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US midterms Wednesday, 4 November, 1998, 12:49 GMT
California prize for Democrats
Hilary Clinton and Barbara Boxer
The First Lady on Barbara Boxer's campaign trail


(Click here for interactive map of results)

[an error occurred while processing this directive]Voters in California, the most populous US state, have elected a Democrat governor for the first time in 16 years.

Gray Davis won the most closely-watched governorship race in the country, beating Republican Dan Lungren on labour and women's issues.

Californians also re-elected Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer - considered one of the most endangered incumbents in the country in a closely-fought race against Republican State Treasurer Matt Fong.

Gray Davies
Gray Davies - California's first Democrat governor for 16 years
California, politically important because of its size and wealth, is a key gain for the Democrats.

The position could affect the political balance in Washington when congressional district lines are redrawn after the 2000 census.

The year 2000 plan could determine which party controls the nation's largest congressional delegation.

"This will be the governor who signs off on, or vetoes, the redistricting plan and could well decide who controls the US House of Representatives in the future," said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst at Claremont College's School of Politics and Economics.

Correspondents describe Gray Davis as a politician so bland that he once joked that Vice-President Al Gore was his "charisma adviser".

Two decades ago he was former Democratic Governor Jerry Brown's chief-of-staff, and he made use of this. When rich opponents labelled him a carreer politician, he boasted of "experience money cannot buy".

Voting at the barber's in California
Won by a hair - a poll station at the barber's in California
Of all the races in California, that between Barbara Boxer and Matt Fong appeared closest, with polls constantly changing over who was ahead, then predicting a dead heat the day before the election.

Senator Boxer's campaign focused on abortion, handgun control and other divisive issues.

Mrs Boxer, whose daughter is married to Hillary Clinton's brother, was accused by Matt Fong of liberal extremism, and failing to address political concerns raised by the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

But when it was reported that Matt Fong had contributed $50,000 to a Christian group that lobbied against abortion and gay rights, Mrs Boxer had ammunition to paint him as ultra-conservative.

Joel Kotkin, a senior fellow of the Pepperdine Institute for Public Policy, says that Mr Fong was thwarted by the massive Democrat election budget in the state.

"He didn't have the money for ammunition to buy the television advertising to fight back," Mr Kotkin said. "He could have won."

According to the Pepperdine Institute, the result will shift the Republican axis from California to Texas where George W Bush won re-election.

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04 Nov 98 | US midterms
04 Nov 98 | US midterms
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