US Democrats make strong gains in the Senate


New York : Congressional Democrats, capitalizing on an unpopular Republican administration and riding the coattails of their party’s victorious presidential ticket, expanded their majorities in both houses of Congress today, as voters went to the polls in record numbers.

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Democrats picked up five Republican-held Senate seats in today’s elections, knocking off incumbents in North Carolina and New Hampshire and capturing open seats in Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado as they sought to consolidate control of both houses of Congress.

That gave the Democrats at least 54 seats in the 100-seat chamber.

In addition, two independents caucus with the Democrats.

In one of the nation’s most closely watched Senate races, Democrat Kay Hagan, a state senator, defeated Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina after a bitter campaign.

While the pickups, combined with other victories by Democratic incumbents, ensured that the party would expand its control of the Senate, Democrats were still struggling to reach their goal of a 60- vote, filibuster-proof majority.

In Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, narrowly defeated his Democratic challenger.

Former New Hampshire governor Jeanne Shaheen (D) defeated GOP incumbent Sen. John Sununu, and Democratic Rep. Tom Udall won the Senate seat from New Mexico that is being vacated by Sen. Pete Domenici, who is retiring. Udall beat Republican Rep. Steve Pearce.

Shortly after polls closed in Virginia, Democrat Mark R. Warner was declared the winner in his Senate race against Republican James S.

Gilmore III, giving Senate Democrats the first of the crucial seats they sought in their bid to tighten their grip on Congress.

In a contest between former Virginia governors, Warner, 53, cruised to victory, taking the seat being vacated by 81-year-old Republican Sen. John W. Warner (no relation), who is retiring after 30 years in the Senate.

In Colorado, Democratic Rep. Mark Udall came out ahead of former GOP (congressman Bob Schaffer in a contest to succeed Sen. Wayne Allard R), who did not seek reelection.

Incumbents triumphed in a number of other Senate races.

Republicans Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C .(