Democrat Jon Tester has defeated Montana Republican Conrad Burns, winning the 50th Democratic seat in the Senate.
The Tester victory by a margin of more than 3,000 votes out of a little over 400,000 cast in Montana assures Democrats an even split in the 100-member Senate.
Will they get the 51st seat and a clear majority? Probably.
With Democrat Jim Webb holding a lead of more than 7,000 votes in Virginia over Republican incumbent George Allen, it looks increasingly likely that the seat there will go to the Democrats. Republicans are talking about demanding a recount, but Webb’s lead appears to be sufficient to withstand any challenge.
The Tester win is especially impressive, as it comes in a state that not long ago was considered to be reliably red.
Democrats began their climb out of the political wilderness in Montana in 2000, when Democrat Brian Schweitzer mounted a populist challenge to Burns that came close to winning.
Schweitzer ran for and won the governorship in 2004, a year that saw Democrats make major advances in other statewide races and the contest for control of the legislature.
Tester, an organic farmer and state legislator, has been an ally of Schweitzer. But he was not the choice of Washington Democrats to make this year’s Senate race. DC Democrats preferred a more centrist contender in the primary, but Tester prevailed by highlighting his antiwar stance, his ethics as opposed to those of Burns — who was linked to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal — and his flat-top haircut.
In the general election, Republicans tried to paint Tester as a standard-issue liberal. But it did not sell, in part because the Democrat campaigned as something of a libertarian in civil liberties issues. Accused of plotting to undermine the Patriot Act, Tester responded that he did not want to undermine the measure. Rather, he said, he hoped to repeal it.
John Nichols’ new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders’ Cure for Royalism is being published this month by The New Press. “With The Genius of Impeachment,” writes David Swanson, co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, “John Nichols has produced a masterpiece that should be required reading in every high school and college in the United States.” Studs Terkel says: “Never within my nonagenarian memory has the case for impeachment of Bush and his equally crooked confederates been so clearly and fervently offered as John Nichols has done in this book. They are after all our public SERVANTS who have rifled our savings, bled our young, and challenged our sanity. As Tom Paine said 200 years ago to another George, a royal tramp: ‘Bugger off!’ So should we say today. John Nichols has given us the history, the language and the arguments we will need to do so.” The Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and at www.amazon.com
Blunt language and that flat-top haircut trumped the Republican attacks. And the voters of Montana painted a western state blue.