WASHINGTON (AP) _ Republicans retained their hold on the Senate for two more years as first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton gained a history-making triumph by capturing a seat in New York for Democrats.
Remarkably, joining her in the Senate winners' circle was Jean Carnahan, widow of the late Missouri Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan, who died three weeks ago in a plane crash. Carnahan, who outpolled Republican Sen. John Ashcroft, said she will accept the new governor's appointment to the job.
Some Republicans have said they might challenge the Carnahan victory, asserting that that the late governor was no longer a state resident.
But for now, the Carnahan win assured Democrats at least 47 seats _ more than enough to use the minority's power to wreak havoc with the Republican's legislative agenda by forcing procedural delays.
Though the Republicans' majority will be no better than 53-47 _ compared to this year's 54-46 margin _ a victory by two-term incumbent Republican Conrad Burns in Montana ensured that Republicans would have at least 50 of the Senate's 100 seats, which is enough for them to control the chamber.
The edge gives the Republicans their first eight-year stretch of Senate supremacy since the 1932 elections ended 14 years of Republican control.
In the race for the House of Representatives, meanwhile, Republicans were on the brink of victory in a costly battle for renewed control. The Republicans won six Democratic seats in scattered states, but gave five back.
First-term Democrat Rush Holt of New Jersey survived a near-death political experience _ at least for the time being _ appearing to lose his race, then pulling narrowly ahead when additional votes were unexpectedly reported.
Republicans also won Democratic open House seats in Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Missouri and West Virginia.
The national trend in the East showed Republicans had won 216 seats and were leading for 5 more, with 218 required to seal control. Democrats had won 201 seats, and were leading for 11 more.
Of the 29 incumbents seeking re-election in the Senate, three others besides Ashcroft were toppled from office by early Wednesday: veteran Democratic Sen. Charles Robb of Virginia and Republican Sens. Rod Grams of Minnesota and William Roth of Delaware.
Roth, 79, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, lost his bid for a sixth term to Delaware Democratic Gov. Thomas Carper.
Republican George Allen, the former governor of Virginia, ousted Robb after two terms in the Senate.
In Minnesota, department store heir Mark Dayton used millions of his own money to defeat the conservative Grams, who served a low-profile single term and was beset by a divorce and other personal problems.
Mrs. Clinton's bitter battle against Lazio, the upstart four-term congressman, became a contest that drew donors from across the country in what was partly an emotional proxy referendum on Bill Clinton and his presidency.
Democrats got a boost in New Jersey where Democrat Jon Corzine, after spending more than dlrs 60 million of his own fortune, held onto a seat vacated by Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
Corzine, a former chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, outspent four-term Republicans Rep. Bob Franks by 10-1, making it the costliest two-candidate Senate race in history. Franks' effort to make Corzine's record-setting expenditures an issue fell short.
In Florida, Democrat Bill Nelson, the state's insurance commissioner, grabbed the seat of Republican Sen. Connie Mack, who is retiring. Nelson defeated Republicans Rep. Bill McCollum, who was a manager during President Clinton's impeachment trial and spent his campaign trying to moderate his conservative image.
Two House Democrats were turned out of the House. Rep. Sam Gejdenson lost a bid for an 11th term in Connecticut, and first-term Democrat Rush Holt lost in New Jersey by fewer than 1,000 votes out of 280,000 cast.
Republicans also won Democratic open seats in Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia and Missouri.
All 435 House seats were on the ballot, but the two sides focused on 40 or so highly competitive races likely to determine which party would hold power alongside a new president.
In Oklahoma, Democrat Brad Carson claimed an open seat that Republicans had won in their 1994 landslide. The incumbent, Rep. Tom Coburn, retired after adhering to a self-imposed limit of three terms. Democrats found success in an open Long Island seat, winning a complicated five-way race.
But Republicans took away a seat in Pennsylvania, where a veteran Democrat opted for an ultimately unsuccessful bid for a Senate seat; and another in New York, claiming the seat held by Rep. Michael Forbes, a Republican-turned Democrat. In Virginia, the Republicans also won a seat vacated by veteran Democrat Owen Pickett.
The Republicans also won a Democratic seat in Missouri, and narrowly held onto a seat vacated by a veteran Republican lawmaker in Florida who unsuccessfully sought a Senate seat.
The expiring House includes 222 Republicans, 209 Democrats, two independents, one siding with each party, and two vacancies, also split between the parties. One Democrat. Rep. Jim Traficant, has said he will support a Republican for speaker.