With Five Open Seats, All Held by Democrats, Region Is Ground Zero in Fight for Senate Control

Posted October 1, 2004 at 11:05am

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

Shelby, currently facing an ethics investigation after the Justice Department forwarded files on whether he leaked classified information to the media in 2002, is expected to cruise to a fourth term in November.

As of June, Shelby had $11.6 million in the bank, by far the largest war chest of any Republican up for re-election this cycle.

He faces perennial candidate Wayne Sowell (D), who has little money or name recognition.

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

The race in the 3rd district is likely to be looked back on as one of Democrats’ biggest recruiting failures of the cycle.

Former state Department of Human Resources Director Bill Fuller (D) filed at the last minute to challenge Rogers, as Democrats breathed a sigh of relief that the freshman lawmaker would not get a free ride in this marginal district.

But since that time Fuller has done little to live up to his earlier billing as a formidable candidate and there is no evidence that he aggressively will challenge Rogers. Barring some unforeseen circumstances, Rogers is expected to easily win a second term, even though he barely won the seat two years ago.

Fuller ended June with $126,000 in the bank and even if he had a tremendous third quarter in fundraising, it’s hard to see how he can compete on television in a district that spans three media markets: Montgomery, Birmingham and Columbus, Ga.

Rogers, meanwhile, has been one of the most prolific fundraisers in the freshman class and he had almost $1.1 million left in the bank at the end of June.

Rogers will likely never be considered completely safe in this mostly rural, socially conservative district that was drawn to elect a Democrat. Still, it looks like he’ll have to wait until 2006 before he gets his first competitive challenge.

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

The late-August winner-take-all primaries produced the strongest possible nominees for both parties, but due to the recent beating the state has taken during hurricane season this race hardly has gotten off the ground.

Former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor (D) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez (R) are squaring off to replace Graham.

Castor, a former state legislator and former president of the University of South Florida, hasn’t been on the statewide ballot since 1990 but her moderate profile and base in the Tampa media market make her well-positioned to appeal to swing voters.

Castor got the early backing of EMILY’s List and the organization has played a large role in her campaign.

Martinez, who escaped Cuba as a child and rose to eventually become Orange County chairman, also has a compelling story to tell and Republicans are counting on his ability to appeal to Hispanic voters statewide.

It was no secret that the White House and national GOP officials wanted Martinez as the party’s nominee and they pulled out all the stops in boosting him over former Rep. Bill McCollum (R), his main primary rival.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed the race to be a virtual dead heat, with Castor leading Martinez by 1 percent.

Both nominees will benefit from the intensity with which the presidential contest will be fought in this battleground state, but ultimately it may be hard for the Senate race to take on an identity of its own.

While Martinez is still seen as having a slight edge, all eyes will be on Florida for the next month and it’s hard to see how the Senate race will not be close to the end.

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

There is no doubt that Boyd faces his toughest opponent yet in state Rep. Bev Kilmer (R), who was billed early on as one of the GOP’s best recruits this cycle.

Boyd easily has won re-election since 1996, and 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.

But there is still no evidence to show that he will not win re-election in this rural, culturally conservative Panhandle seat. The district voted 53 percent for President Bush in the 2000 presidential election even though registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by almost a 2-to-1 margin.

A Democratic poll done for Boyd in late June showed the incumbent with a commanding 57 percent to 27 percent lead.

Republicans have yet to produce a poll to suggest that Boyd is extremely vulnerable, even in a presidential year.

Kilmer is a good candidate and has run an impressive campaign, but Boyd remains popular and it’s hard to see how she makes the argument to retire him stick.

13th district Incumbent: Katherine Harris (R) 1st term (55 percent) Outlook: Likely Republican

Democrats remain hopeful that attorney Jan Schneider (D) will give Harris a competitive challenge as the two women square off in a rematch of their 2002 open-seat contest.

Their hope is understandable after Harris’ closer-than-expected winning margin last cycle, coupled with the fact that the former Florida secretary of state who played a starring role in the 2000 presidential recount will be sharing the ballot with President Bush for the first time.

Still, Schneider was not her party’s preferred candidate in the August primary when she defeated bank president and insider favorite Christine Jennings.

A recent Democratic poll showed Harris with a less-than-impressive 50 percent to 44 percent lead over Schneider. More importantly, 48 percent of the respondents said they wanted to elect someone new while 46 percent said they favored re-electing Harris.

Ultimately, though, this district has a decidedly GOP tilt and Harris still looks likely to win another term. It could be her last in the House, however. She passed on running for this year’s open Senate seat and is widely expected to toss her hat into the race against first-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in 2006.

14th district
Open seat: Porter Goss (R) resigned
Outlook: Safe Republican

There will be no special election to succeed Goss, who resigned last month after being confirmed as the new director of the CIA.

But there’s no question about who the next Congressman from the 14th district will be: former state Rep. Connie Mack IV (R).

Mack, the son of former Sen. Connie Mack (R), became the instant favorite in the race when he resigned his seat in the Florida House and moved across the state to run for this southwestern seat once held by his father.

He went on to win the Aug. 31 primary by only a 4-point margin, after his foes tried to paint him as a carpetbagger and political lightweight with little substance behind the famous name he inherited from his father and great-grandfather, a Hall of Fame baseball manager and owner.

Mack, 37, is expected to have little trouble dispensing with accountant Robert Neeld (D) next month in this heavily Republican district.

20th district
Open seat: Peter Deutsch (D) lost Senate primary
Outlook: Safe Democratic

State Sen. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) already has been pegged as one of the rising stars in the incoming freshman class. She has had her eye on this seat ever since Deutsch first explored a run for Senate in 2000.

The 37-year-old state Senator, a former legislative aide to Deutsch, is the youngest woman ever elected to the Florida Legislature.

Schultz faced no primary opponent and has enjoyed the broad backing of Democratic leaders and interest groups since she entered the race. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has visited the Fort Lauderdale-based district and campaigned on her behalf.

She faces unknown Republican Margaret Hostetter in November but this seat is a guaranteed win for Democrats.

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

Democrats’ chances of finally defeating Shaw this year already looked bleak, but after their nominee withdrew from the race last month the 24-year incumbent appears to be assured a victory in November.

Former Wilton Manors Mayor Jim Stork (D) ended his campaign in mid-September, citing a recently diagnosed heart condition.

Stork, who is openly gay, had raised an impressive amount of money but had yet to move the race against this battle-tested incumbent into the top tier of competitive contests. Democrats had hoped to find a replacement candidate but state elections officials ruled last week that Stork withdrew from the race too late, so his name will remain on the ballot.

Shaw had an extremely close race in 2000, when Al Gore won this district with 52 percent of the vote, and the party has made defeating Shaw a top priority in the previous two cycles.

GEORGIA
Senate
Open seat: Zell Miller (D) is retiring
Outlook: Likely Republican

Despite a Democratic poll last month that showed Rep. Denise Majette (D) within 5 percentage points of Rep. Johnny Isakson (R), this race remains the three-term Congressman’s to lose.

Isakson won a three-way primary in July without a runoff, even as his opponents worked to paint him as too moderate for the party.

Majette, meanwhile, beat millionaire entrepreneur Cliff Oxford in a runoff by running a low-profile grassroots campaign, focusing on turning out the vote in the black community. She has yet to run any television ads in the race.

Dueling polls released last month showed very different results.

The Democratic poll showed Isakson leading 46 percent to 41 percent while a survey done for his campaign showed him ahead by 15 points and above 50 percent.

That poll also found that in the Atlanta media market, home to 64 percent of the state’s electorate, Isakson led 52 percent to 34 percent.

While Majette is likely guaranteed a base vote of between 43 percent and 45 percent in a presidential election year, it’s hard to see how she can reach 50 percent.

Majette, a former state judge elected to the House in 2002, had only $78,000 in her campaign account as of July 21. While she is expected to show considerably more than that in the bank when third-quarter reports are filed this month, there is little faith in her ability to raise enough money to remain competitive with Isakson’s campaign.

There has been some grumbling in the state that the national party is ignoring Majette’s potential to make the race competitive. While last month’s poll renewed some interest the race, Senate Democrats have very limited resources and it’s hard to see them spending much on her behalf in the next month.

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

Outlook: Leans Democratic

The rematch between Marshall and former Bibb County Commissioner Calder Clay (R) already has become one of the most negative races in the country.

While Marshall only narrowly beat Clay in 2002, his re-election prospects now look fairly good.

Marshall, a Vietnam veteran, led Clay 51 percent to 27 percent in a Democratic poll conducted in late August.

Clay has gone on the attack early and it appears that this race will only get nastier before Election Day.

Marshall had almost $700,000 in the bank as of June 30, while Clay, who outspent Marshall by a 2-to-1 margin last cycle, had close to $440,000.

While this district was drawn to help elect a Democrat, it still favors Republicans on a national level. President Bush would have won 52 percent in what is now the 3rd district in the 2000 presidential race.

Clay is hoping that Bush’s presence on the ticket this year will help put him over the top and he has campaigned with national figures such as Vice President Cheney and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

At this point, however, Marshall doesn’t appear to be in grave danger considering national Republicans were much more willing to chip in money last cycle when this was an open seat contest.

4th district
Open seat: Denise Majette (D) is running for Senate
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D) shocked observers by breaking the 50 percent mark in a crowded July primary, avoiding what would likely have been a contentious runoff and putting her on course to reclaim her old seat.

McKinney held this seat for 10 years before being defeated by Majette in a nasty primary last cycle.

This year, however, McKinney ran a low-profile primary campaign and defied conventional wisdom in the face of polling that showed she would lose a runoff.

Polling also found that McKinney, who became a lightning rod for controversy during her 10 years in Congress, had 51 percent negative appeal among voters, compared with 39 percent positive appeal.

Although some Democrats have suggested that the colorful McKinney could end up costing the party the seat this fall, there is no evidence that little-known Republican Catherine Davis has any real shot in this overwhelmingly Democratic district.

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

State Sen. Tom Price (R) will be the next Congressman to represent this suburban Atlanta district. Price won a runoff and is unopposed in November.

Price has served in the state Senate since 1996, and in 2002 he was elected the chamber’s first ever Republican Majority Leader.

The orthopedic surgeon will be the first non-Cobb County resident to represent this seat, formerly held by one-time Speaker Newt Gingrich (R).

The district is split between Cobb and Fulton counties, but almost two-thirds of its population resides in Cobb.

8th district
Open seat: Mac Collins (R) lost Senate primary
Outlook: Safe Republican

Former state House Minority Leader Lynn Westmoreland (R) won a heated August runoff with former Bush administration official Dylan Glenn to secure a seat in the 109th Congress.

Westmoreland, 54, was elected to the state House in 1992 and continues to run the small construction business that he built from scratch.

He faces Democrat Silvia Delamar, a 26-year-old political novice, in November.

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

Gingrey is a solid favorite to win a second term in this seat that was drawn to help elect a Democrat in 2002.

Polk County Chief Magistrate Judge Rick Crawford (D) has proved to be an unimpressive challenger in a district that should be in play, especially in a presidential year.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has gone there to stump for Crawford but there is no evidence that this race is on either party’s watch list a month before the election.

Gingrey has been one of the most prolific fundraisers in his class. He had about $1.1 million in his campaign account heading into the July primary. Crawford, meanwhile, had about $40,000 in cash on hand as of early July.

There’s no question this district should be included on any post-election list of missed opportunities for House Democrats.

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

Since the beginning of this cycle there has been no change in the fact that Burns remains the most vulnerable Member up for re-election this fall.

Burns won this seat in 2002 — beating a Democratic nominee who turned out to be unelectable — and has been a marked man ever since.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner John Barrow (D) won his party’s nod to face Burns and, based purely on the makeup of the district, Barrow since has been given the slight edge.

Still, Burns doesn’t look likely to go down without a fight. He’s already aired television ads attacking Barrow and the race will probably get even uglier in the next month.

Neither candidate has run a flawless campaign and neither can be described as overly engaging campaigners.

But the demographics of this district look likely to trump the candidates. Even as Burns was winning 55 percent there last cycle, voters in the district gave then-Sen. Max Cleland (D) 57 percent — more than 10 points better than his 46 percent showing statewide.

Democratic turnout is likely to be even higher in a presidential election year. Although Democratic nominee John Kerry is not contesting the state, there is little question that he will win this district, which has a 42 percent black population.

Democrats are counting on this seat as a pickup come November and Republicans may just let them have it considering they’re looking to pocket a four-seat gain in Texas alone.

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

This race continues to frustrate and befuddle Democratic strategists as Bunning appears ripe for the picking but state Sen. Dan Mongiardo (D) has been unable to get his campaign on track.

While Bunning’s fundraising has been impressive — $3.9 million on hand as of June 30 — he has committed several relatively high-profile campaign miscues.

At a private event in March, Bunning said that Mongiardo, who is of Italian descent, resembled deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s sons. The Senator initially denied that he made the comment, then later said it was meant as a joke.

In mid-August, Bunning requested increased security for an appearance in Paducah, citing threats of attacks against Members of Congress. Mongiardo’s campaign immediately accused the Senator of harboring delusions of grandeur.

Taken separately, neither of these incidents amounts to all that much, but Democrats had hoped to portray the totality of Bunning’s statements as evidence that he is out of touch.

While Mongiardo insists that his campaign has righted itself, national Democrats admit privately that he may have missed a golden opportunity.

The main source of Mongiardo’s problems is his poor fundraising. He showed just $624,000 on hand on June 30 after raising $860,000 in the second quarter.

On its face, that amount of money is respectable. But more than $500,000 of the total came from his own pocket, bringing his personal donation in the race to $716,000. In the race to date, Mongiardo has raised roughly $1.4 million.

While Mongiardo does have significant personal wealth, he would not be able to put multiple millions of dollars into the campaign.

Mongiardo insists his fundraising problems were the result of the Democrats’ loss of the governor’s mansion in 2003 and donor fatigue from that race.

His campaign staff problems likely have impacted his fundraising struggles as well; Mongiardo is currently on his third campaign manager and earlier this year fired much of his finance staff.

Even so, Democrats insist this is a serious race, pointing to a poll conducted for Mongiardo just after his May primary victory.

That survey showed Bunning at 48 percent while Mongiardo received 39 percent.

Bunning is clearly one of the most vulnerable Republicans up in 2004. He won his 1998 open-seat race by fewer than 7,000 votes and still remains in the shadow of Kentucky’s senior Senator, Mitch McConnell (R).

But Mongiardo has not proved he can take advantage of Bunning’s foibles on the trail, and until he shows the ability to raise money from sources other than himself, this race remains Bunning’s to lose.

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

Northup appears as strong as ever as she seeks a fifth term, but due to the Democratic tilt of the district this remains a race to watch.

The Democratic choice this time around is Jefferson County Circuit Court Clerk Tony Miller.

Miller has held elective office in the district for the past 17 years and was an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor last year.

Highly touted when he entered the House race, Miller has not performed as well as many Democrats expected, especially when it comes to fundraising.

At the end of June, he had raised $653,000, with a respectable $461,000 on hand.

Northup, however, continued to impress with $2.1 million total raised and $1.75 million on hand.

While the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is sure to spend money on Miller’s behalf, the National Republican Congressional Committee will at least match those efforts, ensuring that Northup has more resources on her side than Miller does.

Democrats are relying on the district’s demographics and increased voter turnout in a presidential year to make up for the spending differential.

In 2000, Al Gore won the district 50 percent to 48 percent over then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, his best showing in any of the state’s six Congressional districts.

And 40,000 more 3rd district voters turned out in 2000 than did two years later.

But Northup won by 9 percent in 2000 and by just 4 percent in 2002.

Miller is a proven vote-getter in the Louisville area and Democrats do have a point about an increased voter turnout increasing their chances.

But right now, there appears to be no new reason why voters would choose to replace Northup.

She is as battle-tested as any Member of Congress and this year seems likely to once again win by a narrow margin.

4th district
Open seat: Ken Lucas (D) is retiring
Outlook: Tossup

Very little has changed in this open-seat race over the past several months, as both sides seem content to marshal their resources and prepare strategically for the final push.

Businessman Geoff Davis (R), who challenged retiring Rep. Ken Lucas (D) in 2002, appears to have a slight edge at this point over former TV newsman Nick Clooney (D), thanks to the distinct Republican tilt of the district.

President Bush won 61 percent there in 2000 and now-Sen. Jim Bunning (R) held the seat from 1986 until 1998.

Those two men will lead the ticket in Kentucky this year, a boon for Davis.

Democrats argue that Clooney has deep roots in the district and is a much stronger candidate on the stump than Davis. Internal polling for both sides in September showed Clooney in the lead.

Clooney has an intriguing profile as a former television newsman and newspaper columnist, in the Cincinnati media market, which covers much of the 4th district. He also is the father of movie star George Clooney and brother of the late singer Rosemary Clooney; his connections to Hollywood have helped him on the fundraising front.

Through June 30, Clooney had raised $827,000 for the race, with $605,000 in reserve.

Davis, however, had far eclipsed Clooney, bringing in $1.5 million through June 30 with $722,000 left in the bank. Davis did, however, face a semi-serious primary challenge in May.

Republicans remain confident that Clooney’s ties to Hollywood and the years of columns he wrote provide fodder for comparative ads in the home stretch.

Democrats believe that Clooney’s strong bond to the district will help counter efforts to paint their candidate as a tool of the national party.

Clooney is the best candidate Democrats could have found to replace Lucas, but in spite of the former newsman’s superior candidate skills he will be hard-pressed to overcome the seat’s Republican lean.

6th district
Incumbent: Ben Chandler (D)
1st term (55 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Chandler’s convincing win over state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr (R) in the Feb. 17 special election appears to have dissuaded Republicans from seriously contesting his bid for a full term in November.

State Sen. Tom Buford won the Republican primary in late May, but has done little to attract any national attention.

Buford ended June with $44,000 on hand. Chandler had $355,000 in the bank at that time.

The 6th district, which is based in Lexington, slightly favors Republicans. President Bush would have won a 13-point victory there in 2000.

Republicans have passed on a serious challenge to Chandler this cycle although given the partisan nature of the seat he is a potential target down the road.

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

With filing in the race now closed, the four candidates seeking to replace Breaux are jockeying for a spot in the all-but-certain runoff scheduled for Dec. 4.

Rep. David Vitter, the lone Republican in the contest, seems a sure bet for the runoff; Rep. Chris John (D), state Treasurer John Kennedy (D) and state Rep. Arthur Morrell (D) are competing for the other slot.

Under Louisiana law, all of the Senate candidates will run in an open primary on Nov. 2 — Election Day for the rest of the country. If no candidate receives 50 percent, the two top votegetters, regardless of party, advance to the December runoff.

Among the Democrats, John is the clear favorite of the Washington and Louisiana political establishment. That support has allowed him to outdistance both Kennedy and Morrell in the money chase.

Through July 17, John had $2.4 million in the bank, having raised $3.2 million (including a $1.1 million transfer from his House account) in the race to date.

Kennedy had a respectable $949,000 in the bank; he had raised $1.3 million total through July 17.

Morrell is a non-factor financially, raising just $18,000 so far in the race.

Polling has shown Vitter consistently in the lead with John and Kennedy bunched in the mid to upper teens.

A Kennedy poll in early July put Vitter at 33 percent to 18 percent for Kennedy, 15 percent for John and 3 percent for Morrell.

John’s campaign answered with a poll of its own in September, that showed Vitter at 44 percent, John at 24 percent and Kennedy at 18 percent.

Given his financial edge and institutional backing, it’s hard to see how John doesn’t emerge from the Democratic pack.

A divisive battle between Kennedy and John could benefit Vitter in a runoff, but past history is on Democrats’ side. Louisiana is the only state in the country not to have elected a Republican to the Senate.

House
1st district
Open seat: David Vitter (R) is running for Senate
Outlook: Safe Republican

Unsuccessful 2003 gubernatorial candidate Bobby Jindal (R) is a sure-thing to replace Vitter in this suburban New Orleans district.

Jindal had raised $1.5 million through July 17 with more than $1 million left in the bank.

Polling showed him with a lead of 50 points or more over the other Republicans in the contest.

Reading the writing on the wall, state Rep. Steve Scalise (R) dropped from the race in mid-August to take a position in the Bush-Cheney campaign in Louisiana.

Scalise’s departure from the race leaves unknown health care consultant Mike Rogers (R) as the only impediment to the start of Jindal’s Congressional career.

Widely seen as a rising star in the party, the Indian-American Jindal is likely to make a major splash when he comes to Congress next January.

Jindal already is being mentioned as a challenger in 2007 to Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D), to whom he lost last year, 52 percent to 48 percent.

3rd district
Open seat: Billy Tauzin (R) is retiring
Outlook: Tossup

Slowly but surely this race is taking shape as a likely runoff contest between BellSouth lobbyist Billy Tauzin III (R) and former state Rep. Charlie Melancon (D).

Tauzin III largely has unified the Republican Party behind him thanks in part to his father — outgoing Rep. Tauzin.

The younger Tauzin has received donations from more than 30 current House Members and in mid-August he was endorsed by the state Republican Party’s executive committee.

State Sen. Craig Romero (R) also is in the race, and while he protested the executive committee’s decision, his complaints did not reverse the decision.

While Tauzin III is clearly the favorite among Republicans, his fundraising has been somewhat disappointing. As of July 17, he had raised $341,000 with $296,000 on hand.

Romero has performed extremely well on the fundraising front given his lack of institutional support; he had raised $515,000 in the race at that point and had $364,000 on hand.

On the Democratic side, Melancon, the former head of the state’s sugar industry association, has distinguished himself thanks in large part to a strong fundraising effort. He had raised $580,000 for the race as of July 17 and had $414,000 in the bank. He used this financial edge to launch the first television ads of the race in late September.

Among other Democrats, neither Charmaine Caccioppi, a longtime district aide to former Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.), nor state Rep. Damon Baldone has been able to match Melancon’s fundraising. Baldone had $271,000 on hand in mid-July thanks to a $250,000 personal loan. Caccioppi lagged even further behind with $87,000 in the bank.

Given the number of candidates in the field, a December runoff is likely.

Romero’s fundraising and base in the far western portion of the district make him a credible candidate but it will be tough to beat a Tauzin especially given the energy the Congressman is expending to see his son elected. Melancon seems to be miles ahead of the other two Democrats in terms of organization.

While polling shows Tauzin III with a huge lead over the field, a runoff against Melancon would be a tossup race. The 3rd district, which encompasses the coastal southeastern part of the state, is a swing seat. President Bush won a 7-point victory there in 2000.

5th district
Incumbent: Rodney Alexander (R)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Alexander’s last-minute party switch shocked Democrats but also hamstrung their chances of contesting the seat in the fall.

Just 30 minutes before filing closed in early August, Alexander re-registered as a Republican joining former state Rep. Jock Scott (R) and homemaker Zelma “Tisa” Blakes (D) on the ballot.

Democrats sued to remove Alexander from the ballot and then sought to extend the filing period so they could find a viable opponent, but both tactics failed. His Democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill demanded that he return all the contributions they had made to him, and Alexander has been slowly complying.

National Republicans welcomed Alexander as a hero and it appears as if he should have no trouble winning a second term as a Republican in this GOP-leaning north Louisiana seat.

7th district
Open seat: Chris John (D) is running for the Senate
Outlook: Tossup

Although former state Rep. Woody Jenkins (R) and former state Elections Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell (R) carried the district in their 1996 and 2002 races against Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), respectively, Democrats have a long history of success in this southwestern Louisiana seat.

It has served as the incubator of such well-known Democratic politicians as former four-term Gov. Edwin Edwards and retiring Sen. John Breaux.

The race to replace John has boiled down to four candidates — two on each side of the aisle.

For Democrats, state Sen. Willie Mount appears to be the leader, although fellow state Sen. Don Cravins, who is black, is running a serious campaign as well.

Mount, the former mayor of Lake Charles, has a very strong base in the western end of the district and is personally close to Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D).

She had $454,000 on hand as of July 17; Cravins has struggled on the fundraising front with just $77,000 in the bank.

Republicans have a similar situation on their hands as cardiologist Charles Boustany, a first-time candidate, has emerged as the party choice, while 1996 candidate David Thibodeaux has been invisible on the money front.

Boustany’s strong fundraising — he had $400,000 on hand as of July 17 — has been buttressed by the support of Louisiana Republican Reps. Richard Baker, Jim McCrery and Billy Tauzin, as well as Vice President Dick Cheney.

Boustany is married to Edwards’ niece and is of Lebanese descent, a major boon in a district with a significant Arab-American population. He has used his fundraising strength to fund a flight of biographical ads to introduce himself to the district’s voters.

Under Louisiana law, all candidates will run on the Nov. 2 open-primary ballot; if, as is likely, no one receives 50 percent, the top two votegetters, irrespective of party, advance to a Dec. 4 runoff.

It remains a slight possibility that Mount and Cravins will make the runoff, ensuring that a Democrat holds the seat as happened in 1996 with John and attorney Hunter Lundy (D). But the more likely scenario is that Mount and Boustany face off in December.

MISSISSIPPI
House
2nd district
Incumbent: Bennie Thompson (D)
5th term (55 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Thompson faces a rematch with Republican Clinton LeSueur, a former legislative aide to the District of Columbia City Council who drew a solid 43 percent of the vote in the 2002 race.

LeSueur has vowed he will have the resources in order to make a truly competitive run against Thompson in the majority-black 2nd district, primarily comprised of the state’s Delta region.

The challenger got national exposure via a brief speech at the Republican National Convention in New York, but he still faces long odds against an incumbent who has raised more than three times as much money as LeSueur has.

The 2nd district votes heavily in favor of Democrats on the presidential level and that may make it difficult for LeSueur to improve on his 2002 showing.

NORTH CAROLINA
Senate
Open seat: John Edwards (D) is running for vice president
Outlook: Tossup

With only a month to go before Election Day, the Tar Heel State remains Senate Democrats’ best prospect among the five open Southern seats they are defending this fall. In fact, this is the only open-seat race this cycle (outside of the unusual situation in Illinois) that has been a continual source of good news for Democrats.

Former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles (D) has never trailed in his second attempt to gain a seat in the Senate.

He faces Rep. Richard Burr (R), who even some Republicans have privately grumbled has not lived up to his early billing as a top-notch candidate.

Both men have been campaigning full throttle since last year, but most recent polls have shown Bowles with a lead outside the margin of error.

Bowles lost in 2002 to now-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) and this time around he is clearly a more comfortable and effective campaigner.

While Republicans admit that Bowles is running a good campaign, they aren’t willing to write off Burr just yet.

Burr has launched an all-out attack on Bowles’ record as Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff and his relationship with the former president. But it’s still unclear whether that strategy is enough to put the Republican over the top.

Tobacco has played a prominent role in the campaign and Bowles has a considerable amount of support from farmers in the key eastern region of the state.

Money will not be a problem for either candidate down the stretch as both sides are expecting this race will tighten and remain close. Still, considering both candidates’ performance so far, Republicans have to be more than a little nervous.

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

In one of the nastiest primaries of the cycle, state Senator Virginia Foxx (R) beat out Winston-Salem City Councilman Vernon Robinson and emerged as her party’s nominee to succeed Burr.

Foxx has served in the state Senate since 1994. She and her husband own and operate a nursery and landscaping business. She faces Elkin dentist Jim Harrell Jr. (D) in November.

The heavily Republican 5th district stretches from Winston-Salem to the Tennessee and Virginia borders.

Although Robinson accused the former community college president of being a liberal in the mold of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D), there is little doubt that the conservative Foxx will compile a voting record more in line with Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) once she arrives in the House.

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

Hayes has been a perennial target for Democrats in this swing seat but this year he looks to have his easiest re-election challenge yet since winning in 1998.

Hayes faces 27-year-old political novice Beth Troutman (D), a former Miss Raleigh, who more recently worked in the executive producer’s office of the NBC television series “The West Wing.”

Troutman hails from a prominent Cabarrus County family and Democrats had at one point recruited her father, businessman Wayne Troutman, to run for the seat.

She had just $65,000 in the bank as of early July while the incumbent had roughly $785,000 stockpiled.

Hayes has won re-election with 54 percent and 55 percent, respectively, in his previous two campaigns when he was a national target. Now, Democrats have for the most part stopped talking about this race and Hayes should have little trouble defeating Troutman in November.

10th district
Open seat: Cass Ballenger (R) is retiring
Outlook: Safe Republican

State Rep. Patrick McHenry won the GOP runoff in August and is expected to cruise to victory in this safe GOP seat next month.

At 28, McHenry is likely to be the youngest Member of the freshman class.

The rookie state legislator eked out a runoff victory against longtime Catawba County Sheriff David Huffman by only 85 votes.

Neither McHenry nor Huffman got the initial endorsement of Ballenger, who eventually backed McHenry in the runoff.

This western North Carolina district, which stretches between the South Carolina and Tennessee borders, heavily favors Republicans and McHenry is expected to have no trouble defeating Democrat Anne Fischer in November.

Local Democrats recently tried to remove Fischer from the ballot when they learned that her home had been foreclosed on and that she had no job.

11th district
Incumbent: Rep. Charles Taylor (R)
7th term (56 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Democrats are more optimistic than they were last cycle about their chances of retiring Taylor, who faces Buncombe County Commissioner Patsy Keever. But Taylor still looks likely to win an 8th term.

A Democratic poll done in mid-August showed the race close, 49 percent for Taylor to 47 percent for Keever. More importantly, Democrats say, is that their polling has shown President Bush has become increasingly unpopular here.

Keever has gotten a decent amount of attention from national groups, including the support of EMILY’s List, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) and the liberal group MoveOn.org.

While those endorsements have helped Keever financially, they also play into Taylor’s efforts to brand her as a liberal.

She recently went on the air to dispute Taylor’s claims that she supports partial-birth abortion and gay marriage.

Keever has served on the Buncombe County Commission for 12 years but she faces an uphill battle in not only introducing herself to the rest of the voters in this western, Asheville-based district, but also in convincing them that it’s time for Taylor to go.

Taylor, whose business dealings in the state have long been shrouded in a cloud of ethics and legal questions, has largely self-funded his previous re-election campaigns and he is expected to do the same this year.

13th district
Incumbent: Brad Miller (D)
1st term (55 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Miller faces former House staffer Virginia Johnson as he seeks a second term in this district he helped craft for himself from his perch atop the state Senate’s redistricting committee last cycle.

Although Johnson has gotten considerable support from her former bosses and colleagues on the Hill, Miller is heavily favored to win re-election in November.

As of June 30, Miller had $450,000 in his campaign war chest while Johnson had just $70,000 in the bank.

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) recently campaigned in the district for Johnson, but there is little evidence to suggest that this race will become a priority for party strategists.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Senate
Open seat: Fritz Hollings (D) is retiring
Outlook: Tossup

This race has gone back and forth over the past month as Rep. Jim DeMint (R) has seen his lead over state Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum (D) dwindle in recent days.

After finishing second in the primary to former Gov. David Beasley (R), DeMint cruised to a 59 percent to 41 percent runoff victory, providing him a major boost heading into the general election against Tenenbaum.

Despite months to prepare for the general election, Tenenbaum’s campaign got off to a rocky start as her campaign manager quit in late July and she fired her media consultant soon after.

Though Democrats maintained that Tenenbaum is doing everything she needs to do to win this race, there seemed to be a growing sentiment that DeMint’s primary win made this a much more difficult road for her.

A matchup with Beasley would have centered on his four years as governor, allowing Tenenbaum to downplay her party affiliation.

DeMint is much more of a by-the-numbers conservative Republican, making a race decided strictly on party loyalty much more likely. That would seem to be a recipe for success in a state that President Bush won by 16 points in 2000.

Tenenbaum and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have made up ground, however, by bashing DeMint over his support for a national sales tax. Both sides agree the sustained attack has tightened the race with some Democratic polls showing Tenenbaum taking the lead.

As of June 30, Tenenbaum had nearly a $2 million cash-on-hand advantage over DeMint, who spent more than $4 million to win his party’s nomination.

Given the vulnerability of this seat, DeMint should have little trouble refilling his coffers.

This remains a major target for both parties.

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

In November former Rep. Bob Inglis (R) will reclaim the Upstate seat he held from 1992 to 1998.

In the June primary, Inglis cruised to a victory with 84 percent against two little-known opponents.

Inglis, 44, will face funeral home executive Brandon Brown (D) in the fall but is the heavy favorite in a district that President Bush won with 64 percent of the vote in 2000.

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

Outlook: Likely Democratic

Davis faces a rematch with 2002 nominee Janice Bowling (R), although he is expected to have an easier race this time around.

Bowling won an expected primary victory over two unknowns in early August but her candidacy has failed to generate much excitement among national operatives.

In 2002, Bowling came within 10,000 votes of winning the open-seat contest against Davis despite being outspent at a 2-to-1 clip.

Davis seems to have shored himself up since that race, however.

As of July 16, Davis had $428,000 on hand, not a massive sum, but significantly higher than Bowling’s $78,000.

While this central Tennessee district is a good target for Republicans — President Bush won it with 50 percent in 2000 — the national party seems unlikely to play there.

Without that kind of boost, Bowling is almost certain to come up short.

VIRGINIA
House
2nd district
Open seat: Ed Schrock (R) is retiring
Outlook: Likely Republican

After Schrock’s surprise retirement announcement in late August, local GOP leaders picked state Del. Thelma Drake to succeed him on the November ballot.

She faces Democrat David Ashe, a 36-year-old Virginia Beach lawyer and Iraq war veteran who was slated to face Schrock.

The abbreviated campaign in this Tidewater-based military-rich district has gotten off to a quick start with both candidates bringing in heavy hitters from their respective parties to stump on their behalf.

Drake has campaigned with Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) while Democratic Gov. Mark Warner has made an appearance for Ashe.

Drake, a real estate agent from Norfolk in her eighth year in the General Assembly, is already up with television ads and she remains the prohibitive favorite to win this seat.

Schrock won this seat by a closer-than-expected margin in 2000, when he faced a well-financed Democrat.

Ashe has a compelling story to tell, but it remains to be seen whether he will have the resources needed to introduce himself to voters before Nov. 2.

Drake has been elected before and she’ll have whatever means necessary for the GOP to hold this seat.

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

After handily defeating his first-ever primary challenger earlier this year, the ever-colorful Moran is well on his way to capturing an eighth term in November.

Moran, a magnate for controversy throughout his career in public service, defeated attorney Andy Rosenberg (D) 59 percent to 41 percent in a June primary.

Now Moran faces little-known Republican Lisa Marie Cheney (no relation to the vice president) in next month’s general election.

As of June 30, Cheney had less than $25,000 in her campaign account while Moran emerged from the primary with more than $380,000 still on hand.

Unless a well-known, well-funded Democrat decides to take on Moran, this overwhelmingly Democratic, suburban Washington, D.C., seat will be his as long as he wants it.

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

This is the first time in two decades that Boucher has faced a competitive, well-funded challenge and therefore his race against former NASCAR executive Kevin Triplett (R) has the potential to get interesting in the final stretch.

Triplett, who quit his job and moved back to the district to run for Congress, has attracted considerable attention from the national party and brought GOP luminaries to the district to campaign on his behalf.

But Boucher remains popular in the southwestern Virginia “Fighting Ninth” — conservative, rural territory that President Bush easily carried in the 2000 presidential race.

Triplett’s goal is to convince long-time ticket splitters that Boucher is out of touch with the district after 22 years in Congress. At this point at least, that still seems like a tall order.

Boucher had $1.2 million in his campaign war chest mid-year while Triplett has just more than $300,000 in the bank as of June 30.

As of last month, both candidates were on the air with television ads in a district that includes relatively cheap media markets.

— Chris Cillizza and Lauren W. Whittington