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US Senate runoff could decide balance of power

US Senate runoff could decide balance of power

Georgia's long U.S. Senate campaign drew to a finish on Tuesday as polls closed on the hotly contested race that could sway the balance of power in Washington.
Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss faced Democrat Jim Martin in a runoff election that drew national political heavyweights from both parties.
It was necessary after a three-way general election prevented any of the candidates from getting the necessary 50 percent.
What was at stake was significant: Democrats in the 100-member U.S. Senate are just two votes shy of the 60 needed to block Republican filibusters _ a key bid for power that would be immensely helpful as a Democrat heads to the White House for the first time in a decade.
Georgia is one of the two unresolved Senate races. In Minnesota, a recount is under way in a tight race between Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken.
Elections officials reported steady to light turnout since polls opened at 7 a.m., and no problems throughout the day. Polls closed at 7 p.m. A spokesman for Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel predicted turnout would be between 18 and 20 percent, far less than the 65 percent who voted in last month's general election.
Chambliss and Martin both fell short of the 50-percent threshold in a three-way general election race with Libertarian candidate Allen Buckley, who drew 3.4 percent of the vote.
Chambliss, 65, is seeking a second term after winning in 2002 against Democratic Sen. Max Cleland in a campaign that infuriated Democrats. Chambliss ran a TV ad that questioned Cleland's commitment to national security and flashed a photo of Osama bin Laden. Cleland is a triple amputee wounded in the Vietnam War.
Martin, a 63-year-old former state lawmaker from Atlanta, has aligned himself with President-elect Barack Obama's message of change, and has vowed to provide economic relief for the middle class. A onetime agricultural lawyer from Moultrie, Chambliss has promised to be a firewall against a Democratic-dominated Washington getting a "blank check."
Early voting statistics were encouraging for the Chambliss camp. Of the nearly 500,000 early voters, turnout was down among black voters and higher among white males compared to advance voting before the general election.
White males normally are a solid Republican constituency in Georgia, while exit polls showed that Martin won the votes of nine of ten Georgia blacks who registered a preference.
Some 3.7 million people cast ballots in this year's general election, and both sides have since tried to keep voters' attention with a barrage of ads and visits by political heavy-hitters.
Former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore both stumped for Martin. President-elect Barack Obama recorded a radio ad for Martin and sent 100 field operatives, but he didn't campaign in the state despite a request from Martin to do so.
Several ex-Republican presidential candidates made appearances for Chambliss, including nominee John McCain, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain's vice presidential pick, held four rallies for Chambliss that drew thousands of party faithful Monday.
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Associated Press writers Russ Bynum in Savannah, and Greg Bluestein and Johnny Clark in Atlanta contributed to this report.
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On the Net:
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Updated : 2021-10-16 03:56 GMT+08:00