Status Quo Safe in New England, Except in Massachusetts

ONLY two New England congressional incumbents were swept out of office in elections Tuesday, while a handful of others fended off challengers in tight political contests.

In Massachusetts, two incumbents, one accused of criminal wrongdoing, lost reelection bids to Republicans, thereby losing the monopoly Democrats held on the entire congressional delegation for that state.

Seven-term Rep. Nicholas Mavroules (D), under a federal indictment for racketeering and extortion charges, lost to state Rep. Peter Torkildsen (R). In addition, nine-term Rep. Joseph Early (D), who had written 140 bank overdrafts on his House account, was defeated by state Rep. Peter Blute (R).

"We do know that, in Massachusetts, turning out two incumbents did indicate that anti-incumbency was very much on the minds of voters," says Joseph Slavet, senior fellow at the McCormack Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

Tuesday's elections resulted in the loss of Massachusetts Gov. William Weld's (R) power base in the state Senate. He no longer has veto power over that body, with just nine remaining Republicans in the 40-member chamber.

A hodgepodge of results characterized other House and Senate races with no clear patterns, say analysts. Incumbent House and Senate candidates were victorious outside the Bay State.

"What this shows you is a mixed view - that if people in the congressional district are happy with their congressman and if nothing crazy clouds that congressman's record, they'll stay with him," says Mr. Slavet.

Turnover was perhaps more evident before the election. In Massachusetts, for example, US Rep. Chester Atkins (D) was defeated in the state primary. Also, New Hampshire Sen. Warren Rudman (R) and Massachusetts Rep. Brian Donnelly (D) decided not to seek reelection.

"It's just that the turnover comes in retirements, in deaths, in primary losses, in ambition - [when people run for higher office]," says John Gorman, president of Opinion Dynamics, a polling organization in Cambridge, Mass.

Some races were close. In Maine, seven-term Rep. Olympia Snowe (R) won over Patrick McGowan (D), who lost to her two years ago as well. In New Hampshire, incumbent Gov. Judd Gregg (R) edged John Rauh (D), a wealthy businessman. Governor Gregg will take the seat to be vacated by Senator Rudman.

Besides New Hampshire's Senate race, the state's gubernatorial contest also drew national attention.

Republican candidate Stephen Merrill won easily over Democratic candidate Deborah "Arnie" Arnesan, a state representative who supported a new state income tax to reduce high property taxes. Mr. Merrill campaigned against a state sales and income tax, both unpopular in the Granite State.

Ms. Arnesan's campaign nevertheless helped bring out the issue of tax reform, says Richard Winters, government professor at Dartmouth College. "Arnie, more than any [candidate] since back in the 1950s has sort of pierced the voter's mind and really got them to think about taxes in a way no governor has done in the last 40 years," Mr. Winters says.

OME contests in Connecticut were also interesting. Rep. Gary Franks, the nation's only black Republican in Congress, retained his seat against James Lawlor (D), a probate judge, and state Rep. Lynn Taborsak (I). Also, incumbent Sen. Christopher Dodd (D) won handily against Brook Johnson (D), a wealthy businessman.

Many New England voters went to the polls Tuesday hoping that a new presidential administration would revitalize the sagging economy.

In all New England states, even conservative New Hampshire, President-elect Bill Clinton won majorities.

But it isn't certain whether Mr. Clinton or President Bush had much impact on regional House and Senate elections, says G. Donald Ferree, Jr., associate director of the Institute for Social Inquiry at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

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