It looks like the Democrats have picked up one more Senate seat, ousting the corrupt and utterly useless Republican Senator Ted Stevens. The new win puts them currently at 58 Senate seats.
Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich(D) defeated Sen. Ted Stevens, ending the tenure of the longest-serving Republican in Senate history, after the counting of more ballots yesterday gave him a larger lead than the number of votes still untallied, Alaska elections officials said.
Begich’s win gives Democrats control of 58 seats in the Senate, including two independents who caucus with them. That is two shy of the number needed to prevent Republicans from filibustering, with two races still undecided. Democrats have not controlled 60 seats since 1978.
Begich leads Stevens by more than 3,700 votes, according to the Alaska secretary of state. Gail Fenumiai, the head of the state’s election division, said about 2,500 absentee votes from overseas and Alaska’s most remote regions remain to be counted.
The Democrat’s lead thus far — 47.8 percent to 46.6 percent — puts him beyond the margin of victory that would allow Stevens to call for a state-funded recount of the ballots.
It’s possible that the final tally will result in a less than .5% lead, in which case Stevens will call for a recount. But it’s looking increasingly unlikely and news sources seem to be confidently calling the result.
One of the two still undecided races is in Minnesota, where a recount has begun, and previous numbers showed incumbent Republican Norm Coleman with mere 206 vote lead on Democratic challenger Al Franken. In Georgia, there will be a runoff election on December 2, where Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss will face off against Democrat Jim Martin.
In other words, 60 Senate votes is still entirely possible, if not hugely likely. Regardless of the overall outcome, 58 is still pretty damn good.
The real question, of course, is whether the Democratic Party is going to use its new-found power to push a truly progressive agenda, including vitally important items like national health care and an aggressive approach to global warming. What do you think? Are you optimistic or skeptical?