From throwback battles over teaching evolution to staring down
their all-GOP delegation in Congress, Oklahoma progressives have
had little to celebrate in recent years. But since November 7, some
Tulsa-area activists have a spring in their step, thanks to Democrat
Brad Carson's win in the 2nd Congressional District. A moderate
and member of the nearby Cherokee Nation, Carson supports campaign
finance reform and, most importantly, gives Sooner State liberals
a likable face and sensible voice to respond to their concerns on
Carson's win, replacing anti-gay and anti-abortion standard-bearer
Tom Coburn, comes as Democrats made gains in both chambers and inched
closer to reclaiming the majority status that Republicans snatched
from them in the 1994 elections. Buoyed by an upsurge in union household
voters over 1996, Democrats gained at least three Senate seats and
two House seats in the 107th Congress.
However, third-party challengers from the left apparently helped
preserve a narrow, 11-member GOP edge in the House. Besides the
venom aimed at presidential candidate Ralph Nader, some lefties
are upset at the cast of spoilers who helped Dennis Hastert retain
his speaker's gavel. A Green Party bid by Bonnie Bucqueroux cost
Democrat Dianne Byrum a House seat in central Michigan. In New Mexico's
1st District, Democrat John Kelly lost to incumbent Heather Wilson
by a margin just beyond the total nabbed by Green candidate Dan
Kerlinsky. Fellow Green Jerry Coleman in New Jersey appears to have
kept Democrat Maryanne Connelly out of Congress. And New Jersey
Rep. Rush Holt is hoping a recount will put him over the top against
former GOP Rep. Dick Zimmer, who saw Carl Mayer's Green challenge
take away votes from the incumbent.
Other notable House outcomes include wins in California--by Hilda
Solis, Susan Davis, Adam Schiff, Mike Honda, and the returning Jane
Harman--as well as victories by Minnesota's Betty McCollum and Washington's
Rick Larsen. Democrats also broke back into the Utah delegation
with a win by Jim Matheson, who overcame appeals to anti-gay animus
by the National Republican Campaign Committee to win a seat representing
Salt Lake City. On Long Island, Steve Israel took the seat left
open by Rick Lazio when he ran unsuccessfully for Senate.
In addition to Hillary Rodham Clinton's victory in New York, Senate
winners applauded by progressives include Minnesota's Mark Dayton,
Michigan's Debbie Stabenow and Florida's Bill Nelson. At press time,
the race between Maria Cantwell and Slade Gorton, the GOP incumbent
from Washington and nemesis to American Indian interests, still
remained too close to call. But if Cantwell, who trails in the latest
tallies, prevails, Democrats are relishing a 50-50 split in the
Progressives can take heart that get-out-the-vote efforts headed
by African Americans, Latinos and labor leaders more than offset
Republicans' $100 million targeted turnout gambit called Victory
2000. Voters from union households accounted for 26 percent of the
electorate, according to post-election briefings by the AFL-CIO,
an increase from the 23 percent mark in the last general election.
The high level of union participation reflects turnout drives that
blended high-tech phonebanks with old-fashioned door-knocking. In
a move that could add momentum to campaigns for a nationwide workers'
holiday on Election Day, United Auto Workers members in Michigan
enjoyed November 7 as a day off as a stipulation of their contracts.
Born of collective bargaining, this small coup contributed to the
44 percent of the state's electorate who hailed from union households.
Democrats have maneuvered into spitting distance of a majority.
But having lost their bid to retake Congress, the party may have
lost some momentum on the Hill looking toward 2002, especially since
some aging stalwarts could retire. If their would-be successors
don't manage to dissuade third-party insurgents from fragmenting
the progressive base on Election Day, Democrats dream of a majority
may indeed be deferred.