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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 09:16 GMT
Q&A: US mid-term elections
BBC Americans have voted in the mid-term elections. BBC News Online world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds explains what they were about.

Why hold the elections?

They were called mid-terms because they come half-way through the four-year term served by a president, though the elections were in fact for Congress - the two houses of the US legislature. This time, there were also races for 36 of the 50 state governorships as well.

In Congress, all 435 members of the House of Representatives faced the voters, as they do every two years.

But only one third of the 100 members of the Senate are up for election at any one time. That translated into 34 seats this year - 20 Republicans and 14 Democrats.

Why not elect everybody at the same time?

The American system was designed to be overlapping both in terms of the powers of the different bodies and in terms of when people are elected to them.

The House of Representatives is the larger of the two Houses of Congress. It was set up as a popular body with the number of members tied to the size of the population. The idea was for it to directly and quickly reflect the public mood, which is why the members face election every two years.

The Senate was planned as a more reflective body and each state has two senators regardless of its size. Senators serve for six years. Every two years, one third of them face re-election.

Who controls what following the elections?

President George Bush's relentless campaigning for candidates around the country has paid off - the Republicans have control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Ahead of the elections, the Democrats had a single majority in the 100-seat Senate. But, early on Wednesday, the Republicans captured their 50th Senate seat in Missouri. Because Vice President Dick Cheney is able to cast any tie-breaking vote, the Republicans now have effective control of the chamber.

Also ahead of the elections, the Republicans had a slim majority in the House of Representatives.

They controlled the House with 223 seats to the Democrats' 208. But this lead now looks likely to increase.

What were the key contests?

Among the tight contests were:

  • New Jersey - the sudden departure of Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli under a cloud of corruption allegations put this normally strong Democratic state into the balance. But Mr Torricelli's replacement Democrat Frank Lautenberg managed to win the Senate seat.
  • Arkansas - Arkansas Attorney General Mark Pryor defeated incumbent Senator Tim Hutchinson, who had been criticised for a messy divorce.
  • Georgia - Republican Saxby Chambliss upset incumbent Max Cleland, a disabled Vietnam War veteran whom he attacked on national security in a bitter campaign.
  • Missouri - Democrat Senator Jean Carnahan faced her first election, having been appointed to the seat after the death of her husband. But she conceded defeat to Republican challenger Jim Talent.
  • New Hampshire - Republicans have squabbled among themselves, but John Sununu managed to retain the seat for the party.
  • Texas - Ron Kirk, a former mayor of Dallas, becomes the first black senator from the state. He opposed State Attorney General John Cornyn, who is also a friend of George Bush.
  • North Carolina - Republican Elizabeth Dole, a two-time Cabinet member and wife of former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, won a key victory against Democrat Erskine Bowles, former White Senator Jesse Helms, who has retired

    Among the governorship races, George Bush's brother Jeb was re-elected in Florida, as was Democrat Gray Davis in California. Another Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, lost her bid to become governor of Maryland.

    Who did not run?

    A couple of old-time senators from the south, Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, called it a day.

    Hillary Rodham Clinton was not up for re-election in New York. Jesse Ventura was not running as Governor of Minnesota again and nor was young mother Jane Swift in Massachusetts.

    Gary Condit was not a House candidate in California thanks to the scandal of his relationship with the murdered Washington intern Chandra Levy.


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