Ashcroft concedes as GOP clings to Senate lead
November 8, 2000
Web posted at: 5:50 p.m. EST (2250 GMT)
ST. LOUIS, Missouri (CNN) -- Missouri Republican Sen. John Ashcroft
conceded defeat Wednesday afternoon in his elect***battle with the
late Gov. Mel Carnahan, in one of the most closely watched races in
Despite Ashcroft's loss in Missouri's Senate race, which was thrown
into turmoil when Carnahan died in a plane crash October 16,
Republicans held onto a one-seat majority in the upper house of
Congress -- but one unresolved race could leave the body evenly split
between Democrats and Republicans.
Tuesday's elections saw Democrats pick up three seats in the Senate.
Four GOP incumbents, including Ashcroft, and one Democrat lost
re-election battles. Tuesday's race also saw first lady Hillary Rodham
Clinton win a Senate seat from New York, making her the only first
lady to win office in her own right.
The only undecided Senate matchup is in Washington state, where
Republican Slade Gorton is locked in a race with Maria Cantwell, a
former Democratic congresswoman. Hundreds of thousands of absentee
ballots in Washington were yet to be counted as Gorton and Cantwell
remained virtually tied. Gorton held a lead of fewer than 4,000 votes
out of 1.7 million cast, and state officials said it could be days or
weeks before the outcome is clear.
Carnahan's death came too late under Missouri law to remove his name
from the ballot. His successor, also a Democrat, had said he would
appoint Carnahan's widow Jean to the seat if the late governor won the
"We remain heirs of a legacy, heirs of a dream," Jean Carnahan, 66,
said, comparing her husband's unfinished work to that of Abraham
Lincoln, Martin Luther King and Susan B. Anthony -- the suffragette
who never got to vote.
It was the first time anyone has won a Senate seat posthumously,
although voters on at least three occasions elected deceased
candidates to the House. Republicans have weighed whether they will go
to court to challenge the Missouri outcome, but Ashcroft said
Wednesday he would not.
Carnahan and Ashcroft were longtime rivals in Missouri politics and
had been locked in a neck-and-neck race. But with Carnahan's death,
Ashcroft was unable to campaign against a candidate, as a wave of
sympathy for the popular two-term governor gave him a posthumous lead
in the polls.
"Missouri is a compassionate state. And I think that in a very special
way, they have demonstrated the compassion which they have," Ashcroft
said. "And I hope that the outcome of this election is a matter of
comfort to Mrs. Carnahan. And I hope that we can all accord her the
opportunity to have the kind of necessary recovery time after such a
great personal loss."
Ashcroft, a former Missouri governor himself, was serving his first
term in the Senate. He said he would return to Washington Wednesday
and remain there through the conclusion of his term.