Could Democrats Lose Control of Senate?

By: Jummy Olabanji Email
By: Jummy Olabanji Email

December 14, 2006

US Senator Tim Johnson, a democrat from South Dakota, was hospitalized on Tuesday after under-going surgery on his brain.

Now, many across the country are talking about possible political power changes if he doesn't return to office in January.

We talked with local analysts who say that things could get really complicated for Democrats if Tim Johnson doesn't show up to Congress.

But they also say that Republicans can’t get too eager over the possibility of power change.

"I don't think it would be wise for the senate to switch. Given the way the public voted and the strength of the public vote. It was pretty clear which way they wanted this to go," said Larry Sabato, Director for UVA’s Center for Politics.

When Americans filled the voting booths last month, it was pretty clear that they wanted change in Washington.

But, with a Democratic senator undergoing surgery many are wondering what would happen to congress if he isn't able to hold his seat.

“It's a very delicate situation, with Democrats controlling the senate by just one seat if Senator Tim Johnson, the senior senator from South Dakota, is un able to fill out his term, South Dakota laws provide that the governor provide his successor,” said Matt Smyth, with the Center for Politics.

If that were to happen, the republican governor of South Dakota would most likely pick another Republican to replace Johnson, and then the senate would then be tied up at fifty seats to each party.

That would leave republican Vice President Cheney as the deciding vote in any ties.

But Sabato feels that no matter the outcome with Senator Johnson, the American people voted for change and change is what they'll get.

“There is absolutely no question what the public will is in this particular election. That will was for the Democrats to control congress, for better or ill, which was what the public wanted. We have a democracy,” said Sabato.

Almost the same thing happened over thirty years ago in South Dakota., when then republican Senator Karl Mundt fell ill after a stroke.

He ended up staying in office from 1969 to 1973.

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