Democrats are poised to capture even more Congressional seats in this year's elections, observers said, after gaining a majority in both the House and Senate in the 2006 mid-term elections.
Of particular concern to the supermarket industry is the Senate, where 23 of the 35 seats that are being contested are held by Republicans.
“Everyone's eyes are on the Senate this year because of the nature of the election process,” said Tom Wenning, senior vice president and general counsel, National Grocers Association, Arlington, Va. “With only 12 Democrats running for reelection and 23 Republicans running for reelection, a lot is going to depend upon whether Republicans or Democrats will have enough votes to sustain a filibuster or override a filibuster.”
A Senate majority of 60 votes is needed to end a filibuster, and observers said they expect Republicans to use the filibuster to block passage of some key legislation that is part of the Democratic National Platform, including the Employee Free Choice Act that would eliminate the secret ballot for unionizing workplaces. Currently, the Senate includes 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans and two Independents (aligned with Democrats).
According to John J. Motley III, senior vice president, government and public affairs, Food Marketing Institute, Arlington, Va., a handful of the Senate seats currently held by Republicans are in jeopardy, while only one seat held by a Democrat appears to be at risk.
Among the Republican Senate seats that are expected to turn over to Democrats are ones in New Mexico (where Democrat Steve Udall is up against Republican Steve Pearce), Virginia (Republican Jim Gilmore vs. Democrat Mark Warner) and Alaska (Republican Ted Stevens vs. Democrat Mark Begich).
Four additional Republican Senate seats that are most at risk, according to Motley, include those of John Sununu of New Hampshire, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, and Susan Collins of Maine. They are being challenged, respectively, by Democrats Jeanne Shaheen, Jeff Merkley, Al Franken and Tom Allen.