MID-ATLANTIC: Pennsylvania Has Region’s Top Senate Contest;

Posted May 13, 2004 at 2:55pm

DELAWARE
Filing deadline: July 30
Primary: Sept. 11

House
At-Large
Incumbent: Mike Castle (R)
6th term (72 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Castle, a well-respected moderate, is expected to face only nominal opposition and will have little trouble winning a seventh term in November.

Attorney Steve Biener is the only potential Democratic candidate mentioned.

Castle ended March with a little more than $1 million in his campaign war chest.

MARYLAND
Filing deadline: passed
Primary: passed

Senate
Incumbent: Barbara Mikulski (D)
3rd term (71 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Freshman state Sen. E.J. Pipkin, the moderate Republican nominee, has an appealing rags-to-riches story and appears willing to spend some of his personal fortune on the race.

He grew up in a blue collar Baltimore neighborhood but struck it rich on Wall Street and then moved back to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where he became an environmental activist and knocked off an entrenched — and more conservative — Democratic state Senator.

But the feisty Mikulski remains one of the Free State’s most popular politicians and had almost $2.5 million in the bank on March 31. Pipkin could make this race interesting, but there is no reason to believe that Mikulski has anything to worry about.

House
3rd district
Incumbent: Benjamin Cardin (D)
9th term (66 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

All eight of the state’s House Members should cruise to re-election this year.

Cardin’s race will be the most interesting for two reasons. For starters, about a third of the Baltimore-area district is new territory for him. During the last round of redistricting, Cardin lost a good chunk of Baltimore city proper and took on much of Anne Arundel County, including Annapolis.

What’s more, Cardin has the most credible challenger of any of the state’s House incumbents: Anne Arundel County Clerk of Courts Bob Duckworth (R).

Duckworth, who has twice run unsuccessfully for Congress in other districts — he hasn’t moved, but the Congressional boundaries have — has earned good will from the voters by performing thousands of civil weddings through the years.

Cardin should still win easily, but this is the kind of district that is Democratic on paper but has enough substantial pockets of blue-collar suburbanites that Republicans could compete if the seat ever becomes open.

NEW JERSEY
Filing deadline: passed
Primary: June 8

House
7th district
Incumbent: Mike Ferguson (R)
2nd term (58 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Ferguson faces Marine Lt. Col. Steve Brozak (D) in a race Democrats say could be in play later this cycle, depending on the situation in Iraq and President Bush’s approval ratings.

This contest is one of a handful of challenger races nationwide that party strategists say could be competitive in the fall if a Democratic wave happens to be in the making.

But Brozak, who switched parties and decided to run for Congress after returning from deployment in Iraq, still faces an uphill battle.

Ferguson had $635,000 in the bank at the end of March. Brozak, who has raised about $150,000, had $116,000.

Democrats tout Brozak’s socially moderate, fiscally conservative profile as an ideal fit for this moderate swing district. His military background doesn’t hurt either. The 42-year-old investment broker and has served three years in active duty and 18 years in the reserves.

A spate of unwanted press garnered by Ferguson last year bolstered Democrats’ hopes of competing in the 7th.

In June the Federal Election Commission fined Ferguson for improperly funneling more than half a million dollars from his parents to his 2000 campaign. The penalty, $210,0000, was one of the stiffest ever imposed on a candidate.

Still, it remains to be seen whether Brozak will have the resources necessary to make Ferguson’s troubles an issue in the campaign.

After winning a competitive first race in 2000, Ferguson was not a top target for Democrats last year. The swing district voted narrowly for President Bush in 2000, and Democrats hope that if the president’s approval ratings are dragging come September, incumbents like Ferguson will become fatter targets.

NEW YORK
Filing deadline: July 15
Primary: Sept. 14

Senate
Incumbent: Charles Schumer (D)
1st term (55 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

All Schumer has to worry about in his bid for a second term is complacency, pesky questions about whether he plans to run for governor in 2006, and entreaties to turn over some of his campaign cash to other candidates because he clearly won’t need it.

After failing to lure Gov. George Pataki (R) and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) into the race, the state GOP establishment has settled on state Assemblyman Howard Mills III as its preferred candidate. Some Albany insiders believe that the 39-year-old lawmaker from the New York City exurbs is using this run for leverage on a state Senate seat he is eyeing.

Mills is likely to face a primary challenge from former Wall Street trader Michael Benjamin. And assuming he is the GOP nominee, Mills may not even have conservatives unified behind him.

That’s because the state Conservative Party seems intent on nominating eye doctor Marilyn O’Grady for Senate. No Republican in the Empire State has won a statewide election in 40 years without also running on the Conservative line.

The media-hungry Schumer had almost $21 million in the bank as of March 31.

House
1st district
Incumbent: Tim Bishop (D)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Once a top target of Republicans, Bishop thought he had it made when the GOP’s preferred candidate, Brookhaven Town Supervisor John Jay LaValle, announced in February that he would not run.

But banker and former federal transportation official Bill Manger (R) has proved to be a dogged campaigner and decent fundraiser without spending much of his own money so far. Republicans in Washington, D.C., now believe he has an outside shot of winning, and Long Island GOPers are even more hopeful.

Still, Bishop must be considered the favorite. He is a steady fundraiser and is earning high marks for his constituent service. Unlike his two most recent predecessors — who were both bounced from office in upsets — Bishop has largely steered clear of controversy, and he has deep roots on eastern Long Island.

Through March 31, Bishop had $429,000 in the bank. Manger had a respectable $247,000.

This district is unpredictable enough that it bears constant watching.

4th district
Incumbent: Carolyn McCarthy (D)
4th term (56 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Republicans in Washington, D.C., and on Long Island are high on their likely nominee, Hempstead Mayor James Garner. He is a respected veteran elected official who is currently president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

But his fundraising has been decidedly unimpressive: He had just $31,000 banked as of March 31. Garner believes he was hurt by the presence of another candidate in the race — 2002 GOP nominee Marilyn O’Grady — who recently dropped out for a chance to challenge Sen. Charles Schumer (D).

McCarthy tends to have closer races in off-years than in presidential years, when a greater number of voters flock to the polls (her district gave Al Gore a 21-point victory over George W. Bush in 2000). She is doing fine on fundraising ($553,000 in the bank) and with gun control being debated once again in Congress, her profile — she is the widow of one of the victims of the infamous 1993 Long Island Railroad massacre — should remain high for the next several months.

Whatever his attributes, unless Garner’s fundraising picks up dramatically in the second quarter, this race will be considered over.

11th district
Incumbent: Major Owens (D)
11th term (86 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

There is no reason why Owens should be sweating re-election in his Brooklyn district, but he is — and he has only himself to blame.

Late last year, Owens, 67, let slip that he was planning to retire at the end of the 109th Congress. That led several would-be successors to surmise that the Congressman was actually planning to retire this year and use some maneuver to pass the seat along to his son, HMO executive and former local school board member Chris Owens (D), who has already announced his plans to try to succeed his father in 2006.

So one well-connected city councilwoman, Tracy Boyland, decided to enter the Democratic primary this year. Councilwoman Yvette Clarke — daughter of the woman who held Owens to 54 percent of the vote during the 2000 Democratic primary — is also making preparations to run. Both had considerably more money in the bank on March 31 than Owens, who was almost broke.

Owens is still insisting that he plans to run one more time, but rumors persist that he may get out of the race before long. Even if he doesn’t, the two councilwomen are formidable opponents. Chances are, none of this would have happened if he had kept quiet about retiring two years from now.

If Owens does pull out, look for several other Democratic candidates — including Chris Owens, state Sens. Carl Andrews and John Sampson and state Assemblyman Nick Perry — to get into the race. In a wide open primary field, anything can happen.

24th district
Incumbent: Sherwood Boehlert (R)
11th term (71 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Boehlert faces a Republican primary rematch with former Cayuga County legislator David Walrath, who came out of the blue and captured 47 percent of the primary vote last cycle.

Boehlert seems far more prepared now — he had $563,000 on hand as of March 31 — and argues that his weak showing last time was a function of picking up new territory in his central New York district.

But Walrath, a physician who earned the nomination of the Conservative Party in 2002, will continue to challenge the more moderate Boehlert from the right. He had $78,000 in the bank at the end of the first quarter, but if some national conservative groups decide to help him, the primary could get interesting.

Democrats have largely given Boehlert a pass in recent cycles, despite the fact that the district split evenly between George W. Bush and Al Gore during the 2000 presidential election. After running no one against him in 2002, the Democrats have two people fighting for the nomination this time: college professor Jeffrey Miller and United Auto Workers union local President Brian Goodell.

27th district
Open seat: Jack Quinn (R) is retiring
Outlook: Tossup

Quinn’s surprise April 26 announcement that he would not seek a seventh term has sent his Buffalo-area district — and national party leaders — into a tizzy, and immediately made his seat one of the most competitive in the nation.

Quinn, a moderate with close ties to organized labor, was able to hold the seat for the GOP despite the fact that his district gave Al Gore a 12-point advantage over George W. Bush in 2000. Now, while three dozen people have been mentioned as possible contenders, leaders of both parties are hoping to coalesce around one candidate — even though primaries are inevitable.

On the Republican side, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.), who represents an adjoining district, should have plenty of say about the GOP nominee. So far, Erie County Comptroller Nancy Naples, who is personally wealthy, is seen as the likely Republican standard-bearer.

Democratic leaders are most interested in state Assemblyman Brian Higgins. West Seneca Town Supervisor Paul Clark has also announced for the Democratic primary, and 2002 nominee Peter Crotty, who was already preparing for a rematch with Quinn, is remaining in the race. Others may also run.

29th district
Open seat: Amo Houghton (R) is retiring
Outlook: Likely Republican

Houghton’s decision to retire from his seat at age 77 wasn’t altogether surprising, but his announcement came late, and the race is just beginning to develop. Republicans have the decided advantage, but national Democrats are high on Samara Barend, a 26-year-old political operative who has worked economic development issues in the region. If the GOP primary turns bloody, the Democrats’ chances improve.

State Sen. Randy Kuhl is the nominal frontrunner on the Republican side. He was endorsed recently by Houghton, his geographical base is roughly the same as the Congressman’s, and he is expected to snag the backing of the Republican Main Street Partnership.

State Assemblyman Brian Kolb (R), another top-tier candidate, represents the central portion of the district, which runs from the Southern Tier along the Pennsylvania border up to the Rochester area.

As many as half a dozen Republicans may be competing from Monroe County, which includes the Rochester area, and party leaders there hope to anoint one as the designated choice of the region. The list so far includes Monroe County legislator Mark Assini, lawyer Bill Nojay, businessman Geoff Rosenberger and Monroe County Legislature Majority Leader Bill Smith.

Rosenberger, who has already poured more than $300,000 of his own money into the race, was the first to go up on TV, in late April.

The conservative Club for Growth has also promised to play in the district — in opposition to Kuhl, whom the group accuses of voting for tax increases in the Legislature. Club leaders have not yet indicated whom they plan to endorse.

PENNSYLVANIA
Filing deadline: passed
Primary: passed

Senate
Incumbent: Arlen Specter (R)
4th term (61 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

Specter eked out a primary victory over Rep. Pat Toomey (R) last month and now faces Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D) in November as he seeks an unprecedented fifth term in the Senate.

Specter is already the first Pennsylvanian to serve four terms in the chamber, and his hopes for a fifth were almost dashed by Toomey, who came within 2 points of beating the 24-year incumbent.

Toomey, with the help of the Club for Growth, was largely successful in painting Specter as a liberal who stands against his own party more often than he stands with it.

A last-minute visit and commercials featuring President Bush helped Specter stop the hemorrhaging of support in the final week, as several polls showed him under 50 percent.

Since the primary, Specter has sought to reaffirm his moderate credentials and, although bruised, political handicappers still consider him the heavy favorite to win in November.

Democrats, however, argue that the damage has already been done and they are seeking to paint Specter as a “two-stepping” political opportunist. They also point to poll numbers showing that Specter’s favorability ratings are pretty low.

One of the key factors in the general election will be how actively Gov. Ed Rendell (D) becomes involved in the race. Rendell and Specter are longtime friends, and the governor doesn’t mind having a senior appropriator in Washington to boot. Although Rendell has pledged to help Hoeffel, skeptical observers believe there’s little chance he will put the full force of his organization behind the effort to oust Specter.

Another key to the race will be the support of organized labor, which has traditionally supported Specter. Hoeffel is working hard to make inroads with labor groups, many of whom have also supported him in the past.

Hoeffel isn’t likely to get the AFL-CIO endorsement, but it would be viewed as a major boost to his campaign if the organization declined to endorse either candidate in the race.

Specter spent an estimated $12 million on the primary campaign and had about $2 million left over to start the general election race.

Hoeffel’s fundraising has been lackluster to this point. He had about $800,000 in his campaign account as of early April. He’ll get some fundraising help later this month from former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D), who is scheduled to headline an event for Hoeffel in suburban Philadelphia.

Specter was not targeted in 1998, and the last time he faced re-election in a presidential election year he won just 49 percent as Bill Clinton carried the state in 1992.

Both parties are also monitoring the presence of a possible third-party candidate in the race. Constitution Party National Chairman James Clymer is collecting signatures to run as an Independent. If he does qualify, he would be the only anti-abortion rights candidate on the ballot and he could pick off some disaffected Toomey supporters. At least that’s what Democrats hope.

House
6th district
Incumbent: Jim Gerlach (R)
1st term (51 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

Democrats recruited attorney Lois Murphy to run against the freshman Gerlach, who won a narrow victory in this redrawn suburban Philadelphia district last year.

Murphy has close ties to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), a key fact in a district like this with a high concentration of so-called “Rendell Republicans.”

On paper this district looks to be about as swing as swing districts come. Both George W. Bush and Al Gore got 49 percent there in the 2000 presidential contest. Gerlach only narrowly beat back attorney Dan Wofford in 2002, despite the fact that national Democrats did not pay particular attention to the race until late in the cycle.

In a short period, Murphy raised $250,000 and had $220,000 left in the bank in early April. Still, she has a lot of catching up to do.

Gerlach has raised more than $1 million so far and showed about $630,000 left in reserve in early April. In 2002, Wofford spent close to $1.4 million while Gerlach spent $1.3 million.

Although Democrats have high hopes of vigorously contesting this seat in a presidential year, Murphy will have to spend heavily to get known in the district. Wofford, the son of a former Senator, had a built-in name identification advantage.

It also remains to be seen what impact the Senate race could have on this district, as Southeastern Pennsylvania is expected to be ground zero in the battle between Specter and Hoeffel.

13th district
Open seat: Joe Hoeffel (D) is running for Senate
Outlook: Leans Democratic

When both parties picked their nominees late last month, the race for this suburban and Northeast Philadelphia seat officially got under way. State Sen. Allyson Schwartz (D) and ophthalmologist Melissa Brown (R) are now squaring off in what is expected to be the state’s blockbuster House contest of the cycle.

Both women are socially moderate and favor abortion rights. Both also have the ability to raise and spend considerable resources, making this likely to be one of the most expensive House races this year.

Schwartz beat former National Constitution Center President Joe Torsella, a one-time aide to now-Gov. Ed Rendell (D), in the Democratic primary.

She got the early backing of EMILY’s List and considerable support from organized labor.

Schwartz moved into the district and the residency issue in the general election may still haunt her. Still, she represents portions of the district in the state Senate and she is well known in the area.

Brown faced a somewhat more divisive primary against state Rep. Ellen Bard and Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce President Al Taubenberger.

This is the fourth time she has run for Congress, spending personal resources on each try. Last cycle, she outspent and came close to knocking off Hoeffel, who Democrats argue underperformed in the district.

Democrats charge that Brown ran a racially charged campaign in 2002, specifically focusing on the issue of Section 8 housing. Even some Republicans acknowledge that Brown’s campaign left a bad taste with many in the party.

Brown continued talking about the issue through the primary, and the race could certainly get ugly down the stretch.

Both parties will be aided heavily by the get-out-the-vote efforts of each presidential campaign. The district voted heavily Democratic in 2000, but by no means is this an open-seat race the party can take for granted this year.

15th district
Open seat: Pat Toomey (R) lost Senate primary
Outlook: Leans Republican

State Sen. Charlie Dent (R) is the prohibitive favorite to win this Lehigh Valley seat. Perhaps the only thing keeping the race from being rated as likely Republican is the marginal makeup of the district, enhanced even more in a presidential year.

Dent faces developer Joe Driscoll (D), a political newcomer vulnerable to carpetbagger attacks due to his lack of ties to the Lehigh Valley.

Driscoll, who has said he plans to move from Montgomery County to a Lehigh address this summer, was a late recruit for Democrats after all of the party’s big-name potential candidates passed on the race.

Still, Driscoll has friends in high places and national Democrats are excited about his candidacy. He had about $450,000 in his campaign account heading into last month’s primary, after loaning himself $220,000.

Dent has raised almost $600,000 for the campaign and had $280,000 left in the bank at the beginning of April.

Described as an affable moderate, Dent has represented parts of the district — including the Democratic stronghold of Allentown — for 14 years in the state Legislature. He has been elected previously with the support of Republicans and Democrats and he has never lost a general election.

Dent got the early support of National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) and his would-be homestate GOP colleagues.

During the primary he was attacked by two opponents for being too moderate, a label that he’ll happily embrace between now and November.

Toomey carried this district easily in last month’s Senate primary and he won re-election with relative ease last cycle in a rematch of his 2000 race against a lackluster Democratic opponent.

Still, Al Gore carried this swing district in the 2000 presidential contest, 49 percent to 48 percent for George W. Bush — a percentage that still gives House Democrats a glimmer of hope for November.

17th district
Incumbent: Tim Holden (D)
6th term (51 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Holden faces attorney Scott Paterno (R), the son of Penn State football coaching legend Joe Paterno, who won a crowded primary last month with 27 percent of the vote.

The 31-year-old Paterno, a former aide to the state Senate Majority Leader, has one of the best known and respected last names in the area but he is not without some baggage in his first run for political office.

While in college he wrote several controversial columns in which he advocated recreational drug use and accused President Bill Clinton of murder, among other things. Instead of hiding from his writings, Paterno won kudos for publishing them on his campaign Web site with a disclaimer explaining how his views had since evolved.

Late in the campaign Paterno was also the focus of news reports revealing several traffic violations, including citations he received for an expired registration. His opponents charged that the tickets and other problems showed a pattern of recklessness and that Paterno was not ready for the responsibility of serving in Congress.

Democrats, picking up where Paterno’s GOP opponents left off, wasted little time in releasing a statement after the primary highlighting these weaknesses.

While Republicans initially failed to recruit a top-level challenger in the 17th, Holden may never quite feel comfortable in this district, which President Bush carried with 56 percent in 2000.

Paterno’s father is close to former President George H.W. Bush, and the elder Bush attended a fundraiser for Scott Paterno earlier this year. Paterno had raised a little more than $300,000 through the primary, but he starts the general election campaign with about $100,000 in the bank.

Republicans know they face an uphill battle in retiring Holden, who beat Rep. George Gekas (R) in a Member-versus-Member contest last cycle simply by outworking the 20-year veteran lawmaker.

Having Bush at the top of the ticket may help Paterno some, but he can’t rely solely on coattails against a seasoned campaigner like Holden.

WEST VIRGINIA
Filing deadline: passed
Primary: passed

House
2nd district
Incumbent: Shelley Moore Capito (R)
2nd term (60 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

West Virginia may be a battleground state in the presidential race, but for the first time in four years it will not be featured in the battle for control of the House.

After facing free-spending trial lawyer Jim Humphreys (D) in the past two elections, Capito is expected to cruise to a third term in November.

Humphreys, who poured $14 million of his own fortune into back-to-back losing efforts, decided not to go for a third try, and Democrats failed to recruit any viable challenger.

Capito will face former TV anchor Erik Wells in November.

Capito is viewed as an eventual statewide candidate. As the only Republican in the state’s Congressional delegation she has benefited from all the attention the White House is paying to the Mountain State.

Aided by visits from administration officials, she has raised $900,000 so far this cycle. The Charleston-based district voted for George W. Bush over Al Gore, 55 percent to 45 percent in 2000.