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Republicans Gain Control of US Congress - 2002-11-05

Republicans won control of Congress in Tuesday's midterm elections, regaining the Senate and solidifying their hold on the House of Representatives in a historic sweep for President Bush.

It was an announcement by Democratic Senate incumbent Jean Carnahan of Missouri, who fought a tough campaign against Republican Jim Talent, that put Republicans in control of the Senate. Ms. Carnahan had been appointed to the Senate two years ago in place of her husband, who won election after dying in a plane crash.

Republican victories in the House and Senate are a triumph for President Bush, who campaigned vigorously for Republicans in the final days before the vote.

In a conference call with reporters, Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer savored the victory, noting that, historically, the party that controls the White House loses Congressional seats in a midterm election. "This is the first time since the Republican Party was founded, around the Civil War, that the Republican Party has gained seats in the president's first midterm election. That is historic," he said.

The president spent Tuesday night on the telephone, congratulating Republican victors.

Republican control of Congress will make it easier for Mr. Bush to achieve his legislative agenda, including initiatives on homeland security, federal judicial appointments and tax reform.

Among the key Republican victories in the Senate, Georgia Congressman Saxby Chambliss unseated Democratic incumbent Max Cleland.

In North Carolina, former Cabinet Secretary Elizabeth Dole defeated Democrat Erskine Bowles, who served as chief of staff for former President Clinton. "I intend to be a Senator for all of North Carolina," said Mrs. Dole.

In Texas, Republican Attorney General John Cornyn won the seat of retiring Senator Phil Gramm, in a closely contested race.

Many incumbents won easy reelection, including Virginia Senator John Warner, a key Republican on the Armed Services Committee, and Delaware Democrat Joe Biden, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Voters chose all 435 House of Representatives, 34 of the 100 Senators, and 36 of the nation's governors. As vote counting continued into Wednesday morning, Republicans appeared to be making gains in races for state executive mansions.

Jeb Bush became the first Republican Florida governor to win a second term, in an electoral victory that is seen as a positive sign for the 2004 re-election prospects for his brother, President Bush.

Republicans also scored a win in overwhelmingly-Democratic Maryland, where they reclaimed the governor's mansion for the first time in 36 years. Robert Ehrlich defeated Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of slain Senator Robert Kennedy.