The small-business lobby was watching a few races this November--you know, other than that big one with Bush and Kerry. The tally on some of the most closely watched state and local races, and what the results mean for entrepreneurs:
SOUTH DAKOTA, SENATE
Tom Daschle (D-inc.) was the first Senate party leader to lose since 1952 (when Barry Goldwater bested Ernest McFarland). He's also this year's only Senate incumbent to lose. What went wrong? South Dakotans were saying he'd lost touch with the state, and gotten too involved in national politicking--an on-the-job hazard if you're the Senate minority leader. Daschle lost 51-49. Tax-cut advocate and former Small Business Administration official John Thune (R) replaces him in the Senate, and Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, replaces him as minority leader.
Lisa Murkowski (R-inc.) squeaked by Tony Knowles (D), the popular former governor. Or so we think; those ubiquitous election watchers are still recounting and confirming Alaskan votes. Murkowski's a business owner herself (perhaps the only pasta wholesaler-cum-Senator), and should keep an eye out for entrepreneurs. Still, Knowles, a four-time entrepreneur who cast himself as a Washington outsider, proved a Democrat in this heavily Republican state can put up a good fight.
George Nethercutt (R), an advocate of tax cuts and free trade, had the full support of the Republican lobby this summer, enjoying visits by President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He campaigned almost full-time in the fall, while Murray stayed in D.C. during the weeks and stumped in her home state on weekends. But come October, when Bush started diverting campaign resources from liberal Washington State, so did the National Republican Senatorial Committee. It pulled over $1 million worth of pro-Nethercutt TV ads--which the congressman probably needed to gain footing in the state’s western side. In the end, "soccer mom" Patty Murray (D-inc.) won 55 percent of the vote, and Nethercutt, 43 percent.
NORTH CAROLINA, SENATE
U.S. Rep. Richard Burr (R) won by five percentage points over Erskine Bowles (D), the former SBA head--and, as Burr's ads reminded voters again and again, Clinton’s chief of staff. Burr's painstaking campaigning paid off: trailing Bowles in the polls almost the entire race, the onetime appliance salesman went door to door and backroad to backroad to meet his would-be constituents. A smart sales strategy, it seems.
This race, which Missouri secretary of state Matt Blunt (R) won 51-48 percent, echoed the presidential one, with moral values emerging as the decisive factor. Blunt’s conservative stance on abortion, guns, and gay marriage, and his campaign tactic of working with churches and stumping in rural areas, pushed him past state auditor Claire McCaskill (D). Blunt's values also lie in encouraging business--he's pledged to cut taxes and offer tax breaks for new hires and job training. McCaskill, meanwhile, will serve as auditor for two more years.
Who won? Who knows. The election continues in Washington, where, as of today, former state senator Dino Rossi (R) leads attorney general Christine Gregoire (D) by all of 1,920 votes. It's so close that state Democrats and Republicans are calling voters who cast provisional ballots to make sure their votes are counted. While results will be certified on Wednesday, those who can't get enough of elections, take heart--a margin of victory that’s under 2,000 triggers an automatic recount.
UTAH, HOUSE, DISTRICT 2
Jim Matheson (D-inc.) barely beat John Swallow (R) for this seat in 2002, by 1,641 votes. This time, Matheson won 2 to 1; the likely culprit is the Republican National Committee's attack ads, which seemed to turn off Utah voters. Matheson, a moderate Democrat with a solid pro-business record, returns for a third term; Swallow has said he won't run against him again for this seat.
ARIZONA, HOUSE, DISTRICT 1
The Democrats targeted Rick Renzi (R-inc.) as one Republican that could be picked off easily. They cleared the primary field for Paul Babbitt (D), a county supervisor and brother of the former interior secretary. And they threw money behind Babbitt. But Babbitt's bland, broad campaign was surprisingly weak next to Renzi's focused, record-based one (he sponsored a veterans' entrepreneurship bill and has fought for tax breaks). Renzi beat Babbitt by a startling 23 points.
TEXAS, HOUSE, DISTRICT 32
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's aggressive redistricting in his home state of Texas paid off, with 13-term Democratic congressman Martin Frost being ousted from his new, suddenly Republican-heavy, district. Frost tried to paint himself as a moderate, running ads of him next to President Bush and avoiding Kerry mentions. It wasn't enough, though, especially when Sessions made convincing arguments that Frost supported tax increases. Sessions won 54 to Frost's 44 percent. As for Frost, he's said he'll likely do public-policy work out of Washington DC.
So will they keep their campaign promises? What would you like to see them do? And are these guys good or bad for your business? Let us know...