Virginia's Senate seat goes to Democrats and power shifts across the aisle

| 11/9/2006

By mid-day Thursday, Nov. 9, most major news organizations were reporting that the Democrats had taken control of the U.S. Senate as ballot totals from Virginia showed incumbent Republican Sen. George Allen trailing Democratic challenger Jim Webb by 7,000 to 8,000 votes.

Allen conceded the loss at about 3 p.m. Thursday at a press conference. Aides said before the press conference that they did not believe Allen would demand a recount.

The 54-year-old son of a Hall of Fame coach of the Washington Redskins, Allen is a former governor who was once popular with some voters for abolishing parole. Had he been re-elected this week for a second term, some expected him to begin warming up for a 2008 run for the White House, according to Bloomberg News.

Webb is a 60-year-old Naval Academy graduate, novelist and Vietnam War veteran. He served as Navy Secretary for President Reagan. Webb's opposition to the war in Iraq spurred him to switch to the Democratic Party.

With Webb apparently winning the Virginia Senate seat, news organizations and political analysts are saying that the Democrats have a 51 to 49 majority in the U.S. Senate. However, there were actually only 49 Democrats elected Tuesday.

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut won re-election, but he did so as an Independent, not as a Democrat, though he formerly was a Democrat. Senator-elect Bernie Sanders of Vermont ran on the Socialist Party ticket to win his seat in the chamber.

Media and analysts have been automatically including both Lieberman and Sanders on the Democrats side of the aisle, and both said during their campaigns that they would caucus with the Democrats, but only time will tell how they will vote when it comes to party-line issues.

Of the 100 seats in the Senate, 33 were up for election.

The 109th Congress is expected to wrap up its work by year's end, and existing committee assignments and chairmanships will remain unchanged until then. But, with the Democrats now in control in both the House and Senate, powerful committee positions are expected to change when the 110th Congress convenes in 2007.