger, whose gambling background generated unflattering headlines earlier this year.

Robert Menendez

Republican state Sen. Tom Kean Jr

TRENTON, N.J. : Robert Menendez

War-weary voters in New Jersey returned Robert Menendez to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, opting for the Democrat despite months of corruption allegations made by his GOP opponent, the son of a popular former governor.

The attack-filled campaign pitted Menendez, one of only three Hispanics in the Senate, against Republican state Sen. Tom Kean Jr.

With 85 percent of precincts reporting, Menendez had 53 percent of the vote compared with Kean's 45 percent.

With control of Congress in the balance, the national parties pumped millions of dollars into the Garden State to help their candidates air ads pounding their messages home: Kean claimed Menendez is corrupt; Menendez harnessed voter discontent over the war, alleging Kean would be a mouthpiece for President Bush.

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Menendez rode that centerpiece of his campaign to forge a traditional Democratic coalition of women and labor, according to an Associated Press exit poll. Meanwhile, all of the state's incumbent House members won re-election.

During his victory speech, Menendez said the win will help in "changing the direction in America."

"Everyone should know this about me: Every single hour of every single day for the next six years I will dedicate myself to earning your trust and making you proud," Menendez said.

He touched on Kean's tactic of portraying him as corrupt, thanking voters for "rejecting the politics of personal destruction."

Ethics, the issue that dominated Kean's campaign, found a sympathetic ear for many voters, including those who elected his opponent, but proved insufficient to overcome a Democrat's advantage in a state that has not elected a Republican to the Senate in 34 years.

During a brief concession speech, Kean told his supporters that he would "continue working in the New Jersey Senate to change the way in which the public's business is being conducted."

Former Gov. Tom Kean Sr., the father of the losing candidate, said his son faced "a terrible headwind" of anti-Bush sentiment.

"My feeling is, any other year he would have won," the elder Kean said.

But Seton Hall University political scientist Joseph Marbach said Kean Jr. may have gone too negative for voters.

"He walked a fine line and as some point, started to turn voters off," Marbach said. "You get portrayed as the one who's the mudslinger and voters start to tune it out."

The campaign's themes were both simple and cutting.

Kean unceasingly criticized Menendez's ethics, pinning many of his attacks on the senator's rental of a home he owned to a nonprofit organization for which he then helped obtain federal funds. The organization's records reportedly were subpoenaed by the U.S. attorney, leading Kean to label Menendez as "under federal criminal investigation," something the incumbent vehemently denied.

The claims did appear to get some traction, however. Although one recent poll showed Menendez with a 10 percentage-point lead, most gave the incumbent only single-digit leads in a Democrat-leaning state that last sent a Republican to the Senate in 1972.

The national Republican Party took notice, airing $4 million in ads against Menendez and sending Arizona Sen. John McCain, former President George H.W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to help.

Menendez, who voted in 2002 against sending troops to Iraq, painted Kean as a future mouthpiece for the Bush administration. While the challenger echoed Menendez's call for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Kean did say he would have voted to send troops overseas.

The point was significant in New Jersey, where polls have shown President Bush's approval sinking and increasing discontent over the war. The state has more unaffiliated voters than registered Democrats and Republicans combined.

National Democrats spent $4 million on Menendez's behalf, adding to the money advantage he held throughout the race. As of mid-October, Menendez had $3.15 million to spend, compared to Kean's $1.67 million. Among the notables who campaigned for Menendez were former President Bill Clinton and Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Lineage also played a part.

The 38-year-old Kean appeared numerous times on the campaign trial with his father, the former governor and 9-11 Commission chief. Their family boasts five colonial governors, two U.S. senators and a congressman. The elder Kean served two terms as governor and is still revered for his bipartisan style of governing.

Menendez, the 52-year-old son of immigrants who left Cuban before he was born, is only the sixth Hispanic to ever serve in the Senate.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine last year tapped Menendez to fill the final year of his own Senate term, making Menendez the first minority lawmaker to represent New Jersey in the Senate.

Trained as lawyer, Menendez grew up in a Union City and was the first in his family to go to college. His political career started at 19 when he was elected to the school board; he first was elected to Congress in 1992.