In one of the closest elections in U.S. history, Democratic Rep. Sam Gejdenson was finally declared the winner this week in the race for the 2nd House District in eastern Connecticut – by a margin of four votes our of a total of nearly 186,000 cast.
The battle for his seat, however, is far from over.
Republican challenge Edward Munster has not accepted the recount as final and vowed to challenge the result in State Supreme Court and in the House of Representatives itself, which is the final arbiter of House membership.
With Republicans in charge of the new House, Gejdenson may not get the chance to serve an eighth term.
If his re-election stands, Gajdenson would raise the total of Jews who will serve in the 104th Congress to 24, down from 33 in the current Congress.
Gejdenson, 47, the son of Holocaust survivors, has represented eastern Connecticut in the House since 1980. Born in a displaced-persons camp in Germany in the aftermath of World War II, he was brought to the United States as a boy. He grew up on a dairy farm in the small town of Bozrah, Conn., where he still lives and works. Only a few Jewish families live in Bozrah and Jews make up only a minute percentage of the population of his district.
In his 14 years in Congress, Gejdenson has earned a reputation as one of its most liberal members, and has gained prominence on the House Foreign Relations Committee. Though a firm supporter of Israel, he is not considered to be one of the leaders of the pro-Israel effort in Washington.
Gejdenson has been active in perpetuating the memory of the Holocaust and once addressed a gathering of survivors on the steps of the capital in Washington in fluent Yiddish.
After Connecticut’s secretary of state declared the winner Tuesday, one week after Election Day, spokesmen for Munster said they would challenge the results in court on the basis of inconsistent rules about the inadmissibility of absentee ballots. Republicans were also quick to point that Gajdenson voted in 1985 to seat an incumbent Democrat who last a recount of an Indiana House race by 34 votes to a Republican challenger.
As the final authority on credentials, the then-Democratic House ordered its own recount in that case. The Democrat, Rep. Frank McCloskey, was then declared the winner by four votes. There is widespread speculation that Gejdenson’s own razor-thin margin will allow the Republicans to exact revenge for what they believe to be an injustice done to them 10 years ago when they were a powerless minority.
House Republicans have insisted that they will be fair if the issue is brought before them.
“We will not duplicate the Democrats’ way of stealing elections,” said Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), incoming chairman of the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over an election dispute.
Gejdenson’s camp insists that there is no comparison between this case and the disputed Indiana election, in which Democrats claimed minority votes were not initially counted.
They also say it would be a violation of democratic practice to overthrow what they believe is a fair count in the race.