New faces, voices as Republicans celebrate victory

 

US: The face, voice and soul of the US Congress will change as a result of midterm election victories and defeats, retirements, scandals and even death.

Get ready to say hello on Capitol Hill to former 2000 Republican presidential rivals Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a pair of ex-Cabinet secretaries who won Senate seats yesterday.

They will be joined in the halls of power by former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, hailed and vilified for her role in the disputed 2000 presidential election. She captured a seat in the US House of Representatives.

In addition, voters punched the ticket of Frank Lautenberg to return to the Senate to succeed fellow New Jersey Democrat Robert Torricelli, driven into political retirement by ethics problems.

Gone when the 108th Congress convenes in January will be some of the most outspoken and polarising characters of American politics over the past half century. They include: Retiring Republican Jesse Helms of North Carolina. During 30 years in the Senate, this product of the Old South won adulation as well as condemnation. He was known as "Senator No" for opposing just about anything that obstructed his conservative view of the world; Republican Senator, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, a former staunch segregationist who softened his ways to serve in the Senate for 48 years. He plans to retire in January after becoming the first member of Congress next month to turn 100; Republican Senator, Phil Gramm of Texas, another conservative stalwart. He is retiring after three terms in the Senate, which saw him become a master of legislative combat; Republican, James Traficant, an Ohio Democrat expelled from the House in July after being convicted of corruption, tried to win back his seat from prison as an Independent on Tuesday. But this maverick, who liked to end House floor speeches by declaring, "beam me up", came up short; Democrat Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, one of the Senate's leading liberals, was killed last month in a small plane crash.

His replacement, the former vice president Walter Mondale, a Democrat, failed to win enough votes to beat off former St. Paul Mayor, Norm Coleman, a Republican.

House Republican Leader Dick Armey of Texas, who helped engineer the 1994 "Republican Revolution" that gave his party control of the House for the first time in 40 years, is calling it quits.

During his 18 years on Capitol Hill, Armey helped redefine bluntness. At one House hearing, he told Hillary Clinton, then first lady, that "reports of your charm are overstated." Another departing House leader is J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, the only black Republican in Congress. Senator Fred Thompson, a Tennessee Republican, is retiring from Congress after two terms. He is returning to acting with a role on NBC's "Law and Order".

Earlier this year, two flamboyant Georgia lawmakers suffered primary defeats: Republican Bob Barr, a hard-core conservative who was among the first on Capitol Hill to call for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, and Republican Cynthia McKinney, an often confrontational liberal Democrat.

Republican Gary Condit of California was defeated in his Democratic primary after being romantically linked to a missing federal intern.

Republican Senator, Bob Smith of New Hampshire, lost his primary, too. - (Reuters)