Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Will Democrats Win the 60th Senate Seat Next Year — in Texas? By Kelly Fero, Democratic Strategist, Austin TX

Questions abound as voters in some states cast their ballots and others prepare to go to the polls next Tuesday in what everyone agrees is a groundbreaking election. One of the most urgent is: Will Democrats win a 60-seat filibuster majority in the U.S. Senate?

The short answer might very well be:
Yes — but not till 2009. In Texas.

The delicate Democratic majority of 51-49 currently depends on Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a Socialist, and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, a registered Independent, caucusing with the Democrats. That’s why party leaders are pushing for a nine-seat net gain next week to give Democrats the magic 60 number. And Alaska Senator Ted Stevens’ conviction this week on charges of failing to report more than $250,000 in gifts may have brought that goal even closer.

Today’s average of the most recent polls shows Democrats ahead in eight Senate races, including in Stevens’ Alaska. They are close in two other states.

If Democrats fall a seat short next week, the eyes of the political world will turn to Texas next year, where senior Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is expected to step down early to launch a bid for Governor in the 2010 elections. Her resignation could trigger a special election to replace her for the remainder of her term (which ends in 2012). That special is likely to take place in September 2009 — and be the all-important battle for the Democrats’ sixthieth seat.

Certain to jump into the special election is former state comptroller John Sharp, the state’s leading Democrat. Republicans most often mentioned include curent Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and former Secretary of State Roger Williams.

Stay tuned, because the Democrats’ 60-seat goal could depend on an off-year election in the reddest-of red Lone Star State.

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