United States Senate elections, 2004
* 1 independent (VT) caucused with the Democrats.
The United States Senate election, 2004 was an election for one-third of the seats in the United States Senate which coincided with the re-election of George W. Bush as 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 is notably the 3rd consecutive election for Senate Class 3 where the Democrats failed to end up with a net gain.
Republicans won six seats but lost two themselves, giving them a net gain of four seats: conservative Democrat Zell Miller of Georgia, who campaigned for President 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 that seat; Democrat Bob Graham 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 Senate leader lost re-election. Republican Senator Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois chose not to run for re-election and Democrat and future president 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.
Summary of the United States Senate elections, 2004 results 
|Last election (2002)||51||48||1||—||—||100|
|Before this election||51||48||1||—||—||100|
|End of this Congress (two months later)||51||48||1||—||—||100|
|Held by same party||1||—||—||—||—||1|
|Replaced by other party||5 Democrats replaced by 5 Republicans||2 Republicans replaced by 2 Democrats||—||—||—||7|
|Lost re-election|| 1 Democrat replaced
by 1 Republican
|Lost renomination, held by same party||—||—||—||—||—||0|
|Lost renomination, and party lost||—||—||—||—||—||0|
|Total not held / gained||4||2||—||—||—||6|
Change in composition
The Senate, as of the pre-election 108th Congress, was composed of 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and 1 independent. (The independent, Jim Jeffords of Vermont, was allied with the Democratic caucus and had voted with Democrats to give them the majority in the past.) The Democrats, therefore, needed to make a net gain of at least two seats from retiring or incumbent Republicans to gain control of the Senate (one seat if Kerry won the presidency). In the election, incumbent senators won reelection in all races but one (Democratic leader Tom Daschle, in South Dakota, lost to Republican John Thune). The seats of retiring senators were taken by the opposing party in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, 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.
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, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, easily won reelection). Retiring Georgia Sen. 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.
Bold = Winning Candidate
|Alabama||Richard Shelby||Republican||Re-elected, 68%||Wayne Sowell (Democratic) 32%|
|Alaska||Lisa Murkowski||Republican||Appointee elected to full term, 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, 76%||Stuart Starky (Democratic) 21%
Ernest Hancock (Libertarian) 3%
|Arkansas||Blanche Lincoln||Democratic||Re-elected, 56%||Jim Holt (Republican) 44%|
|California||Barbara Boxer||Democratic||Re-elected, 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
|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||Christopher Dodd||Democratic||Re-elected, 66.4%||Jack Orchulli (Republican) 32.1%
Timothy Knibbs (C) 0.9%
Lenny Rasch (L) 0.6%
|Mel Martinez (Republican) 49.5%
Betty Castor (Democratic) 48.3%
Dennis Bradley (Veterans) 2.2%
|Johnny Isakson (Republican) 57.9%
Denise Majette (Democratic) 40%
Allen Buckley (Libertarian) 2.1%
|Hawaii||Daniel Inouye||Democratic||Re-elected, 75.5%||Campbell Cavasso (Republican) 21%
James Brewer (Independent) 2.2%
Lloyd Mallan (Libertarian) 1.3%
|Idaho||Mike Crapo||Republican||Re-elected, 99%||Write-in for Scott McClure (Democratic) 1%|
|Barack Obama (Democratic) 70%
Alan Keyes (Republican) 27%
Albert Franzen (Independent) 1.6%
Jerry Kohn (Libertarian) 1.3%
|Indiana||Evan Bayh||Democratic||Re-elected, 62%||Marvin Scott (Republican) 37%
Albert Barger (Libertarian) 1%
|Iowa||Chuck Grassley||Republican||Re-elected, 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, 69%||Lee Jones (Democratic) 28%
Stephen A. Rosile (Libertarian) 2%
George Cook (Reform) 1%
|Kentucky||Jim Bunning||Republican||Re-elected, 51%||Daniel Mongiardo (Democratic) 49%|
|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, 64.8%||E. J. Pipkin (Republican) 33.7%
Maria Allwine (Green) 1.1%
Thomas Trump (Constitution) 0.4%
|Missouri||Kit Bond||Republican||Re-elected, 56%||Nancy Farmer (Democratic) 42.8%
Kevin Tull (Libertarian) 0.7%
Don Griffin (Constitution) 0.4%
|Nevada||Harry Reid||Democratic||Re-elected, 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, 66%||Doris Haddock (Democratic) 34%|
|New York||Chuck Schumer||Democratic||Re-elected, 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
|Richard Burr (Republican) 52%
Erskine Bowles (Democratic) 47%
Tom Bailey (Libertarian) 1%
|North Dakota||Byron Dorgan||Democratic-NPL||Re-elected, 68%||Mike Liffrig (Republican) 32%|
|Ohio||George Voinovich||Republican||Re-elected, 63.9%||Eric Fingerhut (Democratic) 36.1%|
|Tom Coburn (Republican) 52.8%
Brad Carson (Democratic) 41.2%
Sheila Bilyeu (Independent) 6%
|Oregon||Ron Wyden||Democratic||Re-elected, 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, 52.6%||Joe Hoeffel (Democratic) 42%
Jim Clymer (Constitution) 4%
Betsy Summers (Libertarian) 1.4%
|South Carolina||Fritz Hollings||Democratic||Retired
|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, 49.4%
|John Thune (Republican) 50.5%|
|Utah||Robert Foster Bennett||Republican||Re-elected, 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, 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, 55%||George Nethercutt (Republican) 42.7%
J. Mills (Libertarian) 1.2%
Mark Wilson (Green) 1.1%
|Wisconsin||Russ Feingold||Democratic||Re-elected, 55.4%||Tim Michels (Republican) 44.1%
Arif Khan (Libertarian) 0.3%
Eugene Hem (Independent) 0.2%
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 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.
Richard Burr in North Carolina faced Democrat Erskine Bowles for the seat John Edwards vacated for his 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.
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%.
Tom Daschle, then the Democratic floor leader, was challenged by John Thune. Daschle was a prime target for Republicans in Washington because he was the federal government's highest-ranking Democrat and because he was perceived to be obstructing President 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.
- List of the most expensive senatorial races, via Opensecrets.org
- Election results, via CNN.com
- United States Election 2004 Web Archive from the U.S. Library of Congress