Elections for the United States Senate were held on November 72006, with 33 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate being contested. Senators are elected for six-year terms, with one third of the Senate seats up for a vote every two years. The term of office for those elected in 2006 runs from January 32007 until January 32013. Senators who were elected in 2000 (known as Class 1) were seeking reelection or retiring in 2006.
The Senate election was part of the Democratic sweep of the 2006 elections, in which no Congressional or gubernatorial seat held by a Democrat was won by a Republican. Democratic candidates defeated six Republican incumbents: Rick Santorum (Penn.), Mike DeWine (Ohio), Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), Jim Talent (Mo.), Conrad Burns (Mont.), and George Allen (Va.). Incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman (Conn.) lost an August Democratic primary challenge but won re-election as an independent. Democrats kept their two open seats in Minnesota and Maryland, and Republicans held onto their lone open seat in Tennessee. In Vermont, Bernie Sanders, an independent, was elected to the seat left open by independent Senator Jim Jeffords.
In the 2006 election, two new female Senators (Claire McCaskill and Amy Klobuchar) were elected to seats previously held by men. This brought the total number of female senators to an all-time high of 16.
The party balance for the Senate now stands at 51-49 in favor of the Democrats (including independent Bernie Sanders and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman, who caucus with the Democrats). The Democrats needed 51 seats to control the Senate because the Vice President of the United States, Republican Dick Cheney, would have broken a 50-50 tie in favor of the Republicans.
Senator Jim Talent of Missouri, who was narrowly elected in a 2002 special election for the remaining four years of one term, faced a strong Democratic challenge for his seat. Missouri did not hold an election for governor in 2006, making this the only major statewide race in a traditional battleground state. Talent faced state Auditor Claire McCaskill, a former Jackson County Prosecutor and the 2004 Democratic gubernatorial nominee.
McCaskill carried some political baggage from her 2004 loss; however, Talent was elected to the Senate after a near-successful gubernatorial bid, the same position McCaskill was in for the 2006 election. McCaskill went out of her way to appeal to rural voters, who had largely favored her opponent in the gubernatorial race. She also benefited from talking up her support of embryonic stem cell research, which a slight majority of Missourians supported but which Talent opposed. A related constitutional amendment was also on the ballot and narrowly passed.
The race was among the most competitive in the nation. McCaskill and Talent exchanged small leads in various polls throughout the campaign. In the end, McCaskill defeated Talent 50%-47%.
Senator Conrad Burns of Montana faced a strong challenge from current Governor Brian Schweitzer in 2000, being re-elected by a mere 3% in a state that went for Bush twice by margins of over 20%. This, combined with the increasing strength of the state Democratic party and accusations of ethical issues related to the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, made this a highly competitive race. Burns faced Democratic primary winner and state Senate President Jon Tester, an organic farmer from Big Sandy.
Burns has long had a history of verbal missteps, and 2006 was no exception. On July 27, he was forced to apologize after he verbally attacked out-of-state firefighters who were preparing to leave Montana after helping contain a summer forest fire and directly questioned their competence and skill; Burns was strongly criticized.
For much of the campaign, Tester led by substantial margins. Burns narrowed the gap by attacking Tester as a liberal extremist. November 2nd, Mason-Dixon polled Tester and Burns tied at 47% with 5% undecided. On November 4th, Rasmussen Reports had Tester leading 50% to 48%.
Shortly before noon Mountain time November 8th, Tester was declared the victor by a slim margin, 198,032 votes to 194,904. The race was the closest Senate election of 2006 in terms of absolute vote difference; the closest race by percentage difference was the Virginia senate election.
Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio had uninspiring approval ratings and the current Coingate scandal involving the Ohio Republican Party and the widespread unpopularity of Governor Bob Taft were thought to be hurting his re-election chances months before the election. He faced primary challenges from several more conservative Republicans, such as William G. Pierce, who were unhappy with his relatively centrist stances including his role as one of the Gang of 14 who intervened to stop a showdown over judicial nominations.
Lawyer and Iraq War veteran Paul Hackett, who narrowly lost to Jean Schmidt in the 2nd congressional district on August 2 2005, said in October 2005 he would seek the Democratic nomination to challenge DeWine. Rep. Sherrod Brown announced his candidacy in October 2005. Hackett withdrew from the race on February 14 2006. Both DeWine and Brown won their primaries easily. An October 12th Rasmussen Reports poll had Brown leading DeWine 46% to 41%. An October 30th Reuters/Zogby poll had Brown leading DeWine 49% to 42%. A Rasmussen poll released November 4th showed Brown pulling away from Dewine with a 53% to 41% lead.
Brown comfortably won the election, garnering 56% of the vote to DeWine's 44%.
Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, then the third-highest ranking member of the Republican caucus, was the Democrats' top target in 2006. He was a very conservative member of the Senate in a state that last voted for a Republican presidential nominee in 1988.
In his last election in the year 2000, Santorum received 7,706 more votes than Al Gore, the Democratic candidate for President, who won Pennsylvania by 4.5 percent. That year, Santorum ran against U.S. Rep. Ron Klink, a pro-life Democrat who wasn't supported by party contributors and was heavily outspent. Democrats thus saw Santorum's seat as extremely vulnerable and made it a priority for a pick-up in 2006. Popular pro-life State Treasurer Bob Casey, Jr. was the Democratic nominee and was fully supported by the party establishment.
Santorum did not benefit from his recent controversial book, It Takes a Family, in which he criticized public schools and questioned whether or not both parents in a family should work, alleging that women who work are making a selfish decision and only do so because they find it "empowering". These stances were seized on by the Casey campaign as proof that Santorum was too conservative for Pennsylvania voters. Santorum also suffered from controversy concerning both his residency and a charter school his children were enrolled in.
Every public poll taken during the campaign showed Casey ahead. Most polling done after Labor Day showed Casey with a double-digit lead. On election night, Casey defeated Santorum 59%-41%. Polls conducted in the final closing days of the campaign showed Casey leading 52%-39% and 48%-40%, meaning that the Democrat had performed much better than what the polls showed. This was the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent Senator since George McGovern's loss to James Abdnor in 1980.
The Republican primary was contentious. Laffey ran as a conservative, but he came under fire from other conservatives for supporting tax increases as Mayor and increasing spending. It was widely believed that the more liberal Chafee would have an easier time winning in the general election due to his appeal to independents. Laffey received support from the conservative Club for Growth. Although he was the most liberal Republican in the Senate and was repeatedly accused of being a RINO by members of his own party, the NRSC spent a large amount of money backing Chafee, and, in an unprecedented move, announced that they would abandon the race if Laffey won. Chafee prevailed in the September 12 primary 54%-46%, and Laffey endorsed him for re-election. Chafee, however, may have been damaged by the contentious primary that potentially alienated Republican voters.
Chafee faced a complicated situation due to his political beliefs. He was unpopular with conservative Republicans whose votes he would need in order to win the primary, yet represented a heavily Democratic constituency that overwhelmingly disapproved of George W. Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress. As a liberal Democrat running in a liberal, Democratic stronghold, Whitehouse did not face these problems. The Whitehouse campaign sought to characterize the election as a referendum on Bush and the Republican Congress; critics argued that Whitehouse was simply casting himself as a proxy vote for a Democratic majority in the Senate.
Polls showed a close race, with Whitehouse holding a narrow lead going into the election. In the end, however, voters seemed to place more emphasis on party control than their personal affection for Chafee. Whitehouse prevailed over Chafee on election night winning by a vote of 53%-47%.
Among the most bitter Senate contests of the year, Allen's approval rating had dropped in statewide polls due in part to a series of embarrassing incidents during the campaign. In mid-August at a campaign stop in southwest Virginia, Allen called S.R. Sidarth, a Webb volunteer of Indian descent, "macaca" and welcomed him to America, although he was born in Virginia. Controversy surrounding Allen continued into September following his reaction to questions about his Jewish heritage. Additional reports surfaced in late September that Allen uttered the N-word on a frequent basis while a student at the University of Virginia, according to former college football teammates. Allen fired back by pointing out remarks that Webb made during the 1980s that were demeaning to female veterans. He struck again when he released excerpts of graphic sexual scenes from some of the books Webb had penned, portraying the writing as misogynistic and pornography. Webb responded that these were based on events that he personally witnessed while in the military and while working as a journalist.
As controversy and allegations on both sides increased, the gap between the candidates tightened significantly. On October 30, Reuters/Zogby had Webb leading Allen 45% to 44%. A November 2 Rasmussen Reports poll had Allen and Webb tied at 49%. A November 3 Mason-Dixon poll had Webb leading 46% to 45% with 7% undecided.
As polls closed on November 7, 2006, the margin of votes between Webb and Allen was approximately 7,000 votes, or less than 0.5% of all votes cast, a margin eligible to trigger a recount per Virginia election law. On the evening of November 8, 2006, NBC and the Associated Press declared Webb the winner. Following recanvassing, the Virginia Board of Elections declared Webb the winner by 9,162 votes, a margin of 0.38%.
On the afternoon of November 9, 2006, Allen gave a speech conceding the election to Webb, stating "The people of Virginia have spoken and I respect their decision. The Bible teaches us there is a time and place for everything, and today I called and congratulated Jim Webb."
Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut was originally thought to be a shoo-in, but his reelection prospects were complicated by political cross-currents. Lieberman drew fire from the more anti-war elements within the Democratic party for his continual support for the foreign policy of President George W. Bush and for statements in which he has criticized other Democrats for "undermining the President" during a time of war. Greenwich telecom-networking businessman Ned Lamont declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in March, and while the Democratic state convention in May overwhelmingly endorsed Lieberman, Lamont's 33.4% support was more than twice the 15% needed to force a primary.
Lamont defeated Lieberman for the Democratic nomination in the August 8 primary 52%-48%. Lieberman decided to remain in the race as a "petitioning candidate, having announced on July 32006 that he would begin collecting the necessary signatures to run as an independent in case he lost the primary. He also filed to create a new independent party, "Connecticut for Lieberman."
Challenging Lamont and Lieberman in the general election was Republican Alan Schlesinger, former mayor of Derby and a former state representative. Schlesinger had a history of winning crossover Democratic voters, but he had never run in a large constituency. Schlesinger was embarrassed when it was revealed that he was thrown out of a casino for counting cards under an assumed name.
Lieberman went on to win the election with 50% of the vote to Lamont's 40%. Schlesinger trailed far behind with only 10%, in part due to Lieberman receiving support from only 33% of Democrats but a commanding 70% of Republicans. While Lieberman won as the CFL nominee, he decided to serve as an Independent Democrat in the current Congress and continue to caucus with Senate Democrats.
Senator Paul Sarbanes announced on March 112005 that he would retire rather than run for re-election in 2006. Sarbanes' seat had been considered safe, considering Maryland's Democratic voting tendencies and the overall pro-Democratic undercurrents of the 2006 elections. Representative Ben Cardin bested former Representative and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume and others in the Democratic primary. Lieutenant Governor Michael S. Steele, a Republican, announced his candidacy on October 252005, and won the Republican nomination over token opposition. Democrats had a natural advantage in Maryland, with its large number of African-American voters and government workers, but Steele's personal popularity and potential appeal with fellow blacks kept the race somewhat competitive. On November 7, Cardin was victorious over Steele by a vote of 54%-44%.
Republican Representative Mark Kennedy secured major GOP endorsements in early 2005 and defeated nominal opposition in the primary. Kennedy benefited from high-profile Republicans coming to do fundraisers for him, including Vice President Dick Cheney in July 2005 and President George W. Bush in December 2005. An October 30th Mason-Dixon poll had Klobuchar leading Kennedy 50% to 40%. On November 7, 2006 Amy Klobuchar won the race with 58% of the vote to Mark Kennedy's 38%.
Menendez had an approval rating of 38%, which was thought to be a sign of vulnerability for the incumbent, especially since his disapproval was at 50%. Although incumbents approval ratings below 50% are generally considered vulnerable, this standard perhaps did not apply to Menendez as he had just been appointed at the start of 2006 and was not well known statewide, a far different situation from most incumbents. President George W. Bush was highly unpopular in the state, but Governor Corzine's early performance in office met with widespread disapproval, contributing to the large number of undecided voters. The campaign became increasingly aggressive, with Menendez calling Kean a Bush lackey while Kean repeatedly attacked Menendez as corrupt.
An October 16th Zogby poll had Kean leading Menendez 47% to 45%. An October 23rd LA Times/Bloomberg poll had Menendez leading Kean 45% to 41%. A Rasmussen Reports poll from October 25th had Kean leading Menendez 43% to 41%. A November 2nd poll by Zogby/Reuters showed a 49% to 37% Menendez lead. Another November 2nd poll by Rutgers showed Menendez up 46% to 42% and a third by Public Mind showed a 48% to 38% Menendez edge. A November 3rd poll by [Rasmussen] showed a 48% to 43% Menendez lead. A Monmouth University November 3rd had Menendez leading Kean 45% to 42% with 10% undecided.
On election night Menendez defeated Kean Jr. by a vote of 53% to 45%.
Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont left the Republican Party to become an independent soon after being reelected as a Republican in the 2000 election. On April 20, 2005, he declared he would not seek another term. The national Democratic Party put independent and democratic socialist Representative Bernie Sanders on their party's ballot in order to keep other Democrats from having a possible "spoiler" effect on the general election results. Sanders won both the Democratic line and an independent line on the ballot.
Although Tennessee's electoral votes went to George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, a majority of the state offices are held by Democrats. Tennessee also has more registered Democratic voters than Republican voters and was at the time one of two states in the south to send more Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives than Republicans, the other being Arkansas.
The Democratic nominee was Representative Harold Ford, Jr. and the Republican nominee was Bob Corker, both of whom won primaries on August 3. Corker, former mayor of Chattanooga and 1994 Senate candidate, was well funded and advertised heavily in the western portion of the state during his primary campaign, where he was relatively unknown before this race. Ford was the representative from Tennessee's 9th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives. Like Corker, Ford showed exceptional fundraising prowess, and the race was an expensive one for both parties.
The candidates exchanged leads in the polls, and there were a number of negative charges. Ford attacked Corker's business dealings. Corker portrayed Ford as a hyper-political Washington insider with nothing in common with Tennessee residents. The campaign made headlines when the Republican National Committee ran an ad that, among other things, ridiculed Ford for attending a party thrown by the Playboy corporation. It featured a fictional blond Playboy Bunny squealing, "I met Harold at the Playboy Party!" and then winking and saying, "Harold, call me." Democrats called the ad an attempt to play on racial prejudice, and Corker distanced himself from the ad.
Corker won the election 51%-48%.
= Democratic pickup = Independent pickup = Retiring Senator
|Arizona||Jon Kyl||Republican||3rd term; Re-elected, 53.3%|| Jim Pederson (Democrat) 43.5%|
Richard Mack (Libertarian) 3.2%
|California||Dianne Feinstein||Democratic||4th Term; Re-elected, 59.4%|| Dick Mountjoy (Republican) 35.2%|
Don Grundmann (American Independent) 1.8%
Todd Chretien (Green) 1.7%
Michael Metti (Libertarian) 1.6%
Marsha Feinland (Peace and Freedom) 1.3%
|Connecticut||Joe Lieberman||Independent||4th term; Defeated in primary, won re-election as an Independent, 49.7%|| Ned Lamont (Democrat) 39.7%|
Alan Schlesinger (Republican) 9.6%
Ralph Ferrucci (Green) 0.5%
Timothy Knibbs (Concerned Citizens) 0.4%
|Delaware||Tom Carper||Democratic||2nd Term; Re-elected, 70.2%|| Jan Ting (Republican) 28.7%|
William E. Morris (Libertarian) 1.1%
|Florida||Bill Nelson||Democratic||2nd Term; Re-elected, 60.3%|| Katherine Harris (Republican) 38.1%|
Belinda Noah (Independent) 0.5%
Brian Moore (Green) 0.4%
Floyd Ray Frazier (Independent) 0.3%
Roy Tanner (Independent) 0.3%
|Hawaii||Daniel Akaka||Democratic||4th Term; Re-elected, 61.4%|| Cynthia Thielen (Republican) 36.8%|
Lloyd Mallan (Libertarian) 1.9%
|Indiana||Dick Lugar||Republican||6th Term; Re-elected, 87.3%||Steve Osborn (Libertarian) 12.6%|
|Maine||Olympia Snowe||Republican||3th Term; Re-elected, 74.4%|| Jean Hay Bright (Democrat) 20.5%|
Bill Slavick (Independent) 5.2%
|Maryland||Paul Sarbanes||Democratic||Retired, Democratic victory|| Ben Cardin (Democrat) 54.2%|
Michael Steele (Republican) 44.2%
Kevin Zeese (Green) 1.5%
|Massachusetts||Ted Kennedy||Democratic||Re-elected, 69.5%||Kenneth Chase (Republican) 30.5%|
|Michigan||Debbie Stabenow||Democratic||Re-elected, 56.9%|| Mike Bouchard (Republican) 41.3%|
Leonard Schwartz (Libertarian) 0.7%
David Sole (Green) 0.6%
W. Dennis FitzSimons (Constitution) 0.5%
|Minnesota||Mark Dayton||Democratic||Retired, Democratic victory|| Amy Klobuchar (Democratic-Farmer-Labor) 58.1%|
Mark Kennedy (Republican) 37.9%
Robert Fitzgerald (Independence) 3.2%
Michael Cavlan (Green) 0.5%
Ben Powers (Constitution) 0.3%
|Mississippi||Trent Lott||Republican||Re-elected, 63.6%|| Erik Fleming (Democrat) 34.8%|
Harold Taylor (Libertarian) 1.5%
|Missouri||Jim Talent||Republican||Defeated, 47.3%|| Claire McCaskill (Democrat) 49.6%|
Frank Gilmour (Libertarian) 1.2%
Lydia Lewis (Green) 0.9%
|Montana||Conrad Burns||Republican||Defeated, 48.3%|| Jon Tester (Democrat) 49.2%|
Stan Jones (Libertarian) 2.6%
|Nebraska||Ben Nelson||Democratic||Re-elected, 63.9%||Pete Ricketts (Republican) 36.1%|
|Nevada||John Ensign||Republican||Re-elected, 55.4%|| Jack Carter (Democrat) 41%|
None of These Candidates 1.4%
David Schumann (Constitution) 1.3%
Brendan Trainor (Libertarian) 0.9%
|New Jersey||Bob Menendez||Democratic||Elected to 1st full term, 53.4%|| Thomas Kean Jr. (Republican) 44.3%|
Len Flynn (Libertarian) 0.7%
Ed Forchion (Marijuana) 0.5%
J.M. Carter (Independent) 0.4%
N. Leonard Smith (Independent) 0.3%
Daryl Brooks (Independent) 0.2%
Angela Lariscy (Socialist Workers) 0.2%
Gregory Pason (Socialist) 0.1%
|New Mexico||Jeff Bingaman||Democratic||Re-elected, 70.6%||Allen McCulloch (Republican) 29.3%|
|New York||Hillary Clinton||Democratic||2nd Term; Re-elected, 67%|| John Spencer (Republican) 31.0%|
Howie Hawkins (Green) 1.2%
Jeff Russell (Libertarian) 0.4%
Bill Van Auken (Socialist Equality) 0.2%
Roger Calero (Socialist Workers) 0.2%
|North Dakota||Kent Conrad||Democratic-NPL||Re-elected, 68.8%|| Dwight Grotberg (Republican) 29.5%|
Roland Riemers (Independent) 1%
James Germalic (Independent) 0.6%
|Ohio||Mike DeWine||Republican||Defeated, 43.8%||Sherrod Brown (Democrat) 56.2%|
|Pennsylvania||Rick Santorum||Republican||Defeated, 41.3%||Bob Casey, Jr. (Democrat) 58.7%|
|Rhode Island||Lincoln Chafee||Republican||Defeated, 46.5%||Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat) 53.5%|
|Tennessee||Bill Frist||Republican||Retired, Republican victory|| Bob Corker (Republican) 50.7%|
Harold Ford, Jr. (Democrat) 48.0%
Ed Choate (Independent) 0.6%
David Gatchell (Independent) 0.2%
Emory "Bo" Heyward (Independent) 0.2%
H. Gary Keplinger (Independent) 0.2%
Chris Lugo (Green) 0.1%
|Texas||Kay Bailey Hutchison||Republican||Re-elected, 61.7%|| Barbara Ann Radnofsky (Democrat) 36.0%|
Scott Jameson (Libertarian) 2.3%
|Utah||Orrin Hatch||Republican||Re-elected, 62.6%|| Pete Ashdown (Democrat) 30.8%|
Scott Bradley (Constitution) 3.8%
Roger Price (Personal Choice)1.6%
Dave Seely (Libertarian) 0.8%
Julian Hatch (Green) 0.4%
|Vermont||Jim Jeffords||Independent||Retired, Independent victory|| Bernie Sanders (Independent) 65.4%|
Richard Tarrant (Republican) 32.3%
Cris Ericson (Independent) 0.6%
Craig Hill (Green) 0.5%
Peter Moss (Independent) 0.5%
Peter Diamondstone (Liberty Union) 0.3%
|Virginia||George Allen||Republican||Defeated, 49.2%|| Jim Webb (Democratic) 49.6%|
Gail Parker (Independent Green) 1.1%
|Washington||Maria Cantwell||Democratic||Re-elected, 56.6%|| Mike McGavick (Republican) 39.9%|
Bruce Guthrie (Libertarian) 1.4%
Aaron Dixon (Green) 1.0%
Robin Adair (Independent) 0.8%
|West Virginia||Robert Byrd||Democratic||Re-elected, 64.4%|| John Raese (Republican) 33.7%|
Jesse Johnson (Mountain) 1.9%
|Wisconsin||Herb Kohl||Democratic||Re-elected, 67.3%|| Robert Lorge (Republican) 29.5%|
Rae Vogeler (Green) 2.0%
Ben Glatzel (Independent) 1.2%
|Wyoming||Craig Thomas||Republican||Re-elected, 70%||Dale Groutage (Democrat) 30.0%|
|109th Congress Senate Composition||110th Congress Senate Composition|