Most Mid-Atlantic Incumbents Win

PROMPTED by the unhappy state of the United States economy, voters in the mid-Atlantic region gave President-elect Bill Clinton their overwhelming support this week.

"The economy was clearly the highest-ranked issue in this region and for solid reasons," says Rosemary Scanlon, chief economist for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. "The Northeast and southern California, after all, were the hardest-hit areas in the nation in this recession."

Yet Ms. Scanlon and other analysts say voters proved highly selective in other federal races.

Split-ticket voting was common. Mr. Clinton's coattails were so short as to be almost invisible. Candidates were sent off to Washington or out the door as the voters saw fit.

Despite the much-rumored anti-incumbent mood, voters reelected, for instance, all three of the mid-Atlantic region's current senators.

They are Barbara Mikulski (D) of Maryland, who was running against black Republican conservative Alan Keyes, Arlen Specter (R) of Pennsylvania, and Alfonse D'Amato (R) of New York.

Senator Specter, who had been considered vulnerable in the election because of his role as one of the tougher questioners of witness Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas hearings last year, survived a hard-fought race against Democratic challenger Lynn Yeakel.

Specter, a political moderate who carefully distanced himself from President Bush, had developed a reputation as a particularly savvy legislator responsive to union and minority concerns, as well as to the needs of suburban Republican voters in his state.

The feisty Senator D'Amato stressed constituent service and the similarity of his positions to those of Democratic presidential candidate Clinton. In the end, D'Amato attracted substantial black and Jewish support, usually reserved for the Democratic candidate.

HOUGH he has been the target of numerous ethics charges, the Republican senator, who far outspent his opponent, New York Attorney General Robert Abrams, managed in the last days of the campaign to turn the ethics spotlight on Mr. Abrams.

D'Amato, who refers to himself as an "ordinary guy" and Abrams as a millionaire, charged that his opponent was late in paying taxes on his country estate and took questionable deductions on his city apartment.

"There was a huge number of undecided voters and Bob Abrams ran about as bad a campaign as was possible," says Dr. Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute of Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. "The situation couldn't have been any better for Abrams to win, yet he found a way not to."

Most incumbents in the region were easily reelected. Voters sent one to a higher office: Five-term Democratic congressman Tom Carper was elected governor of Delaware.

New Jersey returned all 10 incumbents to Congress and, among open seats, elected Cuban-American Democrat Robert Menendez as the state's first Hispanic congressman.

New York voters, who elected eight new members to Congress including Nydia Velazquez from a newly created Hispanic district, turned out two veteran House members.

Republican lawyer and state legislator Rick Lazio, of Long Island, beat out popular, boyish Democratic incumbent Tom Downey, an influential member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

One of the campaign issues was the $83,000 in overdrafts which Representative Downey wrote on the House bank account.

Redistricting played a role in the other incumbent loss in New York City, where voters replaced longtime Manhattan Congressman Bill Green (R) with Carolyn Maloney (D), a former teacher and city councilwoman.

Looking ahead, analysts believe that Democratic incumbents who face election next year, such as New York City Mayor David Dinkins and New Jersey Gov. James Florio, cannot afford to be complacent about the Clinton landslide.

Mid-Atlantic voters in the 1992 elections proved they were eager to split their tickets - and to look for accountability from their elected officials.

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