This November senators of class 1 will be up reelection. This diary will look at these very same seats which are up for grabs this November but turn the clock back to 24 years earlier. 1988 was not just an election for Class 1 senators but it was also a presidential election, much like 2012. Republicans had their eyes set on taking back the senate which they lost conrol of in 1986. The GOP only needed net 4 seats to tie the body and 5 to win an outright majority of the chamber. George H.W. Bush ended up winning the presidency rather handily against Governor Michael Dukakis. But the senate races were a completely different story. In fact Democrats ended up padding their majority with a net gain of 1 seat. Bush it seemed had very limited coattails when it came to the senate races of 1988.
This diary series will look at all the senate races, which are divided into four regions(East, South, Midwest,and West). We also look at what happened to candidates after the election. I have also added CNN summary videos at the end of each section. (it truly is a shame they don't do congressional election coverage like this anymore)
This diary will look at senate elections in the East and the South.
So without further ado let us continue below the fold.
Bush performed rather well in the East, so much that he is the last Republican presidential candidate to win many of these states.Still Republicans were still force to be reckoned with in the east, as they often ended up easily winning states/seats which are safe Democratic today.There was little competition in 1988, as many of Senators were heavily entrenched. Democrats picked up one seat(CT), but Republicans were able to successfully defend their lone open seat(VT).
New Jersey - Pete Dawkins(R) vs. Sen. Frank Lautenberg(D)
First term incumbent Frank Lautenberg was facing a strong challenge from the popular football player and military veteran Pete Dawkins. The raced hinged on the fact that Dawkins had only recently moved back to the state and turned ugly very fast. In the end Lautenberg coasted to an 8 point victory(54%-46%) even while Bush carried the state easily 56%-42%.
Where they are now: Lautenberg ended up leaving the senate in 2000 only to return again in 2002 winning New Jersey's other senate seat. At age 88, he is currently the oldest serving senator in the senate.
Connecticut - Sen. Lowell Weicker(R) vs. Joseph Lieberman(D) DEM GAIN
Three term Liberal Republican Senator Weicker was facing his strongest challenge yet. His liberal voting record was beginning to hurt his national standing with his own party. Democrats selected Attorney General, Joseph Lieberman as their candidate. Lieberman campaigned as a moderate center-right candidate to win the votes of many disaffected conservatives in the state. In the end Weicker, who had never lost a race in his life before, was narrowly unseated by Lieberman(49.8%-49%) even while Bush won here with (51.98%-46.87%). The race proved to be one of the rare times where a Democrat challenged a Liberal Republican from the right.
Where are they now: Lieberman's center-right views grew too much of liability to the state party. Weicker, staying true to his liberal values, came out to endorse Lieberman's primary opponent, Ned Lamont. Although Lieberman lost his party nomination he went on to win the general as an independent candidate (winning the votes of many disaffected conservatives and Republicans just like in his 1988 race). With Lieberman finally throwing in the towel for this coming election, Connecticut voters finally get their first chance to get a progressive candidate in the senate since Weicker.
Vermont - James Jeffords(R) vs. William Gray(D)
For state that had long stayed true to its Yankee Republican roots, the open seat of retiring liberal Republican senator Robert Stafford proved to be an exciting race. The state had been shifting to Democrats at the national ever since LBJ won the state in 1964 (which was the first time the state ever voted for a Democrat). Pat Leahy had become the first Democrat elected to the senate from the state in 1974. Despite this Republicans still had a good deal of strength in the state. As long as the party nominated a center-left candidate like congressman James Jeffords, they would have the advantage. In the end Jeffords easily defeated his Democratic opponent, William Gray, in a landslide 67.9%-29.8%. Even Bush carried the state narrowly 51-47.
Where are they now: Senator Stafford is best remembered for his staunch environmentalism, his work on higher education, and his support, as an elder statesman, for the 2000 Vermont law legalizing civil unions for gay couples.
Jeffords began to feel out of place in the increasingly conservative Republican party. Feeling that his New England Republican values no longer fit within the Republican caucus, he promptly left the party and became and independent who voted for Democratic control of an evenly divided senate in 2001. He then retired in 2006 and independent Bernie Sanders easily won the seat which he still holds today.
Rhode Island - Sen. John Chafee(R) vs. Richard Licht(D)
Two term liberal Republican John Chafee faced a strong challenger for Democratic Lt. Governor Richard A. Licht. Chafee had amassed much goodwill from the voters with his two previous terms in the senate, and won the election with 54.59% to Licht's 45.41%. Dukakis won the state 55.64%-43.93%
Where are they now: Chafee continued on as senator winning another term before dying in office in 1999. His son, Lincoln Chaffee held his seat till he lost reelection in 2006 to Sheldon Whitehouse, who still holds this seat.
Massachusetts - Sen. Ted Kennedy(D) vs. Joseph Malone(R)
The popular Edward Kennedy faced little opposition in running for a 5th term. The best Republicans could muster was party activist, Joseph Malone. Kennedy easily trounced Malone with a 64.97% to 33.93% margin, over performing Dukakis who only managed a 53.23%-45.38% win in the state.
Where are they now: Kennedy went on to win 3 more elections to the senate before passing way in 2009. Republican State Senator Scott Brown won the special election in an upset and is now facing a very challenging reelection in a decidedly blue state.
Joseph Malone went on to win the office of state treasurer of Massachusetts for two terms (1991-1999)
West Virginia - Sen. Robert Byrd(D) vs. M. Jay Wolfe(R)
After serving 12 long years as Senate Democratic Leader, Robert Byrd had decided step down and go for the more lucrative Pro-temp position in the senate(thanks to the retirement of John Stennis). Byrd remained very popular in his home state and Republicans could do no more than offer a sacrificial lamb to challenge him. As such Byrd won his 6th term over his Republican Jay Wolf in a rout 64.8%-31.0%, making him one of the few majority leaders to voluntary resign from his position but remain in the senate (with his party still remaining in the majority; Trent Lott would follow suit but his decision had more to do with a scandal)
Where are they now: Byrd went on to win an unprecedented 9th term in the senate and achieved the status of the longest serving senator in the history of the senate (1959-2010). Byrd past away in 2010 and was replaced with the popular Democratic governor Joe Manchin, who faces an easy reelection in the red trending West Virginia (thanks to a weak R opponent and strong support and approvals in the state)
Maine - Sen. George Mitchell(D) vs. Jasper "Jack" Wyman(R)
George Mitchell, who had only started his senate career in 1980 after being appointed to the senate with resignation of Edmund Muskie. He raced up the leadership ladder in the senate. By the time he was facing reelection for a second term he had sky high approvals in the state. With majority leader Byrd resigning from his post, Mitchell was more focused on his majority leader race than his senate race. He had every reason not to worry as Republicans nominated the lack luster Jasper Wyman. In the end the election turned out be a coronation (one that former governor and senate candidate Angus King could only dream of) for Mitchell as he utterly crushed his Republican opponent by winning a record setting 81% of the vote for his home state and simultaneously becoming the next majority leader of the senate. At the same time Bush carried the state with no trouble. Thus Mitchell over performed Dukakis by whopping 37 points (numbers that would make even former congressman Gene Taylor blush).
Where are they now: Mitchell went on to serve six years as senate majority leader and then retired from the senate in 1994. He then served as a US special envoy for Northern Ireland (1995-2001) and Middle East Peace (2009-2011). His senate seat was won by moderate Republican Snowe in the red 1994 wave election. While Snowe has remained popular in the state, she has never quite come close winning the state as decisively as Mitchell did in 1988. With Snowe retiring this year, former Independent governor Angus King is all but assured of becoming the next senator of Maine.
Maryland - Sen. Paul Sarbanes(D) vs. Alan Keyes(R)
2-term Democratic Senator Paul Sarbanes faced little competition from Republican Alan Keyes. Despite outgoing President Reagan coming to the state, Keyes was unable to overcome Democratic nature of Maryland. Sarbanes easily dispatched Keyes 61.8% to 38.2%. At the same time Bush narrowly won the state with 51.11%-48.20%
Where are they now: Sarbanes went on to win 2 terms in the senate before retiring in 2006. He was replaced with Benjamin Cardin who is currently running for reelection and should be a shoo-in for another term. Sarbanes son, John Sarbanes, ended up wining the open congressional seat that Cardin vacated and still holds this seat today.
Alan Keyes decided to run again for the senate in Maryland in 1992. This time he fared even worse only mustering 29% of the vote against Democratic incumbent Barbara Mikulski. He then unsuccessfully ran for president in 1996 and 2000. He also served as a last minute Republican place holder for the Illinois Senate race in 2004 and set the bar even lower for defeat, garnering only 27% against Barack Obama. Keyes ran such a dismal campaign that Obama was able to spend his funds and campaign time trying to help other democratic candidates win elections. In 2008 Keyes left the party to run as the American independent candidate for President.
Pennsylvania - Sen. John Heinz(R) vs Joseph C. Vignola(D)
The popular moderate Republican senator John Heinz was running for his 3rd term. Democrats nominated Joseph Vignola, the Philadelphia City Controller. Vignola remained the underdog the race as he faced a well-liked incumbent with strong approvals. Republicans had fared well in the senate races for the past 2 decades, in fact the last Democrat to win an election to senate was back in 1962. Heinz won reelection in cakewalk taking 66.4% of the vote to Vignola's 32.4%. Bush narrowly won the state with 50.7-48.3
Where are they now: Heinz went on to spend his senate career in deep conflict with the Bush Administraion.
Heinz maintained that the US economic health and competitiveness was in a state of rapid decline and that the Bush administration, in contrast to the Reagan administration, both denied the problem and continued to execute policies that were not just neutral to the problem but rather accelerated the decline.He was subsequently killed when a Bell 412 helicopter collided with the Senator's Piper Aerostar plane in 1991. Democrat Harris Wofford was appointed to the seat and won the special election, that followed, in an upset over former Republican Governor Dick Thornburgh. His victory was short lived when he in turn was defeated by Rick Santorum in 1994. Democratic State Treasurer Bob Casey went on to defeat Santorum and is currently on a safe path to reelection this fall.
Joe Vignola went on to serve in the Philadelphia city council and also served in a variety of appointed positions during Governor Rendell's gubernatorial tenure.
Delaware - Sen. William Roth(R) vs. S.B. Wu(D)
Incumbent Republican Senator Roth faced easy reelection to a 4th term. His opponent was Democratic Lt. Governor Shien Biau Woo, one of the highest ranking Asian Americans in public office for the state of Delaware. Woo faced a tough Democratic Primary in which he won by 71 votes! "In fact, the election appeared to be lost until an error in the tabulation was discovered, which changed the result" Roth had the advantage of his many years of public office (At-large congressman: 1967-1971 and the senate afterwards). Using his incumbency advantage and lack of a primary challenge, Roth easily won his election garnering 62.06% to Woo's 37.94%. Bush easily carried Delaware with 55.88% of the vote.
Where are they now: Roth went on to win one more term before he was defeated by Thomas Carper in 2000. Carper remains in the senate with high approvals and with an easy reelection ahead for him.
Woo ended up being the unsuccessful Democratic candidate to hold Carper's open house seat in 1992, losing to Governor Mike Castle. In 2000 Woo changed his affiliation to independent "advance public perception of his neutrality without any personal partisan benefit"
New York - Daniel Patrick Moynihan(D) vs. Robert R. McMillan (R)
The Popular 2-term Senator Danie Patrick Moynihan faced meager opposition. Republicans nominated the little known Robert McMilian to face Moynihan. The end result had Dukakis carrying the state (51.62% - 47.42%) and Moynihan waltzing to 3rd term with ease by winning 67.3% -47.52%.
Where are they now: Moynihan ended up serving in the senate till 2000 and passed away in 2003. Hillary Clinton won his seat and served till her appointment as secretary of state in 2009. Kirsten Gillibrand now holds this seat and faces little opposition from Republicans in the fall.
Robert R. McMillan was named by President George H.W. Bush to the Board of the Panama Canal Commission. In 1993, Mr. McMillan was elected Chairman of the Commission's Board of Directors. Mr. McMillan co-hosted a PBS TV show, Face-Off, for over fourteen years. In addition he has provided commentary on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox.
Democrats were on the defense in the south. The once safe Democratic stronghold known as "the solid south" was rapidly deteriorating as Republicans continued to make inroads into state politics. Bush would easily carry all of these states and his party would win two open senate seats(MS & FL). Despite this Democrats still managed to hold their own in many of their races and even picked up one open seat in a landslide(VA).
Mississippi - Trent Lott(R) vs. Wayne Dowdy(D) REP PICKUP
Long time incumbent and Democratic Senate President Pro Tempore, John Stennis, had decided to retire after serving 41 years in the senate. Two Congressman from the state vied for the open seat.Firstly there was Trent Lott, conservative Republican who came to power with the help of Nixon's 1972 landslide and the endorsement of his predecessor/former boss, the very conservative Democrat William Colmer. Lott had the advantage of running in the red trending Mississippi which was expected to be easily carried by Bush .Now for the Democrats they nominated Wayne Dowdy. In 1981:
[...] the Democrats were cheered on by a minor miracle - a Democrat beat a Reagan Republican in an off term congressional election in a GOP district in MississippiThat Democrat was none other than Wayne Dowdy. He won his special election after the conservative Republican, Jon Hinson, resigned after he was "charged with attempted sodomy for performing oral sex on an African-American male employee of the Library of Congress in a restroom of the House of Representatives." Despite the conservative nature of the district and Dowdy's own progressive views, Dowdy continued to win election after election. His campaign mentality for the senate race was just they same. He believed he could pull off another upset by winning/running up the vote margins in the once Democratic rural areas in the state. In the end this was a bridge too far for Dowdy who lost the race with a respectable 45.9% to Lott;s 54.1%. Lott was helped by the fact that Bush won the state by a massive 20 points (59.89%-39.07%) Dowdy's vote percentage would go down has best showing a Democrat has achieved in recent history for senate race in Mississippi. (Ronnie Musgrove came close in 2008 garnering 45%)
Where are they now: Lott went onto to become Majority leader of the senate (1996-2001) till he stepped down after making an off color comment at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday. He ran and won a 4th term in the senate but abruptly resigned from the senate in 2007. He was replaced with Republican congressman Roger Wicker. Though resignation had the unintended effect of creating vacant house seat which was won by Democrat Travis Childers in a 2008 special election upset. Oddly enough Lott had also created a similar scenario when he first won his senate seat in 1988. His seat fell into Democratic hands in a 1989 special election upset with Gene Taylor holding Lott's seat till the 2010 midterms.
Dowdy went on to unsuccessfully challenge Democratic Governor Ray Mabus in 1991. His efforts may have weakened the incumbent Mabus who was narrowly defeated by Republican Kirk Fordice. Dowdy is currently the chair of the Mississippi Democratic Party with his trademark slogan "It's a great time to be a Democrat"
Florida - Connie Mack(R) vs. Buddy MacKay(D) REP PICKUP
Incumbent 3-term Democratic Senator, Lawton Chiles, shocked his party when announced his retirement. Two congressman stepped up to the plate. Republicans picked Connie Mack the third who cruised through his Republican primary with 61% of the vote. Democratic Congressman Buddy MacKay on the other hand, faced a crowded field and had to go through a bruising runoff election to secure his nomination. The race remained a barn burner till the end. Both parties heavily target the race. MacKay ran adds calling Mack an extremist while Mack ran adds linking the moderate MacKay to Dukakis. In the end, Bush's landslide win in the state (60.87%-38.51%) carried Mack to a narrow win (50.42%-49.57%). Mack led MacKay by 34,518 votes out 4,068,209 votes total.The election was so close there was a recount until MacKay conceded eight days after election day.
Where are they now: Mack won a second term to the senate and retired in 2000. Democrat Bill Nelson went on to narrowly win the seat and won second term easily in 2006. Nelson is currently facing a strong challenge from Connie Mack's son, a congressman in the state.
MacKay ended up successfully running for Lt Gov on a ticket with Lawton Chiles in 1990. After two terms as Lt. Governor MacKay ran for governor in 1998 but lost to Republican Jeb Bush. Governor Chiles suddenly passed away and MacKay assumed the governorship for the lame duck period. MacKay is the last Democrat to hold the title of Governor in the state.
Virginia - Chuck Robb(D) vs. Maurice Dawkins(R) DEM PICKUP
Freshman incumbent Republican Paul S Trible decided not to run for reelection. Popular Democratic Governor Chuck Robb quickly got into the race and scared off any serious Republican opposition. Republicans were left with Reverend Maurice Dawkins, the first African American nominated by Republicans for a statewide race in Virginia. Robb easily trounced Dawkins 71.2%-28.8% even as Bush carried the state with a commanding 59.74%-39.23% lead.
Where are they now: Trible's retirement did not last to long as he returned back into the political world to run in the 1991 governor's race. But his 2 year political hiatus had taken its toll and he lost the Republican primary to State attorney general, Marshall Coleman. Democratic Lt. Governor Douglas Wilder went on to defeat Coleman in the general election.
Chuck Robb went on to win a 2nd term in a stunning upset (thanks in part to a divided Republican field) by narrowly defeating Oliver North in 1994. Robb was then defeated by George Allen in 2000, he was the only incumbent Democratic senator to lose in that election. Allen was subsequently defeated by Jim Webb in 2006 thanks in part to his Macaca comment. Webb decided to retire and has set the stage for competitive race between former Democratic governor Tim Kaine and former Republican governor/senator George Allen.
Tennessee - Sen. Jim Sasser(D) vs. Bill Andersen(R)
Incumbent 2-Term Democratic Senator Sasser had so decisively won his previous election that he had scared of any serious opponents in 1988. Instead Republicans nominated a virtual political unknown named Bill Andersen. Andersen had little campaign funds struggled to increase his name recognition in the state. In the end Sasser easily marched to a 3rd term winning 65.1%-34.5% while Bush simultaneously won the state 57.89% to 41.55%
Where are they now: Sasser began to climb up the leadership ladder in the senate and wanted to follow in the footsteps of George Mitchell. But Sasser had made a fatal error, having easily won his two past election with ease took his 1994 reelection for granted. Instead Sasser devoted more of his time toward becoming the next majority leader.
There were two unforeseen events that negated [Sasser's chances as the Democratic Leader in the senate]. One was the large scale of discontent that the American people seemed to have toward the first two years of the Clinton administration, especially the proposal for a national health-care system largely put together and advocated by Clinton's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The other was the somewhat unexpected nomination of Nashville heart transplant surgeon Bill Frist for the seat by the Republicans.In the end Sasser lost his senate seat by 14 points in a massive upset. Sasser went on to serve as ambassador to China (1996-1999) and now works as a DC Consultant. Frist went on to sever as Majority leader(2003-2007) before retiring. Republican Bob Corker currently holds the seat and seems to safe in the deep red state of Tennessee.
Texas - Sen. Lloyd Bentsen(D) vs. Beau Boulter(R)
The ever popular moderate 3-term Democratic senator and Vice Presidential candidate, Lloyd Bentsen, had the pleasure of using the "Johnson Law" to run simultaneously for his senate seat and the vice presidency. Originally vilified by liberals for his successful conservative primary challenge to the liberal senator Ralph Yarborough in 1970, Bentsen had rebuilt strong support among progressives (with his civil rights and pro choice stances) in the face of the growing strength of the Texas Republican Party. In his previous election Bentsen had won in a landslide which helped in electing "the most liberal slate of statewide officials in living memory by leading a unified Democratic campaign and tapping his substantial campaign funds for a sophisticated get-out-the-vote effort."
Republicans offered congressman Beau Boulter to challenge Bentsen. A member of the "Texas Six Pack" (a group of six freshmen Republican congressmen from Texas who were elected during the 1984 Ronald Reagan landslide victory), Boulter abandoned his safe seat for risky election. Many of his own supporters were upset at the decision as Bensten seemed near invincible in the state. Boulter had a tough time winning his state party nomination and was forced into a runoff. In the end Bentsen won with 60% of the vote (with the highest raw vote numerically ever obtained by a statewide Democratic candidate in Texas history) to Boulter's 40%. Bush also easily carried the state winning 55.95% to 43.35%. To add even further insult to injury Boulter's old house seat reverted back to Democratic control with Democrat Bill Sarpalius winning the seat.
Where are they now: Boulter attempted to make a political comeback running for his old house seat in 1992 but was defeated by Sarpalius 60%-40%.
Bentsen served in the senate till President Clinton selected him as the secretary of the treasury (1993-1994). Democrats subsequently lost the special election to hold Bensten's seat to Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison(who is retiring this year). Bentsen passed away in 2006, the same year as Texas governor Anne Richards.
Next time we will look at the senate races in the Midwest and West.