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Murtha Wins; Wicker May Leave SASC

Rep. John Murtha, who looked wobbly for a few days after calling his constituents rednecks and racists, won with 58 percent of the vote last night.

Although I was looking forward to some change on the House Appropriations Committee should Murtha lose and clear the way for Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) to take over the defense subcommittee, it looks as if we will get a somewhat chastened Murtha instead,

Don't expect any policy changes to result from Murtha's resurgence, unless it's to show a bit more respect for the people who elect him -- or at least to exercise restraint when discussing their attributes or failings.

In other election news of interest to the defense community, several GOP members of the Senate Armed Services Committee who looked vulnerable last week appeared to hold on to their seats. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) was in a dead heat against challenger Tom Martin. but Chambliss came back last night and appears to have won by more than four percentage points. With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Chambliss had 50.3 percent of the vote. His apparent victory faces the challenge of Georgia law, which requires victory by at least 50 percent or a run-off is required. Sen. George Wicker (R-Miss.), the most junior Republican on the SASC, fared much better than Chambliss. He was virtually tied with former governor George Musgrove. Wicker roared back and won convincingly last night, by 10 percent.

SASC member Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) lost big time to Kay Hagan, 44-53 percent. However, Chambliss and Wicker's wins don't necessarily mean they get to stay on the committee. The Democrats' gain of five Senate seats means that the GOP presence on the SASC will almost certainly shrink. It is a brutal but simple fact that parties apportion committee seats according to their numbers and the majority gets to pick the numbers.

The numbers and the people to get those slots will be negotiated by SASC Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Currently, there are 25 senators on the committee, 13 Democrats and 12 Republicans. Dole's departure helps. Wicker, the most junior Republican on the committee, seems to be the likeliest member to get whacked from the SASC.

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