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Washington recount confirms Cantwell's Senate victory

Daschle foresees 17 days of Democratic majority

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A recount has confirmed that Democrat Maria Cantwell defeated incumbent Slade Gorton in the U.S. Senate race for the state of Washington.


In this story:

Daschle: Democrats will briefly take majority
Breaux to reestablish centrist coalition

Cantwell's upset victory could make the division of power in the Senate next year an even 50-50 for the first time in 120 years.

A machine recount of the votes in Washington ended Friday showing Cantwell in the lead. Gorton conceded in a handwritten letter and later congratulated Cantwell for her victory.

Cantwell, a dot-com millionaire who financed her own campaign, is the ninth Democrat to win a Senate seat this year. Her election will bring the number of women in the Senate next year to 13, a record.

Cantwell, 42, was born the year Slade Gorton began his political career in Washington state. He first won election to the Senate 20 years ago, beating out an aging and infirm incumbent and saying it was time for a change. Twenty years later, a woman 30 years his junior used the same pitch to push the 72-year-old out of office.

Cantwell's election also means that Washington state now has two female Senators (the senior senator is Democrat Patty Murray), bringing to three the number of states with two female senators. The others are Maine and California.

Daschle: Democrats will briefly take majority

Her election also means that Democrats will be in the majority for 17 days in January, and Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle will propose a resolution to put Democrats in charge of the Senate's committees for those 17 days when the party will have the majority.

Daschle spokesman Ranit Schmelzer said Friday he has decided to go ahead with the resolution because not doing so might set a bad precedent. She said Daschle wants to follow the regular order of the Senate and hopes that the 17 days of Democratic committee control will "set an example of bipartisanship" for the Republicans.

This would mean many confirmation hearings for the cabinet picks of the next president would be heard by committees chaired by Democrats.

The Democratic majority occurs because when the new Senate is sworn into office, on January 3, Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, will still be the senator from Connecticut because he won his race for re-election to the Senate. Al Gore will still be vice president until Jan. 20 -- no matter what happens in his disputed presidential race against George W. Bush -- and still be the Senate tie-breaker.

Schmelzer said Daschle has no intention of trying to pass legislation during the 17 days but wants to follow the letter of Senate rules.

Breaux to reestablish centrist coalition

Senators from both parties say the new math in the Senate means that bipartisanship will be a prerequisite to getting anything done.

Sen. John Breaux, the Louisiana Democrat, said he is going to revive the bipartisan centrist coalition he established with the late Sen. John Chafee, the Republican from Rhode Island, and hold weekly meetings.

Gorton's defeat is a personal blow for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who will have lost his three closest advisers in the Senate with Gorton's departure. The others were Paul Coverdell, the Georgia senator who died unexpectedly this year, and Connie Mack, the Florida senator who is retiring from the Senate.


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Friday, December 1, 2000

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