WASHINGTON — Tuesday's elections significantly changed the House and Senate banking committee lineups, but one crucial financial services lawmaker, Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., overcame stiff odds to win re-election.
The House Financial Services Committee lost at least six members (two retired) and the Senate Banking Committee lost three, including Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who lost to Democrat Kay Hagan, a former banker.
Those ousted from the Financial Services Committee included Reps. Chris Shays of Connecticut and Tom Feeney of Florida, both Republicans. Two Democrats, Reps. Tim Mahoney of Florida and Don Cazayoux of Louisiana, also lost.
With Democrats gaining at least 20 seats in the House and 5 in the Senate, the Financial Services Committee and Senate Banking Committees are expected to have wider Democratic margins in the next Congress. Financial Services now has 37 Democrats and 33 Republicans. Senate Banking is split 11 Democrats to 10 Republicans.
The biggest surprise of the night was the re-election of Rep. Kanjorski, who had been well behind in the polls a week ago in his bid for a 13th term.
Rep. Kanjorski is the second-most-senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, where he chairs the capital markets subcommittee and has been viewed as a leader on issues about insurance, the government-sponsored enterprises, and the Federal Home Loan banks.
"It provides important continued stability and leadership within the Financial Services Committee," said Steve O'Connor, the head of government affairs for the Mortgage Bankers Association.
"Congressman Kanjorski has a sophisticated understanding of housing and capital markets issues, and we expect him to continue his leadership role within the committee. He's also an important moderating force. … He's been somebody we've had a close working relationship with over the years."
But his success may prove a mixed bag for bankers. Rep. Kanjorski is a leading supporter of credit unions and has also championed the National Association of Realtors, another sometime rival of the banking industry.
The race was tight right to the end. At an election-night party in Washington Tuesday, some financial services lobbyists who had campaigned in Pennsylvania for Rep. Kanjorski appeared anxious about the contest, constantly scrolling their Blackberrys to follow election returns.
Rep. Kanjorski's challenger, Lou Barletta, the Republican mayor of Hazelton, had been ahead in the polls, campaigning hard on immigration reform and putting the incumbent on the defensive for millions of dollars in earmarks he directed to a company owned by family members that later went bankrupt. Rep. Kanjorski had denied any wrongdoing.
He ended up winning by about 10,000 votes — 142,720 to 133,365, unofficially.
Rep. Kanjorski released a statement thanking his supporters and vowing to "rededicate myself with greater resolve to being the advocate of the middle-class hardworking families."