Democrats retain U.S. House, push for historic gains

Associated Press

Democrats retained control of the House and pushed for historic gains in their majority yesterday by solidifying their dominance in the Northeast and making inroads in the South and West.

"It's the night we have been waiting for," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.

Ousting 22-year veteran Rep. Christopher Shays in Connecticut gave Democrats every House seat from New England. Their victory in an open seat on New York's Staten Island gave them control of all of New York City's delegation in Washington for the first time in 35 years.

Democrats also rode the coattails of a decisive victory by Barack Obama in New Mexico to win one House seat they haven't controlled in four decades and another the GOP had held for 28 years. Both were left up for grabs by GOP retirements.

For the first time in more than 75 years, Democrats were headed for big House gains in back-to-back elections. They picked up 30 seats in 2006.

"This will be a wave upon a wave," Pelosi said.

In the first sign of what promises to be a bitter round of GOP recriminations, Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida, the No. 3 Republican, told colleagues in a letter released near midnight that he was "reluctantly" stepping down from his post.

In the Northeast, GOP Reps. John R. "Randy" Kuhl of New York and Phil English of Pennsylvania were defeated. Democrat Eric Massa unseated Kuhl in New York's southern tier, and Kathy Dahlkemper, a 50-year-old mother of five, toppled English in a swing district of rural communities and old industrial steel towns in Pennsylvania's northwest corner.

In Connecticut, Democrat Jim Himes, a Greenwich businessman, defeated Shays despite the Republican's highly publicized late criticism of McCain's presidential campaign.

In upstate New York, former congressional staffer Dan Maffei won election to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Jim Walsh, becoming first Democrat in nearly 30 years to represent the district around Syracuse. Downstate, Democratic city councilman Mike McMahon won the race on Staten Island to succeed GOP Rep. Vito Fossella, who was forced to resign amid drunk driving charges and revelations that he fathered a child from an extramarital affair.

New Jersey Democratic state Sen. John Adler won election to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Jim Saxton in the state's Pine Barrens region.

In the South, too, Democrats made inroads. High school civics teacher Larry Kissell won election in North Carolina, defeating Republican Rep. Robin Hayes. Democrat Gerald Connolly, a former chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, was elected to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Thomas M. Davis III in a northern Virginia district. And in a far more conservative district further south in Virginia, GOP Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. was in a too-close-to-call race for survival against Democrat Tom Perriello.

In Florida, GOP Rep. Tom Feeney - under fire for ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff - was the first incumbent to fall, losing to former state Rep. Suzanne Kosmas. To the east, Rep. Ric Keller lost to Democratic attorney Alan Grayson, in Orlando.

Democrats also made inroads in the West, where they captured the two New Mexico seats and one left open in Arizona by retiring GOP Rep. Rick Renzi.

The news wasn't all good for Democrats. Republican attorney Tom Rooney defeated first-term Democratic Rep. Tim Mahoney of Florida, who had admitted to two extramarital affairs just weeks before Election Day.

Republican Bill Cassidy dealt a bruising defeat to Democratic Rep. Don Cazayoux in Louisiana. And in Texas, Republican Pete Olson beat Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson.

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