Capital Briefs November 10

TO BE CONTINUED: As of late last week, there were five House races that were undecided. In Alaska, Republican Rep. Don Young hung onto the state’s lone House seat by about 17,000 votes, with 99 percent of the votes counted. In Washington State’s 8th District (Seattle), Republican Rep. David Reichert had a lead of 1,853 votes with 55 percent of the precincts reporting. In California’s 4th District (Sacramento), conservative stalwart State Sen. Tom McClintock led Democrat Charles Brown by 451 votes with all votes in, and in Ohio’s 15th District (Columbus), Republican Steve Stivers had a lead of 12,400 votes over Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy with 100 percent of precincts reporting. Both are in districts vacated by Republican incumbents. In Virginia’s 5th House District, however, Republican Virgil Goode was trailing Democrat Tom Perriello by 31 votes and in Maryland’s 1st District, Republican State Sen. Andy Harris was behind Democrat Frank Kratovil by 991 votes. Conservative Harris had won the Republican primary over liberal Rep. Wayne Gilchrist, who subsequently endorsed Kratovil and Barack Obama.

THE LAST SENATE RACES: In addition to the contest in Alaska, two other U.S. Senate contests remained up in the air as of late last week. In Georgia, the question was whether Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss had won outright or had to go into a run-off with Democrat Jim Martin. With Libertarian Allan Buckley drawing about 3 percent of the vote, Chambliss had about 49.9 percent — just shy of the 50.1 percent needed to avoid a run-off with Martin. Both Chambliss and Martin were gearing up for a December showdown. In Minnesota, in the nation’s most closely watched Senate race, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman held a wafer-thin lead of 438 votes over Democrat Al Franken with all votes counted. An automatic recount will be held later in the month unless Franken requests that it be forgone. One noteworthy development in the race was the unexpectedly strong showing (15.2 percent) of Reform Party nominee Dean Barkley.

RYAN VS. BOEHNER? Less than 24 hours after the election, House GOP Leader John Boehner (Ohio) told colleagues and reporters he wanted to stay on in his party’s top post in the House. “He is running again and reports of a challenge to him are ‘unserious,’” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told HUMAN EVENTS. With Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) running, with Boehner’s backing, to succeed Florida Rep. Adam Putnam as GOP Conference Chairman, the conservative long considered Boehner’s likeliest challenger is out of the race for leader. However, many conservatives last week were urging Minnesota Rep. Paul Ryan to take on Boehner. A member of the House Budget Committee widely considered a leading House expert on taxes and spending, Ryan “is in the listening mode about a race for leader,” according to spokesman Conor Sweeney.

THE OTHER RACES: To no one’s surprise, the No. 2 official in the House Republican hierarchy said last week he was stepping down. The exit of GOP Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.), one of George W. Bush’s closest allies in the House leadership, had been rumored weeks before the election. The early favorite to succeed him is Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), but Cantor may be opposed because of his closeness to the present leadership team. A day after his party suffered a net loss of at least 18 seats in the House, Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.) announced he would seek another term as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Because of the party’s performance in House races and criticism for pulling funding from certain conservative incumbents at the end of the campaign, Cole is likely to face a stiff challenge from Texas Rep. Pete Sessions.

FAIRNESS DOCTRINE OUTMODED?: Despite support from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.), revival of the Fairness Doctrine is not universally backed by Democrats in Congress. The measure, which was scrapped under the Reagan Administration in 1987, required that radio stations offer a variety of viewpoints when they broadcast controversial opinions and thus discouraged smaller stations from running conservative broadcasters. Last week, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) echoed Ronald Reagan’s argument that there are so many venues for broadcast opinions that the Fairness Doctrine had become outmoded. Van Hollen told CNS News that this would be a difficult issue for Barack Obama and the Democratic-run Congress to deal with because of what he called the “new media” and that “even if you wanted to go back to the Fairness Doctrine, technology may have passed it by.”

HEIRS APPARENT: With two U.S. senators assuming the country’s top two offices for the first time since 1960, speculation began last week over who would succeed Barack Obama and Joe Biden in their Senate seats. In Delaware, it is considered a foregone conclusion that Biden’s successor will be his son, State Atty. Gen. Beau Biden. Much of the talk in Illinois was that Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. would be tapped to replace fellow Democrat Obama. Asked on ABC’s “Good Morning America” if he wanted his oldest son to get the Senate seat, the Rev. Jesse Jackson replied: “I approve that message.” Other prospects include State Treasurer Alexei Giannoulias and State Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, both considered close allies of Obama.