U.S. House -- Vermont Elects First Socialist Congressman In 40 Years

Bernard Sanders, former mayor of Burlington, Vt., became the first socialist in the U.S. House of Representatives in 40 years by ousting Republican Rep. Peter Smith.

With 99 per cent of the vote tallied today, Sanders held a 56-40 percent lead.

``Our job is to show the rest of the country that the state of Vermont is prepared to lead the way,'' Sanders said. ``What we need is a mass movement of tens of millions of people who will stand up and say `We want national health care, we want the rich to pay their fair share of taxes.' ''

Political analysts said Smith was the victim of rising public anger at Congress and of heavy spending by the National Rifle Association, which was upset because he called for a ban on semi-automatic rifles.

Smith gained national attention at a recent Vermont fund-raiser when he distanced himself politically from President Bush on taxes and the civil-rights bill. Bush was sitting nearby on the dais when Smith made his remarks.

Sanders says he wants to caucus with the Democrats, but Democrats have been mum.

Only three members of Congress in this century have carried the socialist banner. In the early part of the century, Reps. Meyer London and Victor Berger of the Socialist Party represented working-class strongholds in Milwaukee and New York.

Vito Marcantonio, a member of the American Labor Party, represented working-class sections of New York during his 14 years in

Congress, which ended with his defeat in 1950.

By contrast, Sanders, 49, will represent a mostly rural state that was once solidly Republican but has been transformed by mostly middle-class people from New York and Massachusetts seeking clean air, open spaces and a more relaxed life.

Unofficial returns from Associated Press showed Democrats gaining nine House seats for 268 of the 435 total.

In other House races:

-- Newt Gingrich, the second-ranking Republican in the House, won re-election by a whisker in Georgia and said he survived only because he opposed President Bush's decision to raise taxes.

-- Democratic Rep. Robert Kastenmeier, a congressional veteran of 32 years, was upset in Wisconsin by Republican Scott Klug, who called Kastenmeier ``torn, worn and outdated.'' Kastenmeier was chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on courts.

-- Republican Rep. Chuck Douglas failed in his bid for a second term, losing to Democrat Dick Swett, who criticized the conservative incumbent's ``wacko lifestyle,'' a reference to Douglas' three divorces. It was the first time since 1912 that New Hampshire's 2nd District has sent a Democrat to Congress.

-- State Sen. William Jefferson, a Democrat, became the first black congressman elected in Louisiana since Reconstruction. He replaces Rep. Lindy Boggs, who is retiring after 17 years in the House.

-- Rep. Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who was reprimanded by the House for his relationship with a homosexual prostitute, was reelected.

-- Democratic Rep. Roy Dyson, a member of the Armed Services Committee, was beaten by Republican Wayne Gilchrest. It was revealed during the Maryland campaign that Dyson avoided service in the Vietnam War by claiming conscientious objector status - in contrast to his present-day hawkish views.

-- Compiled from Los Angeles Times, Reuters, Associated Press and Scripps Howard News Service.