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Wednesday, Nov. 4, 1992

Women, blacks, Hispanics gain in congressional elections

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 1992 (UPI) -- President-elect Bill Clinton will get solid support from a Democratic majority Congress that will have a record number of women and minorities, as well as entrenched veterans eager to see what the nation's first ''baby boomer'' president will ask of them.

The wholesale massacre of sitting senators and congressmen that was expected in a year when the political slogan was ''change'' never materialized and most veteran power barons won with the strong majorities they enjoyed in the past.

The striking aspect of the 1992 congressional election was not any change in party lineups -- there was barely none -- but in the historic gains made by women and minority candidates.

The Democrats held on to tight control of the Senate at 57-42 with Sen. Wyche Fowler, D-Ga., headed for a runoff against former Peace Corps director Paul Coverdell with neither able to reach a majority. The current Senate has almost the same 57-43 Democratic majority.

Even more surprising is that House Democrats, who enjoy a 266-166 majority (there is one independent and two vacancies caused by deaths) lost around 10 seats, with some still undecided, when even the latest estimates had been as high as 40.

What appeared to have been forgotten in the doomsday predictions was that 91 House members, some of them who certainly would have been swept aside, decided not to run for one reason and another.

Democratic congressional leaders predictably were delighted by Clinton's victory and their own successes in Congress.

''We're pleased with the overwhelming support Democratic candidates received from the American people,'' Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell said. ''We look forward to working closely with the administration.''

Mitchell said he anticipated ''close cooperation'' on a legislative agenda and predicted that Congress will ''act promptly. We're going to have a good, productive relationship.''

Rep. Vic Fazio, D-Calif., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said, ''When voters elected Bill Clinton, they told us they were ready for change. By electing a Democratic Congress as well, voters said they were tired of the gridlock and believe a unified, Democratic government was the best remedy for getting the nation back on the track.''

Fazio's GOP counterpart, Rep. Guy Vander Jagt, R-Mich., tried to downplay the disaster, saying Republican congressional candidates ran well ahead of the presidential campaign, receiving 2 million more votes than Bush. He said the House results could have been better if it had not been for the presidential ''undertow that was just too strong for us.''

Senate Republican leader Robert Dole said he would represent the 53 percent who did not vote for Clinton, adding if ''Bill Clinton has a mandate, then so do I.''

Dole said Republicans would attempt to work with Clinton ''where we can'' and added, ''We're not going to obstruct but we're not going to be stampeded.''

The anger over congressional gridlock, scandal and perks was out there in a ''volatile electorate,'' but the voters seemed to have reserved it for President Bush, rather than members of Congress.

For instance, in the Senate only three incumbents were defeated (Fowler would be a fourth if he loses the runoff) and those losses were not that unexpected.

Sen. Terry Sanford, D-N.C., lost to a conservative duplicate of Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. But he might have won if he was not 75 and had to have a heart valve replaced a month before the election.

Sen. Bob Kasten, R-Wis., had never won big in Wisconsin and just succumbed to a fresh, young and eager Democrat, Russ Feingold, who refused to run in the gutter with him. Appointed Sen. John Seymour, R- Calif., was a goner from the start.

In the ''Year of the Women,'' they made giant, record-setting advances in the Senate and House.

Five women, including incumbent Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., won among the 11 who ran. That put six women in the Senate rather than two (Sen. Jocelyn Burdick, D-N.D. makes three but she is a fill-in who will be replaced by a man in North Dakota's special Dec. 4 election).

In the House, 106 women ran. Of that group 47 won compared to the 28 in the House now.

The election put 39 African-Americans in the House and one, Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, in the Senate. She is the first black woman elected to the Senate. There are now 26 blacks in the House.

Hispanics also set a record in Tuesday's election. Eighteen were elected and in two districts Hispanics were running against Hispanics assuring a total of 20, a record. The current number is 14.

Rep. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, D-Colo., became one of several part-Indians elected to the Senate. He is one-quarter Northern Cheyenne. There have been two, and possibly three, part Native Americans in the Senate and one of them, Sen. Charles Curtis, R-Kan., later became vice president. He was one quarter Kaw-Osage.

There may be some unease on Jan. 5 when the House meets for the first time next year. The new members will include Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., a former federal judge who was impeached by the House in 1989 on charges of corruption and removed from the bench by the Senate.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International.