Midwest: Ohio, Illinois Open-Seat Senate Races Get Top Billing

Posted October 30, 2009 at 10:41am

Illinois


Filing deadline: Nov. 2 | Primary: Feb. 2

Senate

Open seat: Appointee Roland Burris (D) is not seeking election
Outlook: Tossup

The firestorm surrounding this seat so far this cycle can only be described as “golden— in the words of disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), per a phone call recorded by the FBI. When President Barack Obama gave up his Senate seat for the White House, Blagojevich had the power to appoint his successor. But before Obama could even take office, Blagojevich was arrested and charged last December with corruption — including an alleged attempt to sell Obama’s seat to the highest bidder. Before he was removed from office in January, Blagojevich used his appointment power to pick former state Attorney General Burris to fill the vacancy.

It wasn’t long until Burris was also embroiled in the scandal and it became clear that his association with Blagojevich would make a bid for a full term impossible. Burris announced in July that he would not seek election in 2010.

Meanwhile, state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) announced an exploratory committee in March. Giannoulias, who famously palled around with Obama in Illinois, has tried to play up his ties to the president from the beginning of his campaign. But it appears Giannoulias’ perceived closeness with Obama has done more to hurt his candidacy than to help him so far: Obama has not endorsed Giannoulias in the primary — a fact that has not gone unnoticed.

And even while Giannoulias was raising significant funds for his bid, the White House kept searching for a better candidate. Several big names turned down overtures from Senate Democrats and the White House, including state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, businessman Chris Kennedy and former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley. Meanwhile, several other lesser-known Democrats announced their candidacies over the summer, including former Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Robinson Jackson, a former top aide to Blagojevich, and former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans waited for Rep. Mark Kirk to make a decision about whether to run statewide. In one of the messiest political weeks of the summer for Senate Republicans, both Kirk and state Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna, who also ran for Senate in 2004, announced they intended to run. McKenna eventually backed out and announced a gubernatorial bid, and Kirk hit the trail trying to garner GOP support. As a moderate Republican in the House, Kirk encountered mixed reviews from the party’s more conservative base in the southern part of the state. Since then almost half a dozen little-known candidates and local officials have gotten into the GOP race, including real estate developer Patrick Hughes. Kirk, however, is still heavily favored to win the primary. He had $2.3 million in the bank at the end of September.

Giannoulias is also expected to win his primary, but he will likely emerge with some bruising from the intraparty fight with Jackson and Hoffman. Giannoulias will also be forced to spend a good chunk of his precious resources — he had $2.4 million in cash on hand at the end of September — before Feb. 2. However, because the primary is so early, the Democratic nominee will have plenty of time to repair the wounds of the primary and restock the campaign war chest before the general election.

Both parties are targeting this Senate race because of its symbolism and the seat’s former occupant. Republicans have made no secret that they would like to face Giannoulias in the general election because they believe he carries significant baggage from his time in office and family ties. Public polls also show Kirk either beating Giannoulias or tying him within the margin of error — a great starting point for any Republican in Illinois, which has increasingly voted for Democrats statewide. This race is considered a tossup because the Democratic brand has never been more damaged in the state, and it’s been a long time since Republicans have had as strong a statewide candidate as Kirk.

House

7th district
Incumbent: Danny Davis (D)
7th term (85 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

It’s unclear so far whether Davis plans to run for Cook County Board president or stay in Congress. He has been circulating petitions for both offices, and late last month he filed to run for the Cook County position. But he also plans to file to run for re-election, and he must decide by Nov. 2 which office he will seek. Davis originally announced his intentions to run for the board in June, and local Democrats said the Congressman expected the field to be clear. But since his announcement, several local Democrats have entered the race — a situation that likely derailed Davis’ plans.

If Davis stays put, he’s a shoo-in for re-election. If he decides to run for board president instead, a slew of Democratic candidates are expected to run to succeed him. Alderwoman Sharon Dixon and real estate broker Jim Ascot have already thrown their hats into the ring, and they insist they will still run even if Davis runs for re-election. Davis’ former chief of staff, Chicago attorney and lobbyist Richard Boykin, will get into the race if the Congressman gets out. State Reps. Karen Yarbrough and LaShawn Ford, state Sen. Rickey Hendon, Cook County Deputy Recorder of Deeds Darlena Burnett and Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti are all considered potential candidates if Davis decides to leave Congress.

8th district
Incumbent: Melissa Bean (D)
3rd term (61 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Bean has attracted interest from several opponents this cycle, although it’s unclear whether any of them will be strong contenders by next November. The district is a true swing district, but Bean escaped a tough race last cycle against businessman Steve Greenberg (R) and won with 61 percent of the vote.

National Republicans have billed the quality of their candidates as better this time, with Long Grove Village President Maria Rodriguez, businessman Dirk Beveridge and businessman Chris Geissler in the mix. Rodriguez might be the best-known out of the trio, but the stock of either of the other two candidates could rise if they can fund part of their own bids. Republicans need a top recruit to defeat Bean, and it appears so far that none of the aforementioned is a candidate of that caliber. What’s even more telling is that Republicans are not even discussing potentially strong candidates who could get into the mix.

10th district
Open seat: Mark Kirk (R) is running for Senate
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Kirk managed to hold on to this Democratic-leaning district because of his unique political profile and his fundraising prowess. The suburban Chicago district boasts one of the most educated and wealthy constituencies in the country. The district has also voted increasingly for Democrats since Kirk was elected in 2000. Democrats targeted the district in 2008, when the party dumped in millions to prop up marketing consultant Dan Seals’ second bid for the seat. But despite Democrats’ best efforts, Kirk won re-election with 53 percent of the vote — at the same time President Barack Obama was winning the district with 61 percent.

Kirk’s departure to run for Senate gives Democrats one of their best chances to pluck a seat from Republican hands this cycle. Seals is running for a third time, and state Rep. Julie Hamos is also running for the Democratic nod. Although polls show Seals in a solid position to win the nomination, Hamos has impressive fundraising plus a track record of winning races in the state House. Seals raised $303,000 in the third quarter, while Hamos raised a whopping $567,000 in her first couple months in the race. Raising money is of particular importance for campaigns in this district because the Chicago media market is so expensive.

Republicans have an even more crowded primary with three candidates who have raised six figures for their campaigns. State Rep. Beth Coulson started off as the frontrunner because she already has high name identification in the district, plus she has the backing of several Members of Congress. But Coulson’s relatively meager fundraising so far for the race — about $178,000, including $50,000 from her own pocketbook — has raised concerns about her ability to fundraise for a top-tier Congressional race. Businessman Bob Dold had a particularly impressive fundraising quarter, and businessman Dick Green is also in the GOP contest and willing to spend his own money. There is a path to victory for any of these GOP candidates, and it’s almost impossible to tell who will emerge the winner in February.

This is one of the shortest campaigns in the country, spanning a total of seven months in between Kirk announcing for Senate in July and the early February primary. It’s also one of the most expensive — in part because of its short duration, but also because of the Chicago media market. Even though both parties will likely endure bruising primaries, the intraparty battles will only have a minimal effect on the final results of the race. The primary is so early — about nine months out from the general election — that candidates have time to recover, polish their message and raise more money for the general election.

11th district
Incumbent: Debbie Halvorson (D)
1st term (58 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Halvorson had an easier race than expected last cycle. The freshman Democrat defeated a local businessman who was expected to put some of his own funds into the race but never ended up investing in his campaign. Republicans insist Halvorson has baggage from her time in the state Legislature and political ties to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who has been indicted on corruption charges. But they’re going to have to a find a strong candidate with great fundraising skills to take her on.

Republicans are optimistic that former McLean County Commissioner Adam Kinzinger can be that type of candidate. The National Republican Congressional Committee gave Kinzinger one of their first endorsements of the cycle to show their support. Kinzinger’s fundraising has been consistent, but not overwhelming: He has raised $242,000 so far for his campaign and has $151,000 in the bank. It’s going to be difficult to go after Halvorson unless the Republican’s fundraising improves dramatically. The freshman Democrat had amassed $707,000 in her campaign account by the end of September for her re-election campaign.

13th district
Incumbent: Judy Biggert (R)
6th term (54 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Democrats insisted early on that they could target Biggert this cycle. Obama won her district with 54 percent in 2008, but President George W. Bush carried it with 55 percent in 2004. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee paid for radio advertisements in her district — an effort that some believe was aimed at pushing her toward retirement. But since Biggert has indicated she has no interest in leaving the House, Democrats’ efforts to target her seat appear to have subsided.

Businessman Scott Harper (D) has filed to run again for the seat. After starting a late campaign in the 2008 cycle, Harper had an earlier start this year by announcing his campaign in June. So far, Harper’s fundraising has been meager: He’d raised $99,000 as of Sept. 30 and only has about $54,000 in the bank to show for it, plus he still has $160,000 in debt from his previous campaign. It’s hard to see how Harper makes a real run at Biggert this cycle given his unimpressive early fundraising and the overall national political environment that favors the GOP. No wonder national Democrats appear to be backing off one of their most talked-about targets early on this year.

14th district
Incumbent: Bill Foster (D)
2nd term (58 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Foster has had a target on his back since he nabbed the seat of former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R) in a 2008 special election. Hastert stepped down from the House in 2007, and Foster won a special election to replace him by a 5-point margin. He defeated businessman Jim Oberweis for a second time in the 2008 general election by a 16-point margin. Although Hastert’s district was once thought of as a slam dunk for Republicans, last cycle has certainly proved otherwise.

Hastert’s son, lawyer Ethan Hastert (R), announced early this summer that he is running against Foster. With strong but not overwhelming fundraising so far, Hastert appears to be a formidable candidate. The Republican raised $227,000 in the third quarter, while Foster brought in $318,000 in the same period of time.

The GOP’s opportunity for a pickup, however, was damaged in September when state Sen. Randy Hultgren (R) got into the race.

The last thing Republicans need is another divisive primary, which is what many party operatives blamed for greasing Foster’s special election win. A bruising primary between Oberweis and state Sen. Chris Lauzen in 2008 paved the way for a Foster victory. The Republican candidates have promised the national party that they will keep the primary clean. Still, Illinois’ early primary ensures that the party will have plenty of time to pick up the pieces if things do get nasty.

Indiana


Filing Deadline: Feb. 19 | Primary: May 4

Senate

Incumbent: Evan Bayh (D)
2nd term (62 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Bayh is a shoo-in in part because he hasn’t drawn top-flight Republican opposition and has $12.7 million in his campaign fund. That’s more than 700 times the total banked by state Sen. Marlin Stutzman, the best-known of the three Republicans challenging Bayh.

House

5th district
Incumbent: Dan Burton (R)
14th term (66 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

In this rock-ribbed Republican area in and around Indianapolis, Burton is more vulnerable in a GOP primary than he is in a general election.

This was evident in 2008, when Burton beat physician John McGoff in the primary by just 7 points. Burton faced criticism that he was more interested in playing golf and enjoying the perks of office than in tending to his legislative duties. Burton defended his record and heavily outspent McGoff.

Still, that subpar showing has prompted another anti-Burton GOP campaign, this time with multiple challengers. McGoff wants another shot at Burton, though he lags in fundraising behind three other contenders: Luke Messer, a former state Representative who is the best-funded Burton challenger; state Rep. Mike Murphy; and Brose McVey, a businessman who ran for Congress in 2002 in an adjacent district.

If the crowded field demonstrates the disaffection with the veteran Congressman, it also divides the anti-Burton vote and gives him an easier path to victory. Indiana doesn’t have runoff elections, and it’s highly plausible Burton could be renominated with a plurality of the vote.

9th district
Incumbent: Baron Hill (D)
2nd term (58 percent; previously served three terms)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

In every election this decade, voters in this southeastern district have seen no one other than Hill and Mike Sodrel (R) on the Congressional ballot. Hill won as an incumbent in 2002, lost his seat in 2004, regained it as a challenger in 2006 and then beat Sodrel for a third time in 2008.

All of the races were close except for the 2008 contest, in which Hill crushed Sodrel by nearly 20 points. Despite that landslide defeat, Sodrel hasn’t ruled out a 2010 campaign. “I have not discounted that possibility, but I’m certainly not ready to make an announcement either,— Sodrel told Roll Call in early October.

Two lesser-known Republicans have been running for months: Todd Young, a lawyer and former aide to Sen. Dick Lugar (R), and Travis Hankins, a real estate investor. Young has outpaced Hankins in early fundraising.

Michigan


Filing deadline: May 11 | Primary: Aug. 3

House

2nd district
Open seat: Pete Hoekstra (R) is running for governor
Outlook: Safe Republican

Hoekstra is leaving Congress to run for governor, but there isn’t much chance his district will flip to the Democrats. Four Republicans are running to succeed him in this western Michigan district, one of the state’s most conservative: state Sen. Wayne Kuipers, former state Rep. Bill Huizenga, businessman Bill Cooper and former professional football player Jay Riemersma, who has worked for social conservative groups since retiring from the NFL. When he announced on Oct. 24, Kuipers acknowledged that “each of the Republican candidates for Congress has similar positions on the issues.— Instead, the race is likely to hinge on what type of background and professional experience voters would like their next Congressman to have.

On the Democratic side, 2008 nominee Fred Johnson is going to try again after losing to Hoekstra by nearly 30 points in 2008, even though he’s likely to see a similar result.

7th district
Incumbent: Mark Schauer (D)
1st term (49 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Schauer, a former Democratic leader in the state Legislature, scored a narrow 2008 victory in this southern Michigan district by riding a national tide that favored his party and tying one-term Rep. Tim Walberg (R) to President George W. Bush and his unpopular administration. Walberg is now seeking a 2010 rematch, and he will try to turn the tables from 2008 by casting Schauer as too liberal and too apt to support the agenda of President Barack Obama (although Obama, in an unusually strong showing for a Democratic presidential candidate, carried the district by 6 points last year).

Walberg, an outspoken conservative who can turn off moderates, is unlikely to have a clear shot at the rematch. Lawyer Brian Rooney (R), the brother of Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), is expected to announce his candidacy in November. And the CEO of the Michigan Association of Realtors, Bill Martin (R), is also considering a run.

Whoever the Republicans tap will face no easy chore reclaiming the seat from Schauer, a seasoned candidate with strong fundraising skills. Schauer outraised Walberg $2.3 million to $2.1 million in the 2008 campaign, and he is off to a healthy start for 2010. He raised $1.1 million in the first nine months of the year and ended September with $903,000 in the bank compared with $203,000 for Walberg.

9th district
Incumbent: Gary Peters (D)
1st term (52 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Peters ousted a popular and gifted incumbent, Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R), in 2008. The suburban district had simply become too Democratic for Knollenberg to hang on, and Peters, a former state Senator and state lottery commissioner, was a known quantity. Oakland County Republican Paul Welday, a former aide to Knollenberg, will now try to do what his boss couldn’t: defeat Peters.

First, however, he will have to get by a primary fight with Andrew Raczkowski, a former state Representative and military veteran who filed paperwork early in July to raise money for a 9th district race.

Michigan’s deep and long-running recession is bound to again be the backdrop to the 2010 elections, and much hinges on how voters respond to the Obama administration’s economic recovery program, which Peters has largely supported. Aware that he will be a target, Peters has already been busy compiling a big war chest. The Democrat showed a hefty $1.1 million in cash on hand at the end of September, 10 times Welday’s $137,000 in the bank. Welday’s lack of funding is one reason the GOP is continuing to recruit in the district.

11th district
Incumbent: Thaddeus McCotter (R)
4th term (51 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

McCotter, the current chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, was not a top-tier target of Democratic strategists in the 2006 and 2008 cycles. But McCotter’s margins of victory over vastly underfunded opponents in those contests were underwhelming.

Democrats, however, have not been able to recruit a top-flight challenger, as state Speaker Andy Dillon and state Sen. Glenn Anderson have ruled out running. The only declared Democratic candidate is Natalie Mosher, a former art teacher and civic leader who lives in exurban Canton. She raised just $93,000 to McCotter’s $632,000 through the third quarter.

Minnesota


Filing deadline: July 20 | Primary: Sept. 14

House

1st district
Incumbent: Tim Walz (D)
2nd term (63 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Walz won re-election in 2008 by a surprisingly easy 30-point margin, given the fact that his district in southern Minnesota is a partisan battleground that favored President George W. Bush in 2004 and Democrat Barack Obama in 2008.

Several potentially strong challengers are looking at the race on the GOP side. State Sen. Julie Rosen has been generating the most buzz of late, but has said it is too early to make a decision. Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, former state Rep. Allen Quist, Jim Hagedorn, a former Treasury department aide and son of former Rep. Tom Hagedorn (R-Minn.), and physician Brian Davis, the 2008 GOP nominee who was demolished by Walz, are considering the contest. Military veteran Frank McKinzie is already running.

Walz has not built up a particularly intimidating war chest; he reported $267,000 in the bank at the end of the third quarter.

3rd district
Incumbent: Erik Paulsen (R)
1st term (48 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

When longtime Rep. Jim Ramstad, a popular Republican centrist, decided to retire in 2008, Democratic strategists put the 3rd district high up on their target list — and ended up disappointed. In the end, the suburban Twin Cities seat went to Paulsen, a longtime state House Member and former Ramstad aide with a similar political profile, who pulled away from Iraq War veteran Ashwin Madia (D) in the campaign’s final stretch.

The seat will be tough to pry away from Paulsen, who proved his fundraising and campaigning mettle in 2008. But he will be a top Democratic target in 2010, by virtue of the fact that he is one of three GOP freshmen representing districts that President Barack Obama won in 2008.

State Sen. Terri Bonoff, who lost to Madia in the Democratic nominating convention in 2008, Maureen Hackett, a forensic psychiatrist and U.S. Air Force veteran, and Jim Meffert-Nelson, president of the Minnesota PTA, are all taking a serious look at the race.

6th district
Incumbent: Michele Bachmann (R)
2nd term (46 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

Two candidates are seriously competing for the Democratic nomination to take on Bachmann, whose outspoken brand of conservatism has earned her frequent appearances on television news shows — and has made her a lightning rod for political controversy. That has made her politically vulnerable, despite the fact that the exurban district north and west of Minneapolis is one of the state’s most conservative.

Tarryl Clark, the state Senate Assistant Majority Leader and a favorite of the state Democratic establishment, announced her candidacy in late July. But she faces serious opposition for the party nod from physician Maureen Reed, a moderate who was Minnesota’s Independence Party nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006. Reed has not ruled out challenging Clark in a September primary even if she does not get the state party’s endorsement at the nominating convention next spring. Both Democrats are well-funded.

Meanwhile, Bachmann could face a Republican primary challenge from lawyer Chris Johnston, who has criticized the Congresswoman’s shoot-from-the-hip approach. And dental technician Bob Anderson, who took 10 percent of the vote in 2008 as the Independence Party nominee, may try again in 2010.

Ohio


Filing deadline: Feb. 18 | Primary: May 4

Senate

Open seat: George Voinovich (R) is retiring
Outlook: Tossup

The nearly $2 million that former Rep. Rob Portman (R) left in his campaign account after resigning from the House four years ago has come in handy in his race for the Senate.

Portman, who became a trade and budget official in the George W. Bush administration after serving a dozen years in the House, had $5.1 million in his campaign account as October began. Except for Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), Portman has more cash reserves than any other nonincumbent Senate candidate.

Portman’s large campaign treasury is one reason party operatives are bullish about his chances in what should be a better year for the Republican Party than 2006 and 2008, when Democrats made major gains in Ohio. GOP establishment figures are behind Portman in his primary against Tom Ganley, a wealthy auto dealer who is willing to commit significant personal resources to the race.

The Democratic primary between Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner initially appeared competitive, but Fisher has been putting some distance between himself and Brunner, who raised a paltry $147,000 in the third quarter. Fisher raised more than four times as much in the reporting period and has the backing of a few Members of the Ohio Congressional delegation.

House

1st district
Incumbent: Steve Driehaus (D)
1st term (52 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

The voters in this Cincinnati-centered district will have another “Battle of the Steves— in 2010, when ex-Rep. Steve Chabot (R) will be trying to reclaim the seat he lost to Driehaus last year by 5 points.

Republicans say Driehaus benefited from a strong turnout for President Barack Obama, particularly among the district’s ample black population, that will not be available to Driehaus in a lower-turnout midterm election. Chabot criticized Driehaus’ vote in June for a cap-and-trade climate change bill that Chabot argues is a “national energy tax.—

Democrats plan to remind voters of Chabot’s 14-year voting record, which was mostly in line with the positions of House GOP leaders and President George W. Bush.

Driehaus and Chabot are off to fast starts in fundraising and could top the more than $3.8 million they spent together on the 2008 campaign. Driehaus raised $624,000 through the end of September, when he had $557,000 in the bank, and Chabot took in $571,000 and had $505,000 left to spend.

2nd district
Incumbent: Jean Schmidt (R)
3rd term (45 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

Though the Republican leanings are strong in this district, which includes part of Cincinnati and some suburbs and rural territory east of the city, Schmidt hasn’t locked it down ­— as evidenced by her plurality victory in a three-way 2008 race. Schmidt received the lowest vote share of any winning candidate in the 2008 cycle.

Schmidt will again face a challenge in the Republican primary, this time from Mike Kilburn, a longtime commissioner in Warren County, north of Cincinnati. Kilburn, an outspoken conservative who opposed federal stimulus funds for county projects as “filthy money,— says Schmidt hasn’t been conservative enough with her votes on spending policy.

Democratic officials are promoting the candidacy of state Rep. Todd Book, who hails from the eastern, more rural end of the district. Also seeking the Democratic nomination is David Krikorian, who took 18 percent of the vote as an independent candidate in 2008.

12th district
Incumbent: Patrick Tiberi (R)
5th term (55 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Tiberi’s modest vote share in the 2008 election — the lowest in his four re-election campaigns — against little-known and underfunded opposition persuaded Democrats to work harder on securing a top-flight opponent for him in 2010.

The likely Democratic nominee is Paula Brooks, a commissioner in Franklin County, which includes Columbus and is the population center of the district. Brooks planned to run for the House in 2008 in the neighboring Columbus-area 15th district but eschewed a primary against now-Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D).

Ohio’s 12th has the bulk of Columbus’ black population, and Brooks will need a strong turnout from that overwhelmingly Democratic constituency if she is to upset Tiberi. More than a year before the campaign, the Ohio Republican Party has already paid for robocalls in the district attacking Brooks.

15th district
Incumbent: Mary Jo Kilroy (D)
1st term (46 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Kilroy, a former county commissioner in Columbus, aided the Democrats’ 2008 national wave by winning the seat of retiring Rep. Deborah Pryce (R). But she won by a razor-thin margin over former state Sen. Steve Stivers — the race wasn’t decided until a full count of ballots was finished a month after the election — and in the process ran well behind Barack Obama, who ran well in and around Columbus.

Stivers is back for a rematch campaign that should be well-funded: He has raised $280,000, making him one of the best-funded Republican challengers early in the 2010 campaign. Republicans have targeted Kilroy’s voting record, which is in close agreement with the positions of Democratic leaders and the Obama administration.

Both sides will be renewing the attacks they made in the 2008 race. Democratic officials vow to again remind voters of Stivers’ previous work as a lobbyist for the banking industry.

16th district
Incumbent: John Boccieri (D)
1st term (55 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Boccieri scored one of the Democrats’ most impressive open-seat takeover victories in the 2008 election, handily beating state Sen. Kirk Schuring (R) in this Canton-area district even as Barack Obama was narrowly losing the district to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Republican officials are promoting the candidacy of Jim Renacci, an arena football team co-owner and former small-town mayor who raised $200,000 in about one month after announcing his candidacy in late August.

But Renacci faces primary opposition from Matt Miller, a former county commissioner who ran competitive but losing primary bids in both 2006, when he failed to unseat then-Rep. Ralph Regula (R), and 2008, when Schuring beat him by 5 points.

Republicans are criticizing Boccieri’s vote in June for a cap-and-trade climate change bill that they say will stifle job growth. Still, Boccieri’s profile as an Iraq War veteran will no doubt continue to be an asset for the freshman Congressman on the campaign trail.

18th district
Incumbent: Zack Space (D)
2nd term (60 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

In his brief House career in this conservative-leaning district, Space has been a beneficiary of both a pro-Democratic national environment and surprisingly weak Republican opposition. In 2006, he won the seat that was long held by Rep. Bob Ney (R), who later served prison time for corruption. And in 2008, Republicans failed to secure a top-tier challenger to Space.

The political environment in Ohio should be less anti-Republican in 2010, and Space probably will face stronger opposition. Republican officials are high on state Sen. Bob Gibbs, who announced his candidacy in September. Most of his state Senate district lies outside the 18th, though, so he’ll need to boost his name recognition in what is Ohio’s largest district in terms of land area.

Gibbs also will not have the nomination handed to him. Other Republicans in the primary include Fred Dailey, a former state agriculture director who took 40 percent of the vote as Space’s 2008 opponent; Jeanette Moll, a former local magistrate who lost to Dailey in the 2008 Republican primary; and Patrick Carlisle, a businessman.

Republicans have criticized Space’s vote for the cap-and-trade energy bill that most Democrats say is needed to limit greenhouse gases but which most Republicans say would impose onerous new taxes.

Wisconsin



Filing deadline: July 13 | Primary: Sept. 14

Senate

Incumbent: Russ Feingold (D)
3rd term (55 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Feingold’s 11-point win in 2004 constituted a landslide for the Senator, who is known for his efforts to overhaul campaign finance laws and for being a vocal and rare opponent of the anti-terrorism law known as the USA PATRIOT Act.

There’s no indication Feingold is in serious danger in 2010. Polls show that former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) would run competitively against Feingold, but he’s shown no interest in the race after a brief and failed bid to win the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

The Republican field will include Terrence Wall, a wealthy real estate developer who just entered the race, and David Westlake, a businessman who raised less than $30,000 through the end of September. Wall has the edge in the GOP primary.

House

3rd district
Incumbent: Ron Kind (D)
7th term (63 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Democratic officials were relieved when Kind announced in late September that he would run for re-election and not seek the state’s open governorship. Kind has turned this swath of politically competitive western Wisconsin into a personal stronghold, where he has topped 60 percent of the vote in all but one re-election campaign. The exception was in 2004, when Kind took 56 percent against state Sen. Dale Schultz (R).

Next year Republicans are turning to another state Senator, Dan Kapanke, to try to keep Kind from winning an eighth term. As the GOP seeks to expand the competitive battleground in 2010, the party will have to put seats like this one into play to have a shot at getting closer to winning back the majority.

8th district
Incumbent: Steve Kagen (D)
2nd term (54 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

This historically Republican area of northeastern Wisconsin has become more friendly to Democrats in recent years, as evidenced by President Barack Obama’s victory and Kagen’s re-election in 2008.

But Kagen should be put to the test in 2010, after two election cycles that strongly favored Democrats nationally and in Wisconsin. In both elections Kagen beat John Gard (R), who had two decades of experience as a Wisconsin Assemblyman.

Three Republicans are challenging Kagen in 2010. The early favorite appears to be Reid Ribble, who owns a roof construction company. Ribble raised $130,000 in his first quarter of fundraising, aided in large part by contributions from roofing industry figures.

The other Republican candidates are Andy Williams, a supervisor in Brown County (Green Bay), and Marc Savard, a supervisor in Door County, northeast of Green Bay.