PLAINS: National Democrats Look to Region to Expand

Posted May 13, 2004 at 2:42pm

IOWA
Filing deadline: passed
Primary: June 8

Senate
Incumbent: Chuck Grassley (R)
4th term (68 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Grassley continues to coast to a fifth term. Big-name Democrats like Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver and Lt. Gov. Sally Pederson passed on the race, leaving former state Rep. Arthur Small as the Democratic standard-bearer.

Small served in the state Legislature from 1970 to 1986 and has since been a lobbyist for the insurance industry. Grassley had $5.4 million in his bank account at the end of March, while Small had not yet begun raising money. This race won’t be close.

House
3rd district
Incumbent: Leonard Boswell (D)
4th term (53 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Boswell was one of the top Republican targets last cycle following the nonpartisan redistricting process in 2001 that forced him to move from his southern Iowa home into Des Moines.

He defeated attorney Stan Thompson (R) with 53 percent but, undaunted, Thompson quickly decided to run again.

The district was competitive between the parties in the 2000 presidential race and is expected to be so again in November. Then-Vice President Al Gore won the state by 1,500 votes four years ago, receiving 49 percent in the 3rd.

Boswell appears to be more ready for a serious challenge this cycle, however, as he has done a solid job on the fundraising front.

He ended March with $579,000 in the bank after raising $201,000 in the first three months of the year.

Thompson was less impressive. He raised $134,000 from Jan. 1 to March 31 and had $173,000 in the bank. That total received a major boost April 30 when Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) traveled to Des Moines to raise money for Thompson.

Thompson is laying much of his hopes in this rematch on the lack of other Congressional activity in the Hawkeye State this cycle.

In 2002, he got squeezed out of receiving significant funding from the national party because Iowa Republican Reps. Jim Nussle and Jim Leach faced serious challenges.

This cycle both incumbents are expected to cruise to re-election, which, in theory leaves more money to be spent on Thompson.

National Republicans seem less excited about Thompson this time; Boswell is favored to win.

KANSAS
Filing deadline: June 10
Primary: Aug. 3

Senate
Incumbent: Sam Brownback (R)
1st term (65 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Brownback’s path to a second term may be easier than even he expected.

Businesswoman Joan Ruff (D) announced for the race in January and even received some early attention from the national party for her candidacy. She dropped from the race in March, leaving Democrats without a candidate.

While they still have several weeks to find someone willing to run against Brownback, it will matter little to his re-election prospects.

With $1.4 million in the bank, Brownback is one of the least vulnerable incumbents in the country.

House
2nd district
Incumbent: Jim Ryun (R)
4th term (60 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Democrats seem set on mounting their first serious challenge to Ryun since he was elected in 1996 to this eastern Kansas district.

Businesswoman Nancy Boyda (D) is running an aggressive campaign — even outraising the incumbent in the first three months of 2004 — but still faces a very difficult challenge.

Boyda’s task is encapsulated in a poll conducted for her campaign in early February that showed her trailing Ryun 56 percent to 28 percent.

Boyda partisans argue that Ryun’s lead is the result of his name-identification edge, a gap they believe they can close with a significant financial expenditure.

She raised $274,000 in the first three months of 2004 compared to $93,000 for Ryun. Boyda’s total included a personal loan of $100,000 but even without that loan she outraised the Republican Member.

Ryun did have $380,000 left to spend; Boyda ended March with $230,000 in the bank.

Ryun was hit with another piece of bad news in late April when his campaign manager quit to work as a volunteer for former Justice Department official Kris Kobach (R), who is running in the neighboring 3rd district.

The manager alleged in a Kobach news release that Ryun had abandoned his conservative principles. The Kobach team later rescinded the release.

While the race is intriguing, Ryun has several factors working in his favor. Most importantly, the district tilts Republican, a partisan bent likely to be even more pronounced in a presidential election year.

Secondly, Ryun is still seen with pride by many Kansans, who remember him as an Olympic miler and the first high schooler to run a sub-4 minute mile. Boyda must crack that image and effectively separate herself from national Democrats if she hopes to have a chance.

3rd district
Incumbent: Dennis Moore (D)
3rd term (50 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Surprisingly for an election that is likely to be among the closest and most hard-fought of the cycle, there has been little action in this race for months.

Moore, along with his potential Republicans opponents — 2002 nominee Adam Taff, former Justice Department official Kris Kobach and state Rep. Patricia Barbieri-Lightner — is stockpiling resources for what will be an expensive campaign. The focus for now is on the Republican side, where Taff remains the favorite heading into the August primary.

Taff raised a solid $178,000 from Jan. 1 to March 31, closing the quarter with $402,000 on hand. He loaned his campaign $63,000 in the period and has given better than $80,000 to date.

He also carries the highest name identification of the three Republicans after his surprise primary victory and 3-point general election loss to Moore two years ago.

Kobach appears to be Taff’s most serious challenger for the nomination. A former Overland Park city councilman, he moved back to the district in the summer of 2003 to run for the seat. He raised $74,000 in the first three months of the year, with $200,000 in the bank.

The primary is likely to break down along ideological lines with Taff proclaiming himself a moderate and Kobach laying claim to the conservative mantle. Lightner is not expected to be a serious factor.

In 2002 Taff defeated conservative physician Jeff Colyer (R) by 4 points in what could serve as a blueprint for this race.

Moore lays in wait for the eventual nominee, sitting on $829,000.

In spite of that financial edge, Moore has little room for error.

His Kansas City-based district grows more Republican every two years, and with the presidential race leading the ticket, GOP turnout is likely to increase.

Moore has never won re-election with more than 50 percent of the vote. It is a safe bet that this race will be extremely close.

MISSOURI
Filing deadline: passed
Primary: Aug. 3

Senate
Incumbent: Kit Bond (R)
3rd term (53 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Despite Democrats’ most ardent wishes, this race continues to look like a relatively pedestrian re-election for Bond.

By all accounts, state Treasurer Nancy Farmer is running a fine campaign but is having difficulty breaking through against Bond, who has not made any major mistakes to this point in the race.

And, Bond is rolling up a huge financial edge. He had $5 million in the bank at the end of March compared to $898,000 for Farmer.

Democrats argue that in spite of these hurdles, the demographics of the state and Bond’s past electoral performance point to a contested race. Missouri is one of 17 states targeted by both parties on the presidential level; in 2000 President Bush carried it 50 percent to 47 percent.

Bond has had a long career in Missouri politics beginning in 1968 when he ran for Congress and narrowly lost. He bounced back in 1970 to be elected state auditor and two years later was elected governor. Defeated in 1976, he avenged that loss in 1980 to reclaim the governor’s mansion.

Bond was first elected to the Senate in 1986 and re-elected in 1992 with 52 percent. He won a third term in 1998 with 53 percent.

All signs point to a Bond victory, though Farmer should narrow the gap in the months to come.

House
3rd district
Open seat: Richard Gephardt (D) is retiring
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Gephardt’s departure from this St. Louis County-based seat after 14 terms and two failed runs for president has created a major power vacuum in the area.

State Rep. Russ Carnahan (D) and state Sen. Steve Stoll (D) appear to be the two leading candidates to replace Gephardt.

Carnahan, the son of the late Gov. Mel and former Sen. Jean, has served in the state House since 2000. He carries an extremely well-known last name in Democratic politics.

A poll released by the Carnahan campaign in late April showed him with a 23-point edge over Stoll —38 percent to 15 percent.

Former state Rep. Joan Barry took 8 percent, and St. Louis Circuit Clerk Mariano Favazza had the backing of 4 percent of those polled.

Carnahan also ended March with the most money in the bank to spend on the primary race — $202,000.

Stoll had $162,000 on hand; Berry had $131,000 and Favazza $19,000.

Washington University assistant professor Jeff Smith (D) has done surprisingly well on the fundraising front, with $180,000 on hand at the end of March, but he is not given a serious chance in the primary.

The race has not engaged to this point, and some observers believe that, when it does Carnahan’s relative stiffness as a campaigner will come through and hurt his chances.

He still begins the race with an edge, although Stoll is expected to make this a serious contest.

The likely Republican nominee is perennial candidate Bill Federer.

The seat was made more Democratic in redistricting, and the eventual party nominee will cruise in November.

5th district
Open seat: Karen McCarthy (D) is retiring
Outlook: Safe Democratic

McCarthy’s decision not to seek a sixth term in this Kansas City-based seat was met with relief by many Democrats worried that her well-publicized alcohol problems and rampant staff turnover could endanger the seat in the fall.

With McCarthy out, former Kansas City Mayor Emanuel Cleaver is the strong frontrunner to replace her.

Cleaver was elected mayor of Kansas City in 1991 — the first black to hold that post. He was re-elected in 1995 and during his tenure served as the president of the National Conference of Black Mayors.

After leaving office due to term limits, Cleaver began hosting a radio talk show in the Kansas City area. He is the pastor at St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, which boasts a membership of more than 2,000 parishioners.

He is also black, a large advantage in a district that is nearly one-quarter black; blacks are expected to comprise a much larger segment of the Democratic primary electorate.

Cleaver faces a primary challenge from former Council on Foreign Relations fellow Jamie Metzl, who has run one of the most aggressive campaigns in the country.

Metzl had raised $576,000 for the race at the end of March with $485,000 in the bank.

In his first quarter of active fundraising, Cleaver brought in $280,000 and retained $267,000.

Metzl, a novelist, marathoner and graduate of Harvard Law School, has a great profile but may have picked the wrong race.

Cleaver’s long roots in the district will be difficult for Metzl to sever.

Jeanne Patterson, wife of Cerner Corp. chief executive Neal Patterson, loaned herself $150,000 in her April quarterly report and is the likely Republican nominee.

6th district
Incumbent: Sam Graves (R)
2nd term (63 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Democrats remain high on businessman Charlie Broomfield, but this northwestern Missouri seat is not an easy target for their party.

Democrats were unable to find a serious challenger to Graves in 2002 after he had won a 2000 open-seat race with just 51 percent of the vote.

Determined not to let the Republican off the hook again, Democrats have coalesced around Broomfield, who began his political career in the state House in 1964.

Broomfield ran for Congress in 1972, losing in a Democratic primary for the 6th district to Rep. Jerry Litton. Litton was killed four years later in a plane crash after winning the Democratic Senate primary.

Broomfield now owns a self-storage facility in Platte County and is independently wealthy.

Through March, he had donated $200,000 from his own pocket to the campaign and had $278,000 on hand.

Graves ended March with $572,000 in the bank. Vice President Cheney held a Kansas City fundraiser for Graves in late April that brought in an additional $340,000 for his campaign — the largest fundraiser to date for a House candidate by Cheney.

On paper, the seat is relatively competitive, as President Bush received 53 percent there in 2000.

If Broomfield continues to make substantial personal donations, this race could tighten, but Graves has a clear edge right now.

NEBRASKA
Filing deadline: passed
Primary: passed

House
1st district
Open seat: Doug Bereuter (R) is resigning
Outlook: Leans Republican

Democrats caught a break when former Lincoln County Councilman Jeff Fortenberry won a contentious GOP primary last week. They argue that Fortenberry, a movement conservative, is out of step with the district’s voters — even in a conservative place like Nebraska.

The Democratic nominee is state Sen. Matt Connealy, a farmer who opposes gun control and abortion rights. Connealy has more money in the bank right now than Fortenberry, but Fortenberry can tap into a large grassroots network. And the Republican establishment — however reluctantly — will get behind him. This should be a close race.

2nd district
Incumbent: Lee Terry (R)
3rd term (63 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Terry continues to look strong although even Republicans acknowledge that state Sen. Nancy Thompson (D) is the most serious challenger he has faced in his brief Congressional career.

Terry has held the Omaha-based district since winning an open-seat race in 1998. He was a Democratic target in 2000 and 2002, winning with 66 percent and 63 percent, respectively.

Thompson, who hails from Papillion, has been in the state Senate since 1997, when she was appointed to the body by then-Gov. Ben Nelson (D). She won a full term a year later and then won re-election in 2002. Her district is based in Sarpy County, a Republican stronghold.

She is also a close confidante of Nelson — now a Senator — having held a number of posts in his gubernatorial administration.

In spite of these connections, Thompson starts out at a distinct disadvantage in the race. Terry released a poll conducted in early April that showed him with a 60 percent to 24 percent lead over Thompson.

Terry has a solid lead over Thompson in fundraising as well. He ended March with $648,000 in the bank to Thompson’s $163,000.

On paper, the Omaha-based district is the most competitive of the state’s three Congressional seats, which in Nebraska still gives it a decided Republican tilt.

President Bush won the district by 18 points in 2000, underperforming his statewide margin by 11 points.

Even so, Terry has proved that he connects with voters. His winning margin may dip below 60 percent but the chances of him losing are slim.

NORTH DAKOTA
Filing deadline: passed
Primary: June 8

Senate
Incumbent: Byron Dorgan (D)
2nd term (63 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Dorgan is untouchable as he seeks a third term.

Attorney Michael Liffrig is the likely Republican candidate. Barring an unforeseen political earthquake, he will come up short.

Dorgan ended March with $2.2 million.

House
Incumbent: Earl Pomeroy (D)
6th term (52 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Pomeroy is once again a Republican target, though he is less of a priority this time around than he was in past cycles.

Republicans failed to lure 2002 nominee Rick Clayburgh into the race; Clayburgh took 48 percent against Pomeroy last cycle but did not want to relinquish his current position as state tax commissioner to run again. Into that void stepped former Navy submarine officer Duane Sand (R).

Sand challenged Sen. Kent Conrad (D) in 2002 and was expected to make the race against Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) this year. He switched races when Clayburgh dropped out and has run an energetic campaign to this point.

Sand raised $220,000 in the first quarter of 2004, with $151,000 remaining on hand.

Pomeroy, always a strong fundraiser, raised $237,000 in the period, finishing it with $687,000 on hand.

Sand is always likely to benefit from the top of the ticket, as President Bush won the state with 61 percent of the vote in 2000.

Pomeroy has shown an ability to run and win close elections, however, and national Republicans seem less keen on this race than in years past.

SOUTH DAKOTA
Filing deadline: passed
Primary: June 1
Runoff: June 15

Senate
Incumbent: Tom Daschle (D)
3rd term (62 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

No race in the country will draw more attention than the battle between Daschle and former Rep. John Thune (R), who made his candidacy official in early January.

The two campaigns have taken vastly different tacts to this point.

Daschle has been on television since last July with ads outlining his accomplishments for the state.

Thune has yet to run a single television commercial, and no ad campaign seems imminent.

Both sides have been raising money at a brisk clip.

Daschle raked in $2.9 million from Jan. 1 to March 31, the most of any incumbent of either party running for re-election in 2004.

Thune had an extremely solid fundraising quarter of his own with $2.3 million raised.

Daschle has already spent nearly $6.5 million on his re-election efforts from his personal campaign committee alone since 1999.

Whether all of that money has had an effect or not depends on the party affiliation of the person who asked the question.

To Democrats, Daschle’s spending has firmed up the impression that he delivers for the state from his leadership position.

They point to polling done in the immediate aftermath of the 2002 race, which Thune lost to Sen. Tim Johnson (D) by 524 votes, that showed the race tied, and to recent surveys that show Daschle with a 5- to 6-point edge.

Republicans cite the same polling, arguing that once the margin of error in the surveys is considered, the race remains essentially tied despite all of Daschle’s spending.

Millions more will be spent in the state by both candidates, national parties and myriad third-party groups of both political stripes to reach a relatively small number of persuadable voters.

This race will be extremely close and is, without a question, the top Senate race of 2004.

House
At-Large
Special election: Bill Janklow (R) resigned Jan. 20
Outlook: Leans Democratic

With only weeks remaining in the June 1 special, 2002 nominee Stephanie Herseth (D) remains a slight favorite over state Sen. Larry Diedrich (R).

Both candidates and national party committees have been on television for several weeks, and the race is now fully engaged.

Herseth has led throughout, benefitting from favorable name identification built up during her unsuccessful race against Janklow, a race in which the former governor refused to run any negative ads.

Herseth has followed that strategy to the letter so far in the race, attempting to preserve her frontrunner status by calling for a positive campaign.

Diedrich showed part of his hand in late April when he hit the airwaves with an ad that outlined his belief that voters needed to know the issue contrasts between himself and Herseth.

Though it was the gentlest of comparative ads, Herseth immediately responded with an ad of her own, decrying Diedrich’s negative campaign.

Both sides have gone out of their way to avoid being accused of running a negative campaign while trying to slap that label on the opponent.

Private Democratic polls have recently shown Herseth with a single-digit lead, down from the 31-point bulge she held earlier in the year.

Republicans have pinned their hopes on the demographics in the state, which heavily favor their party, and a gamble that Diedrich’s legislative experience will trump Herseth’s fresh-faced appeal. First lady Laura Bush will campaign with Diedrich on Tuesday in Sioux Falls.

This race is extremely changeable given the amount of communication with voters by both parties. Even the smallest slip-up or tactical blunder could tip the scales.

The two will face off again in November for a full term.