Archive for Thursday, November 5, 1998

ELECTION AFTERMATH

November 5, 1998

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Republicans were unable to deliver the large congressional gains many observers had predicted.

Election results have hardly been verified and already attention is being focused on the 2000 elections and how this week's results will affect the presidential campaign.

Without question, Democrats fared far better in the elections than many -- both Democrats and Republicans -- had predicted. The GOP still enjoys majorities in the U.S. House and Senate, but Republicans were not able to deliver the big gains many had predicted.

There is no single answer for why Republican House and Senate candidates did not do better. It's probably a combination of poor campaign tactics by some Republican candidates, strong Democratic opponents, well-organized and well-funded Democratic campaigns in specific races, the hard work and ability of President Clinton and his wife to get out African American voters, a possible backlash dealing with the Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton and impeachment matter and the fact that, on the surface, the economy seems to be in good shape. And there may be other reasons.

Whatever the facts, Republican leaders are likely to give considerable thought to what went wrong and how to make a better showing in the 2000 elections. Nevertheless, the GOP still has majorities in both houses and will continue to chair all House and Senate committees.

Democrats hope Tuesday's results mean the majority of Americans approve of the Clinton presidency and the way he is handling his leadership responsibilities. They will hope this gives Vice President Gore a jump start in his bid to keep a Democrat in the Oval Office.

Republicans continued to do well at the gubernatorial level, and perhaps someone from one of the statehouses will emerge as a GOP hopeful to challenge Gore.

Locally, many are calling the Dennis Moore victory over incumbent Vince Snowbarger a major upset. It is an upset in the sense that this is the first time in four decades that a Democrat will represent what is now Kansas' 3rd congressional district. However, Moore probably was elected more as a result of infighting within the Republican Party than for any other reason.

If Republicans had given Snowbarger the same degree of support as they gave John Bacon in his win over Lawrence's Jack Davidson for a position on the state board of education, Snowbarger may have been getting ready for a second term in Washington. As it turned out, Moore conducted a well-organized, professionally run, well-financed campaign. In addition, he enjoyed the advantage of being the challenger, able to attack the record of the incumbent and tell voters what he would have done differently and how he would vote if elected. It will be interesting to see how he measures up when it comes time to vote on important issues in the House.

Gov. Bill Graves came through with a record margin in his win over challenger Tom Sawyer. Hopefully, this will give the governor the push he needs to tackle some tough, perhaps highly controversial, issues that are important if the state is to move ahead. He has enjoyed a fine record the past four years, and now he has the opportunity to leave the governor's office four years from now being looked upon not only as one of Kansas' most popular governors but also as one of the most visionary and dynamic leaders the state has had.

It is hoped the election of Charles Jones to the Douglas County Commission will not mark the beginning of severe splits within the commission. Mark Buhler has played a vital role in developing the commission into a thoughtful forward-looking body, and now is not the time to try to use the commission as a tool to shape the future of Lawrence and Douglas County.

It is natural that Republicans may be subdued by the overall election results and Democrats elated by being able to pick up seats in the House and even in the Senate. The only really disappointing part of the election is the continued poor turnout with only 38 percent of the nation's eligible voters thinking it was important to exercise their rights at the voting booth.

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