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Democrats seize control of the House

Senate also leaning toward left

WASHINGTON - Resurgent Democrats won control of the House and challenged the Republicans' grip on the Senate in midterm elections early Wednesday, riding a powerful wave of public anger over the war in Iraq and scandal at home.

"Mr. President, we need a new direction in Iraq," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, celebrating her party's return to power - and her own ascension as first female speaker in history.

Aided by public dissatisfaction with President Bush, Democrats won gubernatorial races in New York, Ohio and Massachusetts for the first time in more than a decade, then put Colorado, Maryland and Arkansas in their column as well.

At 3 a.m. in the East, Democrats had won more than two dozen House seats held by Republicans, more than enough to guarantee a return to power after 12 years in the minority. Several GOP officials said they expected Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to step down as party leader and possibly even retire from Congress.

Democratic challengers defeated Republican incumbents to win Senate seats in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Rhode Island and Missouri.

That left control of the Senate up in the air, pending the outcome of races in Montana and Virginia. Sens. Conrad Burns and George Allen both trailed, and Democrats needed to win both races to emerge with a majority.

Bush monitored the returns from the White House as the voters picked a new Congress certain to complicate his final two years in office. He arranged to call Pelosi on Wednesday morning, then hold an afternoon news conference.

"They have not gone the way he would have liked," press secretary Tony Snow said of the election returns.

More than the party-run battle for control of Congress and the statehouses were at stake.

South Dakota voters rejected the toughest abortion law in the land - a measure that would have outlawed the procedure except when needed to save the life of the mother.

In a comeback unlike any other, Sen. Joe Lieberman won a new term in Connecticut - dispatching Democrat Ned Lamont and thus winning when it counted most against the man who had prevailed in a summertime primary. Lieberman, a supporter of Bush's war policy, ran as an independent, but will side with the Democrats when he returns to Washington.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton coasted to a second Democratic term in New York, winning roughly two-thirds of the vote in a warm-up for a possible run for the White House in 2008. Charlie Crist was a rare bright spot for Republicans, winning the Florida governorship now held by the president's brother Jeb. GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger won a new term in California, the nation's most populous state.

But that was cold comfort for the Republicans, who have controlled the White House and both houses of Congress for most of the time since Bush took office and used their majority to pass large tax cuts and back the war in Iraq.

Democrats defeated Republican Sens. Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, Mike DeWine in Ohio, Jim Talent in Missouri and Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island - four lawmakers who covered the spectrum from conservative to moderate.

But they came up short in Tennessee as Republican Bob Corker won a hotly contested race, defeating Rep. Harold Ford. Jr., who had hoped to become the first Southern black senator since Reconstruction.

Burns, seeking a fourth term, trailed Democrat Jon Tester. Allen trailed his Democratic challenger, Jim Webb, by a few thousand votes, with a strong likelihood of a recount.

Indiana was particularly cruel to House Republicans. Reps. John Hostettler, Chris Chocola and Mike Sodrel all lost in a state where Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels' unpopularity compounded the dissatisfaction with Bush.

Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson lost in her bid for a 13th term in Connecticut; Anne Northup fell in Kentucky after 10 years in the House; Rep. Charles Taylor was defeated in North Carolina.

One of the biggest surprises of the night was Republican Rep. Jim Leach's defeat in Iowa after a career that spanned 30 years. He lost to Dave Loebsack, a college professor making his first run for elective office. The two parties spent lavishly on television commercials in dozens of districts deemed competitive - but not that one.

Scandal took an undeniable toll on the Republicans. Democrat Zack Space won the race to succeed Bob Ney, who pleaded guilty to corruption this fall in the Jack Abramoff scandal. Republican Rep. John Sweeney lost his seat in New York several days after reports that he had roughed up his wife - an allegation she denied. Republicans also lost the seat that Rep. Mark Foley had held. He resigned on Sept. 29 after being confronted with sexually explicit computer messages he had written to teenage pages.

Rep. Don Sherwood lost despite apologizing to the voters for a long-term affair with a much younger woman; and Rep. Curt Weldon, also from Pennsylvania, was denied a new term after he became embroiled in a corruption investigation.

The GOP also lost the Texas seat once held by former Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Surveys of voters suggested Democrats were winning the support of independents with almost 60 percent support, and middle-class voters were leaving Republicans behind.

About six in 10 voters said they disapproved of the way Bush is handling his job, that the nation is on the wrong track and that they oppose the war in Iraq. Voters in all groups were more inclined to vote for Democratic candidates than for Republicans.

Over half of the voters registered dissatisfaction with the way Republican leaders in Congress dealt with Foley. They voted overwhelming Democratic in House races, by a margin of 3-to-1.

The surveys also suggested Democrats were winning the support of independents with almost 60 percent support, and middle-class voters were leaving Republicans behind. The surveys were taken by The Associated Press and the networks.

History worked against the GOP, too. Since World War II, the party in control of the White House has lost an average 31 House seats and six Senate seats in the second midterm election of a president's tenure in office.

Santorum became the first Republican senator to fall to the Democrats, losing his seat after two conservative terms to Bob Casey Jr., the state treasurer.

In Ohio, DeWine lost to Rep. Sherrod Brown, a liberal seven-term lawmaker. Chafee, the most liberal Republican in the Senate and an opponent of the war, fell not long afterward to Sheldon Whitehouse, former state attorney general. Claire McCaskill, state auditor, defeated Talent in Missouri.

"It's very hard to watch," lamented Dick Armey, who was House majority leader when the GOP gained power a dozen years ago.

Democrats piled up early gains among the 36 statehouse races on the ballot.

In Ohio, Rep. Ted Strickland defeated Republican Ken Blackwell with ease to become the state's first Democratic governor in 16 years. Deval Patrick triumphed over Republican Kerry Healey in Massachusetts, and will become the state's first black chief executive. Attorney General Eliot Spitzer won the New York governor's race in a landslide.

Voters in Vermont made Rep. Bernie Sanders, an independent, the winner in a Senate race, succeeding retiring Sen. James Jeffords. Brooklyn-born with an accent to match, Sanders is an avowed Socialist who will side with Democrats when he is sworn into office in January.

Democrat Amy Klobuchar, a county prosecutor, won the Minnesota Senate race to replace retiring Sen. Mark Dayton, a fellow Democrat.

In Maryland, Democratic Rep. Ben Cardin captured an open Senate seat, defeating Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.

Several veteran senators coasted to new terms, including Republicans Orrin Hatch in Utah, Richard Lugar in Indiana, Trent Lott in Mississippi and Olympia Snowe in Maine; Kay Bailey Hutchison in Texas, Craig Thomas in Wyoming; Jon Kyl in Arizona and John Ensign in Nevada and Democrats Robert C. Byrd in West Virginia; Edward M. Kennedy in Massachusetts; Tom Carper in Delaware; Debbie Stabenow in Michigan; Herb Kohl in Wisconsin; Jeff Bingaman in New Mexico, Ben Nelson in Nebraska, Kent Conrad in North Dakota; Dianne Feinstein in California; Maria Cantwell in Washington and Daniel Akaka in Hawaii. In Florida, Bill Nelson thumped former secretary of state Katherine Harris to win a second term.

Incumbent governors winning at the polls included Republicans M. Jodi Rell, who ascended to her post in Connecticut when scandal-scarred Gov. John Rowland resigned, Bob Riley in Alabama, Rick Perry in Texas, Sonny Perdue in Georgia, Mark Sanford in South Carolina, Mike Rounds in South Dakota, Linda Lingle in Hawaii, James Douglas in Vermont, Dave Heinemann in Nebraska and Don Carcieri of Rhode Island. Also, Democrats Phil Bredesen in Tennessee, Brad Henry in Oklahoma, Rod Blagojevich in Illinois, Ed Rendell in Pennsylvania, Dave Freudenthal in Wyoming; Jennifer Granholm in Michigan; Janet Napolitano in Arizona, Bill Richardson in New Mexico; Kathleen Sebelius in Kansas, John Lynch in New Hampshire; Ted Kulongoski in Oregon; John Baldacci in Maine and Mike Doyle in Wisconsin.

Republicans Sarah Palin, Jim Gibbons and C.L. "Butch" Otter won open governors' seats in Alaska, Nevada and Idaho. Chet Culver kept the Iowa governor's office in Democratic hands.

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