Democrats challenge GOP for control of Congress

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— Resurgent Democrats grabbed a Pennsylvania Senate seat and an Indiana House seat long in Republican hands Tuesday night, challenging for control of Congress in midterm elections shaped by an unpopular war in Iraq and scandal at home.

Democrats also elected governors in Ohio and Massachusetts for the first time in more than a decade.

Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania became the first Republican senator to fall to the Democrats, losing his seat after two conservative terms to Bob Casey Jr., the state treasurer.

In the battle for control of the House, Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., lost to Brad Ellsworth.

All 435 House seats were on the ballot along with 33 Senate races, elections that Democrats sought to make a referendum on the president's handling of the war, the economy and more.

Democrats piled up early gains among the 36 statehouse races on the ballot.

In Ohio, Rep. Ted Strickland defeated Republican Ken Blackwell with ease to become the state's first Democratic governor in 16 years. Deval Patrick triumphed over Republican Kerry Healey in Massachusetts, and will become the state's first black chief executive.

Voters in Vermont made Rep. Bernie Sanders, an independent, the winner in a Senate race, succeeding retiring Sen. James Jeffords. Brooklyn-born with an accent to match, Sanders is an avowed Socialist who will side with Democrats when he is sworn into office in January.

Surveys of voters at their polling places nationwide suggested Democrats were winning the support of independents by a margin of almost 2-to-1, and middle-class voters were leaving Republicans behind.

About six in 10 voters said they disapproved of the way President Bush is handling his job, and roughly the same percentage opposed the war in Iraq. They were more inclined to vote for Democratic candidates than for Republicans.

In even larger numbers, about three-quarters of voters said scandals mattered to them in deciding how to vote, and they, too, were more likely to side with Democrats. The surveys were taken by The Associated Press and the networks.

History worked against the GOP, too. Since World War II, the party in control of the White House has lost an average 31 House seats and six Senate seats in the second midterm election of a president's tenure in office.

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