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Know the Races

Know the races: A dinner party primer.


For the first time in several years, it's within the realm of statistical possibility that Democrats could take control of both chambers of Congress. Here are some of the closest and most interesting races to be decided this November 7th. When the votes are counted, the results of these campaigns could be either a revitalized Republican majority, or a potentially far-reaching change in the governance of our country. The SenateSix races that can shift the balance.1. MONTANABURNS (R) v. TESTER (D)In a recent Vanity Fair article, convicted briber Jack Abramoff claimed that he received every appropriation he requested from Conrad Burns' committee. The senator's connection to the ever-widening Abramoff scandal has many Montanans up in arms. His opponent, state legislator Jon Tester, won an insurgent primary campaign, trouncing the Democratic establishment's candidate. It will be difficult to unseat a long-serving politician like Burns, but Tester's authentic Montana persona (which includes a combination of pro-gun and conservationist positions) could prove just the thing.2. PENNSYLVANIASANTORUM (R) v. CASEY (D)If you google incumbent Senator Rick Santorum, one of the top results will be an unprintable sexual excretion maliciously named "santorum" by syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage. Santorum, number three in the Republican leadership, is one of the Senate's most conservative members, and his negative comments on issues like homosexuality have riled Democrats as much as they've rallied Republicans. Democrats would like nothing more than to remove him from power. They've fielded Bob Casey, Jr., the pro-life son of a beloved ex-governor, who has surged ahead in the polls.3. OHIODEWINE (R) v. BROWN (D)After fighting off conservative primary challengers upset at his membership in the "Gang of 14" who compromised on filibusters in the Senate, Mike DeWine may still be tainted by a growing scandal in Ohio state politics that-no joke-involves the buying and selling of rare coins. Rep. Sherrod Brown, who forced the withdrawal of popular anti-war Iraq vet Paul Hackett from the primary, is hoping that anger at the President, and a conservative backlash against DeWine's more liberal policies, will finally give national Democrats a reason to forgive Ohio for 2004.4. VIRGINIAALLEN (R) v. WEBB (D)Incumbent Virginia Senator George Allen is a conservative poster boy often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in '08. Opposing him is newly-minted Democrat James Webb. Democrats hope that Webb's mélange of liberal (anti-war, pro-choice) and conservative (pro-gun, Reagan's Secretary of the Navy) positions will so befuddle the state's swing voters that they will give up trying to figure him out and simply elect him. Webb's recent party shift may strike some voters as opportunistic, while Allen's blatant presidential campaigning may turn off others. In the end, it may come down to Virginia's sizable population of military voters deciding how much more war they're willing to stomach.5. WASHINGTONCANTWELL (D) v. McGAVICK (R)First term Senator Maria Cantwell won her last election by 2,229 votes, out of 2.5 million votes cast-a mere .09 percent of the total. This tenuous margin of victory puts her at risk against challenger Mike McGavick, a former insurance CEO. McGavick hopes that the absence of Bush's name on the ballot will keep him from being negatively associated with a national party that is increasingly unpopular in the state. Based on his poll numbers, his dreams may come true. Keeping this seat is the linchpin of the Democrat's dream of winning back the Senate.6. MINNESOTAKENNEDY (R) v. KLOBUCHAR (D)Truly unpopular Democrat Mark Dayton (the only senator to close his office during the anthrax scare) wisely decided to retire rather than get trounced in this election, so this seat is up for grabs. Prosecutor Amy Klobuchar will try to hold on to the seat for the Democrats. She'll be running against Rep. Mark Kennedy, who is being hammered for having sided with the White House position in 97 percent of his congressional votes. Since neither candidate offers anything particularly exciting, this race will be a referendum on how the people of Minnesota judge the policies of both parties, without factors like charisma clouding their decision.Other races to watch: Missouri, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Tennessee

THE HOUSE\n

Most people don't know who represents them in Congress. Even fewer can name the challenger to their current representative-one of the reasons why it's rare for an incumbent to lose a House race. Should the Democrats manage to grab 15 seats from the Republicans, you'll be hearing from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2007-a vision of the future that is ratcheting up the GOP fundraising. Here are 15 races that, unlike most of the 435 House contests, have outcomes that may be in doubt.CONNECTICUT2nd DistrictEastern ConnecticutSIMMONS (R) v. COURTNEY (D)If Democrats want to take back the house, the best targets are moderate Republicans who serve in Democratic-leaning districts. Rep. Rob Simmons is a prime example. If his district decides they've had enough of the Republican party line, Joe Courtney is in-despite the fact that Simmons doesn't very often toe that party line.FLORIDA22nd DistrictIncluding West Palm BeachSHAW (R) v. KLEIN (D)As of June, state Senator Ron Klein had raised more money than any other nonincumbent candidate in his attempt to unseat 13-term Rep. Clay Shaw. But Shaw is a savvy vet of these House races, and the 22nd was redistricted in 2002 to give Shaw an edge against Democratic challengers-even popular, well-funded ones.LOUISIANA3rd District Southern LouisianaMELANCON (D) v. ROMERO (R)In this district hit hard by Katrina, Rep. Charlie Melancon is running against state Senator Craig Romero, who has grabbed a bunch of cross-the-aisle endorsements.NEW MEXICO1st DistrictAlbuquerque and vicinityWILSON (R) v. MADRID (D)Patricia Madrid, New Mexico's attorney general, is fighting to take this seat in a district that went for Kerry by a slim margin in 2004. Wilson is popular, but may be dragged down by New Mexicans' low opinion of her party.NEW YORK24th District (open)Central New YorkARCURI (D) v. MEIER (R)Twelve-term congresswoman and moderate Republican Sherry Boehlert retired, leaving a vacuum in this fairly conservative (for New York) upstate district. State Senator Ray Meier is well liked, but District Attorney Michael Arcuri may be helped by having Democrats on the ticket (Clinton for senator, Spitzer for governor) who will win in a landslide.NORTH CAROLINA11th DistrictIncluding AshevilleTAYLOR (R) v. SHULER (D)Charles Taylor made the ill-advised decision (later retracted) to come out against using federal money to pay for a memorial to the passengers of United Flight 93. Conservative Democrat (and former college football star and pro football burnout) Heath Shuler is coming on strong.OHIO18th District (open)Suburbs of ColumbusPADGETT (R) v. SPACE (D)Bob Ney, often implicated in the Abramoff scandal, suddenly dropped out of the race in early August. He has anointed state Senator Joy Padgett as his successor, but a Republican primary had not yet taken place at press time. Challenger Zack Space hopes his pledge to accept absolutely nothing from lobbyists if he is elected will resonate with voters tired of corruption.PENNSYLVANIA6th DistrictWest suburbs of PhilidelphiaGERLACH (R) v. MURPHY (D)Lois Murphy is challenging Rep. Jim Gerlach again after losing to him in 2004. Gerlach needs to be as moderate as possible while still appearing conservative. His district isn't happy with the war, but isn't particularly liberal at heart either.GEORGIA8th DistrictIncluding MaconMARSHALL (D) v. COLLINS (R)Mac Collins lost a Republican primary in the 2004 senate race, and is looking to get back to Washington. Rep. Jim Marshall's district has been redistricted since he won his seat, and now leans more Republican than when he was first elected. Couple that with Collins' large war chest, and Marshall faces a tough test.IOWA1st District (open)Eastern IowaBRALEY (D) v. WHALEN (R)The fight for this open seat in Iowa may be an indication of how things will settle nationwide on election night. The district has been controlled by Republicans for years, but has been turning bluer recently. If Bruce Braley can claim the seat, Washington, D.C. might look different come 2007.IOWA3rd DistrictIncluding Des MoinesBOSWELL (D) v. LAMBERTI (R)Iowa's hallowed place as the starting gate for the presidency means that its local races get a lot of attention from presidential candidates who want an Iowa friend come primary season. Sadly, incumbent Rep. Leonard Boswell has been hampered by health problems, making Jeff Lamberti's well-financed campaign to unseat him seem a bit heartless.ILLINOIS6th District (open)Chicago SuburbsDUCKWORTH (D) v. ROSKAM (R)Tammy Duckworth lost both legs in Iraq, and her critique of the war has propelled her into a tight race with Peter Roskam, a well-funded state senator. It's a historically Republican district with an open seat, so Duckworth is going to have to get lucky.8th DistrictNorthern suburbs of ChicagoBEAN (D) v. McSWEENEY (R)Rep. Melissa Bean has money in the bank and the weight of incumbency, but millionaire businessman David McSweeney has a chance in this slightly Republican district. McSweeney's business ties with Enron, however, won't endear him to many voters.INDIANA8th DistrictSouthwestern IndianaHOSTETTLER (R) v. ELLSWORTH (D)Rep. John Hostettler once claimed that abortions and breast cancer are medically linked. He was also arrested for trying to carry a gun onto a plane. Pro-life, pro-gun Democrat Brad Ellsworth is just the kind of challenger that this conservative district might choose to replace their volatile congressman.TEXAS17th DistrictIncluding Waco and College StationEDWARDS (D) v. TAYLOR (R)This district includes the western White House in Crawford, and the president won it by 70 percent in 2004, yet it's represented by Democrat Chet Edwards. Proving that Democrats aren't the only party that can benefit by fielding Iraq vets, recently returned soldier Van Taylor is offering a formidable challenge to Edwards.
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