||One of the nation's top political analysts, Stuart Rothenberg, dissects politics at the congressional and statewide levels.|
A Classic Rematch In Illinois' 17th C.D.
And in South Carolina, Rep. Inglis sets his sights on Sen. Hollings
By Stuart Rothenberg
Illinois 17 In what will be one of the most watched rematches of the election year, eight-term incumbent Democrat Lane Evans is facing Republican Mark Baker.
Located on the state's western border with Iowa and Missouri, the 17th C.D. includes Moline and Rock Island. The district is generally competitive, though it gave Bill Clinton double-digit margins in both 1992 and 1996.
Baker, a former television news anchor, portrayed Evans in 1996 as too liberal and out of touch with the district. Evans countered by charging his opponent opposed Medicare and gun control.
The challenger, who began as an amateurish candidate but learned quickly, drew more votes in the district than either Dole or Al Salvi, the GOP Senate nominee. Baker raised over $500,000 to Evans's $630,000, and the Republican's 47 percent showing -- in what was generally regarded as a bad GOP year -- convinced local and national GOP insiders that he could win in 1998.
Baker's message this time isn't much different from the one he used in 1996. He argues Evans' voting record is bad for farmers and for small businesses, and he faults Evans for his vote against welfare reform. He insists that the congressman's vote for the Balanced Budget Amendment is simply an attempt to find political cover, and he is critical of Evans' move from the Agriculture Committee to the National Security Committee.
Evans was elected to Congress in 1982. He established a strong liberal voting record, earning a reputation as a close ally of organized labor. In the race, he is focused on the issues of managed care, the minimum wage, Social Security and education. He called for tobacco legislation to fund proposed initiatives to modernize schools and reduce class sizes.
The big story of this race right now is Evans' May 18 announcement that he has been suffering from Parkinson's disease since 1995. The same week as his announcement, the congressman went on TV with an ad explaining his condition. Political observers do not view Evans' illness as a problem for him, even suggesting that it may generate some sympathy.
The race is likely to be a classic battle between business and organized labor, with Baker emphasizing his own fiscal conservatism and portraying Evans as a big government "big spender," and Evans portraying himself as a populist fighting for the little guy and Baker as a "right-wing extremist."
With November likely to be good for incumbents, Evans will be hard to beat. But Baker is a strong challenger, and this race is near the top of GOP takeover hopes.
South Carolina Senate Cong. Bob Inglis didn't have any problems winning the GOP Senate nomination last week. Now, his sights are squarely on Sen. Fritz Hollings, and GOP insiders have renewed hope about Inglis's potential for defeating the senator.
Inglis defeated primary opponent Stephen Brown 75-22 percent, but it wasn't exactly a fair fight. Inglis had more money and much greater name identification, and while Brown was unhappy with the congressman's early campaign, which ignored core conservatives and seemed to spend too much time reaching out to Democratic voters, most Republicans didn't see the primary as a serious choice.
While Republican insiders have grown pessimistic about their chances to defeat Hollings, who was first elected to the Senate in 1966, a Mason-Dixon poll suggests that Inglis has a real chance against the senator. The early June survey found Hollings holding an unimpressive 47-42 percent lead over the GOP congressman. That margin should be of concern to Democrats since Hollings has already spent heavily on TV ads to boost his numbers.
The state's strong Republican bent is Inglis' real advantage in any challenge to the senator. There is little doubt but that Hollings will outspend the challenger, and that will translate into an advertising disadvantage for Inglis.
Inglis talks about running solely a "positive" campaign against Hollings. He promises to show respect for the senator while addressing issue differences with Hollings. But the Democrat has a reputation as a scrappy politician, and Inglis may have to run a very different kind of campaign than he now intends if he is to defeat Hollings.
If the challenger can raise the dollars, he has a serious chance of overtaking Hollings. If he can't, Hollings will be re-elected in what is one of the three or four most Republican states in the country.