South

Republicans Appear Poised to Capture Several Open Senate Seats in Conservative States Next Year

Posted November 7, 2003 at 10:35am

Alabama

Filing deadline: April 2
Primary: June 1
Runoff: June 29

Senate
Incumbent: Richard Shelby (R)
3rd term (63 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Even if Democrats had a top candidate willing to run, Shelby’s $11.2 million war chest as of Sept. 30 is enough to scare even the most ambitious politician away from this race.

But as it is, the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs chairman currently has no opposition and isn’t likely to draw more than a nominal challenge in 2004.

Once a Democrat, Shelby is about as entrenched as an incumbent can get in what has become a solidly Republican state in national elections. He should be able to hold this seat as long as he wants to.

House

3rd district
Incumbent: Mike Rogers (R)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

This is a very competitive seat for Democrats, if they are able to find a good candidate who wants to run.

Democrats are hoping that Calhoun County Circuit Judge Joel Laird (D), who hasn’t formally entered the race but is considering it, will run. Others mentioned include state Rep. Richard Lindsey and Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright.

Joe Turnham (D), who was defeated by Rogers last time, apparently hasn’t ruled out another bid but appears unlikely to run.

Meanwhile, Rogers has been one of the most prolific fundraisers in the freshman class, and he had more than $600,000 in the bank on Sept. 30.

While he was elected with just 50 percent of the vote in 2002, Rogers will likely only be helped by the fact that President Bush and Shelby are leading the GOP ballot in 2004 and Democrats aren’t expected to contest either race in the state. Turnham was boosted last year by higher black turnout during the close gubernatorial election. The district is 32 percent black.

Arkansas

Filing deadline: March 30
Primary: May 18
Runoff: June 8

Senate

Incumbent: Blanche Lincoln (D)
1st term (55 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Coming into the 2004 cycle, Republicans had high hopes that the Razorback State Senate race would become one of their prime pickup chances.

But as in several other potentially competitive states, Senate Republicans have been unable to convince a top-tier candidate to run, and Lincoln looks increasingly safe.

Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) delayed a decision for months on the race before announcing in late August that he was too focused on state issues to put together a Senate campaign.

Attention then quickly turned to former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R), now an an undersecretary at the Homeland Security Department. Hutchinson had met earlier in the year with White House senior adviser Karl Rove but maintained that he was not interested in a Senate bid.

Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller (R), whom Huckabee suggested as a candidate after deciding not to run, also took a pass.

That leaves GOPers with former Benton County Sheriff Andy Lee as their only announced candidate.

Lee began his career as a police officer in Washington, D.C., working for the Metropolitan Police Department from 1969 to 1977. After suffering serious injuries in an accident, Lee moved back to his native Bentonville, where he managed a McDonald’s.

In 1988 he won the sheriff’s post in Benton County.

Credited with revamping the office, Lee has also found his way into the public eye repeatedly over his tenure, earning him the nickname “TV Lee.”

Lincoln has run an air-tight re-election bid to this point. She ended September with $2.4 million in the bank.

House

2nd district
Incumbent: Vic Snyder (D)
4th term (93 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Republicans were unable to even field a challenger to Snyder in the 2002 cycle but believe that in state Rep. Marvin Parks they have finally found the candidate who can unseat the maverick.

Parks, who is the Republican leader in the state House, announced he was exploring a challenge in June and is expected to make a final decision on the race very soon. Parks has not been active on the fundraising front over the summer, however, and has not filed a financial report with the Federal Election Commission.

If he runs, Parks will face a primary challenge from bakery owner Ed Garner (R), who ran as a write-in candidate in 2002.

On its face, Snyder’s central Arkansas 2nd district is a ripe Republican target. George W. Bush would have won 49 percent of the vote there in the 2000 presidential race, his strongest showing in the state’s three districts held by Democrats.

Snyder does not help his own cause, either, as he is an unorthodox politician who does little fundraising in off-years. He raised nothing in the last quarter and had just $3,400 on hand at the end of September.

But Snyder’s maverick image clearly resonates with voters, and he has never dipped below 58 percent of the vote in his three re-election races. In 2002, he took 93 percent against Garner.

Florida

Filing deadline: May 7
Primary: Aug. 31

Senate

Open seat: Bob Graham (D) is retiring
Outlook: Tossup

Graham announced last week that he would not seek a fourth term in the Senate, almost one month after ending his presidential bid on Oct. 6.

The race to replace the most popular politician in the Sunshine State is still crystallizing, but Democrats are generally given a slight edge in holding the seat.

Those running to replace Graham are Rep. Peter Deutsch, former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas.

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D) and wealthy state Sen. Walter “Skip” Campbell (D) are also considering bids and are expected to announce soon whether they will run.

Deutsch and Penelas have gone after each other early, a signal that the primary will likely be an ugly affair.

Geography will be one of the key factors in the primary. Both Deutsch and Penelas are from South Florida, and Castor’s base is in the central part of the state, which includes the Tampa media market.

Also, if Deutsch and Penelas continue fighting it out in South Florida, Castor may be able to rise above the fray. Although she hasn’t been on the statewide ballot since 1990, Castor is also a former state legislator and county commissioner who served as president of the University of South Florida.

A poll released by the Castor campaign last week showed her as the candidate best positioned to win the primary.

Republicans, once appearing to be dissatisfied with the current crop of candidates, made repeated attempts to lure Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez into the race. But Martinez, who is eyeing a run for governor in 2006, resisted.

Now Republicans say they are content with their current field: former Rep. Bill McCollum, state House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, state Sen. Daniel Webster (a former state House Speaker) and political gadfly Larry Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch.

Rep. Mark Foley, the first Republican to enter the Senate race and considered the nominal frontrunner, abruptly ended his bid in the summer, citing the failing health of his father. Foley was the most moderate candidate in the Republican race, and Democrats believe Foley’s exit helps them because it shifts the primary field to move further to the right.

Reps. Dave Weldon (R) and Allen Boyd (D) also considered bids but announced in early October that they would not run.

There is no runoff in Florida next year, so the winner-take-all primaries could produce some surprises.

House

2nd district
Incumbent: Allen Boyd (D)
4th term (67 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

When it looked likely that Boyd would jump into the Senate race, Republicans were enthusiastic about their chances of picking up this rural Panhandle seat.

Now that Boyd is running for another term, their prospects of knocking off the four-term incumbent aren’t as bright, but they still aren’t backing away from a candidate they see as one of their best recruits of the cycle.

State Rep. Bev Kilmer (R) has consistently been one of the top fundraisers among House challengers this year. Kilmer is a former cosmetologist who owned three salons in Tallahassee and was elected to the state House in 1998.

She’s a formidable challenger, and while Boyd has easily won re-election since 1996, he’s never been targeted by the national party or faced an opponent with any money. This time he faces both in a presidential election year. While registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by almost a 2-to-1 margin in the 2nd, the district voted 53 percent for President Bush in the 2000 election.

Still, Boyd has a conservative voting record, is well-liked in the district and will be tough to beat.

5th district
Incumbent: Ginny Brown-Waite (R)
1st term (48 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Brown-Waite is one of two freshmen in the House who knocked off Democratic incumbents last cycle, which means she should be a top target next year.

However, Democrats have come up short so far in finding a challenger willing to run in this northern Gulf Coast district.

Former Rep. Karen Thurman (D), who lost in 2002, has apparently shown some interest in a rematch, but that appears to be more wishful thinking from Democrats in Washington than anything else. There’s no indication at this point that she will run.

The district that Thurman represented was changed heavily during redistricting, making it too Republican for her to survive.

While Brown-Waite was elected with just 48 percent last time, having the presidential race at the top of the ticket should help her re-election margin. The president got 54 percent in this district three years ago.

Without a top challenger at this point, she appears unlikely to have trouble winning a second term.

14th district
Open seat: Porter Goss (R) is retiring
Outlook: Safe Republican
The latest entrant in the race to replace Goss is a familiar name in Washington, D.C., and in this district. Former state Rep. Connie Mack IV (R) officially announced in October that he is running for the seat once represented by his father, former Rep. and Sen. Connie Mack (R), who retired from the Senate in 2000.

The younger Mack would appear to be the nominal frontrunner from the outset, having a well-known name and the ability to raise plenty of money in the state and in Washington. He already has the endorsement of Rep. Tom Feeney (R), a former state House Speaker.

His only liability is that he had to resign his legislative seat and move across the state back to the district in order to run, a fact his opponents will be sure to use against him.

Still, Mack has roots in the southwest Florida district, and it remains to be seen how much weight the residency issue will carry with primary voters. To counter the carpetbagger claim, Mack notes that he is the only candidate who was born in the district.

State Rep. Carole Green and Lee County Commissioners Andy Coy and Doug St. Cerny are also running in the Republican primary.

State Sen. Burt Saunders is also considering the race.

The stakes in this winner-take-all primary are high, and a crowded field could produce a surprise outcome. This is heavily Republican territory, and whoever does win the primary is assured of winning the November general election.

20th district
Open seat: Peter Deutsch (D) is running for Senate
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Although some candidates have been preparing for the possibility of an open-seat election for months, the race to replace Deutsch just began in earnest last week following Graham’s retirement decision.

State Sen. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D) is considered the leading candidate to replace Deutsch in this heavily Democratic district. She had already begun raising money for the race before Graham’s announcement.

Broward County Commissioners Ilene Liberman (D) and Suzanne Gunzgurger (D) are also considered potential candidates.

22nd district
Incumbent: Clay Shaw (R)
12 term (61 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

After an extremely close race in 2000, Shaw was targeted again last year and easily beat Palm Beach County Commissioner Carol Roberts, who spent $1.1 million and got a disappointing 38 percent.

Democrats are hopeful that state Rep. Stacy Ritter (D) will challenge Shaw next year, although she has yet to announce that she’ll run.

This Democratic-leaning district is still not great territory for Shaw, who could see his vote total drop some in a presidential election year. Al Gore won this South Florida district with 52 percent.

However, Shaw is nowhere near being included on the list of most vulnerable House Members, as he was in 2000.

Georgia

Filing deadline: April 30
Primary: July 20
Runoff: Aug. 10

Senate

Open seat: Zell Miller (D) is retiring
Outlook: Leans Republican

All of the action so far in this race has been on the Republican side, since Democrats have yet to field a top candidate a year removed from the election.

Rep. Johnny Isakson (R), the first candidate in the race and the most prolific fundraiser by far, is regarded as the frontrunner in the contest.

Meanwhile, Rep. Mac Collins and Godfather’s Pizza executive Herman Cain are both vying to be the conservative alternative to Isakson, a fiscal conservative who is more moderate on social issues such as abortion. Businessman Al Bartell is also running in the primary.

While Collins, a former trucking company owner and state Senator, is not expected to raise as much as Isakson, he can likely raise enough money to stay competitive in the primary.

Cain, a motivational speaker and gospel singer, has an inspirational story to tell after working his way up the corporate ladder. He also has millions he could pour into the race, but he has not yet indicated how much of his personal wealth he’s willing to spend.

One potential trouble spot for Cain, who was raised and educated in Georgia, is the fact that he lived in Nebraska, where Godfather’s was headquartered, for several years and moved back to Georgia about three years ago.

As of Sept. 30, Isakson had a little more than $3 million in the bank, Collins had $583,000 and Cain had $208,000.

Democrats, meanwhile, still lack a top candidate in this race after numerous recruiting setbacks. Little-known state Sen. Mary Squires is the only announced Democrat running.

Rep. Jim Marshall (D) and trial lawyer Jim Butler are among those still considering the race, after top potential candidates like Secretary of State Cathy Cox and Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor decided against running. Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), also declined a Senate bid.

Democrats acknowledge they face an uphill battle, and their challenge is compounded by not having a candidate in the race with a year to go before the election. Obviously much depends on whom they eventually get to run, but at this point there are few observers who don’t see the Republicans picking this seat up next year.

House
3rd district
Incumbent: Jim Marshall (D)
1st term (51 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Marshall eked out a 51 percent to 49 percent victory in this district in 2002, even as many Democrats in the state were going down in defeat.

Former Bibb County Commissioner Calder Clay (R) is running again, and as of Sept. 30 he had almost $150,000 on hand.

There had been some talk that retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard (R) might run for the seat, and some Republicans were hoping he would do so. But at this point, he hasn’t indicated he’s in the race and a Marshall/Clay rematch looks likely.

So far, Marshall has compiled a fairly moderate voting record that appears to fit this conservative middle Georgia district. While the marginal district favors Democrats, it voted 52 percent for George W. Bush in 2000.

Clay contends that he will be helped by having Bush at the top of the ticket in 2004, but it’s hard to see how much yardage he stands to gain after the banner year Georgia Republicans had in 2002, when district natives now-Gov. Sonny Perdue and now-Sen. Saxby Chambliss were leading the ticket.


4th district
Incumbent: Denise Majette (D)
1st term (77 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

In one of the most closely watched primary races of last year, Majette ousted outspoken, controversial Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D), 58 percent to 42 percent.

Earlier this year, McKinney supporters filed a lawsuit arguing that the former Congresswoman’s primary loss was caused by “malicious crossover” voting by Republicans seeking to oust McKinney. They also charged that Majette, who beat McKinney by almost 20,000 votes, was a Republican disguised as a Democrat. The suit was later dismissed by a federal judge.

McKinney filed paperwork to seek her old seat again, but at this point it’s unclear whether she will actually run. There has also been talk that she might run in the 12th district against Rep. Max Burns (R). Either way, Democrats do not seem overly concerned about a comeback.

If McKinney runs, the race will garner attention and could get ugly. However, Majette beat McKinney by a 16-point margin, and it’s questionable whether a rematch would have a markedly different outcome.

More than likely, this will be Majette’s seat as long as she wants it.

6th district
Open seat: Johnny Isakson (R) is running for Senate
Outlook: Safe Republican

The race to replace Isakson has drawn four state lawmakers, although it is commonly handicapped as a two-person race.

The candidates running are state Rep. Roger Hines and state Sens. Chuck Clay, Robert Lamutt and Tom Price.

Each represents territory within the district, but the biggest geographical distinction is that three of the men have bases in Cobb County, while one represents an area in north Fulton County.

The race is widely viewed as a contest between Clay, who has a base in Cobb and high name recognition because he ran for lieutenant governor in 2002, and Price, the state Senate Majority Leader whose base is in north Fulton.

Price led all other rivals in cash on hand at the end of September, showing $510,000 in the bank after loaning his campaign $100,000. He was recently endorsed by Georgia GOP Reps. John Linder and Charlie Norwood.

Clay has donated $50,000 in personal funds to his effort, and he had $150,000 in the bank at the end of last quarter.

If all four candidates remain in the race, there is a high likelihood there will be a runoff and it’s too early to tell who would be favored. One thing that is for certain is that whoever wins the primary or runoff will be essentially guaranteed a seat in the 109th Congress.

8th district
Open seat: Mac Collins (R) is running for Senate
Outlook: Safe Republican

The real fight to replace Collins, like the race to replace Isakson, will take place in the primary.

State House Minority Leader Lynn Westmoreland, state Sen. Mike Crotts and Dylan Glenn, a former aide to Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), are all running in the Republican primary.

Westmoreland, the first candidate in the race, leads in fundraising so far and is generally considered the frontrunner. He has the backing of Sen Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and the conservative anti-tax Club for Growth.

Westmoreland had $378,000 in the bank on Sept. 30, while Crotts had just less than $40,000. Westmoreland announced last week that he is stepping down from his leadership position to focus on the Congressional race.

Glenn just entered the race officially in October. However, he has run for Congress twice before in the neighboring 2nd district. In 1998 he lost the GOP primary, and in 2000 he took 47 percent of the vote against Rep. Sanford Bishop (D). He has served in both Bush administrations and has strong Washington, D.C., ties.

Turnout in the primary will likely be elevated with Collins’ presence on the Senate ballot, but at this point it’s too early to tell who might benefit most from that.

11th district
Incumbent: Phil Gingrey (R)
1st term (52 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

Democrats were slightly favored to win this marginal district in 2002, even as Election Day dawned.

Instead, Gingrey’s 52 percent win was indicative of Democrats’ abysmal performance across the state last November.

Since then, the freshman Congressman has been one of the most prolific fundraisers in his class, having raised more than $1 million this year.

Polk County Chief Magistrate Judge Rick Crawford (D) recently announced he’s running, charging that Gingrey “has turned our seat in Congress over to special interests.”

But with competitive races taking higher priority in the 3rd and 12th districts, it’s unclear what level of resources national Democrats are willing to devote to ousting Gingrey.

Still, this remains a swing seat race in a presidential election year, and it’s difficult to predict what the contest will look like in another year.

12th district
Incumbent: Max Burns (R)
1st term (55 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Burns began the cycle as perhaps the most marked of all House freshmen (and not because he was elected president of the freshman class), simply because he won a seat that was tailor-made for a Democrat.

Democrats in the Legislature drew district lines to their benefit in 2002, and specifically with attorney Champ Walker (the son of the then-state Senate Majority Leader) in mind.

Walker won the Democratic primary and runoff but never had a chance in the general election after Republicans unearthed a past arrest record, among other things.

Two Democrats are currently in the race against Burns, Athens-Clarke County Commissioner John Barrow and former state Sen. Doug Haines. Attorney Tony Center (D), who ran and lost the 2002 primary, is also mentioned as a potential candidate.

Barrow leads in fundraising and cash on hand so far, and he has picked up some key endorsements, including that of former Sen. Max Cleland (D). Cleland carried the 12th district in 2002, even as he went down in defeat statewide.

Burns, meanwhile, had a relatively quiet first year in office, until last month when he grabbed back-to-back unwanted headlines.

First he fired his chief of staff, who then threatened legal action because he claimed it was for political reasons. Then it was reported that a Burns supporter had made an anti-semitic remark at a September fundraiser while the Congressman sat idly by. Burns later reprimanded the supporter, who had helped raise money for Burns and been paid by his campaign in the past, and said he’d severed ties with him.

There is no doubt that this is a must-win seat for Democrats looking to move closer to taking back the House.

Kentucky

Filing deadline: Jan. 27
Primary: May 18

Senate

Incumbent: Jim Bunning (R)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Shortly after Gov. Paul Patton (D) cruised to a second term in 1999, strategists on both sides of the aisle began to mull the dynamics of a Patton-versus-Bunning race in 2004.

All of that speculation came to an abrupt end in September 2002, when Patton admitted that he had carried on an affair with a state employee. Patton’s approval numbers quickly went into a nosedive, effectively ending his political career.

This left Democrats without an obvious candidate, and recruiting has proceeded slowly due to the focus on the 2003 gubernatorial race between state Attorney General Ben Chandler (D) and Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R), which Fletcher won Nov. 4.

The only announced Democrat against Bunning is former state Attorney General Fred Cowan, who to this point has not run a terribly visible or well-financed campaign.

Cowan served six years in the state House before being elected as Kentucky’s top crime fighter in 1987. After four years in that post, he lost a primary for lieutenant governor to Patton.

Through September, Cowan had just $233,000 in his campaign account; in comparison Bunning ended the month with $2.6 million in the bank.

The prospective candidate who most excites both state and national Democrats is state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, who is serving as state party vice chairman.

Mongiardo, who is an otolarynologist by training, was first elected to the state Senate in 2000 but found himself redistricted out of the seat the next year.

Mongiardo ran and won another state Senate seat in 2002 and briefly held both. When he was sworn in to his new eastern Kentucky seat he resigned his old seat, which encompassed much of northern Kentucky.

Other Democrats mentioned include Charlie Owen, who is running for lieutenant governor, and state Treasurer Jonathan Miller, who won a second term last week. House

3rd district
Incumbent: Anne Northup (R)
4th term (52 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

Northup is one of the most battle-tested Members of the Republican Conference.

Ever since her win over freshman Rep. Mike Ward (D) in 1996, Northup has been at the top of Democratic target lists but through a combination of extremely strong fundraising and strong stump skills has survived.

Northup should expect more of the same in 2004.

Although no Democrat has formally announced, 2002 nominee Jack Conway is interested and is given the right of first refusal for the race.

Conway, a former senior aide in the Patton administration, ran a strong campaign last cycle but was hamstrung by Patton’s personal problems.

Northup won 52 percent to 48 percent while outspending Conway at a 2-1 rate. She has never won more than 53 percent in any of her three re-election bids.

A combination of Conway’s strong showing and the district demographics in a presidential year make this a must-target for House Democrats.

Centered in Louisville, the 3rd is the most Democratic district in the state; Al Gore would have won 50 percent there in 2000.

Aside from Conway, Jefferson County Circuit Clerk Tony Miller, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor earlier this year, and Jefferson County Attorney Irv Maze are mentioned as potential candidates.

4th district
Incumbent: Ken Lucas (D)
3rd term (51 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

After a brief flirtation with a Senate bid, Lucas decided to break his term-limits pledge and seek a fourth House term.

Both parties are bracing for a fight in this conservative northern Kentucky district, as Lucas is likely to face a rematch with his 2002 opponent, businessman Geoff Davis (R).

An unknown last cycle, Davis ran a surprisingly strong race, coming just 6,000 votes short of Lucas.

Almost immediately after the election, Davis announced he would run again and began raising money for a bid. Davis ended September with $376,000 in the bank.

He will not have a clear primary field, however, as Kevin Murphy, a lawyer and first time candidate, is running a surprisingly well-funded campaign.

Murphy had $253,000 on hand at the end of September, a total that included a $75,000 personal loan.

Despite Murphy’s solid fundraising, it is clear that establishment Republicans are lining up behind Davis.

He has been endorsed by former 4th district Rep. Gene Snyder (R) as well as Hunter Bates, the former chief of staff to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Republicans believe that next year represents their best chance to defeat Lucas since he won an open seat in 1998 because of his broken pledge and the presence of President Bush at the top of the ticket.

Lucas has proven to have significant appeal despite the conservatism of the district and is likely to be well-funded. He ended September with $381,000 on hand.

Louisiana

Filing deadline: Aug. 6
Primary: Nov. 2
Runoff: Dec. 4

Senate

Incumbent: John Breaux (D)
3rd term (64 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Breaux’s political future remains in doubt, although most neutral observers believe the longtime Louisiana politician is leaning toward retirement at the end of the cycle. Although he recently put to rest rumors that he would resign early, he has promised to say whether he’ll seek re-election soon after the Nov. 15 gubernatorial runoff in Louisiana.

Breaux has served in Washington for more than three decades but is only 59 years old, leading to speculation that now is the perfect time in his life to start a second career.

If Breaux chooses to stay, he is a heavy favorite for re-election. If he leaves, there is already a fully formed race to replace him.

Democrats would likely nominate Rep. Chris John, a three-term Member from southeastern Louisiana. John is a Breaux protégé (both are from Crowley) who has already begun to ramp up his fundraising and travel around the state.

John ended September with $826,000 in the bank.

John may have to share the Democratic field with one of the losing candidates from the 2003 gubernatorial race — outgoing state Attorney General Richard Ieyoub and former Rep. Buddy Leach are both mentioned. If Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) comes up short on Nov. 15 in her quest to become governor, she might contemplate a run as well.

On the Republican side, Rep. David Vitter (R) is the odds-on nominee. Vitter, who won a 1999 special election to his 1st district seat, was the leading candidate for the governor’s race but bowed out in May 2002.

At the time he cited a need to address “family concerns,” and transferred more than $700,000 from a state account that he had set up for a governor’s race back to his federal campaign account.

Vitter had $1.5 million in the bank at the end of September.

A John-Vitter contest would be closely fought. Louisiana has not elected a Republican Senator since 1868 so Vitter would be fighting both the Democratic nominee and history.

If John and Vitter run for the Senate, there would likely be spirited contests for their House seats. But until Breaux makes his plans known, it is too soon to tell.

House 5th district
Incumbent: Rodney Alexander (D)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Alexander’s win in a December runoff last year was one of the biggest upsets of the cycle and gave House Democrats something to build on after a disappointing six-seat loss in November.

But given the strong Republican leanings of this northern Louisiana district, the National Republican Congressional Committee has made defeating Alexander one of its top priorities.

Republicans are actively recruiting former Rep. John Cooksey for the contest, although it remains unclear whether he will make the race.

Cooksey held the seat from 1996 to 2002 when he vacated it for an ill-fated Senate bid that was hamstrung by some impolitic comments he made in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He placed a distant third in the state’s open primary.

Despite that loss, national Republicans see Cooksey as their strongest candidate. If he decides against running, 2002 nominee Lee Fletcher, and 2002 also-rans state Sen. Robert Barham and former Rep. Clyde Holloway are mentioned.

Alexander released a poll in mid-July that showed him with a 15-point edge over Cooksey and a 29-point cushion against Fletcher.

He has been an active fundraiser with $279,000 in the bank through September.

Even so, in a district where George W. Bush won 57 percent of the vote and where Alexander squeaked into office with just a 974-vote margin, he can never rest comfortably.

Mississippi
Filing deadline: Jan. 9
Primary: March 9
Runoff: March 30

House

3rd district
Incumbent: Chip Pickering (R)
4th term (64 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

After surviving a noncompetitive Member-versus-Member contest in 2002, there are no obstacles for Pickering as he seeks a fifth term.

His drubbing of fellow Rep. Ronnie Shows (D) by 29 points last year illustrates just how Republican the new 3rd district lines were drawn. Democrats’ next hope of competing there will be after the 2010 redistricting process, unless the state Legislature decides to redraw the current court-drawn lines before then.

Pickering, whose father’s nomination for an appeals court post has been filibustered by Democrats, is expected to run for Senate when Sen. Trent Lott (R) retires, a distinct possibility in 2006. And unless something changes before then, Republicans should have little trouble holding the seat when Pickering leaves.

North Carolina
Filing deadline: Feb. 27
Primary: May 4

Senate
Open seat: John Edwards (D) is retiring
Outlook: Tossup

After months of uncertainty, Edwards formally announced in September that he would forgo a run for a second term to pursue the Democratic presidential nomination full-time.

Within days, 2002 Senate nominee Erskine Bowles had entered the race, giving Democrats a strong candidate in a seat they must hold if they hope to win back the Senate majority.

Bowles ran a credible race against now-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) last cycle but lost 54 percent to 45 percent. He spent nearly $7 million of his own money on that race.

Bowles’ effort to clear the primary field this time — a task he failed to accomplish last year — has gone well, as Rep. Bob Etheridge decided against the race and Bowles’ 2002 primary foe, Dan Blue, is unlikely to run.

Blue, who is black, received a major blow to his campaign when former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt (D), the most powerful black politician in the state, lined up behind Bowles. Blue, who placed second behind Bowles in a 2002 primary, has not made a final decision, but strategists believe he does not have the fire in the belly to make a second run.

Even if Bowles is unopposed for the nomination, however, he will face a difficult challenge in the general election against Rep. Richard Burr (R).

Burr, the Congressman from the Winston-Salem-based 5th district since 1994, has been the poster boy for the National Republican Senatorial Committee since entering the race at the beginning of the year.

Burr has already banked $4 million for the race — the most of any non-self-funding Senate challenger — and has stumped actively throughout the state.

The only independent poll done in the race showed Burr with a 6-point edge; a survey done for the Bowles campaign at roughly the same time showed the Democrat up 8 points.

The Tar Heel State has moved toward Republicans on the federal level, and having President Bush on the top of the ticket is likely to aid Burr.

Bowles, however, benefits from a national fundraising network developed during his time as chief of staff in the Clinton White House and from the lessons he learned from his 2002 campaign.

House

5th district
Open seat: Richard Burr (R) is running for Senate
Outlook: Safe Republican

Winston-Salem City Councilman Vernon Robinson compared the field to replace Burr (of which he is a part) as a clown car in the circus.

“Just when you think you’ve seen the last one, another clown comes out,” Robinson said.

Robinson is one of nine Republicans seeking to replace Burr in this district where Republicans have a 7 point registration advantage over Democrats and President Bush would have received 68 percent of the vote in 2000.

The current frontrunner appears to be businessman Ed Broyhill, who is the son of former Sen. Jim Broyhill (R-N.C.).

Broyhill is the heir to both a political and business empire in the Tar Heel State. His father served in the House from 1962 until July 1986, when he was appointed to the Senate following the suicide of Sen. John East (R).

Ed Broyhill has been endorsed by his father and former GOP Sens. Lauch Faircloth and Jesse Helms.

Other candidates given a chance of winning include Robinson, state Sen. Virginia Foxx, 2002 Senate candidate Jim Snyder, and wealthy businessmen Nathan Tabor and Jay Helvey.

Robinson, who is black, is making his ninth run for elected office, only two of which have ended successfully.

He has twice sought the office of state superintendent of public instruction, losing in 1992 to now-Rep. Bob Etheridge (D), and then falling in a 1996 open-seat race.

Foxx is in her fifth term in the state Senate, defeating a fellow Republican incumbent in a 2002 primary. She and Robinson have repeatedly clashed in the past few months.

Snyder placed second to now-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) in the 2002 primary, taking just 14 percent. He contemplated running for Senate again in 2004 but opted for the House race and has already begun running television commercials touting himself as the “only true conservative for Congress.”

Both Helvey and Tabor are expected to self-finance their campaigns. Helvey has already loaned his campaign $263,000; Tabor has chipped in $215,000.

Other Republicans in the race include former state Rep. Ed Powell, former Wilkes County Commissioner Joe Byrd and businessman John Cosgrove.

Democrats are not expected to contest the seat seriously, although 2002 nominee David Crawford and attorney Jeff Gray are mentioned.

8th district
Incumbent: Robin Hayes (R)
3rd term (54 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

Hayes emerged from what many expected to be the political fight of his life in 2002 relatively unscathed.

He defeated attorney Chris Khouri (D) 54 percent to 45 percent, outspending the first-time candidate nearly 4-to-1.

Many Democrats believed that after two terms they could oust Hayes, citing his decisive vote to grant the president trade promotion authority.

Given the declining state of the textile industry in North Carolina, even Republicans admitted that Hayes would struggle to win in this swing district.

But the Democrat touted by party leaders — former state Rep. Billy Richardson — proved to be a disastrous candidate and lost the September primary badly to Khouri.

Khouri was unable to build off that surprising win, however, and never seriously pushed Hayes.

Unbowed by his loss, Khouri is entertaining the possibility of a second run. He visited Washington, D.C., in late September and met with officials at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The party expects him to run.

Hayes will never win this district overwhelmingly but it is hard to see — barring a sustained economic dropoff — how Khouri reverses the 2002 result.

South Carolina

Filing deadline: March 30
Primary: June 8
Runoff: June 22

Senate

Open seat: Fritz Hollings (D) is retiring
Outlook: Leans Republican

Going into the 2004 cycle, Republicans saw South Carolina as one of their best pickup opportunities. And with the retirement of Hollings in August, Republicans have grown increasingly optimistic about their chances.

South Carolina has moved toward Republicans over the past two decades; this trend was affirmed last year when Republicans ousted the Democratic governor and won an open-seat race to replace Sen. Strom Thurmond (R).

President Bush carried the Palmetto State with 57 percent in 2000 and is expected to equal or better that performance in 2004.

Republicans have four candidates seeking their party’s Senate nomination: Rep. Jim DeMint, former state Attorney General Charlie Condon, businessman Thomas Ravenel and Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride. Former Gov. David Beasley (R) is also considering a run.

DeMint, who has held the Up Country 4th district since 1998, is the nominal frontrunner although he has slipped somewhat from that perch since the beginning of the year.

Both Condon and Ravenel have crept up as a result, Condon fueled by his name identification advantage gained from eight years as the state’s top cop and Ravenel from the $1 million of his own money he dropped into the race prior to the June 30 financial deadline.

Condon has pledged to run a more issues-oriented race, a contrast to his past races in which he ran aggressively on his conservative credentials. In 2002, he placed a distant third in the gubernatorial primary with 16 percent.

Ravenel remains largely a political unknown although his father, Arthur, held the Charleston-based 1st district House seat from 1986 to 1994 and ran unsuccessfully for governor. He now serves in the state Senate.

The primary is still DeMint’s to lose, however, and he seems to have steadied the ship significantly in the past six months. He showed $1.1 million on hand through September. Condon had $824,000 in the bank; Ravenel netted $649,000.

Democrats strengthened their position in this race when they averted a primary between Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum and Columbia Mayor Bob Coble, who dropped out of the race in October.

In Tenenbaum, Democrats believe they have their best possible candidate after Hollings. She was the top votegetter in the state in both her 1998 election and 2002 re-election races as education chief, receiving 50,000 more votes last year than now-Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) during his successful open-seat candidacy.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee commissioned the one general election survey in the race.

It showed Tenenbaum leading Condon 46 percent to 34 percent; she had a 15-point edge over DeMint and a 20-point spread on Ravenel.

Democrats are somewhat optimistic about this race but admit privately that if DeMint is the GOP nominee the hill becomes significantly steeper.

House

4th district
Open seat: Jim DeMint (R) is running for Senate
Outlook: Safe Republican

DeMint’s pledge to serve only three terms when elected in 1998 meant that for the past several years GOP candidates have been angling to replace him.

Former Rep. Bob Inglis (R) has the inside track to the seat, which he held from 1992 to 1998. Inglis left the House that year in keeping with a term-limits pledge and ran unsuccessfully against Sen. Fritz Hollings (D).

Soon after that loss, he pledged to run again in 2004 and this time said he would not term limit himself.

Using his past fundraising connections and his early start, Inglis has raised more than $300,000 through September and ended the third quarter with $253,000 on hand.

Inglis will not have the primary field to himself, however, as former Public Service Commissioner Phil Bradley and former state Rep. Carole Wells have also announced.

Bradley ran a primary challenge to DeMint in 2002 based solely on DeMint’s support of free trade and took 38 percent.

Wells has strong ties to the social conservatives in the party as one of the founders of the Christian Coalition in the state.

State Rep. Lewis Vaughn (R) has also expressed an interest in the race. Vaughn has served seven terms in the state House and is chairman of the Operations and Management Committee.

Democrats will not contest this district, where President Bush won 64 percent in 2000.

Tennessee

Filing deadline: April 1
Primary: Aug. 5

House 4th district
Incumbent: Lincoln Davis (D)
1st term (52 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Although this district is almost evenly divided on the presidential level (George W. Bush won 50 percent there in 2000), Davis appears to be in good shape a year before his first re-election race.

Davis paints a difficult opponent for Republicans as he is both anti-abortion rights and pro-gun rights.

Davis has not done as well as many of his freshman colleagues on the fundraising front, however, ending September with $171,000 on hand.

2002 nominee Janice Bowling (R) will run again but is not considered a top-tier candidate.

The district demographics ensure that Davis will never win with 60 percent of the vote, however.

Virginia

Filing deadline: April 12
Primary: June 8

House
8th district
Incumbent: Jim Moran (D)
7th term (60 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

For the first time in more than a decade in Congress, Moran has drawn a primary challenge in this suburban Washington, D.C., district.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Kate Hanley is Moran’s most formidable foe. She outraised him in the third quarter of the year and had more cash on hand for the primary as of Sept. 30 (Moran has more cash for the primary and general combined).

Attorney Andy Rosenberg is also running in the primary, but the Democratic contest at this point is viewed as a two-person race between Moran and Hanley.

Moran, a scrappy ex-boxer, former mayor of Alexandria and current member of the Appropriations Committee, has faced conflict-of-interest controversies and had public temper flare-ups during his career.

Still, he wasn’t viewed as particularly vulnerable until this year, when in March he suggested at an anti-war forum that Jews were pushing the U.S. toward war with Iraq.

The remarks, for which he later apologized, created a storm of protest from Jewish groups, Democrats and Republicans.

Six prominent Jewish Democrats in the House wrote a letter saying they would not support Moran’s re-election, and he eventually was forced to relinquish a leadership position in the Democratic Caucus.

All that said, many are still unwilling to bet against Moran in the primary because they know despite editorials denouncing him as an embarrassment to the district he’s a proven fighter and will be extremely tough to beat.

Things are likely to get downright dirty before all is said and done, especially if outside groups pour money in to try to defeat Moran.

A handful of little-known Republicans are also running for this safe Democratic seat, but it’s hard to see any scenario where they could make the race competitive — even if a bloodied Moran emerges from the primary.

9th district
Incumbent: Rick Boucher (D)
11th term (66 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Boucher was first elected to this southwestern Virginia “Fighting Ninth” seat in 1982, knocking off an entrenched Republican incumbent who had held it for 16 years.

By the time Election Day 2004 rolls around Boucher will have been in Congress for 22 years, and Republicans are hoping they have found a candidate who can pull off what Boucher did two decades ago.

The GOP is enthusiastic about the early fundraising of former NASCAR executive Kevin Triplett, who quit his job and moved back to the district to run in June.

Triplett outraised Boucher in the third quarter and had $138,000 left in the bank on Sept. 30, although most of the support came from the NASCAR network and from outside the district.

While Democrats hold little hope of holding this conservative, rural district when Boucher retires, the Congressman is well-liked and remains popular there. President Bush easily carried the 9th in the 2000 presidential race, but Triplett has his work cut out for him in convincing ticket splitters to vote the straight GOP ballot.

Boucher hasn’t had a competitive race in two decades, but he appears to be in good standing for re-election. Still, with the current paucity of competitive races nationwide this could end up a target for Republicans with money to spend down the stretch.