The Edmond Sun


November 11, 2006

Single votes add up to win elections

The Republicans should have paid more attention to Gail Parker. Democrats should send her a dozen roses.

You see, Parker is a retired Air Force officer and grandmother of four who ran for the U.S. Senate in Virginia. She didn’t campaign against the war in Iraq or corruption in Congress, hot issues that decided many races across the country this year. She ran on a platform of expanding passenger rail service in Virginia and balancing the budget. She was born in Arkansas and grew up in eastern Oklahoma.

In October she was only pulling about 2 percent in polls, and had been shut out of debates with the two main candidates. So, two weeks ago she offered to withdraw from the race and support either Democrat Jim Webb or incumbent George Allen, depending on which one would commit to high-speed rail. Toward the close of the campaign, she sided with Webb as a catalyst for change.

Webb won the Virginia Senate seat by 7,217 votes out of 2.4 million — or one out of 328 votes cast. Parker picked up 26,102 votes, or 1 percent, and presumably a comparable number of her supporters heeded her call to vote for Webb.

Democrats needed the Virginia seat to gain 51 seats and clear control of the Senate. So it can be said Parker wrested the U.S. Senate from the Republicans and handed it to the Democrats on a silver platter.

Politics is a game of coalition building. Having a rigid single-issue idealogy is all well and good, but it alienates as many people as it attracts. Successful political campaigns cobble together people of different, but compatible interests, who can tolerate each other at least long enough to build a majority and win elections.

Nationally, the most remarkable news is the Democrats’ return to power in both the House and Senate. Democrats gained at least 29 seats in the House, twice the number needed to oust Dennis Hastert and his buddies. Not a single Democratic incumbent lost a re-election bid. In the Senate, Democrats have picked up five of the 33 seats on the ballot this year.

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If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
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