The power of incumbency and an advantageous GOP redistricting in Texas swept Republicans to another two years of control over the House of Representatives.
Virtually all sitting representatives in the 435-member House won re-election, leaving Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Tom DeLay and their GOP majority firmly in charge.
Republicans were poised to add a few seats as they embark on another term of House control — the first time the party has achieved 12 consecutive years in power in the chamber since the dozen years that ended in January 1933.
‘The American people have spoken’
“The American people have spoken, and their message is that they want Republican leadership in the House of Representatives to continue,” Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., head of the House GOP campaign organization, said Wednesday.
Republicans also added to their advantage in the Senate, keeping both houses of Congress under party control.
DeLay, whose push for redistricting in Texas helped the GOP knock off four veteran Texas Democrats, also saw the elections as an affirmation of Republican leadership.
“The American people have spoken tonight, and all indications are that they have hired a Republican House of Representatives for the sixth straight election,” DeLay said late Tuesday.
Republicans also gained seats in the Senate, keeping Congress under party control. But Democrats will retain enough votes there to make it hard for Republicans to push through their programs.
In the House, Democrats knocked off one Republican incumbent — Rep. Philip M. Crane of Illinois, the party’s longest-serving member — but came nowhere close to taking the 12 seats they needed to win back control.
Even celebrity didn’t help. Kentucky Democrat Nick Clooney, father of actor George Clooney and brother of the late singer-actress Rosemary Clooney, lost his bid for an open seat to Geoff Davis.
Clooney says he was ‘wrong candidate’
Clooney said his defeat wasn’t a reflection on his party. “We just picked the wrong candidate this time,” he said. By Wednesday morning, Republicans had won 229 seats and were leading in four other races, which could give them at least 233 seats. Democrats had won 200 seats and led in one other contest.
Republicans hold a 227-205 advantage over Democrats in the outgoing House, plus two vacant seats formerly held by Republicans who have retired and one independent who sides with Democrats.
A minimum of 218 seats are needed for House control.
In case of a tie in the Electoral College between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, the House chooses the next president, which likely means another four years in the White House for Bush.
Nearly all incumbents sailed to re-election, including former presidential hopeful Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio. Also returned for a second term was Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla., who was secretary of state during the pivotal presidential recount in the Sunshine State four years ago.
Besides Hastert and DeLay, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and No. 2 Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland all won re-election.
Crane says he's ‘ready for retirement’
But Crane, who suffered a career-ending defeat, said it was time to go. “I am ready for retirement because the good Lord knows what he is doing,” the 73-year-old said as he conceded defeat to Melissa Bean.
The Democratic businesswoman lost to Crane in 2002, but she won Tuesday with 52 percent of the vote in a district that stretches from Chicago’s northwest and northern suburbs to the Wisconsin state line and was supposed to be one of the most Republican in Illinois.
Democrat John Salazar also picked up a western Colorado seat vacated by a retiring Republican, and was headed to Washington with younger brother Ken, who was elected to the Senate.
But Republicans made sure history would be on their side by redrawing congressional districts in Texas, causing four of five Democratic incumbents to lose their seats, including two of the party’s longest-serving members.
Reps. Charles Stenholm and Martin Frost, a former party leader and dean of the Texas delegation, were defeated, as were Reps. Max Sandlin and Nick Lampson. The four had a total of 68 years in the House.
One Democrat survived
Rep. Chet Edwards, the fifth targeted Democrat, survived in a central Texas district that includes Bush’s ranch.
Other Texas Democrats were still fighting in the courts, hoping for redrawn districts so they can make a comeback.
A final tally for the House won’t be available for several days. Two Louisiana races headed toward runoffs with Republican Billy Tauzin III against Democrat Charlie Melancon, and GOP candidate Charles Boustany and Democrat Willie Mount. Other races were yet to be called, including in Washington state, New York and Indiana.