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Government Affairs

With mid-term Congressional elections approximately one month away, the outlook for which party will be in the majority for the 110th Congress still remains unclear. The national and local television news, as well as radio stations across the country, are filled with speculation about whether voters are preparing to sweep the Republicans out of power in the House and Senate, handing over control to the Democrats.

To regain control of both the House and Senate, the Democratic Party will need a net gain of at least 15 seats in the House of Representatives and a net of six seats to regain control in the Senate. In recent primaries held around the country, both Republican and Democratic incumbents were defeated equally, sending a signal to politicians in both parties.

Forecasting the outcome of the November 7 elections is made even more difficult for the fact that so much is happening on so many different fronts that could move the national mood, or at least sway undecided voters in bellwether races. Congress has faced unending gridlock concerning issues important to voters, such as immigration, taxes, the minimum wage, rising gas prices, and lobbying scandals, all of which will play a significant role in voters' minds come November. Congress returned from its summer recess in August, for only 19 days in September, before returning home to campaign. This left little time for the Republican majority to return home to face voters with any significant legislative trophies to brag about.

Republicans find themselves particularly vulnerable in the Midwest and Northeast, and they even have cause to worry in their geographic strongholds of the South and West. Norman J. Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and one of the nation's most veteran observers of congressional politics, has said, "There's no doubt it's going to be a Democratic year." He added that the difficulty we have in making predictions is "we're trying to gauge the strength of the wind."

Ornstein's colleague, Thomas E. Mann, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution and author, with Ornstein, of "The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track," has also speculated, "This appears to be one of those midterm elections that happens once a decade. Strong negative feelings in the public toward the party in power leads to a substantial swing — and with it a substantial swing of seats away from the party."

More often than not, monumental political shifts can arise and culminate over a very short period of time. Very few people saw the "GOP Revolution" of 1994 coming before October of that year. Even then, most political pundits discounted the notion that 40 years of Democratic hegemony in the House was about to come to an end. Historically, we have seen major changes occur with little warning. During the last two elections of the 1960s, the political and international climate was very similar to the current situation facing our country. During the '60s — when the Vietnam War, the Cold War, with the Soviet Union and racial tensions in the cities contributed to an atmosphere of political turmoil — it ultimately cost the Democrats the presidency and a combined 51 seats in the House and eight seats in the U.S. Senate.

Republicans are counting on one of the oldest truisms about American politics staying true: Voters may hate Congress, but they like their own senators and representatives well enough.

One very important thing to remember is that they work for you, the voter. Voters have the power to put them in Congress and the power to bring them home. When voters go to the polls on Nov. 7, it is imperative to recognize they are voting for individuals who will influence issues that affect their livelihood, values and, more importantly, their businesses. Congress does business everyday that affects mason contractors and construction companies all over the country.

In the end, the decision for many voters on whom to elect to the 110th Congress may come down to their views on the stewardship provided by the Republican majority in the 109th.

One thing is certain, though: On Election Day, each person's one vote is as powerful as any of the special interests or politicians in Washington. The phrase "power of the people" will ring more true than ever on Nov. 7, 2006.







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