Chambliss Wins US Senate Run-off
With additional reporting by Matthew Cardinale, News Editor
(APN) ATLANTA — US Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) has won reelection to his US Senate seat. It will be his second term.
While Democrat Jim Martin and Mr. Chambliss slugged it out over the last month for a seat in the US Senate, the rest of the nation watched closely.
Big superstars — former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore for Martin, and US Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) for Chambliss — stumped in front of thousands of Georgians. Both parties flooded the state with millions of advertising dollars. President-elect Barack Obama dispatched an army of volunteers in hopes that Martin could ride his coattails to Washington.
Obama did not visit Georgia, however, even though many Democrats wanted him to do so.
After all the votes were cast during Tuesday’s runoff, it took barely two hours to close the book on the 2008 campaign — and Democrats’ chances for a 60 seat “filibuster-proof” majority in the U.S. Senate.
Chambliss comfortably defeated Martin to return to Washington and perhaps heal some bruised Republican egos in what was an otherwise disastrous campaign season.
With 97 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday, Chambliss has 1,220,856 votes (57.4 percent) to Martin’s 905,637 (42.6 percent), according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Web site. The Associated Press and other media outlets called the race for Chambliss around 9 p.m. Tuesday night.
Martin received disproportionate support from Dekalb and Fulton Counties, especially Dekalb.
About 2.1 million Georgians voted Tuesday, significantly fewer than the number that participated on November 4.
On that day, 3.7 million Georgians cast ballots in the U.S. Senate race, with Chambliss receiving 1,867,090 (49.8 percent) votes to Martin’s 1,757,419 (46.8 percent), according to the Secretary of State. Libertarian candidate Allen Buckley received 3.4 percent.
By law, if no candidate receives 50 percent or more of the vote, then the top two candidates must continue to a runoff. Many were surprised the race went to a runoff considering Chambliss held a large lead until about a month before the election.
A Martin win would have signaled a major upset, seeing as how Chambliss had greater support in the General. Typically, fewer young, working-class, and Black voters vote in Run-off elections, that is, constituencies which tend to vote Democratic; older, wealthier, and White voters have a greater tendency to vote in Run-offs.
Martin capitalized on the economic fallout, especially Chambliss’s support of a multi-billion dollar bailout plan for Wall Street, in order to attract enough unhappy voters to make it close.
Martin would had to have gained a sizable proportion of Buckley voters to make up the difference. Apparently, despite his criticism of Chambliss’s support for the bailout, he did not do this.
Overall, though, Martin ran quite a low-key campaign, beginning in the Primary season, where he entered late, avoided media interviews, and did not attend some debates.
Democrats managed to secure at least 56 US Senate seats on Election night, picking up two more seats in Oregon and Alaska in the coming days as final votes were tallied. At that point, with two races undecided in Minnesota and Georgia, Democrats had a real chance to achieve the coveted 60-seat supermajority.
60 seats is an important threshold in the US Senate, where it takes three-fifths of Members to end debate. With Democrats having fewer than 60 seats, Republicans will be able to block legislation by filibustering, or carrying on continuous debate.
Now that Democrats will either have 58 or 59 seats, with Minnesota’s results still being recounted, it will become even more important for them to work with remaining moderate Republicans in order to pass legislation in the Senate.
When former President Clinton spoke to a crowd at Clark Atlanta University on November 19, 2008, he said Obama would be able to get more done if Democrats held 60 Senate seats.
“We need the best ideas from all corners of America but we don’t need a firewall, we need a bridge,” Clinton said, calling Chambliss the firewall and Martin the bridge. “Don’t let Georgia put a firewall up in front of the bridge,” he said.
But a poll from Rasmussen Reports released that same day showed 52 percent of voters were less likely to vote for Martin if it meant Democrats getting 60 seats.
Nine percent of those who said they were voting for Martin said the prospect of a filibuster-proof majority made them less likely to vote for him.
Democrats still have a chance to claim one more national victory this year. If Minnesota Democrat Al Franken is able to prevail over incumbent Republican Norm Coleman, Democrats will have 59 Senate seats.
The recount in that race continues and events in recent days have made that race look more favorable for Franken.
Martin previously ran an unsuccessful campaign as the Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor of Georgia in 2006.
Former Dekalb Commissioner Vernon Jones spoke out today about his loss to Martin in the Democratic run-off this year.
“The Democratic party has to stop putting up these liberal candidates who tend to win in the in the primary but not in the general,” Jones, a conservative Democrat, said in a press conference, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper. “They keep recruiting candidates who are consistently out of touch with mainstream Georgians.”
Chambliss’s poll numbers were higher this year also than they were in 2002, possibly due to the fact he is now an incumbent.
PSC remains Democrat-free
Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Jim Powell lost to Republican Lauren W. “Bubba” McDonald for the District 4 Public Service Commission seat.
McDonald won with 1,129,698 votes (56.5 percent) to Powell’s 870,196 votes (43.5 percent). The five-member PSC will remain flush with Republicans.
The PSC regulates electric, natural gas, and telecommunications rates.
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