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1986 United States 1990
United States Senate elections, 1988
35 seats in the United States Senate
November 8, 1988
Majority party Minority party
GeorgeJMitchellPortrait.jpg Bob Dole, PCCWW photo portrait.JPG
Leader George Mitchell Bob Dole
Party Democratic Republican
Leader's seat Maine Kansas
Last election 54 seats 46 seats
Seats won 55 45
Seat change +1 -1
1988 Senate election map.svg
     Democratic holds     Democratic pickups     Republican holds     Republican pickups

Previous Majority Leader
Robert Byrd

Majority Leader-elect
George Mitchell

The United States Senate election, of November 8, 1988 was an election for the United States Senate in which, in spite of the Republican victory by George H. W. Bush in the presidential election, the Republicans suffered a net loss of one seat in the Senate. The Democratic majority in the Senate increased from 54-46 to 55-45.

The Democrats captured four Republican seats, which included an open seat in Virginia and the seats of three incumbents, Chic Hecht of Nevada, Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. of Connecticut, and David K. Karnes of Nebraska. These gains were partially offset by the Republican capture of open seats by Trent Lott in Mississippi and Connie Mack III in Florida, and the defeat of incumbent John Melcher of Montana to Conrad Burns.


Notable races


Democratic gains

  • Connecticut: Democratic Attorney General Joe Lieberman narrowly defeated Sen. Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. (R-CT) in his bid for a fourth term. A liberal in an increasingly conservative party, Weicker found himself at odds with his fellow Republicans. This rift would lead to many conservatives (such as National Review editor William F. Buckley, Jr.) to endorse Lieberman.
  • Nebraska: Sen. David Karnes (R-NE) lost by a large margin to former Governor Bob Kerrey (D). Karnes had been appointed to the Senate following the death of Sen. Edward Zorinsky (D-NE) and, though he survived a tough primary challenge from Rep. Hal Daub (R-NE), he proved no match for the popular Kerrey in the general election.
  • Nevada: Sen. Chic Hecht (R-NV) was narrowly defeated by Governor Richard Bryan (D). Hecht had been considered vulnerable for his undistinguished record and a series of verbal gaffes.
  • Virginia: Sen. Paul S. Trible, Jr. (R-VA) retired rather than run a contentious re-election race against former Governor Chuck Robb (D). Robb would instead face Republican Maurice Dawkins, a black minister, and defeat him in a landslide.

Republican gains

Democratic holds

Republican holds

  • Washington: Former Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) defeated Rep. Mike Lowry (D-WA) for the seat of Sen. Daniel J. Evans (R-WA). Gorton won the tight race despite having been voted out of the state's other Senate seat two years earlier.
  • Wyoming: Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R-WY) defeated Democratic State Senator John Vinich by less than one percentage point. Wallop became vulnerable due to attacks on his partisan voting record.

Senate contests in 1988

A bolded state name indicates an article about that state's election.

State Incumbent Party Status Opposing Candidates
Arizona Dennis DeConcini Democratic Re-elected, 58.0% Keith DeGreen (Republican) 42.0%
Rich Tompkins (Libertarian) 1.8%
California Pete Wilson Republican Re-elected, 52.7% Leo T. McCarthy (Democratic) 44.0%
Maria Elizabeth Muñoz (Peace & Freedom) 1.7%
Jack Dean (Libertarian) 0.8%
Merton D. Short (American Ind.) 0.7%
Connecticut Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. Republican Defeated, 49.0% Joe Lieberman (Democratic) 49.7%
Howard Grayson (Libertarian) 0.9%
Melissa Fisher (New Alliance) 0.3%
Delaware William V. Roth, Jr. Republican Re-elected, 62.1% Shien Biau Woo (Democratic) 37.9%
Florida Lawton Chiles Democratic Retired, Republican victory Connie Mack III (Republican) 50.4%
Buddy MacKay (Democratic) 49.6%
Hawaii Spark Matsunaga Democratic Re-elected, 76.5% Maria M. Hustace (Republican) 20.7%
Ken Schoolland (Libertarian) 2.8%
Indiana Richard Lugar Republican Re-elected, 67.7% Jack Wickes (Democratic) 32.3%
Maine George J. Mitchell Democratic Re-elected, 81.1% Jasper S. Wyman (Republican) 18.9%
Maryland Paul Sarbanes Democratic Re-elected, 61.8% Alan Keyes (Republican) 38.2%
Massachusetts Ted Kennedy Democratic Re-elected, 65.0% Joseph D. Malone (Republican) 33.9%
Mary Fridley (New Alliance) 0.6%
Freda Lee Nason (Libertarian) 0.5%
Michigan Donald W. Riegle, Jr. Democratic Re-elected, 60.4% James Whitney Dunn (Republican) 38.5%
Dick Jacobs (Libertarian) 0.8%
Sally Bier (Workers Against Concessions) 0.3%
Minnesota David Durenberger Republican Re-elected, 56.2% Skip Humphrey (Democratic) 40.9%
Polly Mann (Progressive Issues) 2.1%
Derrick Grimmer (Grassroots) 0.4%
Arlen Overvig (Libertarian) 0.2%
Wendy Lyons (Socialist Workers) 0.1%
Mississippi John C. Stennis Democratic Retired, Republican victory Trent Lott (Republican) 54.1%
Wayne Dowdy (Democratic) 45.9%
Missouri John Danforth Republican Re-elected, 67.7% Jay Nixon (Democratic) 31.7%
John Guze (Libertarian) 0.6%
Montana John Melcher Democratic Defeated, 48.1% Conrad Burns (Republican) 51.9%
Nebraska David Karnes1 Republican Defeated, 41.7% Bob Kerrey (Democratic) 56.7%
Ernie Chambers (New Alliance) 1.6%
Nevada Chic Hecht Republican Defeated, 47.1% Richard Bryan (Democratic) 51.3%
James Frye (Libertarian) 1.6%
New Jersey Frank Lautenberg Democratic Re-elected, 53.5% Pete Dawkins (Republican) 45.2%
Joseph Job (Independent) 0.7%
Jerry Zeldin (Libertarian) 0.4%
Thomas Fiske (Socialist Workers) 0.2%
New Mexico Jeff Bingaman Democratic Re-elected, 63.2% Bill Valentine (Republican) 36.8%
New York Daniel Patrick Moynihan Democratic Re-elected, 67.3% Robert R. McMillan (Republican) 31.6%
North Dakota Quentin N. Burdick Democratic Re-elected, 59.5% Earl Strinden (Republican) 39.1%
Kenneth C. Gardner (Libertarian) 1.5%
Ohio Howard Metzenbaum Democratic Re-elected, 56.9% George Voinovich (Republican) 43.1%
Pennsylvania H. John Heinz III Republican Re-elected, 66.4% Joseph C. Vignola (Democratic) 32.4%
Darcy Richardson (Consumer) 0.6%
Henry Haller (Libertarian) 0.3%
Samuel Cross (Populist) 0.1%
Sam Blancato (New Alliance) 0.1%
Rhode Island John Chafee Republican Re-elected, 54.3% Richard A. Licht (Democratic) 45.7%
Tennessee Jim Sasser Democratic Re-elected, 65.1% Bill Anderson (Republican) 34.5%
Khalil-Ullah Al-Muhaymin (Independent) 0.4%
Texas Lloyd Bentsen Democratic Re-elected, 59.2% Beau Boulter (Republican) 40.0%
Jeff Daiell (Libertarian) 0.8%
Utah Orrin Hatch Republican Re-elected, 67.1% Brian Moss (Democratic) 31.7%
Robert J. Smith (American) 0.9%
William M. Arth (Socialist Workers) 0.2%
Vermont Robert Stafford Republican Retired, Republican victory Jim Jeffords (Republican) 67.9%
William Gray (Democratic) 29.8%
Jerry Levy (Liberty Union) 1.1%
King Milne (Independent) 1.0%
Virginia Paul S. Trible, Jr. Republican Retired, Democratic victory Chuck Robb (Democratic) 71.2%
Maurice A. Dawkins (Republican) 28.8%
Washington Daniel J. Evans Republican Retired, Republican victory Slade Gorton (Republican) 50.7%
Mike Lowry (Democratic) 49.3%
West Virginia Robert Byrd Democratic Re-elected, 63.2% M. Jay Wolfe (Republican) 36.8%
Wisconsin William Proxmire Democratic Retired, Democratic victory Herb Kohl (Democratic) 52.2%
Susan Engeleiter (Republican) 47.8%
Wyoming Malcolm Wallop Republican Re-elected, 50.4% John Vinich (Democratic) 49.6%

1Karnes was appointed to the Senate on March 11, 1987, following the death of Edward Zorinsky (D-NE).

See also

Senate composition before and after elections

100th Congress Senate Composition   101st Congress Senate Composition
Color Key:   = Republican   = Democratic


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