Riding Barack Obama’s long coattails, the Democrats expanded their Senate majority by at least five seats and added 20 or more to their majority in the House of Representatives Nov. 4.

Voters in North Carolina ousted incumbent Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, electing Democrat Kay Hagan, a state senator virtually unknown outside the Tarheel State before this election.

Former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen defeated incumbent Republican Sen. John Sununu. Democrats also picked up three vacant Senate seats that had been held by Republicans. The new Democratic senators are New Mexico’s Tom Udall, his cousin, Mark Udall of Colorado, and Mark Warner of Virginia. One-third of the new Senate will be women, a historic high.

Three Senate races were too close to call at press time. Incumbent Republican Norm Coleman was ahead of Al Franken in Minnesota by only 571 votes and Oregon’s Republican Sen. Gordon Smith and Democrat Jeff Merkley were neck-and-neck. Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, convicted of seven felonies, held a narrow lead over Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.

The Democratic majority, while strengthened, is still short of the 60 votes needed to end to Republican filibusters in the Senate.

The Democratic majority in the House is expected to be somewhere around 255, compared to the Republicans’ 179 seats. Obama’s Electoral College landslide and his strong majority popular vote, together with the gains for the Democrats in the House, will make it difficult for the Republicans to stall and obstruct vital legislation as they did after their 2006 defeat. The Democrats also won seven of the 11 gubernatorial elections including reelection of Gov. Chris Gregoire in Washington State, who defeated her GOP rival four years ago by 133 votes.

“It’s a new day!” exclaimed Joelle Fishman, chair of the Communist Party USA’s Political Action Commission. “The profound impact of Barack Obama’s election is also reflected in the House and Senate returns.

“This election showed a strong shift in the country against the Bush administration’s corporate rightwing agenda.”

Obama and the Congress “have won a strong mandate to take our country in a new direction; to end the war in Iraq, to utilize the resources of the country for a massive program to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure creating millions of ‘green’ jobs,” Fishman said. “We now have the possibility to create a universal health care program and push through the Employee Free Choice Act to restore workers’ right to join a union. We need comprehensive immigration reform, full funding of public education and countless other human needs.”

This election victory, she added “is the result of the biggest mobilization of working people and their unions in our history, unprecedented turnout by African Americans, Latinos, women and youth voters.” Fishman pointed out that “racebaiting,” “redbaiting” and all the other “Swift boat” tactics that Karl Rove used to win elections fell flat this year. “The voters saw through it,” she said.

For example, in Pennsylvania’s 11th Congressional District, incumbent Democrat Paul Kanjorski trounced Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, a notorious immigrant-basher, by 52 percent to 48 percent. In Michigan voters ousted GOP Rep. Joe Knollenberg, electing Democrat Gary Peters in the 9th CD — a seat not held by Democrats in 75 years, while Democrat Mark Schauer defeated Republican incumbent Tim Walberg in the 7th CD. At press time California Republican Tom McClintock led Democrat Charlie Brown by just 451 votes in the race to replace Republican Rep. John Doolittle, under investigation for his corrupt ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Doolittle said earlier this year he would not seek reelection.

In Maryland’s 1st CD, which encompasses the Eastern Shore and loops around to the suburbs of Baltimore, labor-backed Democrat Frank Kravotil was about 1,000 votes ahead of extremist Republican Andy Harris, who had defeated moderate Republican Wayne Gilchrest in the primary election. Gilchrest then crossed over and endorsed Kratovil. The outcome will be decided by 12,000 absentee and provisional ballots.