SPOKANE, Wash., Nov. 9 -- House Speaker Tom Foley conceded Wednesday he had narrowly lost his bid for re-election, marking the end of his 30-year congressional career. Foleyfell victim to the same tide that swept in many Republicans in a mid-term election that gave the GOP the majority in the House and Senate. He was defeated by Republican George Nethercutt, a Spokane attorney who never has held public office. 'It appears to me that when all the votes are counted, we may fall a few votes short,' Foley said in his concession speech. He is the first speaker of the House since 1860 to be defeated. 'There will be a somewhat prolonged counting of the absentee ballots,' he said, leaving the door slightly ajar in case of an extraordinary number of absentees. 'But the final result, as it appears to me now, is the 5th Congressional District of Washington will have elected a new representative in Congress.' Foley, who took no questions from the media, said he called Nethercutt and promised his full support in the transition period. 'Let me now congratulate Geroge Nethercutt and promise him the full support of my office in the coming months of transition,' Foley said. In his victory speech, Nethercutt smiled widely and said, 'We just defeated the speaker of the House.' Nethercutt said his win represented a 'referendum on the Clinton agenda.' Among Nethercutt's backers was Texas billionaire Ross Perot, who stumped for him in Spokane in the final campaign days.
'This election was a referendum on the system,' Nethercutt said. 'The voters of the 5th District want Washington, D.C., to work differently.' He promised he would reach out to the Democrats, saying 'together we will have a great two years. I have great expectations that it will be challenging.' Nethercutt was also backed by term limits supporters, the National Rifle Association and national Republican strategists who targeted longtime Democratic figurehead Foley. Foley is the first speaker rejected at the polls since Abraham Lincoln was president. Had he won, he would not have returned as speaker, due to the new Republican majority in Congress. Foley thanked the people of his district, his family, staff and supporters. He said he was grateful for the chance to serve. He also thanked the presidents he had served under: Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton. They 'have all been presidents who have sought to move our country forward,' he said. 'Men of honor and integrity and I have tried to serve them.'