Mountain

Parties Waiting for Court to Rule on Redistricting

Posted November 7, 2003 at 8:57am

Colorado

Filing deadline: June 1
Primary: Aug. 10

Senate

Incumbent: Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R)
2nd term (64 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican


Democrats are tearing their hair out trying to find a strong challenger, but despite middling poll numbers for Campbell, none has emerged.

So the Democratic field, for now, is left to middle school principal Michael Miles, a former Army Ranger and foreign service officer from the Colorado Springs area. Through Sept. 30, he had $25,000 in the bank to Campbell’s $965,000.

Unless Rep. Mark Udall (D), former Sen. Gary Hart (D) or ex-Denver Mayor Wellington Webb (D) decides to give this race a second look, Campbell, despite a recent diagnosis of prostate cancer, should win easily.

House

3rd district
Open seat: Scott McInnis (R) is retiring
Outlook: Leans Republican


The outcome of this race could well be determined in the courts, before voters even have a chance to go to the polls.

Thanks to a Republican-propelled re-redistricting in the Legislature this year, the once-swing 3rd district in the western half of the state now leans decidedly Republican. Democrats have not seriously competed there since McInnis’ first election in 1992, but they always assumed they would be competitive once he moved on. That assumption will be seriously tested if state and federal courts keep the new GOP-drawn lines intact.

In the meantime, several Republicans have already jumped into the race, and others will follow. The leading GOP contenders already in the contest include state Sen. Ken Chlouber, who ran unsuccessfully for the House in the Denver-based 1st district in 2002; Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino; state Rep. Gregg Rippy; and McInnis’ brother-in-law, state Rep. Matt Smith.

Other possible Republican candidates include Russ George, chief of the state Wildlife Division; state House Speaker Lola Spradley; and Department of Natural Resources Director Greg Walcher.

Among Democrats, only frequent candidate Anthony Martinez had formally entered the race at press time. But two well-regarded Democrats, state Rep. John Salazar, brother of wildly popular state Attorney General Ken Salazar, and former state Senate Majority Leader Bill Thiebault, were also weighing bids.

If the court restores the previous district boundaries, and if the Democrats nominate a centrist, this race could be a pure tossup.

7th district
Incumbent: Bob Beauprez (R)
1st term (47 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican


Re-redistricting was a godsend to Beauprez, who won the narrowest House race of the 2002 cycle, defeating then-state Sen. Mike Feeley (D) by just 121 votes in this new district in the Denver suburbs.

But after Republicans in the state Legislature took out their scalpels, the seat gained several thousand more GOP voters, and with banker and political neophyte John Works the only declared Democratic challenger, Beauprez looks safe for now.

As in the 3rd district, that circumstance could change drastically if the courts restore the previous district lines. Then such heavy Democratic hitters as Feeley, former state Sen. Ed Perlmutter, state Senate Minority Leader Joan Fitz-Gerald and attorney Dave Thomas could wind up running.

Either way, Beauprez, who had $467,000 in the bank as of Sept. 30, has a sound fundraising advantage.

Idaho

Filing deadline: March 19
Primary: May 25

Senate

Incumbent: Mike Crapo (R)
1st term (70 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican


With no Democratic challenger on the horizon — not even someone who would be considered a long shot — Crapo, a former three-term House Member, is as sure a bet as you can find this cycle.

House

1st district
Incumbent: Butch Otter (R)
2nd term (59 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican


Democrats had high hopes for their 2002 challenger, former U.S. Attorney Betty Richardson, but she still finished 20 points behind Otter, a one-time lieutenant governor. No Democrats have stepped forward to challenge him in 2004 yet.

Montana

Filing deadline: March 25
Primary: June 8

House

At-Large
Incumbent: Denny Rehberg (R)
2nd term (65 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican


After winning a tight and expensive open-seat contest in 2000, Rehberg, a rancher from Billings and a former lieutenant governor, has quickly solidified his hold on this seat. He took 65 percent of the vote last year, outspending artist Steve Kelly (D) 52-to-1.

State Rep. Dave Gallik (D) of Helena is contemplating challenging Rehberg next year. While he’d be a far more credible challenger than Kelly, it’s hard at this early stage to see Rehberg, who is sitting on a $280,000 war chest, losing, especially with President Bush heading the Republican ticket.

Utah

Filing deadline: March 17
Primary: June 22

Senate

Incumbent: Bob Bennett (R)
2nd term (64 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican


Bennett appears to be breaking a term-limit pledge to seek re-election for a second time in 2004, when he will be 71. But it’s hard to imagine this stolid and solid son of former four-term Sen. Wallace Bennett (R) paying a political price.

Former state Attorney General Paul Van Dam has jumped into the race. He’s one of the last Democrats to win a statewide race and is a credible candidate. But it appears as if he plans to run an unconventional campaign; he is unlikely to win.

House

2nd district
Incumbent: Jim Matheson (D)
2nd term (49 percent)
Outlook: Tossup


Redistricting was not kind to Matheson, stripping much of Salt Lake City out of his district. The 2nd now covers close to two-thirds of the territory in the Beehive State.

And conservative territory it is. The old 2nd voted 56 percent for George W. Bush in 2000; the new 2nd would have given him 63 percent, and he is likely to do equally well there next year. Then-state Rep. John Swallow (R) came within 1,600 votes of defeating Matheson last year, and Swallow, who is running again, believes he would have won had national Republicans devoted greater resources to the race.

Swallow isn’t taking any chances and has been raising money at a steady clip — outdistancing Matheson’s take for the third quarter of 2003, $181,000 to $123,000. Overall, he had $221,000 in the bank on Sept. 30, compared to Matheson’s $427,000.

However, Matheson has proved to be a tough and savvy campaigner who routinely emphasizes his centrist politics over his party affiliation. It certainly didn’t hurt that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed him last cycle.

The son of the late Utah Gov. Scott Matheson (D) may also benefit from the GOP’s inability to unify around a single challenger early in the race. Swallow is likely to face a nomination challenge from businessman Tim Bridgewater, who also ran in 2002. Mike Dunn, a former Congressional aide, and Salt Lake County Councilman David Wilde have also talked about running.

The big unknown this cycle is how Matheson will be affected by his brother’s decision to run for governor in 2004. Scott Matheson Jr., a law professor, is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. The GOP field in the gubernatorial race is wide open.

Wyoming

Filing deadline: May 28
Primary: Aug. 17

House

At-Large
Incumbent: Barbara Cubin (R)
5th term (61 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican


Wyoming Democrats had reason to smile in 2002 with the election of David Freudenthal as governor. But that doesn’t mean Democrats have much hope against Cubin, even though her re-elect numbers were not as smashing as many Republican incumbents’ in the Mountain states.

Ron Akin (D), a retired Air Force officer who took 36 percent of the vote against Cubin last year, is likely to run again. But Democrats would love to see Cheyenne attorney Paul Hickey, whose father is a former governor and whose mother is a former state Senator, run for the seat. It isn’t likely to happen this cycle, however.