Republicans pick up a House seat

The GOP wins a hard-fought special election in Virginia, expanding its slim House majority.

By Anthony York

Published June 20, 2001 3:10PM (EDT)

Big buzz

After two weeks of bad news in the Senate, Republicans finally had something to smile about Tuesday night thanks to voters in Virginia's 4th Congressional District. Republican state Sen. Randy Forbes defeated Democratic state Sen. Louise Lucas by 52 to 48 percent in a hard-fought special election to fill the seat left vacant by the recent death of Norman Sisisky, a conservative Democrat who built a strong pro-defense record during 18 years in Congress.

Both national parties poured big money into the race, which had been described as an off-year bellwether for the 2002 elections.

Redistricting in Virginia has been in the news recently as state Republicans contemplate drawing a congressional district for Oliver North. "The most interesting thing about this story is that it suggests that the Republican Party's leadership has come to the conclusion that every single congressional seat will count in 2002, and they are clearly thinking about what can be done to maximize their chances of retaining control of the House," writes a poster at "A change in a Virginia House seat here and a reapportionment in New York there and maybe the Republicans hold on to a slim majority, right?"

Of course, that could easily be countered by redistricting in California, a state that picked up one congressional seat and finds Democrats in control of the map-drawing process.

But certainly, both Dennis Hastert and Richard Gephardt are looking for any advantage they can muster heading into next year's midterm elections. And with Forbes' victory in Virginia, there was commensurate gloating by conservatives.

Cyberscribe Rich Galen does his best Ross Porter imitation, citing bizarre statistics that vaguely pertain to the race, just like the legendary Los Angeles Dodgers play-by-play man.

"In the past quarter-century there have been some 70 special elections for the U.S. House of Representatives. Of those 70 races only 19 resulted in a change of party. Of the 19 which resulted in the winner being of a different party from the incumbent, only three times has that change been TOWARD the party of the President," Galen writes. "Last night, because Forbes won, that total increased to four."

So now you know.

But the folks at are unimpressed. "Grand Hypocrisy Party Tosses Small Fortune Into Open Virginia Seat and Wins" reads their headline.

Some at the Free Republic are calling for a recount." Not so fast," writes a poster using the handle "citizen." "How many voted for Pat Buchanan by mistake?"

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Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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