- United States Senate elections, 2004
election_name = United States Senate elections, 2004
country = United States
type = legislative
ongoing = no
previous_election = United States Senate elections, 2002
previous_year = 2002
next_election = United States Senate elections, 2006
next_year = 2006
seats_for_election = 34 seats in the
United States Senate
November 2, 2004
party1 = Republican Party (United States)
last_election1 = 51 seats
seats1 = 55 "
seat_change1 = +4
popular_vote1 = 39,920,562
percentage1 = 45.3%
swing1 = -6.0%
party2 = Democratic Party (United States)
last_election2 = 48 seats
seats2 = 44
seat_change2 = -4
popular_vote2 = 44,754,618
percentage2 = 50.8%
swing2 = +6.1%
map_size = 320px
map_caption = legend|#800|Republican holdlegend|#f00|Republican pickupslegend|#008|Democratic holdlegend|#00f|Democratic pickup
title = Majority Leader
before_party = Republican Party (United States)
after_party = Republican Party (United States)
The United States Senate election, 2004 was an election for one-third of the seats in the
United States Senatewhich coincided with the re-election of George W. Bushas president and the United States House election, as well as many state and local elections. Senators who were elected in 1998, known as Senate Class 3, were seeking reelection or retiring in 2004.
Republicans won six seats but lost two themselves, giving them a net gain of four seats: conservative Democrat
Zell Millerof Georgia, who campaigned for President Bush, chose not to run for re-election and Republican Johnny Isaksonwon his seat; Democrat Fritz Hollingsof South Carolinachose not to run for re-election and Republican Jim DeMintsucceeded him; Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee John Edwardsdid not run for re-election and Republican Richard Burrwon that seat; Democrat Bob Grahamchose not to run for re-election, and his seat went to Republican Mel Martinez; Democrat John Breauxchose not to run for re-election and Republican David Vitterwon his seat, and in South Dakota, Republican John Thunedefeated the incumbent Senate minority leader Tom Daschle. Republican Senator Peter Fitzgeraldof Illinoischose not to run for re-election and Democrat Barack Obamawon a landslide, becoming the only black Senator and only the 3rd popularly elected since Reconstruction. Also, Republican Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbellof Coloradochose not to run for re-election and Democrat Ken Salazarwon the open seat.
The Senate, as of the pre-election 108th Congress, was composed of 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and 1 independent. (The independent,
Jim Jeffordsof Vermont, was allied with the Democratic caucus and had voted with Democrats to give them the majority in the past.) The Democrats, therefore, needed to make a net gain of at least two seats from retiring or incumbent Republicans to gain control of the Senate. In the election, incumbent senators won reelection in all races but one (Democratic leader Tom Daschle, in South Dakota, lost to Republican John Thune). The seats of retiring senators were taken by the opposing party in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina. In fact, the only retiring senator whose seat was taken by a member of his party was Republican Don Nicklesof Oklahoma, who was succeeded by Tom Coburn.
Republicans gained four seats in the 2004 elections, and entered the 109th Congress with a 55-44-1 lead. While such a majority is formidable, it is still less than the 60 seats needed to override a filibuster and completely control the body's agenda and procedures.
Third and minor parties
The Libertarian, Constitution, and Green parties contested many of the seats. No candidate from any of these parties received sufficient support to near election, but some may have affected the outcome of the Alaska and Florida races by drawing votes away from the major party candidates. Of the 34 senate seats up for grabs, the Libertarians ran candidates in 20 of the races, the Constitutionalists ran 10 candidates, and the Greens ran 7 candidates.
Minor parties in a number of states contested one or more Senate seats. Examples include the America First Party, the Labor Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, and the Socialist Workers Party. None of these parties gained a seat in this election nor received a significant number of votes.
One Republican seat, that of retiring Senator
Peter Fitzgeraldin Illinois, was easily taken by Democrat Barack Obama. In Colorado, retiring Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell's seat was narrowly taken by Democrat Ken Salazar. In Alaska, Republican Lisa Murkowskiwon reelection in a tight race. In Oklahoma, Tom Coburnkept Don Nickles' seat in Republican hands, while in Kentucky, the ailing Republican Jim Bunningwon a second term by a very narrow margin.
Alaska: Tony Knowles lost by nearly 3% after staying in a statistical dead heat with incumbent Lisa Murkowskiin opinion polling throughout the summer. Despite Alaska being a heavily Republican state, popular opinion had swung against the Murkowski family because of a tax increase passed by Lisa's father, Governor Frank Murkowski. Moreover, many voters disapproved of the manner in which Lisa Murkowski entered the Senate: she was appointed to the seat, previously held by her father, after he had vacated that office following his election as governor. Knowles, who preceded the elder Murkowski as governor, had enlisted extensive out-of-state support for his bid to oust the younger Murkowski.
Colorado: Democratic attorney general Ken Salazarmaintained a small lead in polls over Republican brewing executive Pete Coorsthrough the campaign, and ultimately prevailed. Salazar may have benefitted from an extended (and, by many descriptions, extraordinarily negative) Republican primary campaign between Coors and U.S. Representative Bob Schaffer.
Illinois: Democratic candidate Barack Obama, a widely popular state legislator, ran without serious opposition following the withdrawal of Republican candidate Jack Ryan. After a long search that saw Republicans considering numerous substitutes for Ryan, including former Chicago Bearscoach Mike Ditka, former governors, and state senators, perennial candidate and Marylandnative Alan Keyesaccepted the nomination on August 8. Obama remained a heavy favorite, and won with a margin of more than 40%.
Kentucky: While Kentucky, like Alaska and Oklahoma, was a very conservative state, one-term incumbent Jim Bunning's increasingly erratic behavior brought long-shot Democrat Daniel Mongiardointo a dead heat in October, and the lead fluctuated as returns were reported on Election Night. There is widespread speculation that Bunning is in poor health and may retire before his second term ends, however, Bunning announced he will seek a third term. If he does decide to retire, the Democratic governor, Steve Beshear, to nominate his replacement. If this does happen, Beshear himself would be a candidate for appointment.
Oklahoma: Democratic Congressman Brad Carsonhad a slight lead in opinion polls over Republican Tom Coburnin the contest for retiring Sen. Don Nickles's seat. Although Oklahoma was a very conservative and Republican state, Coburn was weakened by a vicious primary campaign and a history of making provocative statements. Coburn pulled through with high turnout, eventually winning by a 12% margin.
The Democrats' prospects were weakened by the fact that five of their six incumbent Senators in Southern states were retiring (the sixth,
Blanche Lincolnof Arkansas, easily won reelection). Retiring Georgia Sen. Zell Miller's seat, contested by Denise Majette, was lost in a landslide, as was that of South Carolina Sen. Ernest Hollings. In North Carolina, Democrat Erskine Bowleslost John Edwards's seat to Republican Richard Burr. Especially close races, in Florida, Louisiana, and South Dakota, all resulted in turnovers to the Republicans.
Florida: After a heated primary race on both sides following Bob Graham's retirement, the Florida race was considered to be a tossup, with Democrat Betty Castorleading Republican Mel Martinezin statewide polls by a very slight margin. High Republican turnout, indicated by an unexpectedly large victory in Florida for President Bush, brought Martinez to victory.
*Georgia: Zell Miller's seat was contested as fiercely as Graham's into the primary elections on July 20. Rep.
Johnny Isaksonwon the Republican nomination; Rep. Denise Majettedefeated her closest rival, Cliff Oxford, in a runoff for the Democratic nomination on August 10. Isakson, as predicted, won the general election by a comfortable margin.
Louisiana: John Breaux's seat was widely viewed as a tossup, although Louisiana's open primarysystem made it difficult to gauge who had the lead in the race. Only one Republican, Rep. David Vitter, was in the running; he was challenged by three major Democratic candidates, foremost among them Rep. Chris John. Although the Democrats' combined vote totalled 47%, Vitter won the absolute majority needed to avert a runoff election, becoming the first Republican Senator from Louisiana since Reconstruction (133 years).
North Carolina: Richard Burrin North Carolinafaced Democrat Erskine Bowlesfor the seat John Edwardsvacated for his vice-presidential bid. Early polling showed Bowles leading Burr by approximately 50% to 40%, largely due to Bowles' wider name recognition from his 2002 Senate run, but his lead evaporated in the weeks before the election. Burr unleashed a massive ad buy with six weeks until the election criticizing Bowles (a chief of staff to former President Clinton) for supporting NAFTA, which has been blamed for job losses in North Carolina. Burr pulled even in polls by Election Day, and won 52%–47%, which some election watchers attributed to President Bush's high vote total in North Carolina.
South Carolina: Although GOP confidence was supported by early polls showing Republican Rep. Jim DeMintto be several points ahead of Democratic nominee Inez Tenenbaum, the race tightened in late September. A factor in the tightening was DeMint's support of a proposal to replace the income tax with a national sales tax, which Tenenbaum heavily criticized. Nevertheless, DeMint won, 54%-44%.
South Dakota: Tom Daschle, then the Democratic floor leader, was challenged by John Thune. Daschle was a prime target for Republicans in Washington because he was the federal government's highest-ranking Democrat and because he was perceived to be obstructing President Bush's legislative proposals and judicial nominees. Polls showed a very tight race, with the lead fluctuating. The state's tendency toward conservatism in federal elections, as well as the Republicans' drive, made Daschle's race for reelection more difficult than most incumbents'. When Daschle indeed lost by a very narrow margin, he became the first Senate party leader to do so in more than a half century. (Democratic floor leader Ernest McFarlandwas defeated by Republican Barry Goldwaterin the 1952 Senate elections.) The South Dakota race was the most expensive senatorial campaign in the country, with Daschle and Thune together raising more than $33 million.
enate contests in 2004
Bold = Winning Candidateblue|Blue = Democrat pickupred|Red = Republican pickupgrey|Gray = Retiring Senator
United States gubernatorial elections, 2004
United States House elections, 2004
United States presidential election, 2004
United States Senate elections, 2002
United States Senate elections, 2006
* [http://www.opensecrets.org/overview/topraces.asp List of the most expensive senatorial races]
* [http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/senate/full.list/ CNN]
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