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GOP determined to hold onto House

Fifty new representatives to make their debut

Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Connecticut, exits the voting booth Tuesday.
Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Connecticut, exits the voting booth Tuesday.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Republican Party goes into the midterm election determined to maintain its narrow majority in the House of Representatives.

But whatever happens in Tuesday's midterm elections there will be at least 50 new representatives in Washington when the 108th Congress convenes.

That is how many of the 435 U.S. House races are between two candidates not currently representatives.

Seeking re-election are 391 incumbents. There are 18 new districts created by reapportionment, which takes place every 10 years following the census.

Going into the midterm elections, the GOP has control of the House with 223 seats and the Democrats hold 208; there are one independent and three vacancies.

Early Calls

The earliest results Tuesday night should come from Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia where polls close at 7 p.m. ET.

One of the early races that have drawn national attention is in Kentucky's 3rd District where GOP Rep. Anne Northup is running against Democrat Jack Conway.

Democrat Jack Conway greets his opponent in Kentucky's 3rd District, Republican Rep. Anne Northup.
Democrat Jack Conway greets his opponent in Kentucky's 3rd District, Republican Rep. Anne Northup.

Northup, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, made a potentially serious misstep this summer.

A local newspaper reported in late August that Northup wrote a June 21 letter to the Federal Communications Commission seeking quick action on an application filed by Radio Sound Inc., an electronics company whose president is her husband, R. Wood "Woody" Northup.

Denying she had prior knowledge, the congresswoman called the letter an "honest" mistake by her office, but Democrats criticized her aggressively on the issue.

Both Northup and Conway drew national figures to the district. Northup stumped with both President Bush and with Lynne Cheney last month.

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, was viewed as a potentially strong challenger.

In Kentucky's 4th District race, conservative Democratic Rep. Ken Lucas faces GOP challenger Geoff Davis. Lucas has been targeted aggressively since he narrowly won a 1998 race, and he has steadfastly rebuffed GOP offers to switch parties.

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.

And Lucas has used ties to staunch conservative groups to prove he is not a loyal follower of House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Missouri.

Bush endorsed Davis but also made 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.

Fireworks in Georgia

In Georgia, the fireworks have mostly been in the 4th District, where Democratic nominee Denise Majette ousted outspoken Rep. Cynthia McKinney in the Democratic primary to face Republican Cynthia L. Van Auken.

Georgia gained two new congressional districts after the 2000 Census, and the Democrat-controlled legislature redrew the old ones, some radically.

One of these was the 3rd District, where Democrat Jim Marshall faces Republican Calder Clay for the seat that became vacant when Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss decided to run for Senate.

Another race to watch is in the 12th District, a new seat, where Democrat Charles "Champ" Walker Jr. faces business professor Republican Max Burns.

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