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United States Senate elections, 2004

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United States Senate elections, 2004

United States Senate elections, 2004

November 2, 2004

Class 3 (34 of the 100) seats in the United States Senate
51 seats needed for a majority
  Majority party Minority party
Leader Bill Frist Tom Daschle
Party Republican Democratic
Leader's seat Tennessee South Dakota (defeated)
Last election 51 seats 48 seats
Seats before 51 48
Seats won 55 44
Seat change Increase 4 Decrease 4
Popular vote 39,920,562 44,754,618
Percentage 45.3% 50.8%
Swing Decrease 4.2% Increase 5.3%

  Third party
Party Independent
Last election 1 seat
Seats before 1
Seats won 1*
Seat change Steady

  Democratic gain
  Democratic hold
  Republican hold
  Republican gain

*1 Independent caucused with the Democrats.

Majority Leader before election

Bill Frist

Elected Majority Leader

Bill Frist

The United States Senate election, 2004 was an election for one-third of the seats in the president and the United States House election, as well as many state and local elections. Senators who were elected in 1998, known as Senate Class 3, were seeking reelection or retiring in 2004. This was the third consecutive election for Senate Class 3 where the Democrats failed to end up with a net gain.

Gains and losses

Republicans won six seats but lost two themselves, giving them a net gain of four seats: conservative Democrat Bush, chose not to run for re-election and Republican Johnny Isakson won his seat; Democrat Fritz Hollings of South Carolina chose not to run for re-election and Republican Jim DeMint succeeded him; Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee John Edwards did not run for re-election and Republican Richard Burr won his North Carolina seat; Democrat Bob Graham of Florida chose not to run for re-election, and his seat went to Republican Mel Martinez; Democrat John Breaux chose not to run for re-election and Republican David Vitter won his seat, and in South Dakota, Republican John Thune defeated the incumbent Senate minority leader Tom Daschle, the first time since 1952 that a sitting party leader lost re-election. Republican Senator Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois chose not to run for re-election and Democrat Barack Obama won a landslide, becoming the only black Senator and only the 3rd popularly elected since Reconstruction. Also, Republican Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado chose not to run for re-election and Democrat Ken Salazar won the open seat.

Results summary

Summary of the United States Senate elections, 2004 results []
Parties Total
Democratic Republican Independent Libertarian Others
Last election (2002) 48 51 1 100
Before this election 48 51 1 100
End of this Congress (two months later) 48 51 1 100
Not Up 29 36 1 66
Up 19 15 34
Held by same party 1 1
Replaced by other party Decrease 2 Republicans
replaced by
Increase 2 Democrats
Decrease 5 Democrats
replaced by
Increase 5 Republicans
IncreaseDecrease 7
Won re-election 13 12 25
Lost re-election Decrease 1 Democrat
replaced by
Increase 1 Republican
IncreaseDecrease 1
Lost renomination, held by same party 0
Lost renomination, and party lost 0
Total held 13 13 26
Total not held / gained Decrease 2 Increase 4 IncreaseDecrease 6
Total elected 15 19 34
Result 44 55 1 100
Votes 44,754,618 39,920,562 186,231 754,861 2,481,075 88,097,347
Share 50.8% 45.3% 0.21% 0.86% 2.82% 100%


  • Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Elections
  • United States Elections Project at George Mason University

Change in Senate composition

Before the elections

I1 D1 D2 D3 D4 D5 D6 D7 D8 D9
D19 D18 D17 D16 D15 D14 D13 D12 D11 D10
D20 D21 D22 D23 D24 D25 D26 D27 D28 D29
D39 D38 D37 D36 D35 D34 D33 D32 D31 D30
D40 D41 D42 D43 D44 D45 D46 D47 D48 R51
Majority → R50
R41 R42 R43 R44 R45 R46 R47 R48 R49
R40 R39 R38 R37 R36 R35 R34 R33 R32 R31
R21 R22 R23 R24 R25 R26 R27 R28 R29 R30
R20 R19 R18 R17 R16 R15 R14 R13 R12 R11
R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 R7 R8 R9 R10

Beginning of the next Congress

I1 D1 D2 D3 D4 D5 D6 D7 D8 D9
D19 D18 D17 D16 D15 D14 D13 D12 D11 D10
D20 D21 D22 D23 D24 D25 D26 D27 D28 D29
D39 D38 D37 D36 D35 D34 D33 D32 D31 D30
D40 D41 D42 D43+ D44+ R55+ R54+ R53+ R52+ R51+
Majority → R50+
R41 R42 R43 R44 R45 R46 R47 R48 R49O
R40 R39 R38 R37 R36 R35 R34 R33 R32 R31
R21 R22 R23 R24 R25 R26 R27 R28 R29 R30
R20 R19 R18 R17 R16 R15 R14 R13 R12 R11
R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 R7 R8 R9 R10
D# Democratic
R# Republican
I# Independent
Incumbent re-elected or appointee elected to finish term
O Party hold: New senator elected from same party
+ Party gain: New senator elected from different party

Political parties

The Senate, as of the pre-election Illinois, Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina. In fact, the only retiring senator whose seat was taken by a member of his party was Republican Don Nickles of Oklahoma, who was succeeded by Tom Coburn.

Republicans gained four seats in the 2004 elections, and entered the 109th Congress with a 55-44-1 lead. While such a majority is formidable, it is still less than the 60 seats needed to override a filibuster and completely control the body's agenda and procedures.

Major parties

One Republican seat, that of retiring Senator Peter Fitzgerald in Illinois, was easily taken by Democrat Barack Obama, who would be elected President of the United States four years later. In Colorado, retiring Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell's seat was narrowly taken by Democrat Ken Salazar. In Alaska, Republican Lisa Murkowski won reelection in a tight race. In Oklahoma, Tom Coburn kept Don Nickles' seat in Republican hands, while in Kentucky, Republican Jim Bunning won a second term by a very narrow margin.

The Democrats' prospects were weakened by the fact that five of their six incumbent Senators in Southern states were retiring (the sixth, Zell Miller's seat, contested by Denise Majette, was lost in a landslide, as was that of South Carolina Sen. Ernest Hollings. In North Carolina, Democrat Erskine Bowles lost John Edwards's seat to Republican Richard Burr. Especially close races in Florida, Louisiana, and South Dakota all resulted in turnovers to the Republicans.

Third and minor parties

The Libertarian, Constitution, and Green parties contested many of the seats. No candidate from any of these parties received sufficient support to near election, but some may have affected the outcome of the Alaska and Florida races by drawing votes away from the major party candidates. Of the 34 senate seats up for grabs, the Libertarians ran candidates in 20 of the races, the Constitutionalists ran 10 candidates, and the Greens ran 7 candidates.

Minor parties in a number of states contested one or more Senate seats. Examples include the America First Party, the Labor Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, and the Socialist Workers Party. None of these parties gained a seat in this election nor received a significant number of votes.

Race summary

State Incumbent Party Result Candidates
Alabama Richard Shelby Republican Re-elected Richard Shelby (Republican) 68%
Wayne Sowell (Democratic) 32%
Alaska Lisa Murkowski Republican Appointee elected to full term Lisa Murkowski (Republican) 48.6%
Tony Knowles (Democratic) 45.5%
Marc Millican (Independent) 2.9%
Jerry Sanders (Alaskan Independence) 1.2%
Jim Sykes (Green) 1%
Scott Kohlhaas (Libertarian Party) 0.4%
Arizona John McCain Republican Re-elected John McCain (Republican) 76%
Stuart Starky (Democratic) 21%
Ernest Hancock (Libertarian) 3%
Arkansas Blanche Lincoln Democratic Re-elected Blanche Lincoln (Democratic) 56%
Jim Holt (Republican) 44%
California Barbara Boxer Democratic Re-elected Barbara Boxer (Democratic) 57.7%
Bill Jones (Republican) 37.8%
Marsha Feinland (Peace and Freedom) 2%
James P. Gray (Libertarian) 1.8%
Don J. Grundmann (Constitution) 0.7%
Colorado Ben Nighthorse Campbell Republican Retired
Democratic gain
Ken Salazar (Democratic) 51.3%
Pete Coors (Republican) 46.5%
Doug Cambell (Constitution) 1%
Richard Randall (Libertarian) 0.5%
John Harris (Independent) 0.4%
Victor Good (Reform Party) 0.3%
Connecticut Chris Dodd Democratic Re-elected Chris Dodd (Democratic) 66.4%
Jack Orchulli (Republican) 32.1%
Timothy Knibbs (C) 0.9%
Lenny Rasch (L) 0.6%
Florida Bob Graham Democratic Retired
Republican gain
Mel Martinez (Republican) 49.5%
Betty Castor (Democratic) 48.3%
Dennis Bradley (Veterans) 2.2%
Georgia Zell Miller Democratic Retired
Republican gain
Johnny Isakson (Republican) 57.9%
Denise Majette (Democratic) 40%
Allen Buckley (Libertarian) 2.1%
Hawaii Daniel Inouye Democratic Re-elected Daniel Inouye (Democratic) 75.5%
Campbell Cavasso (Republican) 21%
James Brewer (Independent) 2.2%
Lloyd Mallan (Libertarian) 1.3%
Idaho Mike Crapo Republican Re-elected Mike Crapo (Republican) 99%
Illinois Peter Fitzgerald Republican Retired
Democratic gain
Barack Obama (Democratic) 70%
Alan Keyes (Republican) 27%
Albert Franzen (Independent) 1.6%
Jerry Kohn (Libertarian) 1.3%
Indiana Evan Bayh Democratic Re-elected Evan Bayh (Democratic) 62%
Marvin Scott (Republican) 37%
Albert Barger (Libertarian) 1%
Iowa Chuck Grassley Republican Re-elected Chuck Grassley (Republican) 70.1%
Arthur Small (Democratic) 27.9%
Christy Welty (Libertarian) 1%
Daryl Northrop (Green) 0.8%
Edwin Fruit (Socialist Workers) 0.1%
Kansas Sam Brownback Republican Re-elected Sam Brownback (Republican) 69%
Lee Jones (Democratic) 28%
Stephen A. Rosile (Libertarian) 2%
George Cook (Reform) 1%
Kentucky Jim Bunning Republican Re-elected Jim Bunning (Republican) 51%
Daniel Mongiardo (Democratic) 49%
Louisiana John Breaux Democratic Retired
Republican gain
David Vitter (Republican) 51%
Chris John (Democratic) 29%
John N. Kennedy (Democratic) 15%
Arthur Morrell (Democratic) 3%
Richard Fontanesi (Independent) 1%
R.A. Galan (Independent) 1%
Sam Melton (Democratic) 1%
Maryland Barbara Mikulski Democratic Re-elected Barbara Mikulski (Democratic) 64.8%
E. J. Pipkin (Republican) 33.7%
Maria Allwine (Green) 1.1%
Thomas Trump (Constitution) 0.4%
Missouri Kit Bond Republican Re-elected Kit Bond (Republican) 56%
Nancy Farmer (Democratic) 42.8%
Kevin Tull (Libertarian) 0.7%
Don Griffin (Constitution) 0.4%
Nevada Harry Reid Democratic Re-elected Harry Reid (Democratic) 61.1%
Richard Ziser (Republican) 35.1%
None of These Candidates 1.6%
Tomas Hurst (Libertarian) 1.2%
David Schumann (Constitution) 0.7%
Gary Marinch (Natural Law) 0.3%
New Hampshire Judd Gregg Republican Re-elected Judd Gregg (Republican) 66%
Doris Haddock (Democratic) 34%
New York Chuck Schumer Democratic Re-elected Chuck Schumer (Democratic) 71.16%
Howard Mills III (Republican) 24.24%
Marilyn O'Grady (Conservative) 3%
David McReynolds (Green) 0.5%
Donald Silberger (Libertarian) 0.3%
Abraham Hirschfeld (Builders Party) 0.2%
Martin Koppel (Socialist Workers) 0.2%
North Carolina John Edwards Democratic Retired
Republican gain
Richard Burr (Republican) 52%
Erskine Bowles (Democratic) 47%
Tom Bailey (Libertarian) 1%
North Dakota Byron Dorgan Democratic-NPL Re-elected Byron Dorgan (Democratic-NPL) 68%
Mike Liffrig (Republican) 32%
Ohio George Voinovich Republican Re-elected George Voinovich (Republican) 63.9%
Eric Fingerhut (Democratic) 36.1%
Oklahoma Don Nickles Republican Retired
Republican hold
Tom Coburn (Republican) 52.8%
Brad Carson (Democratic) 41.2%
Sheila Bilyeu (Independent) 6%
Oregon Ron Wyden Democratic Re-elected Ron Wyden (Democratic) 63.4%
Al King (Republican) 31.8%
Teresa Keane (Pacific Green) 2.4%
Dan Fitzgerald (Libertarian-Oregon) 1.7%
David Brownlow (Constitution-Oregon) 0.7%
Pennsylvania Arlen Specter Republican Re-elected Arlen Specter (Republican) 52.6%
Joe Hoeffel (Democratic) 42%
Jim Clymer (Constitution) 4%
Betsy Summers (Libertarian) 1.4%
South Carolina Fritz Hollings Democratic Retired
Republican gain
Jim DeMint (Republican) 53.7%
Inez Tenenbaum (Democratic) 44.1%
Patrick Tyndall (Constitution) 0.8%
Rebekah Sutherland (Libertarian) 0.7%
Tee Ferguson (United Citizens Party) 0.4%
Efia Nwangaza (Green) 0.3%
South Dakota Tom Daschle Democratic Lost re-election
Republican gain
John Thune (Republican) 50.5%
Tom Daschle (Democratic) 49.4%
Utah Robert Foster Bennett Republican Re-elected Robert Foster Bennett (Republican) 68.7%
Paul Van Dam (Democratic) 28.4%
Gary R. Van Horn (Constitution) 1.9%
Joe Labonte (Personal Choice) 1%
Vermont Patrick Leahy Democratic Re-elected Patrick Leahy (Democratic) 70.6%
Jack McMullen (Republican) 24.5%
Cris Ericson (Marijuana) 2.1%
Craig Hill (Green) 1.3%
Keith Stern (independent) 1.1%
Ben Mitchell (Liberty Union) 0.3%
Washington Patty Murray Democratic Re-elected Patty Murray (Democratic) 55%
George Nethercutt (Republican) 42.7%
J. Mills (Libertarian) 1.2%
Mark Wilson (Green) 1.1%
Wisconsin Russ Feingold Democratic Re-elected Russ Feingold (Democratic) 55.4%
Tim Michels (Republican) 44.1%
Arif Khan (Libertarian) 0.3%
Eugene A. Hem (Independent) 0.2%

Complete list of races

Senate composition following the 2004 elections.


Tony Knowles lost by nearly 3% after staying in a statistical dead heat with incumbent Lisa Murkowski in opinion polling throughout the summer. Despite Alaska being a heavily Republican state, popular opinion had swung against the Murkowski family because of a tax increase passed by Lisa's father, Governor Frank Murkowski. Moreover, many voters disapproved of the manner in which Lisa Murkowski entered the Senate: she was appointed by her father to the seat he vacated after he was elected governor. Knowles, who preceded the elder Murkowski as governor, had enlisted extensive out-of-state support for his bid to oust the younger Murkowski.


Democratic Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar maintained a small lead in polls over Republican brewing executive Pete Coors through the campaign, and ultimately prevailed. Salazar may have benefitted from an extended (and, by many descriptions, extraordinarily negative) Republican primary campaign between Coors and U.S. Representative Bob Schaffer.


After a heated primary race on both sides following Bob Graham's retirement, the Florida race was considered to be a tossup, with Democrat Betty Castor leading Republican Mel Martinez in statewide polls by a very slight margin. High Republican turnout, indicated by an unexpectedly large victory in Florida for President Bush, brought Martinez to victory.


Zell Miller's seat was contested as fiercely as Graham's into the primary elections on July 20. Rep. Johnny Isakson won the Republican nomination; Rep. Denise Majette defeated her closest rival, Cliff Oxford, in a runoff for the Democratic nomination on August 10. Isakson, as predicted, won the general election by a comfortable margin.


Democratic candidate Barack Obama, a widely popular state legislator, ran without serious opposition following the withdrawal of Republican candidate Jack Ryan. After a long search that saw Republicans considering numerous substitutes for Ryan, including former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, former governors, and state senators, perennial candidate and Maryland resident Alan Keyes accepted the nomination on August 8. Obama remained a heavy favorite, and won with a margin of more than 40%.


John Breaux's seat was widely viewed as a tossup, although Louisiana's open primary system made it difficult to gauge who had the lead in the race. Only one Republican, Rep. David Vitter, was in the running; he was challenged by three major Democratic candidates, foremost among them Rep. Chris John. Although the Democrats' combined vote totalled 47%, Vitter won the absolute majority needed to avert a runoff election, becoming the first Republican Senator from Louisiana since Reconstruction (133 years). Louisiana was the last state to elect a Republican Senator since the passage of the 17th Amendment in 1913.


While Kentucky, like Alaska and Oklahoma, was a very conservative state, one-term incumbent Jim Bunning's increasingly erratic behavior brought long-shot Democrat Daniel Mongiardo into a dead heat in October, and the lead fluctuated as returns were reported on Election Night.

North Carolina

Richard Burr in North Carolina faced Democrat Erskine Bowles for the seat John Edwards vacated for his 2004 vice-presidential bid. Early polling showed Bowles leading Burr by approximately 50% to 40%, largely due to Bowles' wider name recognition from his 2002 Senate run, but his lead evaporated in the weeks before the election. Burr unleashed a massive ad buy with six weeks until the election criticizing Bowles (a chief of staff to former President Clinton) for supporting NAFTA, which has been blamed for job losses in North Carolina. Burr pulled even in polls by Election Day, and won 52%–47%, which some election watchers attributed to President Bush's high vote total in North Carolina.

South Carolina

Although GOP confidence was supported by early polls showing Republican Rep. Jim DeMint to be several points ahead of Democratic nominee Inez Tenenbaum, the race tightened in late September. A factor in the tightening was DeMint's support of a proposal to replace the income tax with a national sales tax, which Tenenbaum heavily criticized. Nevertheless, DeMint won, 54%-44%.

South Dakota

Bush's legislative proposals and judicial nominees. Polls showed a very tight race, with the lead fluctuating. The state's tendency toward conservatism in federal elections, as well as the Republicans' drive, made Daschle's race for reelection more difficult than most incumbents'. When Daschle indeed lost by a very narrow margin, he became the first Senate party leader to do so in more than a half century. (Democratic floor leader Ernest McFarland was defeated by Republican Barry Goldwater in the 1952 Senate elections.) The South Dakota race was the most expensive senatorial campaign in the country, with Daschle and Thune together raising more than $33 million.

External links

  • List of the most expensive senatorial races, via
  • Election results, via
  • United States Election 2004 Web Archive from the U.S. Library of Congress
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