Can Republicans hold the House?
By John Mercurio
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Only 50 of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are "in play," and only half of those are truly competitive.
Democrats need a net gain of six seats to regain control of the House, presuming they hold onto the seat of the late Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawaii. Democrats are defending fewer open seats, giving them a crucial advantage.
But Republicans scored several key recruiting coups that helped level the playing field. Although most observers give the edge to the GOP, the political environment remains volatile.
The following is CNN's state-by-state analysis of key races for the House:
Florida 05 (Northwest coast, parts of Central Florida -- Leans Democratic): Republicans who ran Florida's redistricting last year are hoping to exact revenge on Democratic Rep. Karen Thurman, who as chairwoman of the state Senate redistricting committee in 1991 drew a Democratic-friendly congressional map and, incidentally, a nice central Florida district for herself. This year, state legislators removed Thurman's heavily Democratic base in Gainesville and added the more conservative retiree areas of Pasco, Hernando and Lake Counties. Half of the voters in the new 5th are new to Thurman. Gore beat Bush, 50 to 46 percent, in the old district; Bush won 53 to 45 percent, under the new lines. Following the September 10 primary, Thurman will face Ginny Brown-Waite, a moderate Republican who, as state Senate president pro-tem, had a heavy hand in the latest remap. Brown-Waite emerged the winner of a stronger-than-expected September 10 primary battle with health-care consultant Don Gessner, a conservative who ran after ex-Rep. Bill McCollum, also a conservative, declined to join the GOP race. But most insiders believe the real victor is Thurman, who now faces a somewhat roughed-up challenger. Nonetheless, Brown-Waite is a serious rival who's widely known in the new district and has kept even with Thurman in the money chase -- a particularly impressive feat considering that Thurman sits on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Thurman remains favored, though not by much.
Iowa, an overview: Iowa is used to influencing national politics during the presidential campaign, but state voters find themselves in the unusual position this year of having a disproportionate impact on midterm elections that will decide which party controls Congress. The state's unique redistricting process created unusually competitive challenges for all four incumbents up for re-election (Rep. Greg Ganske, a Republican, is running for the Senate). Only one House candidate, state Sen. Steve King, is clearly favored to win in Iowa. King is running in the new Republican-majority western 5th district. Republicans now hold a 4-1 edge in the state's House districts. The party also holds a modest registration edge in the state, but voters who declare no party preference outnumber both parties. Al Gore carried Iowa by roughly 4,100 votes in 2000. All five districts were dramatically redrawn, forcing incumbents to move or dramatically alter their re-election strategies. In a rare development, the happiest group of voters right now may be local farmers, who recently won passage of the $180 billion farm bill in Congress. Insiders said this might give a boost to the state's embattled incumbents.
Iowa 01 (East Iowa/Davenport, Dubuque -- Leans Republican): Among the targeted Iowa incumbents is six-term Rep. Jim Nussle, a Republican who has survived tough races in the 1990s and, subsequently, remains slightly favored this year. Nussle, the House Budget Committee chairman, faces longtime Bettendorf Mayor Ann Hutchinson, a former Republican. Democratic leaders, including a few 2004 aspirants eager to make friends in Iowa, have stumped for Hutchinson, but the race has not been all smooth sailing -- this summer, she replaced her campaign manager for the third time since January. Nussle has set personal bests this year for fundraising, while Hutchinson has lagged behind, forced to fight for the Democratic nod with former Rep. Dave Nagle. Democrats plan to make hay of the fact that Hutchinson took Bettendorf from choking deficits to record surpluses, while Nussle has presided over the House budget panel as the federal government heads back into the red. Still, Nussle, aided by folks like President Bush, who raised $225,000 for Nussle during a September 16 stop in Davenport, remains a slight favorite. Nussle's strength comes notwithstanding the dramatic challenges he faces under the new redistricting plan. Gore won the old district by 51 percent; he would take the new one with 54 percent. And, perhaps more importantly, nearly half of the new 1st would be new to Nussle, including Hutchinson's base of Scott County.
Iowa 02 (southeast Iowa/Cedar Rapids, Iowa City-- Leans Republican): Democrats have tried for years to oust 13-term Rep. Jim Leach, a Republican, who encourages such challenges with a poky fundraising strategy (he doesn't take PAC money or large donations) and his often lukewarm re-elect numbers. Leach moved from Davenport to Iowa City when redistricting put him in the same district as Nussle. Often a party maverick, Leach did this for the party, which worried that they'd lose this seat unless Leach ran here. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in Leach's new district by about 17,000 voters, which explains why Democrat Julie Thomas, a pediatrician, is viewed as a viable challenger. Thomas lives in Cedar Rapids and practiced medicine in Iowa City, two of the district's big population centers. But Leach has represented most of the counties in the district at one time and remains a dogged campaigner. The race is a toss-up.
Iowa 03 (Des Moines -- Leans Democratic): Rep. Leonard Boswell, Iowa's lone House Democrat, moved to Des Moines this year, leaving his beloved farm in Decatur County, and faces a longtime Des Moines resident, GOP attorney Stan Thompson. Democrats hold a 4,800-vote registration edge here, and Boswell, a former state House speaker, has surprised critics before by winning convincingly over well-funded and aggressive challengers. Still, the folksy pol must work hard to connect with urban voters in Des Moines-based Polk County, which casts 60 percent of the district's vote. Thompson, a former GOP chairman in vote-rich Polk County and more than 20 years younger than Boswell has sought to make Boswell's age an issue. "We need to have a congressman with energy and vigor," he said at a recent televised debate. Boswell also has opposed free trade bills, allowing Republicans to paint him as a tool of big unions -- a charge that may hurt Boswell with farm voters. Boswell remains a slight favorite, but the race may be tight.
Iowa 04 (North central Iowa/Ames -- Leans Republican): Unlike his Iowa colleagues, GOP Rep. Tom Latham is unaccustomed to competitive re-election campaigns but is now locked in a spirited contest with former Iowa Democratic Chairman John Norris, a former chief of staff to Gov. Tom Vilsack. Norris is widely touted by Capitol Hill insiders as the party's strongest challenger in Iowa this year. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey recently said Norris is running a "picturebook" campaign. But insiders, citing recent polls, say his campaign may have stalled.
Kansas 03 (Kansas City -- Leans Democratic): The tone of former Navy pilot Adam Taff's GOP challenge to Democratic Rep. Dennis Moore was set the day he hired Joe Gaylord. The chief strategist for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and a key architect of the 1994 GOP House takeover, Gaylord is known to win races by relying heavily on negative campaign tactics. Once again, Moore, a former prosecutor, is expected to benefit from a sharp GOP rift created during Republicans' notoriously bitter primaries here. Taff, a social conservative, narrowly won a bruising August primary against Jeff Colyer, a moderate who had been endorsed by National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Davis of Virginia. An NRCC poll conducted just after Taff won the primary showed Moore leading Taff but falling well below 50 percent -- a potentially dangerous sign for an incumbent.
Kentucky 03 (Louisville -- Leans Republican): A recent poll showed GOP Rep. Anne Northup with a nine-point lead over Democrat Jack Conway, but it's unclear whether the survey measured voter reaction to a potentially serious misstep by Northup this summer. A local newspaper reported in late August that Northup penned a June 21 letter to the Federal Communications Commission seeking quick action on an application filed by Radio Sound Inc., whose president is her husband, R. Wood "Woody" Northup. The congresswoman called the move an "honest" mistake, but Democrats plan to hit her aggressively on the issue in television ads this fall. Both Northup and Conway have drawn national figures to the district. Northup stumped just last week with President Bush and with Lynne Cheney last month, while Conway, trying to appeal to Louisville's large African-American population, invited Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, a civil rights legend, to the district. Louisville is a Democratic stronghold, and Conway, a telegenic former aide to Gov. Paul Patton, is viewed as a potentially strong challenger. However, it remains to be seen how the FCC flap will play out. But Northup, a proven fundraiser and aggressive campaigner who is not afraid to play rough if necessary, still remains a slight favorite for re-election.
Kentucky 04 (northern Kentucky -- Leans Democratic): Signaling how tough it is for Republicans to oust conservative Democratic Rep. Ken Lucas, President Bush recently endorsed Lucas's GOP challenger, Geoff Davis, while making sure to praise the working relationship he enjoys with Lucas. Recently, the White House also invited Lucas to join Davis at a speech Bush gave in the district -- a move that further minimized any bounce of Davis could have drawn from Bush's endorsement. Still, Republicans think Lucas can be beaten as he outspent his 2000 challenger by $500,000 but only received 54 percent. But Lucas votes with the White House more than almost any other Democrat in the House, and he backed Bush's tax cut and his plan for a Medicare prescription drug benefit. He has been targeted aggressively since he narrowly won a 1998 race, and he has steadfastly rebuffed GOP offers to switch parties. But Lucas has used ties to staunch conservative groups to prove that he is not a loyal follower of House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Missouri. Lucas is favored for a third term, but he will step down in 2004 under a term-limits pledge he made in 1998, giving Republicans an even better chance of winning his seat back at that time.
Maryland 08 (Montgomery and Prince George's counties -- Leans Democratic): State Sen. Chris Van Hollen had far less money and he wasn't part of the most famous family in Democratic politics (the Kennedys). But Van Hollen nonetheless scored an upset victory over state Del. Mark Shriver in the September 10 primary and is now running in one of the year's most hotly contested House races against veteran GOP Rep. Connie Morella. Van Hollen moved quickly to unite his party, drawing endorsements from Shriver and third-place finisher Ira Shapiro within days of the primary. Morella became one of the most vulnerable incumbents last year when Gov. Parris Glendening and Democrats in Annapolis moved thousands of new Democrats into her district, including minorities from Takoma Park and Silver Spring. Al Gore, who took 60 percent in the old 8th, would have received 65 percent in the new district. Morella, one of the most liberal Republicans in the House, has performed well in her first serious challenge since she first won office in 1986. D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, a black Democrat, attended a Morella fundraiser this spring, and she has called on old friends in abortion-rights and gun-control circles. She starts the fall race with a fundraising edge over Van Hollen, but she'll need national GOP financing to withstand the Democrats' anticipated onslaught. However, some Republicans, who expect to lose the seat when the 71-year-old incumbent retires, are quietly questioning whether it's worth investing so heavily in her battle this year.
Minnesota 02 (Minneapolis, St. Paul -- Toss-up): Call it "Luther vs. Kline, Part III," the third matchup between Rep. Bill Luther and Republican John Kline. House Republicans are blunt about their hopes to defeat Luther, who narrowly beat Kline, a little-known GOP challenger with less than half as much money in 2000. Kline, a retired Marine Corps officer, who took 46 percent in 1998 and 48 percent two years ago, is back for yet another rematch, which many Republicans say make Luther the most vulnerable House Democrat running for re-election this year. Kline is an impressive candidate. He carried the nuclear code for President Ronald Reagan and commanded troops in Somalia during the first Bush administration. Republicans are aggressively trying to overcome Luther's financial edge. President Bush raised about $120,000 for Kline in July and former President Bush headlined a September 19 event for him. Luther also stumbled when Sam Garst, a Democrat and former Luther financier, publicly acknowledged he entered the race under the No New Taxes Party to help siphon away votes from Kline.
New Mexico 01 (Albuquerque -- Leans Republican): While she's favored and will probably win, Rep. Heather Wilson has never carried her swing district with more than 50 percent, and Democrats will continue to target her until she does. This year, Democrats have some reason for hope because support for their nominee, state Senate President Richard Romero, will not be diverted by the Green Party, which fielded strong candidates here in the past two elections. Romero, a former teacher and military veteran, is viable in his own right. Indeed, a Hispanic in a district where Latinos make up 40 percent of the voting-age population, he actually should be polling more strongly. But recent surveys show he's trailing by double digits. While she has not firmed up her grasp on the district she won in a 1998 special election, Wilson is well liked and has learned to be a tough campaigner and aggressive fundraiser. She will continue to face tough races. But barring dramatic shifts in the political dynamics, she will also continue to be favored in them.
North Carolina 08 (south central/Charlotte, Fayetteville -- Likely Democratic): Rep. Robin Hayes, a Republican hit hard by a Democratic-led redistricting, seems to have fallen off the top target lists after Democratic primary voters went for a presumably weaker nominee. Chris Kouri, a 32-year-old attorney, scored an upset victory over former state Rep. Billy Richardson in the Democratic primary and now faces a tough race against Hayes, whose district has nearly 100,000 new, more urban voters and a 25 percent minority voting-age population. Democrats now have a 12-point edge here. Richardson was a lackluster candidate, contrary to party leaders' predictions, but he had something Kouri lacks -- personal money. Hayes, who's also loaded, is sure to outspend his challenger. Democrats decided to target Hayes after he voted to give President Bush fast-track trade authority, a measure that's widely unpopular in his textile-dependent district. Organized labor and Democratic leaders, including House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi and former Gov. Jim Hunt, supported Richardson. But Kouri, a campaign aide to former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt in his 1996 challenge to Sen. Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina, drew a late endorsement from Gantt, which likely helped him appeal to the district's large number of black voters. Hayes, who won an unexpectedly close race in 1998 but scored a convincing victory in a rematch with attorney Mike Taylor in 2000, is well funded and should prevail. But the race could be close, especially if Kouri pounds Hayes hard on the trade issue.
Texas 23 (Laredo and San Antonio suburbs -- Likely Republican): Democrats thought they'd found the perfect challenger to Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla in Henry Cuellar, a longtime state lawmaker who was appointed Texas secretary of state under then-Gov. George W. Bush. Cuellar still could make it a race, but he has suffered from intra-party disputes and a high turnover rate within his campaign (he recently hired his third campaign manager since January). Seeking to dispel the myth that Bonilla was vulnerable, Republicans released a poll in mid-July showing Bonilla leading Cuellar by 30 points. But Democrats will likely persist in touting Cuellar, if only because they enjoy taunting Bush in his home state and to highlight the party's ties to Hispanics -- a curious strategy, though, considering that Bonilla is also Mexican-American. Bonilla, meanwhile, got a campaign visit last month from White House adviser Karen Hughes, marking her first trip to the campaign trail since leaving Washington this summer. Bonilla is favored for re-election.
Utah 02 (Part of Salt Lake City -- Leans Democratic): More than almost any other incumbent whose state legislature the opposite party, Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson, runs was thrown into a dramatically different district this year. Republicans redrew Matheson's district from within the relative security of Democrat-friendly Salt Lake City and spread it across most of the state's rural reaches, including more than 200,000 new Republican voters. State Rep. John Swallow narrowly won a GOP primary and will face Matheson this fall. Still, polls show Matheson somehow remains a slight favorite. The Congressman drew support recently from an unlikely source -- Eric and Dane Leavitt, the brothers of sitting Gov. Mike Leavitt, a Republican. A recent survey showed Matheson leading Swallow by nine points. Republicans hope to overcome Swallow's formidable financial shortfall and sent top party luminaries to campaign with him this fall.
West Virginia 02 (suburban Charleston -- Leans Republican): In 2000, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito became the first Republican elected to Congress from West Virginia in decades, beating Democrat Jim Humphreys, a free-spending attorney, by about 5,000 votes despite being outspent more than 5-to-1. Humphreys ran a lousy campaign, said Democratic insiders, who insisted they would reclaim the seat in 2002 with a stronger candidate. But that plan was derailed by none other than Humphreys, who ran again and beat the party's endorsed candidate in this year's primary, former Superior Court Judge Margaret Workman. Humphreys is again spending heavily from his own fortune -- he's on track to spend $10 million over the two election cycles. He's been running TV ads that try counter a GOP focus on his myriad tax problems. Capito also caught a break earlier this year when Democrats who controlled redistricting failed to pack more Democrats into her district. Still, Capito, the daughter of former GOP Gov. Arch Moore, can never rest comfortably in this district, the state's most Republican but still a Democratic stronghold by any measure.
Competitive open seats
Alabama 03 (East Alabama/Anniston, Auburn -- Leans Republican): Democrats might lose the governor's office this year, but Rep. Bob Riley's decision to run for the state's top job gives Democrats a rare chance to take back a historically Democratic seat that looked as though it was gone for good. Following Riley's decision to challenge Gov. Don Siegelman, Democrats who control the state Legislature redrew the district to increase their party's strength here, helping Democratic businessman Joe Turnham in his race against Republican Mike Rogers, the state House minority leader. Still, Democratic leaders were never very excited about Turnham and insiders are now betting on Rogers. Turnham, who lost to Riley in 1998 by 16 points, is still trying to heal wounds created during a divisive primary this year; his opponent in that race, state Rep. Gerald Willis, recently endorsed Rogers. Recent GOP polling shows him trailing behind Rogers by double digits. Additionally, Rogers is sure to benefit from the gubernatorial bid of local favorite, Bob Riley. So maybe Riley's retirement won't be that bad for Republicans after all.
Arizona 01 (Northeast, rural -- Toss-up): The Democratic primary in this sprawling district was supposed to be a battle between former Clinton administration aide Fred DuVal and Steve Udall, a longtime Apache County attorney and a cousin of Reps. Tom and Mark Udall. DuVal campaigned with Al Gore and former governor and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. But attorney George Cardova scored a major upset, defeating the two in a notable show of political strength attributed mostly to Udall and DuVal splitting the party's conservative, white base. Cardova now faces a tough race against Rick Renzi, a businessman who starts the race with a sizable financial edge. While they didn't clear the field for him, party leaders thought Udall would probably have been the strongest candidate. The district has a significant minority population (34 percent of the voting age population, with Native Americans making up 19 percent of that total.) But Democrats need to appeal to white, conservative voters here as well, and Udall, with his famous family name and well-earned reputation as an advocate of rural Arizona, would have had an easier time doing that. Republicans have suffered some of their own setbacks. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, said Renzi had inflated his resume description of what he did in Kyl's office. Renzi's primary opponents also criticized him as a carpetbagger, a charge that seems to have stuck to some degree. He grew up in southern Arizona, attended Northern Arizona University but has lived outside of Arizona for nearly 20 years, including a recent stint in Washington D.C. He moved to Flagstaff last year.
California 18 (Central Valley/Modesto -- Toss-up): Democrats believe they can hold this swing district despite the turmoil that Democratic incumbent Rep. Gary Condit brought to it over the past two years. State Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, a longtime Condit ally, was urged to run by party leaders who believed the Chandra Levy scandal left Condit damaged goods. Cardoza easily beat Condit in the March primary, but he now faces a stronger than expected battle with state Sen. Dick Monteith, a center-right Republican who opposes abortion rights and has drawn key visits from national party leaders, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Vice President Dick Cheney. National Democrats are weighing in as well, perhaps more than they thought they would need to. House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and DCCC Chairwoman Nita Lowey campaigned with Cardoza in late August. Cardoza's assembly district makes up about 70 percent of the congressional district, while Monteith represented about 74 percent of the electorate in the state Senate. Condit, for his part, has been quiet, although many believe he would like nothing better than to watch his party go down to defeat here this November. In an October 10 letter, Condit's children, Chad and Cadee Condit, wrote: "If this district elects Dennis Cardoza, it will elect someone who cares about one thing: Dennis Cardoza. He is neither Democrat, Republican or independent, but an opportunist that would use anything or anyone to get elected." The Condits may get their wish as a GOP poll conducted in early October showed Monteith leading Cardoza by six points.
Colorado 07 (northern Denver, Jefferson County -- Toss-up): A key part of the Democratic strategy to take back the House lies here in Colorado, where Republican Bob Beauprez, a banker and former state GOP chairman, and Democrat Mike Feeley, an attorney and former state Senate minority leader, are battling in a newly drawn district. Party strategists want to win this seat, along with others in Arizona and Nevada, to help establish the party's vitality in western states viewed increasingly as GOP strongholds. The Colorado district is about as competitive as they come as it is 33 percent Democratic and 33 percent Republican. Unaffiliated voters slightly outnumber both, at 34 percent. Still, it has a slight Democratic edge: Al Gore won here by 2,000 votes. The race is widely viewed as a toss-up, although Republicans have a poll showing Beauprez leading Feeley by eight points. President Bush campaigned for Beauprez here in late September, taking in $1.7 for his campaign and the state Republican Party.
Florida 13 (Sarasota, Gulf Coast -- Likely Republican): Katherine Harris burst onto the national stage in 2000 as the Florida secretary of state, presiding over the state's election fiasco and stirring up some controversy of her own. Harris hopes to return to prominence in November by wining a House seat and she is well-poised to do just that; she handily beat her GOP primary rival and is widely favored over attorney Jan Schneider this fall in the 13th district, a Republican stronghold. Harris has started to build quite a resume as a GOP fundraiser, appearing at dozens of money events for House candidates across the country this year. With perfect timing, she also has been touring the country to promote a new book she has written on her role in the 2000 election. Adding to the drama surrounding the 2000 Florida election saga, several key players from the dispute are running for Congress this year. Schneider, for example, was a classmate of Hillary Rodham Clinton at Yale Law School in the early 1970s.
Florida 24 (Orlando area, Central Florida -- Likely Republican): Another race featuring key figures from the Florida presidential election is here in the state's 24th district, where state House Speaker Tom Feeney, a Republican, is facing Democrat Harry Jacobs, an elections attorney. Feeney led a drive in the state House to name electors for then-candidate George W. Bush before the soon-to-be president was officially certified the winner over Al Gore. Jacobs was the loyal Democrat who brought the party's lawsuit against Seminole County Republicans for counting absentee ballots that had been handled improperly. Like the Harris-Schneider race, however, the race in the 24th, a GOP stronghold, is not considered highly competitive. Feeney, who is better funded and has a strong political organization, should win comfortably. (The other race with 2000 action figures is in the Fort Lauderdale-based 22nd district, where Palm Beach County Commissioner Carol Roberts, who demanded a hand recount of disputed "butterfly ballots" in her county, is challenging GOP Rep. Clay Shaw. After years of tough races in a Democratic district, Shaw is heavily favored this year in a newly drawn, GOP-leaning district.
Georgia 03 (Central Georgia/Macon -- Leans Democratic): Democrats in Atlanta drew the new 3rd district, which GOP Rep. Saxby Chambliss vacated to run for Senate, as a Democratic stronghold, but Republicans have made clear they plan to play here. Democrats nominated Jim Marshall, a former Macon mayor who lost to Chambliss in 2000 by a whopping 18 points. The GOP nominee is Calder Clay, a Bibb County commissioner and Chambliss ally who quit a long shot challenge to Sen. Max Cleland when Chambliss opted to run. Clay begins the fall race with more than a 2-to-1 advantage in cash-on-hand. Marshall had just $305,00 on hand July 31 while Clay reported $647,000 in the bank at that time. Clay will be competitive, aided by the presence of Chambliss and state Sen. Sonny Perdue, a local legislator who is the GOP gubernatorial nominee, on the November 5 ballot. Nonetheless, Marshall should prevail, mostly because of the increase in the number of Democratic and African-American voters drawn into the district by an aggressive, Democratic-led redistricting. Democrats increased the district's black voter population from 32 percent to 40 percent.
Hawaii 02 (Neighbor Islands, Oahu outside Honolulu -- Likely Democratic): Veteran Rep. Patsy Mink died September 28 following a monthlong bout with viral pneumonia. She was 74. Mink was first elected to the House in 1964, gave up the seat to run unsuccessfully for Senate in 1976, and returned to the House in 1990 after Democrat Daniel Akaka was appointed to the Senate. Mink's death, one week after she won the Democratic primary and a few days after the deadline to remove her name from the November 5 ballot, has stirred the political waters in an otherwise tranquil campaign. Hawaii's chief election officer, Dwayne Yoshina, has scheduled a "winner-take-all" special election for November 30, where voters will choose someone to serve the remainder of Mink's term. If voters re-elect the late congresswoman on November 5, another special election will be held January 4. Democrats are likely to hold the seat in all three races -- the November general, where party leaders are asking voters to "honor" Mink with a "final tribute," and the two special elections. Republicans are making some headway in Hawaii, most notably in this year's gubernatorial race, but the 2nd district, marginally redrawn in the latest round of redistricting, is reliably Democratic. Mink always took at least 60 percent in her re-election bids, and Al Gore beat George Bush in the old 2nd by a whopping 20 points. Democratic candidates who met the October 15 filing deadline include Mink's husband John Mink, state Rep. Ed Case, a relative of AOL/Time Warner chief Steve Case and a 2002 gubernatorial candidate; ex-Honolulu City Councilor Kekoa Kaapu, and former state Sen. Malama Solomon. Republicans include state Rep. Bob McDermott, who won the House primary this year, and former state Sen. Whitney Anderson.
Illinois 05 (Chicago -- Safe Democratic): Rahm Emanuel, a White House aide during Bill Clinton's first term, is a shoo-in to replace Rep. Rod Blagojevich in the state's 5th district, a Democratic stronghold on Chicago's North Side. Al Gore won the district with 63 percent of the vote in the 2000 presidential race. Republican Mark Augusti will face Emanuel in November. Blagojevich is retiring and is the front-runner in the open-seat gubernatorial race. Most of the suspense here, if you can call it that, took place before the March primary, in which Emanuel faced a spirited fight from state Rep. Nancy Kaszak. Emanuel ran TV ads challenging Kaszak's record on crime, and Kaszak, endorsed by EMILY's List, launched an ad reinforcing her campaign theme that Emanuel has stronger ties to Washington than to the district. But it wasn't even close as Emanuel won by 11 points. Emanuel does not plan to be a wallflower; he's already circulating his name to be the next chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Indiana 02 (north central/South Bend -- Toss-up): A recent poll showed the race between attorney Chris Chocola and former congressman Jill Long Thompson is locked in a near dead heat, although Thompson has opened up a slight lead. Regardless, it is sure to remain tight through the fall. The contest began shortly after Rep. Tim Roemer, a Democrat, who defeated Chocola by just five points in 2000, abruptly decided to retire last year. His district became marginally more Republican in redistricting, but Democrats who ran the remapping process made a strategic point of cutting out the part of Elkhart County where Chocola lives. Chocola has refused to move into the district, giving Democrats plenty of fodder -- especially given that he had tirelessly attacked Roemer in 2000 for living outside the district. Thompson served in the House from 1989 to 1995 and later served as an agriculture undersecretary under former President Clinton. The economy is expected to play a key role in this race because the northern Indiana district depends heavily on durable goods, a sector of the economy hard hit by the recession. President Bush campaigned here in early September, raising roughly $650,000 for the Indiana Republican Party.
Louisiana 05 (northeastern Louisiana, Lafayette -- Leans Republican): The open-seat race to succeed GOP Rep. John Cooksey, who is running for Senate, has been hard to follow, mostly because the primary won't take place until November 5. Under Louisiana's unique election laws, all candidates regardless of party will face off in a primary on that day. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote getters proceed to a runoff. Republicans fielded several viable candidates, including former Rep. Clyde Holloway, who served in the House from 1987 to 1993; state Sen. Robert Barham, a former Democrat and chairman of his chamber's Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee, and Lee Fletcher, Cooksey's former chief of staff. The lone Democrat is state Rep. Rodney Alexander. Given the high percentage of black voters (about 31 percent) who are likely to vote Democratic, insiders expect Alexander to make it into the runoff with one of the GOP contenders. Alexander, who is white, would fit squarely in his party's conservative Blue Dog Coalition; he touts his support for school prayer and gun rights and opposes nearly all abortion rights. Among the GOP field, Barham enjoys wide support among his party's national leaders; the president's media adviser, Mark McKinnon, is working on his campaign. But other Republicans say he's a pokey fundraiser who doesn't relish a hard-charging campaign. Holloway led in early polls but strategists say his support seems to tap out in the mid-20s, slightly below what will probably be needed to make it into the runoff. Regardless of who wins on the GOP side, he will be favored here in November.
Maine 02 (North/Bangor, Lewiston -- Toss-up): Democratic Rep. John Baldacci's decision to run for governor makes this sprawling swing district a tossup, and something of an interesting race because each major-party nominee differs with their party one at least one key issue. Anti-gun-control Democrat Mike Michaud, the state Senate president, faces pro-abortion-rights Republican Kevin Raye, a former chief of staff to Sen. Olympia Snowe. Michaud won a crowded and costly primary, beating out five major rivals for the party nod. Due to a quirk in Maine's constitution, the state will not do redistricting until next year, meaning the lines that have been in place for the past decade will remain in effect this fall. Both major parties are busy replenishing their coffers following competitive primaries.
Maryland 02 (Baltimore County -- Leans Democratic): Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger, who faced a stronger than expected primary challenge from wealthy investment banker Oz Bengur, now faces a stronger than expected race against former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, a 78-year-old Republican who retired in 1994 but has proven to be a more aggressive campaigner than Democrats thought. Ruppersberger has also under performed, winning just 50 percent in the primary against Bengur, a political newcomer. Democrats worry that Ruppersberger's name recognition level is so high (and Bengur's is so low) that votes against Ruppersberger were likely "anyone-but-Dutch" votes. Republicans released a mid-August poll showing Bentley leads by two points. Democrats likely discounted Bentley as a candidate, noting that she ran an embarrassingly lame gubernatorial campaign in 1994, losing the GOP primary to a little-known state delegate named Ellen Sauerbrey. But Bentley aides note that Sauerbrey, a staunch conservative, likely benefited that year from a surge among conservative primary voters. And regardless of her statewide appeal, Bentley remains widely popular in the working class, Baltimore County district she represented for a decade. Still, Democrats added thousands of Democratic voters to the district in redistricting, giving Ruppersberger the likely edge.
Michigan 11 (suburban Detroit -- Leans Republican): Republicans who ran the redistricting show in Michigan last year created a district that appeared tailor made for Thaddeus McCotter, who from his perch in the state Senate had a hand in the remap. The district tilts Republican, but it could be competitive with a strong Democratic candidate. Democrats claim they found one with Kevin Kelly, a Redford Township supervisor with strong labor backing who is vigorously attacking McCotter as too conservative for the swing district. But McCotter, a former Wayne County commissioner with a strong record on tax reform, joined the race early (while Kelly was a last-minute recruit) and he has claimed a key edge in fundraising and organization. Al Gore received 49 percent here in 2000. It's worth noting that more than a few political journalists and strategists have suggested McCotter could be hurt by a serious lack of interpersonal skills. While relatively few voters get to interact with candidates enough to develop a personal opinion of them, he has alienated many campaign operatives, which could hurt his chances in the future.
Nevada 03 (Las Vegas suburbs -- Leans Republican): Designed as one of the country's most competitive seats, the new suburban district in Nevada looks more these days like a probable GOP pickup -- if only because the Democratic nominee, Dario Herrera, appears to have stumbled badly. Party leaders coalesced behind Herrera at an unusually early date -- months, actually, before Nevada even received word it was gaining a third House seat. Herrera, the Clark County commission chairman and former state Assemblyman, raised an impressive amount of early money and appeared virtually invincible. But Republicans, who nominated state Sen. Jon Porter in a primary earlier this month, hit Herrera hard this year on ethical issues and watched with glee this summer as his poll numbers plummeted. Herrera was also stalked this spring by an anonymous Web site, www.darioslittleproblem.com, which made salacious and unsubstantiated charges against his personal and political life. Herrera has tried to tie Porter to House GOP support for moving nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, south of Las Vegas, but he has met with limited success because Porter, like most Nevada Republicans, strongly opposes the plan. The latest independent poll showed Herrera trailing badly, but he is making strides to tighten the race. He trailed Porter by just 11 points, up from 16 points earlier this summer. Herrera released a poll in mid-September that showed he had moved back into a dead heat. Because Porter is as bland as Herrera is colorful, the Democrat will continue to dominate the race, for better or worse.
New Hampshire 01 (eastern region -- Leans Republican): State Rep. Martha Fuller Clark did surprisingly well against Republican incumbent John Sununu in 2000. With Sununu running for the Senate, Clark faces state Rep. Jeb Bradley, who had to get through a messy eight-way primary before he could start campaigning against her. Clark, who has benefited from visits by 2004 presidential aspirants hoping to curry favor with New Hampshire politicos, starts the general-election race with an edge in cash-on-hand. Democrats note that Bradley voted for the same tax increase that Clark did, which they say should nullify the issue. But Bradley will have Sununu atop the ticket this fall, meaning he'll have help working the district to bring out the GOP base. Clark starts the fall race with a decisive edge in cash-on-hand. She had $468,000 in the bank August 21, while Bradley, smack in the middle of a tough primary, had just $25,000 on hand. This race should be close.
New Jersey 05 (northwest Jersey -- Leans Republican): While Republicans have held this seat comfortably for more than 20 years, Democrats are touting their nominee, ophthalmologist Anne Sumers, as more closely aligned to the retiring incumbent, Rep. Marge Roukema, than the GOP standard-bearer, state Assemblyman Scott Garrett. They have some reason for such optimism -- Sumers, a former Republican, hired a deputy campaign manager who interned in Roukema's office, and her honorary campaign chairman spent 24 years helping Roukema raise money. Meanwhile, Garrett, a conservative, is a longtime critic of Roukema who nearly ousted her in the last two primary races. For her part, Roukema, a moderate, has not endorsed either candidate -- a move viewed, at the least, as a slap at Garrett. "It is an extraordinary, excruciating dilemma," Roukema said recently. Roukema was notably absent from a Capitol Hill fundraiser that five House Republicans from New Jersey held for Garrett in mid-September. Still, the district remains heavily Republican, giving Garrett an edge. Voters here backed Bret Schundler in the 2001 gubernatorial race and President Bush in 2000, while both Republicans lost badly statewide. Additionally, Republicans have highlighted postings Sumers made on the message board of the American International School in Afghanistan, where she attended high school in while her father was teaching there. Sumers praised an essay that termed the surge in American patriotism as "jingoistic" and said she "really wants [to] go back overseas (and stay here, I think!)."
New Mexico 02 (southern reaches of New Mexico -- Toss-up): Both parties struggled through bruising primaries in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Joe Skeen, a Republican. In a swing district where Hispanics and other minorities make up a majority of the population, House Democrats had hoped to nominate a Latino candidate, Las Cruces Mayor Ruben Smith. But voters instead chose state Sen. John Arthur Smith, a wealthy conservative who strongly favors gun rights and prefers self-financing to fundraising. Smith might actually end up being a stronger candidate against former state Rep. Steve Pearce, who beat two wealthy business leaders, including one, restaurateur Ed Tinsley, who had garnered the support of Skeen. A recent GOP poll showed Pearce leading Smith by nine points. President Bush traveled to Los Cruces in late August to raise $350,000 for Pearce, who also hosted House Speaker Dennis Hastert recently.
Pennsylvania 06 (Philadelphia suburbs -- Leans Republican): Philadelphia's suburbs, once a GOP stronghold, have trended Democratic during the 1990s, influenced heavily by issues like gun control and abortion rights. So while this district was drawn for state Sen. Jim Gerlach (indeed, Republicans dubbed it the "Gerlach district" even before it was drawn), Democrats say attorney Dan Wofford, the son of former Sen. Harris Wofford, is making it a close race. Democratic polls in early October showed the race is a dead-heat, but a recent GOP survey showed Gerlach up by double digits. Gerlach, also an attorney, has a base in Chester County, where his legislative district makes up about 35 percent of the congressional district. Wofford has never held elective office before, but he grew up in nearby Montgomery County and claims strong ties to the area. But Gerlach, who was first elected to the legislature in 1990, has taunted Wofford for lacking experience in public office. He notes that he was a prime sponsor of the state's new welfare reform law in 1996 and a new juvenile crime plan. Wofford has countered by saying that he directed the state's college access program, which has helped more than 3,000 low-income Philadelphia students every year with college preparation skills and scholarships. He also doesn't shy away from mentioning his father, who helped John F. Kennedy create the Peace Corps and worked with Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Harris Wofford scored an upset victory in a 1991 Senate special election when he beat Richard Thornburgh, a former governor and U.S. attorney general. Nonetheless, the Republican is favored in the "Gerlach district."
South Dakota At-Large (Toss-up): On paper, Republican Bill Janklow, a popular, long-serving governor, should cruise to victory in conservative South Dakota over almost any Democratic rival, especially a 31-year-old lawyer who spent most of her 20s out of state and has never held public office. But in the race to succeed GOP Rep. John Thune, Janklow is increasingly worried about the telegenic attorney, Stephanie Herseth, who has kept pace with Janklow in the money chase and, according to a recent poll, has him locked in a dead heat. Herseth comes from a well-known political family. Her grandfather was a Democratic governor, her grandmother served as state secretary of state, and her father was a leader in the state Legislature. But she clearly ranks nowhere near Janklow in terms of political experience. Janklow has served as governor for a total of 16 years and has held some statewide office for most of the past 30 years. Insiders say that could be Janklow's problem -- in economic hard times, a sitting governor, especially one who has had more of an impact on the state than anyone in its history, is not as strong as he might be in more prosperous times. Herseth's an attractive young woman, which contrasts sharply with a burly governor exactly twice her age, and has a personal image that more easily breaks through the state's cluttered media market. Some Republicans are quietly complaining that Janklow is running a sluggish campaign because his main reason for running was to block former Sen. Larry Pressler, who joined the House race about a month before Janklow threw his hat in this spring.
Tennessee 04 (northeast/south central -- Leans Democratic): This district, dramatically redrawn by Democrats in the state legislature, offers House Democrats one of the year's best, if most unlikely, pick-up opportunities. They were aided, of course, by incumbent GOP Rep. Van Hilleary's decision to retire and run for governor. Local Democratic leaders, including Al Gore, united strongly behind state Sen. Lincoln Davis, a pro-gun, anti-abortion activist who has already signed up with the conservative Blue Dog Coalition. Davis faces former Hilleary aide Janice Bowling, but Bowling will have a hard time tagging Davis as a liberal.
Texas 05 (Dallas -- Leans Republican): The new 5th district looks a lot like one previously held by Rep. Pete Sessions, who vacated it to run in a new, more reliably Republican seat nearby. Even as an open seat, it was expected to be a cakewalk for Republicans, who lined up and fought it out in an expensive March primary. The winner was Jeb Hensarling, a former aide to Sen. Phil Gramm and executive director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Gramm, Vice President Dick Cheney, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, senior Bush adviser Karl Rove and longtime Bush adviser Karen Hughes have visited the district to endorse Hensarling. But Hensarling has faced a stiff competition from Ron Chapman, a former criminal district and court of appeals judge. Part of Chapman's success could be attributed to voters who confuse him with a popular Dallas DJ by the same name. (The DJ, incidentally, has endorsed Hensarling but acknowledged he can't vote for him because he lives outside the district). Chapman recently ran a radio ad that poked fun at the name confusion and highlighted his strong ties to the community. Hensarling has started to fight back, railing against Chapman as a "soft-on-crime" liberal jurist. He recently ran an ad with two guys talking about "Judge Softy," who twice allowed a man charged with murder to freely walk out of the courtroom in 1985. Former Rep. John Bryant, a conservative Democrat, held much of this district from 1982 to 1996, when he retired to run unsuccessfully for Senate, so it's possible for Democrats to win here. But it, like most of Texas, has become reliably Republican over the past decade, meaning Hensarling is the likely victor this fall. Democrats tried twice to defeat Sessions, recruiting 1996 and 2002 Senate candidate Victor Morales in 1998 and Regina Montoya-Coggins in 2000. Both candidates fell far short, and the district was made slightly more Republican in redistricting. Hensarling is also better funded. As of September 30, he had raised about $1.3 million - almost $600,000 more than Chapman.
Texas 25 (Houston -- Leans Democratic): Former Houston city councilman Chris Bell, an attorney who challenged Houston Mayor Lee Brown in 2001, is trying to keep this seat in Democratic hands after Rep. Ken Bentsen retired to run unsuccessfully for Senate. Hoping to score an upset is Tom Reiser, a free-spending businessman who founded an insurance company that sells to the oil industry. Reiser lost a 2000 primary to challenge Bentsen to another free-spending millionaire, attorney Phil Sudan, who lost to Bentsen by 21 points. The district includes eastern parts of Harris County, the south and southwest parts of Houston and a few Houston precincts in adjacent Fort Bend County. It leans Democrat but is moderate enough to be somewhat competitive. Reiser has tried a grassroots approach of walking the district to introduce himself to voters. Bell entered the race a political veteran with high name identification following his 2001 mayoral race. The two have wrestled over who can rightly claim the fiscal conservative label. Reiser says he'd like to see Bush's tax cuts made permanent. Bell worries about the nation returning to huge budget deficits. Bell should prevail, but a recent poll showed Reiser rising.
Member vs. member
Aided by strong fundraising and GOP-leaning districts, House Republicans are favored in three of the four incumbent-versus-incumbent matchups that will play out in November.
Connecticut 05 (Danbury, New Britain -- Leans Republican): The new 5th district has a slight Democratic tilt and a working class constituency, both of which should favor Rep. Jim Maloney, a Democrat who has survived tough re-election challenges since he first won his seat in 1996. But Maloney's GOP rival, Rep. Nancy Johnson, who survived a 1996 challenge by just 2,000 votes, is fighting hard. Johnson has dramatically raised more funds than Maloney and went up with the first television ad in May highlighting her work on "reducing the tax burden on working families." Johnson led Maloney, 44 to 39 percent, in an independent poll of likely voters released September 13. The Republican also continued to dominate the fundraising race; she raised more than $3 million as of September 30, at which time she reported $1.1 million on hand. Maloney had raised just $1.8 million by that time and had $146,000 on hand then.
Illinois 19 (south central, Quad Cities -- Toss-up): Democratic Rep. David Phelps, who claims he was left out of the delegation's redistricting talks last year, now faces an uphill race against Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican, in a downstate, GOP-leaning district. Shimkus has raised far more money and is better known to a large number of the district's voters. Nonetheless, it was Shimkus who recently aired a sharply negative ad, saying Phelps was "stalking" him and his family. Phelps responded quickly, saying Shimkus has "attempted to turn this campaign into a soap opera." The race also has pitted two incumbents with dramatically different styles against each other. Shimkus relishes visits from top White House officials, including Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and Vice President Cheney. Phelps, meanwhile, has held low-key news conferences and town meetings, portraying himself as a friend of workers and Shimkus as one of big business. Shimkus raised $1.3 million by September 30 and had $741,000 on hand at that time. Phelps had raised $799,000 by September 30 and had $168,000 on hand.
Mississippi 03 (central region, Jackson -- Leans Republican): Reps. Chip Pickering, a Republican, and Ronnie Shows, a Democrat, were thrown together in a district drawn last year by a federal court that, unlike one drawn by a state judge, clearly favors Pickering. The federal map features a district with a 30 percent minority population; black voters would have made up 38 percent of the district under the state court map Shows prefers. Pickering has also been far more successful in fundraising, taking in roughly two times more money and banking twice as much cash on June 30. Shows so far has failed to gain any traction on corporate accountability, an issue that potentially could stick to Pickering, the largest recipient in the House of donations from WorldCom, a local firm. Additionally, Republicans were motivated by the Democratic-controlled Senate's refusal to confirm Pickering's father, Judge Charles Pickering, to a federal appeals court post. Pickering has completely dominated Shows financially. He had raised $2.4 million by September 30 and had $592,000 in the bank; Shows had raised $1.3 million by September 30 and had $220,000 in reserve.
Pennsylvania 17 (Harrisburg -- Leans Democratic): Rep. Tim Holden, a Democrat, is running against a senior Republican, Rep. George Gekas, in a district with a serious GOP tilt and a large number (60 percent) of former Gekas constituents. Bush took 57 percent here in 2000. Nonetheless, Holden, 44, who has always had to work hard to hold onto his swing district, is considered a more skilled campaigner than Gekas, 72, who has never had to run hard before this year. Republicans openly concede this is the incumbent-versus-incumbent race they're most worried about. Polls show the race is a dead heat, even though Gekas has almost tapped out on name ID -- a bad omen for Republicans here.
Alabama 07 (Safe Democratic): Stung by a series of ethical missteps, Rep. Earl Hilliard, a five-term Democrat, was defeated in a primary runoff this year to attorney Artur Davis, a former federal prosecutor who lost a 2000 challenge to Hilliard by a whopping 24 percent. But Hilliard's district was significantly redrawn this year, and Davis benefited from heavy financial support from pro-Israeli donors who were upset with some of Hilliard's stands on the Middle East. Hilliard was one of two African-American House Democrats who lost primary bids this year to little-known challengers.
Georgia 04 (Safe Democratic): Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Georgia, who, like Earl Hilliard in Alabama, has criticized pro-Israeli policies, was trounced in her August primary by former state court judge Denise Majette, who, like Artur Davis, relied heavily on Jewish donors in her challenge. Majette defeated McKinney 58 to 42 percent. Also influencing the outcome was a strong white turnout for Majette, a failure by McKinney's campaign to produce high turnout among supporters and a split among Atlanta's most prominent blacks. Several of them -- including former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young and baseball's home run king, Henry Aaron -- declined to endorse McKinney. But contrary to McKinney's claim that she lost because Republicans crossed over to back Majette, a ballot analysis by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that only about 3,100 ballots could be identified as GOP voters. McKinney lost the election by six times that amount.
Georgia 07 (Safe Republican): Rep. John Linder trounced Rep. Bob Barr in the cycle's only incumbent-versus-incumbent race this year in which a congressman voluntarily moved into a colleague's district. Democrats who controlled redistricting drew Barr into a marginally competitive district in Atlanta's western suburbs. Exhausted from tough re-election bids in the 1990s, Barr moved into Linder's district based in Gwinnett County, which he has represented since he was first elected in 1992. A lack of name recognition was not Barr's problem, as voters knew who he was and didn't support him. While Barr consistently raised more funds than Linder, polls showed that the district's GOP electorate were primarily fiscal conservatives with little taste for Barr's focus on social issues.
Georgia 12 (Leans Democratic): The district is about 60 percent Democratic and 40 percent African-American, but businessman Charles 'Champ' Walker Jr., a Democrat and the son of state Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker Sr., faces a tougher-than-expected race against Max Burns, a Republican. Walker, like about four in 10 of the district's voters, is black. But Burns, who teaches business at the University of Georgia, is turning out to be a serious threat. He narrowly beat party-favored Barbara Dooley, wife of former University of Georgia football coach and current athletic director Vince Dooley, in the Republican primary, and he is poised to take advantage of Democratic dissatisfaction with Walker's father.
Michigan 15 (Safe Democratic): The incumbent-versus-incumbent race in this suburban Michigan district was widely described as "boys versus girls." Four-term Rep. Lynn Rivers, backed by EMILY's List, gun-control advocates, environmentalists and other socially liberal groups, posed the most serious primary threat ever to Rep. John Dingell, a Democrat first elected to the House in 1955. Ultimately, Dingell prevailed and he should be safe this fall. Dingell demonstrated the power of seniority Tuesday, mobilizing a massive get-out-the-vote effort, aided by unions.
Ohio 17 (Likely Democratic): State Sen. Tim Ryan, a 28-year-old Democrat, trounced eight-term Rep. Tom Sawyer in a vastly redrawn district's Akron-area primary. Sawyer's defeat was a shock in Washington, where Sawyer was expected to sail to a ninth term. But unions strongly worked against Sawyer for strongly backing the North American Free Trade Agreement. Sawyer's attempt to reach out to new territory in Mahoning and Trumbull counties through TV advertising failed. Ryan faces state Rep. Ann Womer-Benjamin. The unknown variable in this race, of course, is ex-Rep. James Traficant, who was convicted on 10 felony counts of bribery and racketeering. While some analysts say Traficant could draw heavily from Ryan, most party strategists expect Ryan to prevail easily.
Florida 22 (Likely Republican): Democrats would love to take this district for several years. For one, they almost won her in 2000. Secondly, the district feature parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties, the center of the 2000 presidential election dispute. As if that's not enough motivation, they recruited Carol Roberts, a prominent Palm Beach County commissioner who demanded a hand recount in 2000 of disputed "butterfly ballots" in her county. However, Democrats faced a serious obstacle -- namely, the GOP control of redistricting, in which Republicans dramatically increased their party's strength in the coastal district. Roberts is drawing visits from national party leaders, but Shaw should sail to re-election.