Republicans retain pivotal Senate seat

The Democrats will not have a "super majority" in the Senate after a pivotal seat in Georgia was won by Republican candidate Saxby Chambliss. The Republicans can now block legislation in the Senate if they maintain a unified stand in voting.


AFP - Republican Saxby Chambliss easily won a closely-watched US Senate run-off election on Tuesday in Georgia, denying Democrats' hopes for an unassailable 60-seat "super majority".

With 97 percent of the ballots counted, Chambliss led with 57.4 percent while Democrat Jim Martin trailed far behind with 42.6 percent of the vote, according to the Georgia secretary of state's website.

The runoff came nearly one month after the November 4 balloting in which neither Chambliss or Martin secured 50 percent of the vote.

The Democrats needed to win the Georgia contest to reach the 60-seat threshold that would have prevented Republicans from blocking legislation in the 100-seat chamber.

Such a commanding majority would have allowed the Democrats to cut off debate on bills and force votes, greatly strengthening president-elect Barack Obama's hand.

Tuesday's result meant that if Republican lawmakers maintain unity, they will have enough seats to use procedures to block or stall votes on key bills.

Turnout was much lower than in the November 4 election, with more than two million coming out to vote compared to about 3.7 million last month.

US media speculated that Democratic voters who had turned out enthusiastically to support Obama for president last month had little interest in the run-off election.

Chambliss had campaigned vowing to serve as a firewall against president-elect Obama and his Democratic allies dominating Congress, saying he would prevent them from having free rein.

"You have delivered tonight a strong message to the world that conservative Georgia values matter," Chambliss told supporters in his victory speech carried on television news networks.

"You have delivered a message that a balance of government in Washington is necessary, and that’s not only what the people of Georgia want but what the people of America want."

The Republican victory leaves just one remaining Senate race undecided, in the midwestern state of Minnesota where ballots are still being recounted with Republican Norm Coleman ahead by just a few hundred votes out of some 2.9 million cast.

With Minnesota's race still up in the air, the Democrats now hold 58 seats, the largest majority the party has held since the 1970s.

The Georgia race attracted national attention and big money with high-profile figures hitting the campaign trail.

Former president Bill Clinton and former vice president Al Gore campaigned for Martin and defeated Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his running mate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin stumped for Chambliss -- with Palin drawing big crowds.

Obama did not travel to Georgia to help Martin but did endorse him in a radio advertisement.

After suffering defeat in the White House race and congressional contests across the country in the November 4 election, Tuesday's result was reassuring for the Republicans.

"Republicans still know how to win an election," Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan told Chambliss supporters.

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