Thanks to a late Democratic victory in Oregon, the party still has a shot at a filibuster-proof Senate but it may take several weeks to sort out as tight races in Alaska, Minnesota and Georgia will force delays in determining the chamber’s ultimate makeup.
The plot thickened in the Democratic Party’s quest for 60 Senate seats when it was determined Thursday that Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley has unseated Republican incumbent Gordon Smith in that state. Smith had been leading that race, but Merkley pulled ahead overnight and Smith conceded the race early Thursday morning.
The gap between the two men was just a few thousand votes, according to the Portland Oregonian. Smith had been a senator in Oregon for the last 12 years, and his ouster puts all Democrats representing West Coast states in the Senate.
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Democrats need exactly 60 seats to thwart any future Republican filibusters; Merkley’s win gives them 55. Two independents, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, sit in the Democratic caucus, making the filibuster-proof Senate possible.