House Democrats, hoping Speaker Gingrich's unpopularity would propel them to power after two frustrating years of GOP control, today fell far short of the net gain of 19 seats they needed to grab Gingrich's gavel.
With several races still too close to call or headed for recounts or runoffs, Democrats appeared on track for a net gain of eight to 10 seats -- at best about half of what they needed to elevate Minority Leader Gephardt to speaker. Although the numbers may change, it appeared the House in the next Congress will have about 229 or fewer Republicans, 204 or more Democrats and two independents -- Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri, who won the seat of her late husband, GOP Rep. Bill Emerson, and who will organize with the GOP, and self-styled socialist Rep. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, who organizes with the Democrats.
Democrats knocked off at least 13 of the 70 GOP freshmen seeking re-election and at least three more senior Republicans.
But Republicans beat at least three Democratic incumbents -- feisty 10-term veteran Rep. Harold Volkmer of Missouri, three-term Rep. Bill Orton of Utah and freshman Rep. Mike Ward of Kentucky -- and captured at least 10 open seats now held by Democrats. The nation's closest House race involved freshman Rep. Jon Fox, R-Pa., who was 10 votes ahead of Democrat Joseph Hoeffel with all votes counted in the suburban Philadelphia district. Local officials said a recount would start Friday.
In California, outspoken conservative Republican Rep. Robert Dornan was in serious danger of losing his seat and two-term GOP Rep. Bill Baker was trailing his Democratic challenger with almost all votes in.
In Washington, freshman GOP Rep. Jack Metcalf became the state's third GOP freshman to lose, joining Reps. Linda Smith and Randy Tate. Other incumbents who lost Tuesday include freshmen GOP Reps. Michael Flanagan of Illinois, Frank Cremeans of Ohio, Dan Frisa of New York, Bill Martini of New Jersey, Fred Heineman and David Funderburk of North Carolina, Dick Chrysler of Michigan, Andrea Seastrand of California and James Longley of Maine.
Three-term Rep. Gary Franks of Connecticut, one of two black House Republicans, lost, as did two-term Reps. Martin Hoke, R-Ohio, and Peter Blute, R-Mass. Two-term Rep. Peter Torkildsen, R-Mass., lost by under 600 votes.
In Texas, Dec. 10 runoffs are needed in three districts because candidates failed to win 50 percent. Freshman GOP Rep. Steve Stockman will face Democrat Nick Lampson in the 9th District, freshman Democratic Rep. Ken Bentsen appeared likely to face Republican Dolly Madison McKenna in the 25th District and two Republicans will vie for retiring GOP Rep. Jack Fields' seat, keeping it in the GOP column.