Florida Rep. Bill Chappell Jr., who has been linked by federal investigators to the Pentagon procurement scandal, was defeated in his bid for reelection, state officials announced Friday after completing a tally of absentee ballots.
Complete but unofficial voting returns showed Chappell, a Democrat, trailing Republican Craig James, 124,667 to 125,394. The slim margin will bring a mandatory recount under Florida law.
In Oregon, meanwhile, late returns and absentee ballots gave four-term Republican Rep. Denny Smith a narrow victory over Democratic challenger Mike Kopetski. The final, unofficial tally announced Friday in the Oregon race, after absentee ballots were counted, showed 111,157 votes for Smith and 110,487 for Kopetski, a state representative.
If the Florida recount, scheduled to begin Monday, confirms Chappell's loss to James, Democrats will have gained three seats in the 101st Congress, making their margin 260 to 175. The Senate breakdown is 55 Democrats and 45 Republicans.
Chappell's loss would open up the chairmanship of the influential Defense Appropriations subcommittee for Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), the next most senior member of the panel, and it would mark the second defeat in the 1988 election of a senior House member. House Banking Committee Chairman Fernand J. St Germain (D-R.I.) lost his seat in Tuesday's elections.
The other congressman whose activities are known to be under scrutiny in connection with the Pentagon probe, Democratic Rep. Roy Dyson of Maryland, narrowly escaped Chappell's apparent fate. A final, unofficial count in his district showed him a 951-vote winner over political newcomer Wayne Gilchrest, a Republican who tried to capitalize on Dyson's difficulties.