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South

Alabama

Filing deadline: Passed
Primary: June 3
Runoff: July 15

Senate

Incumbent: Jeff Sessions (R)
2nd term (59 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Early in the cycle, Democrats had hoped that State Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks (D) would step into this race and give Sessions a real challenge. Sparks, who has won two statewide elections, seriously considered the possibility and even traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

But Sparks passed on the race, claiming that he did not want to run in a contentious primary against state Sen. Vivian Davis Figures (D), even though most party officials felt he would have easily won the nomination.

Sessions, who was sitting on a more than $4 million war chest as of March 31, is expected to cruise to victory in November.

House

2nd district
Open seat: Terry Everett (R) is retiring
Outlook: Leans Republican

Although there was speculation over the winter that he might enter the race as a Republican, Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright is running as a conservative Democrat, and he has changed the entire dynamic of the race.

Bright’s candidacy has been trumpeted by national party leaders, who hope that the popular mayor with family roots in the southern part of the district will be able to flip the usually reliable Republican seat.

But Bright, who is serving his third term as mayor of the state’s second largest city, will first have to get past Alabama National Organization for Women President Cheryl Sabel and dentist Cendie Crawley in the Democratic primary. Sabel could be a particular problem for Bright, if she forces him to tack left to attract primary voters.

On the Republican side, state Sen. Harri Anne Smith and state Rep. Jay Love appear to be the leading contenders. Both jumped into the race immediately after Everett’s fall retirement announcement, allowing them to raise money for several months before Bright made his decision to run in late February. Love had $277,000 in cash on hand on March 31, but most of that money came from a $300,000 loan he made to his own campaign at the end of 2007. Smith reported $139,000 in cash on hand and no debt.

TV station executive David Woods and oral surgeon Craig Schmidtke have also thrown their hats into the GOP race. Woods filed for the race in January and reported an impressive $309,000 in cash on hand at the end of the first quarter, though he loaned his campaign $250,000.

5th district
Open seat: Bud Cramer (D) is retiring
Outlook: Tossup

During a cycle that has seen large numbers of House Republicans decide not to run again, Cramer’s sudden retirement announcement in March came as welcome news to GOP officials, who are hoping to snatch up this Huntsville-based seat deep in the heart of Dixie.

The 5th is a district where Republicans routinely have dominated Democrats in presidential elections. In 2004, President Bush took 60 percent of the vote there at the same time that Cramer was winning re-election with 73 percent.

The leading Republican candidate is Huntsville commercial insurance broker Wayne Parker, who was the GOP nominee against Cramer twice in the mid-1990s. Prior to announcing his candidacy on April 3, Parker had been fundraising for about a week, and in that time he raised $177,000, according to his first-quarter Federal Election Commission report.

Parker’s top Democratic rival appears to be state Sen. Parker Griffith, whom Cramer endorsed in early April. After announcing on March 21, Griffith raised $115,000 and reported $112,000 in cash on hand as of the end of the quarter.

Arkansas

Filing deadline: Passed
Primary: May 20
Runoff: June 10

Senate

Incumbent: Mark Pryor (D)
1st term (54 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Someone forgot to tell the state of Arkansas that 2008 is shaping up to be another wild Congressional cycle.

Neither Pryor nor any of the state’s four House Members drew a challenger by the time the state’s filing deadline passed in early April.

The freshman Senator, who was sitting on almost $3.7 million in his campaign account at the end of March, will cruise to a second term this November.

House

3rd district
John Boozman (R)
4th Term (62 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Being the only Republican in the Arkansas delegation has not made Boozman vulnerable. And even a down year for the GOP has not tempted Democrats to take a shot in this northwest Arkansas district that has been in the Republican column for four decades.

Since coming to Congress in a 2001 special election after defeating a distant cousin of then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) in a runoff, Boozman has been a staunchly conservative voice and has never had too much trouble in his re-election bids. In the previous cycle he won with nearly two-thirds of the vote.

So even though Boozman raised a paltry $13,000 in the first quarter of 2008 and ended the quarter with just $132,000 in cash on hand, he will have no trouble winning re-election in the fall.

Florida

Filing deadline: Passed
Primary: Aug. 26

House

8th district
Incumbent: Ric Keller (R)
4th term (53 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Democrats continue to tout their chances in mid-Florida after a surprisingly close race in the previous cycle, when businessman Charlie Stuart (D) gave Keller his toughest challenge yet. But since then, Keller has posted comfortable fundraising numbers and tried to play smart with his legislative moves — like siding with Democrats last year against a measure authorizing the troop surge in Iraq. Keller finished out this year’s first quarter with more than $700,000 in the bank. Still, Democrats have pounded him on his vote against a proposal late last year to expand children’s health insurance benefits, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee airing radio ads in the district last fall.

Stuart is running again this cycle, but he has failed to post significant fundraising totals. At the close of the quarter, Stuart, who came within fewer than 15,000 votes from knocking off Keller in 2006, had about $316,000 in the bank. Trial attorney Mike Smith (D) is close behind with about $296,000 but will need considerably more to mount a serious challenge.

Keller also faces a primary challenge on the right from Todd Long (R). But Long has failed to post serious fundraising numbers. He had about $17,000 in the bank going into the second quarter this year.

10th district
Incumbent: Bill Young (R)
19th term (66 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Young, who at 77 remains a perpetual object of retirement rumors, made his intentions clear on March 31: He’s running for a 20th term in November.

A late filer, Young took in $128,000 in light fundraising during the first quarter, giving him more than $550,000 on hand going into the primary homestretch. State Sen. Charlie Justice, an early Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recruit, as of press time just before the Sunshine State’s filing deadline appeared to have passed on the race — taking with him any Democratic chances of flipping the district, which gave President Bush just 51 percent of the vote in 2004.

Barring a last-second development, Young appears to be a lock to retain the seat, but the district will be awfully competitive whenever he decides to move on.

13th district
Incumbent: Vern Buchanan (R)
1st term: 50 percent
Outlook: Likely Republican

Former bank executive Christine Jennings (D) may have sullied her chances of unseating Buchanan earlier this year, when a special House panel determined that electronic voting machines did not purge 18,000 disputed votes in 2006, as she had contended. It may have cost millions of taxpayer dollars to prove Jennings wrong, and that should provide plenty of fodder for Republicans.

But until Election Day 2008, who knows? In the previous cycle, Jennings officially came within 369 votes of beating Buchanan in a race to replace retiring Rep. Katherine Harris (R). But Jennings disputed the election, and her legal bills were partially paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. A special House election task force determined in February that poor ballot design was the likely culprit for Jennings’ loss, canceling out any nefarious plot. And since then, a National Republican Congressional Committee survey taken in early March of 400 likely voters showed the incumbent with a healthy lead, 53 percent to 37 percent. The survey’s margin of error was 4.9 points.

The survey also suggested that Jennings’ favorable rating dropped by more than one-quarter during the past year, as she pressed her challenge of the election results. Forty-three percent of likely local voters had an unfavorable impression of her.

Jennings has continued to raise money, though, ending the first quarter with about $485,000 on hand. Buchanan, a wealthy car dealer who gave his campaign $5.5 million in the previous cycle — and is worth many times more — had $1.1 million in the bank on April 1.

15th district
Open seat: Dave Weldon (R) is retiring
Outlook: Safe Republican

Shortly after Weldon said he was calling it quits earlier this year, Republicans caught a big break when the retiring Congressman and local GOPers rallied behind state Sen. Bill Posey (R), who was well ahead in the fundraising chase with nearly $220,000 on hand by the end of March.

Businessman Alan Bergman (R) also is running, but he has failed to raise considerable resources. His campaign had $228 in cash as of April 1.

Democrats have been less fortunate in the wake of Weldon’s announcement. Former Brevard County Commissioner Nancy Higgs (D), a promising candidate, dropped out early on. Her departure left physician Steve Blythe as the lone Democratic candidate in the race.

Blythe, however, has struggled to launch his campaign, raising just $27,000 and putting away only $12,000 as of April 1.

Unless a top-flight Democrat entered the race in the final seconds before the filing deadline — which closed after this edition went to press — this looks like an easy hold for Republicans.

16th district
Incumbent: Tim Mahoney (D)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Mahoney barely defeated state Rep. Joe Negron (R) in the previous cycle despite disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley’s (R) name still being on the ballot. If Foley hadn’t been caught up in a scandal, he’d still be in office, and Mahoney would be an after-thought. He’s working hard, but has a tough fight ahead.

Negron passed on a 2008 rematch, but three strong GOP candidates have emerged: state Rep. Gayle Harrell, Palm Beach Gardens Councilman Hal Valeche and attorney Tom Rooney.

Since filing, Harrell has fared the worst of the three in fundraising, taking in $547,000 and finishing the first quarter with $256,000 in cash.

Rooney, whose family owns the Pittsburgh Steelers, has taken in the most money from contributions. He had raised $692,000 and had $442,000 as of April 1.

Valeche, who loaned his campaign $250,000, took in $738,000, finishing the quarter with $589,000.

At this point, the Republicans have no obvious frontrunner, which means the primary could be nasty and unpredictable — and that works to the incumbent’s benefit.

Mahoney can see the writing on the wall. A top target of the National Republican Congressional Committee, he has raised more than $2.1 million and ended the first quarter with more than $1 million on hand.

18th district
Incumbent: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R)
8th term (62 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Election time is usually Ros-Lehtinen’s quiet season: In nearly half of her re-election contests, a Democrat hasn’t even stepped forward.

But Democrats are hoping 2008 may be different. Local businesswoman Annette Taddeo (D) brought in $300,000-plus during the first fundraising quarter, more money than Ros-Lehtinen but far off her $1.7 million cash-on-hand total. Taddeo also seeded her campaign account with $180,000.

All three Cuban-American Republican incumbents in the Miami area are facing tougher-than-usual challenges, but it remains to be seen how close the races become.

21st district
Incumbent: Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R)
10th term (59 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Diaz-Balart is used to winning by wide margins, frequently running unopposed or facing only token challenges. But with ex-Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, Democrats may have found their best chance yet at toppling one of the three South Florida House Republican strongholds.

Martinez, who ran City Hall for more than two decades and weathered serious legal controversy, raised roughly $615,000 and ended the first fundraising quarter with $593,000 on hand.

Diaz-Balart ended the quarter with $1.45 million.

24th district
Incumbent: Tom Feeney (R)
3rd term (58 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Democrats continue to batter Feeney on his relationship with former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In late April, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dispatched a fedora-and-trenchcoat-donning impersonator to Feeney’s Congressional office to a deliver a box of golf balls, an unsubtle reminder of the lawmaker’s now-infamous 2003 trip to Scotland with Abramoff.

State Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D) likely is her party’s best shot at ousting Feeney — an EMILY’s List candidate who had more than $580,000 in cash on April 1. The 2006 nominee, Clint Curtis (D), is also on the ballot, but he is not expected to contend.

Feeney had nearly $550,000 in the bank at the end of the first fundraising quarter. As one of the few remaining Republican House Members left with ties to Abramoff, he could be in serious trouble this year.

25th district
Incumbent: Mario Diaz-Balart (R)
3rd term (58 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Diaz-Balart’s Ft. Lauderdale-area district is the third of three South Florida House seats targeted this year by Democrats. Local political consultant Joe Garcia (D) remains a long shot, but he generated interest in his bid when he tied the lawmaker during the first fundraising quarter.

Garcia brought in $331,000 before April 1, ending the quarter with $316,000 on hand. Diaz-Balart, who brought in roughly the same for the period, raised $719,000 this cycle and had almost $750,000 on hand.

Georgia

Filing deadline: Passed
Primary: July 15
Runoff: Aug. 5

Senate

Incumbent: Saxby Chambliss (R)
1st term (53 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Despite several Democrats signing up to take him on, Chambliss is looking fairly safe in his first re-election bid since he upset then-Sen. Max Cleland (D) in 2002.

The Democratic frontrunner in the race is probably former state Rep. Jim Martin, who was the 2006 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor. Martin, who is an attorney, brings with him a long list of connections with state party officials. However, scientist and businessman Rand Knight (D) has earned a key Georgia Democratic endorsement in former Rep. Denise Majette, who lost her own Senate bid to Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) in 2004.

Also seeking the Democratic nomination are former Atlanta TV reporter Dale Cardwell, DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones and former Congressional aide Josh Lanier.

All are credible, but none appears likely to offer the well-funded and well-established Chambliss too much trouble. If Rep. Jim Marshall (D) had decided to run for Senate, as he is expected to do one day, this would have been a more competitive affair.

House

5th district
Incumbent: John Lewis (D)
11th term (unopposed)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Almost 90 percent of black voters in Georgia supported Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) in the state’s February primary, and the Illinois Senator won the 5th district by an almost 3-1 ratio.

So when businessman and minister Markel Hutchins (D) attacked Lewis for the Congressman’s early endorsement of Clinton, his long-shot campaign seemed to gain some traction.

But any momentum Hutchins had came to a screeching halt when, just a few days after Hutchins declared his candidacy, Lewis switched his allegiance to Obama.

Hutchins continues to argue for the need for new blood in Congress and says Lewis should have supported Obama from day one. But unseating a civil rights icon like Lewis, who is known simply as “St. John” in his Atlanta district, would be a tall order.

8th district
Incumbent: Rep. Jim Marshall (D)
3rd term (51 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Marshall had a close call against ex-Rep. Mac Collins (R) in his redrawn district in 2006, and the district lines are not kind for any Democrat, particularly in a presidential election year.

This cycle, Republicans successfully recruited former Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard (R) into the race. He will be a formidable challenger.

Goddard retired from the military in 2000, at which time he was commander of the massive Warner Robins Air Logistics Center at Robins Air Force Base, located in the south-central 8th district. Most of the base’s employees live in the district.

Marshall is a decorated Vietnam veteran as well, and he’s proved to be a tough nut for Republicans to crack even in a district that President Bush carried handily in 2004 (61 percent).

Marshall is leading the money race, reporting $1.19 million in cash on hand as of March 31, compared with Goddard’s $404,000.

10th district
Incumbent: Paul Broun (R)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Broun came out on top in a tight special election last year to fill the seat of the late Rep. Charlie Norwood (R), who died Feb. 13 after a battle with lung disease.

Former state Sen. Jim Whitehead (R), who had lined up the support of Norwood’s widow and much of the late Congressman’s political operation in Augusta, had been the frontrunner from the start of that race. But Whitehead managed to alienate Republicans in Athens during the course of the campaign and, with the help of crossover Democratic votes, Broun was able to secure a narrow upset victory in the runoff.

This year’s GOP primary race is shaping up to be another regional battle, pitting the Athens-based Broun against state Rep. Barry Fleming, who hails from Augusta. State Sen. Nancy Schaefer (R), who is from the northern portion of the district, ran briefly, but dropped out of the race recently.

Broun is still paying off debt from his special election victory, which might hobble his re-election campaign. But in April he earned the support of the powerful anti-tax group, the Club for Growth. As of March 31, Broun had $116,000 in cash on hand but close to $200,000 in debt. Fleming, meanwhile, ended the quarter with no debt and close to $600,000 in cash on hand.

On the Democratic side, Iraq War veteran Bobby Saxon has announced his intention to run, but the northeast Georgia district is heavily Republican, and Democrats are not expected to provide much of a contest in November.

12th district
Incumbent: John Barrow (D)
2nd term (50 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

In this narrowly split district, it had been assumed that Barrow would be in for another tight race. But after orthopedic surgeon and Lt. Col. Wayne Mosley (R) decided against challenging Barrow in December, that became much less likely.

Right now Barrow’s biggest challenge in this 45 percent black district appears to be in his primary against state Sen. Regina Thomas (D), a black state legislator from Savannah.

John Stone (R), a former TV news anchorman who has held top positions with former Georgia Reps. Max Burns (R) and Charlie Norwood (R), looks to be the most likely Republican to emerge from the primary. But he has just $43,000 in cash on hand to Barrow’s $1.3 million.

The Georgia filing deadline passed just before this edition went to press, meaning there could have been a surprise late entry in this race.

Kentucky

Filing deadline: Passed
Primary: May 20

Senate

Incumbent: Mitch McConnell (R)
4th term (65 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Confident about their recent resurgence in Kentucky, which helped them win the governor’s mansion in 2007, state Democrats would love nothing more this cycle than to knock off McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader and the de facto head of the GOP in the Bluegrass State.

National Democratic groups began taking shots at McConnell last fall, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has also run ads against the Minority Leader. But whether McConnell is actually vulnerable is debatable.

McConnell’s enormous amount of political influence in the state is nearly matched by his massive $7.7 million war chest.

But Democrats were heartened when wealthy businessman Bruce Lunsford got into the race just before the state’s late January filing deadline. Lunsford is well known statewide, and state and national Democratic officials have not been shy about expressing their preference for Lunsford, who backed now-Gov. Steve Beshear (D) after dropping his own gubernatorial bid last year. Another well-known Lunsford supporter is Andrew Horne (D), a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and unsuccessful Congressional candidate in 2006 who dropped his Senate bid in early April.

But Lunsford does not have a free ride to the Democratic nomination. He’ll have to get through a crowded primary that includes another rich businessman, Greg Fischer, who reported more than $850,000 in cash on hand at the end of the first quarter.

House

2nd district
Open seat: Ron Lewis (R) is retiring
Outlook: Safe Republican

Lewis’ 11th-hour decision to withdraw from the race came as a surprise to both parties, especially after his office had vigorously denied retirement rumors that were circulating in the Bluegrass State last fall.

But perhaps even more surprising was the unexpected candidacy o

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