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Roll Call’s 10 Best Senate Races

As a result of the racial tone of the campaign, Gore underperformed his past showings in the state’s rural areas as well as in sections of the state that had supported the 1968 segregationist presidential campaign of Alabama Gov. George Wallace. (Wallace took 34 percent of the statewide vote in his presidential bid.)

Brock won 51 percent to 47 percent, a 42,000 vote victory. He served until 1976 when he lost to Jim Sasser (D).

1974 Nevada Senate race: Paul Laxalt (R) vs. Harry Reid (D)

This open-seat race brought on by the retirement of Democratic Sen. Alan Bible pitted two future titans of state and national politics against each other.

Laxalt had lost a race 10 years earlier to Sen. Howard Cannon (D) by just 48 votes, then bounced back in 1966 to win the Silver State governorship. He left that post in 1971 to become a casino executive.

Reid was an up-and-coming Democratic lawmaker, having been elected to the Nevada General Assembly at age 28 in 1968. Two years later he ran and won the lieutenant governor’s race.

Laxalt held a comfortable early lead, but he saw his edge erode following the resignation of President Richard Nixon (R) and Nixon’s subsequent pardon by newly installed President Gerald Ford (R).

In the final count on election night 1974, Laxalt held a 624-vote lead. A recount trimmed Laxalt’s margin to 611 votes. Laxalt served until 1986. Reid later won election to the Senate and now serves as Minority Leader.

1980 Idaho Senate race: Frank Church (D) vs. Steve Symms (R)

First elected to the Senate in 1956 at age 32, Church — the head of a high-profile committee that investigated controversial activities by U.S. intelligence officials — appeared to be in strong shape heading into the 1980 race.

Three things happened that changed that calculus.

First, a group known as Anybody But Church formed that began bashing the Senator for his alleged liberal stances more than a year before the election. ABC was one facet of a movement organized by the National Conservative political action committee (NCPAC) to oust Democratic Senators.

Second, conservative Rep. Steve Symms, who had held the 1st district House seat from 1972 to 1980, decided to challenge Church.

And finally, President Jimmy Carter ran a disastrous re-election campaign against Ronald Reagan, winning just 25 percent of Idaho’s votes and conceding the election before the polls had even closed in the state.

Symms won by 4,262 votes — a 50 percent to 49 percent margin. Church remains the last Democrat to hold an Idaho Senate seat.

1980 New York Senate race: Al D’Amato (R) vs. Elizabeth Holtzman (D)

D’Amato’s rise from the presiding supervisor of the town of Hempstead to U.S. Senator featured two races in one.

In the first, the conservative D’Amato challenged moderate Sen. Jacob Javits in the Republican primary.

Javits had held the Senate seat since 1956. D’Amato made an issue of Javits’ age, 76, his ill-health (he had a degenerative nerve disease) and his liberal positions.

D’Amato unseated Javits, 56 percent to 44 percent.

In the general election, D’Amato faced liberal Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D). Javits, who had won the Liberal Party’s nomination, was also on the November ballot.

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