By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
WEDNESDAY, 1:30 a.m.-Political observers were shocked early this morning as Republicans regained control of the U.S. Senate and swept through the state of Texas Tuesday.
Locally, Rep. Charles Stenholm (D) seemed to have defeated Republican challenger Rob Beckham, who had not yet conceded defeat by press time.
“At this point I am not going to concede,” Beckham told the Optimist at about 12:50 a.m. “There are about 20,000 votes out.”
Across Texas, the GOP swept into power, taking every statewide race, including the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller. Republican John Cornyn also won his race for U.S. Senate.
In the Senate, Republicans kept close seats in New Hampshire and Colorado while taking away Democratic seats in Missouri and Georgia. Democrats only managed to take Arkansas from the GOP. Democratic seats in Minnesota and South Dakota remained uncertain.
At press time, the GOP held 50 seats and Democrats held 46 seats with one independent and a Louisiana seat headed for a runoff. The 50 seats guarantee a Republican majority thanks to Vice President Dick Cheney’s tie-breaking vote.
In the U.S. House, the GOP gained seats from the Democrats. That’s the first time since 1934 that the sitting president’s party picked up seats in the House during his first midterm election.
Gov. Rick Perry easily defeated Tony Sanchez to win his first full gubernatorial term, while Cornyn also cruised to victory over former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk.
Both races were expected to be close and watched closely, but they were drowned out as the GOP began its unexpected run to retake the Senate.
Around the university, voter turnout was about average for an off-year election, officials said.
“It’s a little bit lighter,” said Neil Tatum, election judge for the 403rd precinct, which voted at University Church of Christ. “But that might be because early voting was heavier. Off-year elections are always lighter.”
Tatum said “several” university students voted, but that “we’d sure like to see more.”
Many of those who did vote said they voted a straight ticket.
“I voted pretty much everything Republican,” said Emily Tate, junior marketing and management major from Crowley. “The parties really control the candidates.”
Stenholm was widely expected to win a 13th term as representative from Texas’ 17th District, but Beckham came close enough to delay any pronouncement until after midnight.
“When you have a race as close as this one was-and consider the landslide that the Republicans had-and for us to squeak through again….,” Stenholm said. “It was an up-hill battle with a short stick, but apparently we might have squeaked one through again.”
The Texas races were made more interesting by voting malfunctions in Bexar County and in Fort Worth’s Tarrant County, where results were not expected to be announced until this morning.
Kyle Peveto, Steve Holt and Melanie J. Knox contributed to this report.