Though Some House Races Up for Grabs, GOP Keeps Control
Despite close contests in the West, the GOP was able to hold and gain seats in the East and Midwest to maintain its majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Democrats needed to pick up seven seats to take control of the chamber. At American Health Line's press time, eight races were still undeclared, but the Republicans had gained one seat, putting the House at 217 Republicans, 208 Democrats and two Independents. A summary of races where health care played a key role in the campaign follows.
New Jersey 12th District: New Jersey's race between Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and challenger former Rep. Dick Zimmer (R) remains undeclared, with neither candidate claiming victory or conceding defeat in a tight contest. While Zimmer appeared to win the election by 731 votes, a late tally of absentee ballots pushed Holt ahead by a 56-vote margin, with all precincts reporting. Both campaigns demanded a recount (McAlpin, AP/Newark Star-Ledger, 11/8). During the campaign, Holt and Zimmer have debated health care issues, especially women's health concerns (American Health Line, 10/31).
- Pennsylvania 13th District: Incumbent Rep. Joseph Hoeffel (D) defeated challenger Stewart Greenleaf (R), 53% to 46%, with all precincts reporting (CNN.com, 11/8). The contest hinged largely on the hot-button prescription drug coverage question, with Hoeffel backing a drug benefit under the Medicare program. On the abortion issue, Hoeffel supports a woman's right to choose (American Health Line, 10/31). "The people of the ... district have spoken again -- and I like it," Hoeffel told supporters (Vigoda/Masterson, Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/8). He added, "Our supporters went to the polls because they believed in my platform of government that is on the side of the people on issues like health care." While Hoeffel and Greenleaf have similar positions on abortion, the Democrat called his rival's plan to provide a prescription drug benefit through government subsidies to HMOs "too risky" (Newton, Associated Press, 11/8).
Arkansas 4th District: Challenger Mike Ross (D), a pharmacist, defeated incumbent Rep. Jay Dickey (R) by a 51% to 49% margin (C-SPAN.org, 11/8). Ross supports a Medicare prescription drug benefit, the House-passed Norwood-Dingell patients' rights bill (H.R. 2723) and abortion rights, although he also supports "partial-birth" abortion (American Health Line, 11/1). Ross "rarely varied from the par[ty] line 'putting children and families first' with prescription drug help for seniors ... " (Associated Press, 11/8).
Florida 8th District: Attorney Ric Keller (R) defeated former Orange County chair Linda Chapin (D) in an open-seat race, 51% to 49% (C-SPAN.org, 11/8). Keller proposes giving seniors pharmaceuticals through private insurance, supports HMO reform that includes the right to sue and supports overturning Roe v. Wade (American Health Line, 11/8);
- Kentucky 6th District: Incumbent Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R), a physician, defeated former Rep. Scotty Baesler (D), 53% to 35%. Reform Party candidate Gatewood Galbraith earned 12% of the vote (C-SPAN.org, 11/8). Fletcher was considered "most vulnerable on the issue of health care, having cast a controversial vote" last year against the Norwood-Dingell patients' rights legislation (Baniak, Lexington Herald-Leader, 11/8). Fletcher, however, supports a private-sector solution to prescription drug costs and opposes abortion rights (American Health Line, 11/1).
Indiana 8th District: Incumbent Republican John Hostettler defeated orthopedic surgeon Paul Perry (D), 53% to 46%, in the race for the state's "Bloody 8th" District seat (CNN.com, 11/8). Health care was a "chief" issue in this race, pushed "constantly" throughout the campaign by Perry (Reynolds, Evansville Courier & Press, 11/8). On health care, Hostettler historically has voted against Medicare prescription drug coverage. He also opposes a patients' bill of rights, saying that increasing government involvement in health care would result in worse treatment. Hostettler has voted in favor of establishing tax-exempt medical savings accounts and opposes abortion (American Health Line, 11/2). Perry spokesperson Jordan Matyas said, "I think everyone recognizes John Hostettler is on the wrong side of the health care issue," adding, "We congratulate him on his victory, but we hope he recognizes that this is a real crisis, and that he supports legislation that helps all Hoosiers" (Evansville Courier & Press, 11/8).
Illinois 10th District: In the "fiercely competitive and costly race" for retiring Rep. John Porter's (R) seat, Republican Mark Kirk defeated state Rep. Lauren Beth Gash (D), 51% to 49% (CNN.com, 11/8). Kirk supports Medicare prescription drug benefits and patients' rights legislation, including the ability to sue HMOs. While supporting abortion rights and opposing late-term abortions except in cases where the life or health of the woman is endangered, Kirk opposes federal funding for abortion and favors laws requiring parental notification for minors to obtain abortions (American Health Line, 11/2).
- Michigan 8th District: In one of the nation's "hottest congressional races," Republican Mike Rogers defeated Democrat Debbie Byrum for the open seat vacated by Senator-elect Debbie Stabenow (D) (Washington Post, 11/8). Regarding health care, Rogers' views "mirror" the positions of Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) on plans for a Medicare prescription drug provision. While supporting a patients' bill of rights, Rogers opposes both the House-passed Norwood-Dingell bill and abortion (American Health Line, 11/2).
- Washington 2nd District: Democratic Snohomish County Council member Rick Larsen has defeated Republican state Rep. John Koster, 51% to 46% (Washington Post, 11/8). On health issues, Larsen backs providing a prescription drug benefit directly through Medicare; greater access to specialists and a right to sue HMOs over treatment denials; and abortion rights