Updated at 12:59 am EST
Democrats must be California Dreaming tonight as Barbara Boxer heads back to the U.S. Senate and Lt. Governor Gray Davis moves to the governor's mansion in Sacramento. Boxer, who had trailed in the polls until the last days of the campaign, surged ahead on a wave of ads labeling her opponent, State Treasurer Matt Fong, an extremist. Davis easily broke the 16-year hold of the Republicans on the California governorship.
Election '98 claimed its fair share of incumbents though. In the most vocal and high-profile of this year's U.S. Senate races, Democratic congressman Charles Schumer has defeated incumbent Senator Al D'Amato. Schumer's win, which dealt a severe blow to Republican hopes of expanding their Senate majority, followed a fierce campaign marked by a deluge of insults, attacks and accusations.
Lauch Faircloth, a freshman senator from North Carolina, also lost his seat to Democratic trial lawyer John D. Edwards. Edwards was running in his first political campaign.
While the Democrats can celebrate those victories, Republicans have also drawn blood in the Senate where the first African-American women member of the Senate, Carol Moseley-Braun, lost her seat to wealthy State Senator Peter Fitzgerald. The Illinois governor's mansion will stay in Republican hands with George Ryan defeating former Congressman Glenn Poshard.
In Kentucky and Wisconsin, the results remained in doubt late into the evening. Republican Jim Bunning edged out Democrat Scotty Baesler by fewer than 4,000 votes. In Wisconsin, Senator Russ Feingold withstood an onslaught of outside money and advertising and narrowly defeated Republican Representative Mark Neumann.
Across the country Republican and Democratic candidates battled for open governor's seats. In Iowa, the Democrat Tom Vilsak defeated Republican Jim Ross Lightfoot. Vilsack, a liberal state senator, defeated the better-known and better financed conservative Lightfoot, who served 12 terms in Congress. In Ohio, Robert Taft swept into office, keeping that governor's mansion in Republican hands. And then there is Minnesota where former professional wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura, the Reform Party candidate, has body-slammed a former mayor and the state's Attorney General to win the top job in the state.
Overcoming a major threat in South Carolina, Fritz Hollings, an incumbent with 32 years of Senate service, held off a late challenge from conservative Rep. Bob Inglis, a three-term Congressman. Holding on to this seat was seen as key to keeping Republicans from gaining a filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate.
It was a rougher than expected night for Republican governors. Incumbent governors in both South Carolina and Alabama are headed for defeat. In South Carolina, Governor-elect Jim Hodges defeated David Beasley. In Alabama, Lt. Governor Don Siegelman has knocked off his boss, current Governor Fob James. In both contests, the Democratic candidate endorsed the idea of state lotteries to raise money for education. In Georgia, State Rep. Roy Barnes kept the governorship in the Democratic fold Tuesday, defeating millionaire businessman Guy Millner.
In one of the nastier of the races for governor, it now appears Governor Parris Glendening has once again held off former State Senator Ellen Sauerbrey. The last time these two met in 1994, it took a court decision to finalize the results, but this year it is projected Gov. Glendening will move on to his second term.
But not all the news was bad for Republican governors. The Bush Boys, brothers Jeb and George, won their races in Florida and Texas, respectively. Down in the Sunshine State, Jeb Bush easily defeated Lt. Governor Buddy MacKay in the race to replace departing Governor Lawton Chiles. Brother George, the incumbent Governor of Texas, pummeled his opponent.
In Indiana, former Governor Evan Bayh appears to be headed to the U.S. Senate. Bayh, the keynote speaker at the 1996 Democratic National Convention, replaces Dan Coats who decided not to run again earlier this year. Bayh will now hold the same seat held by his father for 18 years.
Meanwhile in Ohio, Governor George Voinovich appears to have won the seat vacated by astronaut-turned Senator-turned astronaut again John Glenn.
In President Clinton's home state, Blanche Lambert Lincoln won the seat of another retiring Democratic senator, Dale Bumpers. The Democrats also maintained control in Washington state where Patty Murray fought off a challenge from Linda Smith and Oregon where Senator Ron Wyden won election to his first full term.
Foreshadowing what may be a good night for incumbents, a number of East Coast governors and senators easily retained their jobs this evening. In New Hampshire, both Republican Senator Judd Gregg and Democratic Governor Jean Shaheen coasted to easy victories. Meanwhile, in neighboring Vermont, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Governor Howard Dean also won re-election. Even in the South, incumbents appear to be doing well with Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) also headed back to Washington. Other winners include: