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Rothenberg One of the nation's top political analysts, Stuart Rothenberg, dissects politics at the congressional and statewide levels.

Top House races of 2000

28 House races to watch, plus 4 late-breakers

in alphabetical order

Arkansas 4: Republican Rep. Jay Dickey is trying to turn back a tough challenge from state Sen. Mike Ross, a Democrat, in a southern Arkansas district that normally prefers Democrats. Polling has shown Dickey under the important 50 percent mark, and the race remains one of the Democrats' best shots in the nation to defeat an incumbent Republican.

California 15: Republican Tom Campbell's Senate bid creates an open seat in a district that leans Democratic. Republican state Rep. Jim Cunneen, a moderate, faces labor union loyalist state Democratic Sen. Mike Honda. Bill Clinton slammed Bob Dole 53 percent to 35 percent in the district in 1996. Polling shows the Democrats with a lead.

California 27: Republican Rep. Jim Rogan, a former municipal court judge, state legislator and Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, is the only House impeachment manager in serious trouble. His district has become more Democratic with an influx of Armenian, Asian and Hispanic voters, and he is facing his toughest opponent ever in Democratic state Sen. Adam Schiff. Both sides are spending millions in the race, and polling now shows the challenger poised to oust Rogan.

California 36: Freshman Rep. Steve Kuykendall, a moderate Republican, narrowly won an open seat two years ago. He faces former three-term Democratic congresswoman Jane Harman, who gave up her seat to run for governor. The seat tilts Republican, but Harman's considerable personal wealth, fund-raising contacts and name recognition make her a formidable contender. Polling shows the race is a toss-up.

California 49: Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray fits his district well, but the district is politically marginal enough to convince credible Democrats to challenge him. This time it is state Rep. Susan Davis, a well-financed, articulate Democrat. Davis is one of three strong Jewish Democratic House candidates in California (the others being Schiff and Harman). Bilbray has been on the defensive for a trip he took to Australia, and polling shows him trailing the challenger.

Connecticut 5: Rep. Jim Maloney, a Democrat, was one of the few Democrats who saw his winning margin fall in 1998. He faces a re-match against former state legislator Mark Nielson. Maloney's fund-raising is up, but Nielson begins with one challenge under his belt. Some Republicans wonder whether Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman's selection as Al Gore's running-mate may not hurt Nielson's chances.

Florida 8: With Rep. Bill McCullom, a Republican, running for the Senate, the GOP normally would be expected to hold this seat easily. But Democrat Linda Chapin, the Orlando County clerk of courts, is a strong contender, and after a divisive primary, the Republicans nominated conservative attorney Ric Keller, who may not be able to keep moderate Republicans in the fold. Democrats are slamming Keller for being too conservative, but polls show a close race, suggesting that Republican voters are lining up behind their nominee.

Florida 22: Republican Rep. Clay Shaw hasn't had a tough race is years, but Democratic state legislator Elaine Bloom is making a serious bid to oust him. Shaw, a former mayor of Ft. Lauderdale, hopes to cut Bloom's challenge short by noting that she has been a board member of a drug company that may have acted illegally. Bloom, a veteran legislator, had the president into the district to raise money for her, and she hopes to use Democratic health care issues to oust Shaw.

Illinois 10: Republican John Porter is retiring, which gives the Democrats a chance at the seat. They've nominated state Rep. Lauren Beth Gash, while the Republicans went through a messy primary to nominate Mark Kirk, a former Porter aide. The district tilts Republican and prefers moderates, which is exactly what Kirk is. Gash had some campaign problems, including turnover of some top staffers, but she is still within a few points of Kirk, and a close race is expected.

Indiana 8: Republican John Hostettler faces his toughest race yet in this marginal southwest Indiana district. He doesn't like to raise money and invariably has a close race. This time, Hostettler faces Democrat Paul Perry, a doctor who opposes legal abortion and restrictions on gun ownership. Perry's campaign seemed to go on hiatus after he won his primary, and Hostettler improved his standing with early advertisements. Perry has since crawled back into the race, but Hostettler's lead is still uncomfortable.

Kansas 3: Republicans were upset when they lost this very Republican seat two years ago. Democratic Rep. Dennis Moore plays a mean guitar, and he understands the conservative bent of the district. He seemed in good shape early on, as the Republicans had another of their ideological primaries between a moderate and a conservative. Conservative legislator Phill Kline is the GOP nominee, but GOP strategists say that their polling shows the race about even. If Republican voters united behind Kline, Moore is in trouble. If not, he wins re-election. It's that simple.

Kentucky 3: Rep. Anne Northup, a Republican, is facing a surprisingly strong threat from Democratic challenger Eleanor Jordan, a state legislator. Backed by lots of Democratic money, Jordan hopes the activate the district's considerable Democratic base. She has a chance of doing so.

Kentucky 6: Freshman Rep. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican, faces former Democratic Rep. Scotty Baesler, who gave up this seat two years ago to run for the Senate. A former mayor of Lexington, Baesler is a formidable challenger who hopes to use the issue of health care against the Republican doctor. Early polling suggested the race would go down to the wire, but Baesler's negatives have climbed, and Fletcher has opened up a lead.

Montana At Large: Republican Rick Hill is retiring, and Democrats believe that gives their nominee, state Superintendent of Education Nancy Keenan, an advantage because she has already won a statewide seat. But the Republican nominee, former Lieutenant Gov. Dennis Rehbreg, is a formidable candidate who is trying to convince voters that Keenan is too liberal. Some polling shows Keenan ahead, while others give Rehberg a very slight lead.

Michigan 8: With Debbie Stabenow running for the Senate, both parties have fielded strong nominees for her open seat. State Rep. Dianne Byrum, D, faces state Sen. Mike Rogers, R, a former FBI agent. The district includes part of Lansing, the state capital, and East Lansing, home of Michigan State University. With outside groups spending heavily, this has become one of the premier open seats in the nation. Rogers has been endorsed by both Detroit newspapers, as well as Lansing's. Polling suggests a close race.

Missouri 6: Democratic Rep. Pat Danner is retiring, and her son Steve hopes to hold the seat for the Democrats. But GOP legislator Sam Graves is a formidable candidate, and his more conservative views fit the district. Polling suggests Graves is ahead, but the seat (which includes residents of the Kansas City suburbs as well as more rural areas) is up for grabs.

New Jersey 7: With incumbent Rep. Bob Franks the GOP nominee for the Senate, both parties had nasty primaries to pick their candidates for the open seat. Conservative Republican Mike Ferguson won a four-way race, while former mayor Maryanne Connelly beat the establishment-backed candidate in the Democratic primary. Connelly's first attack against Ferguson backfired, and the local media blasted her for being both negative and misleading. Ferguson, meanwhile, has done everything possible to move to the center. Polling shows the Republican with a slight edge, but the undecided voters will pick the winner.

New Jersey 12: Freshman Democratic Rep. Rush Holt, a physics professor, faces a stiff challenge from former congressman Dick Zimmer, a Republican who gave up this seat to run for the Senate in 1996. Zimmer is a moderate who will be well funded, but he alienated some Republican conservatives who backed his primary opponent, former congressman Mike Pappas. This district prefers moderate Republicans, which is why Republicans are optimistic about Zimmer's chances. Contradictory polls show a tight race, and Holt has done pretty much everything he could to hold the seat. We'll son see if that is enough.

New York 1: Party-switcher Mike Forbes was upset in the Democratic primary by 71-year-old former local official Regina Seltzer. The GOP nominee is Brookhaven Town Supervisor Felix Grucci, whose family runs the nation's premiere fireworks company. Grucci is also backed by the Conservative, Right to Life and Independence (Reform) Parties. National Democrats have pulled out of this race, conceding it to Grucci.

Ohio 12: Rep. John Kasich hopes his prot�g�, state Rep. Pat Tiberi, can hold the seat for the GOP. He began as a narrow favorite against Maryelllen O'Shaughnessy, a Columbus city council member who has the advantage of a famous political name in the area. The Democrat, however, refuses to give up, and she and her Democratic allies are still peppering Tiberi. This is still a competitive race.

Oklahoma 2: Republican Rep. Tom Coburn is abiding by his self-imposed three term limit, and that gives the Democrats an opportunity in this conservative but Democratic district. The Democrats chose attorney Brad Carson over state Rep. Bill Settle in a late primary runoff, while the Republicans united early on behind car dealer Andy Ewing, who was recruited by Coburn. A close race is expected, but Carson is proving to be a very formidable candidate, and the Democratic nature of the district gives him an edge.

Pennsylvania 4: Rep. Ron Klink, a Democrat, is running for the Senate, but his blue-collar Democratic district is the scene of a very competitive fight. State Rep. Terry Van Horne, who won an upset in the Democratic primary, faces Republican state Sen. Melissa Hart in a battle of ideology and style. Polling has shown Hart with a clear lead, but even Republicans agree that the basic nature of the district is Democratic, which worries them. This seat is expected to change party hands.

Pennsylvania 10: Freshman Rep. Don Sherwood, a Republican car dealer and former school board member, has a re-match against Pat Casey, son of the late governor. Sherwood won by a mere 515 votes last time, and turnout could decide the winner. Casey has attacked Sherwood over prescription drugs and education, but also over an alleged "dump" on his property. Sherwood has denied the charge and accused Casey of distortion. Republicans say Sherwood is looking better, but this race could go either way.

Pennsylvania 13: Freshman Democrat Joe Hoeffel faces a potentially stiff test from long-time state legislator Stewart Greenleaf, a moderate Republican. The district, which includes suburban Philadelphia's upscale Montgomery County, tilts Republican but supported Bill Clinton for president in 1992 and 1996. Greenleaf, however, isn't living up to early billing, and Hoeffel looks increasingly secure. So far, this has been a major GOP disappointment, but the district's basic Republicanism means Hoeffel can't take anything for granted.

Utah 2: Republican Rep. Merrill Cook is bitter after being dumped by GOP primary voters in favor of businessman Derek Smith. While the district trend is Republican, Democratic congressional candidates have won it, and the party's 2000 nominee, Jim Matheson, son of a popular former governor, looks strong. GOP groups have come into the race with ads portraying Matheson as a closet liberal. If the charges work, Smith could pull off an upset. Otherwise, the seat could well go Democratic.

Virginia 2: Conservative Democrat Owen Pickett is retiring, and that gives the Republicans a good shot at a takeover in this GOP-leaning district around Virginia Beach. State Sen. Ed Schrock, a Republican, faces Democratic attorney Jody Wagner in the GOP's best opportunity in the nation. Early Democratic enthusiasm over Wagner has faded.

Washington 2: Snohomish County Councilman Rick Larsen gives the Democrats a great chance to pick up this Democratic-leaning district left vacant by Republican Rep. Jack Metcalf's retirement. Conservative state Rep. John Koster carries the GOP banner. But instead of Larsen wrapping up the race early, Koster has looked stronger. He nipped Larsen in the open primary and continues to perform well. The Democrats are no longer counting this one as a win. They'll have to wait until election night to see who comes out ahead.

Washington 5: U.S. Term limits pounded incumbent Rep. George Nethercutt with media ads, attacking him for failing to abide by his self-imposed three-term limit. Polling showed the ads hurt the Republican congressman's ratings, giving Democrats reason to be optimistic about their chances in the conservative, eastern Washington district. But attorney Tom Keefe, the Democratic nominee, has his own carpetbagging problems, and polling shows Nethercutt crossing the critical 50 percent marker. The Democrats are seeing a good opportunity fade.

Late-Breakers to Watch:

Connecticut 2: Incumbent Democrat Sam Gejdenson suddenly finds himself in trouble. GOP state Rep. Rob Simmons is a Haverford-educated former CIA employee who also worked on Capitol Hill. A local issue, involving the rights of an Eastern Connecticut Native American tribe, is causing the congressman problems.

Minnesota 6: Incumbent Democrat Bill Luther had lots of money sitting in the bank, but he didn't want to spend it. Now, he is having to, because former Marine John Kline, R, is a threat.

New York 2: With Rick Lazio running for the Senate, town clerk Joan Johnson hopes to hold this seat for the Republicans. But the moderate, African American hasn't had experience as a candidate, and conservatives are cool toward her. Democrat Steve Israel has more political experience, but it isn't clear whether he can win this GOP district.

North Carolina 11: Is Republican Rep. Charles Taylor in trouble or not? Democrats say challenger Sam Neill has exposed Taylor's ethics problems and is poised for an upset. Republicans say the contest won't be close. Who's right?

Texas 25: Nobody thought Democratic Rep. Ken Bentsen was vulnerable this year. But now that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has put up ads on his behalf, it is clear that something is up. Republican challenger Phil Sudan has plenty of money, and the district is winnable for a Republican.

 
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