Gain of two US House seats falls short of N.E. GOP expectations

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

When the 99th Congress convenes in January, New England Republicans will have 10 seats in the US House of Representatives, two more than at present. But the GOP's gains in the Nov. 6 election were slimmer than President Reagan had hoped for and might have expected in the light of his reelection sweep through the six-state region. Only in New Hampshire was there clear evidence of a Reagan coattail effect.

Possibly the biggest Republican setback - if it holds up - came in Vermont, where Democratic former Lt. Gov. Madeleine Kunin narrowly defeated Republican state Attorney General John J. Easton Jr. for governor.

Mrs. Kunin will be the first woman governor of Vermont and only the third Democrat in the state's history to hold that office. That prospect could be upset if Mr. Easton decides to ask a recount and it goes against the apparent winner.

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Particularly disappointing to Mr. Reagan must have been the failure of GOP fellow-conservative Raymond Shamie to win the US Senate seat of retiring Massachusetts Democrat Paul E. Tsongas.

The senatorial victory of Democrat John F. Kerry, the Bay State's lieutenant governor, sends to Congress not only a liberal, but one who has found little to his liking in Reagan administration policies and programs.

The new Massachusetts senator could well become a more outspoken critic of Ronald Reagan than the Bay State's senior senator, fellow Democrat Edward M. Kennedy.

Despite his considerable campaign effort, Mr. Shamie from the outset faced an uphill battle, since Republicans remain the minority party, by far, in the Bay State and he had to draw a majority of independent votes as well as some Democratic support.

Whatever momentum he had at the start was slowed, perhaps even reversed, when Mr. Kerry pinned the label of far-right extremist on him. That, coupled with disclosures of millionaire industrialist Shamie's brief membership in the John Birch Society a decade ago, clearly worked to the advantage of his Democratic opponent.

Although supportive of Democratic presidential nominee Walter F. Mondale, Kerry positioned himself at a safe political distance from some of the policies of the Minnesota Democratic.

Thus, while President Reagan was carrying the Bay State (by an estimated 52 percent of the vote at this writing to Mr. Mondale's 48 percent), the Senate-bound lieutenant governor prevailed over Republican Shamie, 55 percent to 34 percent.

Similarly thwarted were Republican efforts to win the Massachusetts Fourth and 10th Congressional Districts.

In the 10th, six-term incumbent Democrat Gerry E. Studds was considered politically vulnerable in the light of his 1983 censure by the US House of Representatives for a homosexual affair a decade ago with a teen-age congressional page.

But he breezed to reelection, besting Republican challenger Lewis Crampton, 56 to 44 percent.

Slightly closer was the GOP reach in the Fifth District, where Democratic liberal Chester G. Atkins, chairman of the state Senate's Ways and Means Committee, scored a 52 to 48 percent victory over conservative Republican Gregory Hyatt.

Where the Reagan coattails may have helped most in New England was in New Hampshire. There, the President won by his biggest margin in the region, with some 69 percent of the vote. This undoubtedly helped conservative Republican US Sen. Gordon Humphrey, who had been locked in a stiff reelection tussle with his Democratic challenger, US Rep. Norman S. D'Amours. Mr. Humphrey wound up winning by nearly a 3-to-2 margin.

The big Reagan vote in the Granite State also helped carry along GOP candidate Robert Smith, who won the First District congressional race against state Executive Councilor Dudley Dudley, a liberal Democrat.

To complete the New Hampshire Republican sweep, Gov. John Sununu was reelected handily to a second term over state Rep. Chris Spirou, his Democratic foe.

The Republicans picked up a Democratic congressional seat in Connecticut, where third-term US Rep. William Ratchford fell to Republican state Rep. John Rowland.

A second Democrat-held Connecticut congressional seat, which GOP leaders had felt would be within political, reach was in the state's Third District, where first-term US Rep. Bruce Morrison bested his Republican Lawrewnce Denardis, 52 to 48 percent.

In neighboring Rhode Island, where the President's reelection margin was the narrowest in the region, Republican Edward D. DiPrete, mayor of Cranson, won the governorship, by a 3-to-2 margin, over Democratic state Treasurer Anthony Solomon.

Mr. DiPrete will be Rhode Island's first GOP head of state since the mid-1960 s. Contributing to his victory was a split in state Democratic ranks.

At the same time, Democratic US Sen. Claiborne Pell was easily reelected over Republican Barbara Leonard.

Maine voters gave a second US Senate term to Republican William S. Cohen, with 77 percent of the vote. President Reagan carried the Pine Tree State, 61 to 39 percent over Mondale.

Maine also has returned to Washington both its US House members. Republican Congressman John McKernan Jr. of the First District trounced his Democratic challenger, state Rep. Barry Hobbins, 64 to 36 percent.

Congresswoman Olympia Snowe retained her Second District seat in the House by an even larger margin, 77 to 23 percent, over the Democratic candidate, Chipman Bull.

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