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Democrats snag Va. Senate seat, seek more gains

Associated Press | 11/5/2008, 3:59 a.m.

In addition to the Virginia seat won by Warner, Democrats also counted as good prospects the seats of two other retiring GOP senators — in Colorado and New Mexico.

In Colorado, Democratic Rep. Mark Udall, son of the late Arizona Rep. Morris “Mo” Udall, defeated former Republican Rep. Bob Schaffer for the seat now held by Republican Wayne Allard. And in New Mexico, Democratic Rep. Tom Udall — a cousin of the Colorado Udall — bested Republican Rep. Steve Pearce in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Pete Domenici.

Republicans seeking re-election faced tight contests in five other states — Dole in North Carolina, Ted Stevens in Alaska, Norm Coleman in Minnesota, John Sununu in New Hampshire and Gordon Smith in Oregon.

Going into the election, only one incumbent Democrat appeared vulnerable: Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Republicans made a spirited run at her, but she held onto her seat.

In one of the most closely watched races, Alaska’s Stevens, at 84, the longest serving Republican in Senate history, sought re-election despite calls from GOP leaders to resign after he was convicted last week of seven counts of lying on Senate financial disclosure forms. He was locked in a tight contest with Democrat Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage. That race had not been decided as of the Banner’s press deadline.

Another closely contested race was in Minnesota, where Republican incumbent Coleman was challenged by Democrat Al Franken, the former “Saturday Night Live” writer and actor. A significant third-party candidate, Independent Dean Barkley, was complicating the race. That race also had not been decided as of the Banner’s press deadline.

Underscoring the closeness of the race, Coleman embarked on an all-night bus tour with overnight stops in St. Cloud, Brainerd, North Branch, and Forest Lake before voting at 9 a.m. CST at the Linwood Recreation Center in St. Paul.

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., head of the GOP’s senatorial campaign committee, acknowledged ahead of the voting that “Democrats are poised to pick up some seats.” His Democratic counterpart, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., predicted “a whole lot of seats” for Democrats, but said reaching a 60-vote majority was unlikely.

(Associated Press)