Sabatos Crystal Ball

View All Races

View All Races

Arizona (01)

Outlook: Toss-up


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Rep. Rick Renzi (R) won reelection over Ellen Simon (D) with 51% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Rick Renzi (R) will win reelection over Ellen Simon (D). The Crystal Ball knows that Renzi had no problem solidifying his base in the 2004 election, but it wasn’t all that long ago he scored a narrow open seat victory in this marginal district. Renzi has received some bad press over the past few weeks concerning personal land dealings; the allegations won’t be sorted out until after the election, but we still predict Renzi will escape with a narrow win.


Candidates

Rick Renzi (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,908,442.07 | Total Spent: $1,464,408.95
Website

Ellen Simon – Democrat – Total Raised: $570,142.66 | Total Spent: $1,204,868.50
Website

Arizona (05)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Harry Mitchell (D) unseated Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R) with 51% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Harry Mitchell (D) will unseat Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R). Democrats are betting heavily that a late push in Arizona can put many of their candidates over the top. Mitchell has received some high-profile Republican endorsements, and seems to have the momentum in what has become a very ugly race. We’ll pick Mitchell to pull the upset by a hair.

October 3, 2006 Update:

Add alleged links to Jack Abramoff and recently resigned Florida Congressman Mark Foley to the list of ammunition with which Harry Mitchell is attacking J.D. Hayworth. That’s right–Mitchell is trying to make ethics a key issue in this campaign. More specifically, he is appealing to voters to help fix what he states are the ethical problems of the current Republican-controlled Congress. As September came to a close, SurveyUSA found Hayworth leading Mitchell 52 percent to 40 percent. Will allegations and associations with negative topics in the news be enough to sway voters and close the gap? Mitchell is counting on it.

Brenan Richards, Crystal Ball Pacific Regional Correspondent

June 29, 2006 Update:

A new entry into the Dirty Thirty, the battle in this Tempe/Scottsdale district has emerged as one of the top priorities of national parties and interest groups. Since announcing his candidacy in April, former Tempe mayor and State Sen. Harry Mitchell has been the beneficiary of fundraising help from Sen. John Kerry and legendary operative James Carville, while 12-year veteran GOP Rep. J.D. Hayworth held a fundraiser with former Vice President Dan Quayle this past week.

As of the end of March, Hayworth boasted a 3-1 cash on hand advantage over his Democratic rival, and a GOP poll conducted in early June showed the incumbent up 49% to 34%. Although Mitchell is the Democrats’ dream candidate in this Republican-leaning district, Hayworth is taking nothing for granted and remains the favorite to be reelected in November.

April 11, 2006 Update:

One of the closest races in the West, this suburban/exurban battle has seen GOP Rep. J.D. Hayworth pound the immigration issue hard and State Sen. Harry Mitchell roll out a long list of GOP endorsements, some from notable former officeholders bucking their party. For now, our sense is that Hayworth maintains a narrow edge here, but it could evaporate in no time under the hot Arizona sun.


March 2006 Outlook

At this time last year, no political analyst in their right mind could have guessed Democrats would have a shot at completely erasing their four-seat deficit in Arizona’s House delegation. Yet today, a key GOP retirement in one district and allegations of impropriety in another have guaranteed the state battleground status this year. Sure, ex-Indian Affairs official Jack Jackson‘s decision to abandon his challenge to 1st District GOP Rep. Rick Renzi was a setback for national Democrats here, but these other developments have led the Crystal Ball to believe a 4-4 tie in this important Southwest battleground, while still improbable, is more possible than ever post-2006.

The GOP’s problems here started over Thanksgiving of last year, when moderate Rep. Jim Kolbe announced that his current 11th term in Congress would be his last representing this Tucson-based 8th district. Either frontrunner for the Democratic nomination promises to be a strong candidate in the general in this swing seat, and there’s a growing consensus that if conservative State Rep. Randy Graf is the GOP’s nominee, Republican chances of holding the open seat will be in some Grand Canyon-deep trouble.

Now, it appears likely Arizona Republicans will have to play some serious defense in a second district. Former state Democratic chair, Tempe mayor, and State Sen. Harry Mitchell announced he would challenge six-term GOP Rep. J.D. Hayworth in the Tempe/Scottsdale-based 5th District. Even though the district dropped strongly Democratic Indian reservation counties in 2002 redistricting and favored President Bush by a 9-point margin in 2004, Mitchell represents a top-tier Democratic recruit, and Hayworth has faced only nominal opposition since he dispatched serious challenges from Democrat Steve Owens twice in the late ’90s.

Hayworth, a former TV sportscaster, is probably no longer quite the abrasive personality he was when he first came to Congress as an insurgent, hard-right freshman in the class of 1994, but questions surrounding contributions he had accepted from now-disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff have recently hamstrung his efforts to continue broadening his electoral appeal. There’s no doubt Democrats plan to use the donations in question as ammunition against Hayworth ad nauseum over the next few months in an attempt to recreate the old ’90s portrait of Hayworth as a brash and polarizing partisan.

So, to what extent could these charges of impropriety cause headaches for Hayworth? A January poll taken by SurveyUSA for KPNX-TV Phoenix (before Mitchell’s entry into the race) shed some light on this matter: 62 percent of the 500 adults polled stated they believed Hayworth was not “telling the truth when he says he received a twenty two hundred and fifty dollar campaign contribution from Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist who has pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion.” Although this question’s wording is puzzlingly problematic, the level of distrust exhibited for Hayworth is somewhat startling for a 12-year incumbent.

Under Arizona’s resign-to-run law, Mitchell must forfeit his seat in the legislature in order to mount a campaign, but as a longtime area politician, there is reason to believe he will retain strong name recognition through November. By the same token, his experience as both a mayor and legislator will give Hayworth’s opposition researchers a long record of actions and votes to pick apart. For now, given the district’s considerable GOP tilt, the Crystal Ball rates this race in the Leans Republican column, but there’s no doubt this contest is on the move.

Candidates

J.D. Hayworth (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,526,301.14 | Total Spent: $1,843,085.80
Website

Harry Mitchell – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,440,033.75 | Total Spent: $1,047,049.68
Website

Arizona (08) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Gabrielle Giffords (D) defeated Randy Graf (R) with 54% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Gabrielle Giffords (D) will defeat Randy Graf (R). Despite late talk of a Graf comeback, it’s obvious that both national parties gave up on this race long ago, thanks to Graf’s very hard-right views and Giffords’s personal appeal. Democrats can count on this seat as one of their three likeliest pickups in the country.

September 26, 2006 Update:

The House seat of retiring Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe makes most political analysts’ lists of possible Democratic pickups. The Republican Party poured $200,000 into the primary campaign of moderate Steve Huffman, who lost Sept. 13 to the more conservative Randy Graf, a former state representative. Graf now faces Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, a former state senator.

Brenan Richards, Crystal Ball Pacific Regional Correspondent

June 29, 2006 Update:

In the wake of moderate GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe’s decision to retire from Congress this year, this Tucson-based district is experiencing a total free-for-all on each side. The two top Democratic contenders are women: TV anchorwoman Patty Weiss and State Sen. Gabrielle Giffords. Although Weiss has more name recognition in the district at this point thanks to her former presence on Tucson news, the Crystal Ball gives a slight edge to Giffords, who has amassed the support of both EMILY’s List and the Sierra Club and leads in the money chase.

On the GOP side, anti-illegal immigration activist and former State Rep. Randy Graf continues to enjoy strong support from conservatives in his party thanks to the salience of immigration as a campaign issue in this border district. If moderate Republicans are to prevent his nomination, they will likely have to rally around either former state GOP Chair Mike Hellon or State Rep. Steve Huffman, who holds a decided financial advantage in the GOP primary and has the backing of the outgoing Kolbe.

Arizona’s September primary will leave little time for the parties to rally around their nominees and mount vigorous general election campaigns, and the Crystal Ball senses that the GOP field, deeply ideologically divided, is less likely to heal wounds quickly – especially if Graf, whom Kolbe clearly can’t stand, is the nominee. As such, this remains one of Democrats’ best takeover opportunities in the country.

February 22, 2006 Update:

The storyline hasn’t changed much here in Tucson: general election party prospects hinge almost entirely on the results of the primary election. State Sen. Gabrielle Giffords remains a strong favorite over TV anchorwoman Patty Weiss in the Democratic primary, but would then face stiff general election competition if State Rep. Steve Huffman were to prevail in the GOP’s nomination contest. And if the staunch conservative Graf were to win? Giffords would have to be considered a solid favorite to win a ticket to Washington.


February 2006 Outlook:

Republicans were dealt a significant setback in November of last year when GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe, a veteran moderate and the party’s only openly gay member of Congress, announced his retirement. Now, the GOP will be forced to play defense in this Tucson-based district, which carries a slight Republican lean but is certainly much more marginal than most other Arizona seats the party holds.

First to jump into the race on the Democratic side was State Sen. Gabrielle Giffords, a DLC Democrat and avid motorcyclist who at 34 years old can already point to a long list of personal and professional accomplishments in business and politics. Having raised an impressive $247,637.29 in the final month of 2005, she starts the race as a slight favorite for the Democratic nomination over local TV anchorwoman Patty Weiss, who also boasts strong name recognition, and several other minor candidates who had entered the race before Kolbe called it quits. Were former Tucson Mayor Tom Volgy to jump into the primary fray, he would likely also be a major factor, though he has kept mum up to this point.

Meanwhile, Republicans will likely host a more contentious primary. Current candidates include conservative, anti-immigration former State Rep. Randy Graf, who took 43 percent in a 2004 primary challenge to Kolbe and was planning on another primary challenge anyway, State Rep. Steve Huffman, and former state GOP Chair Mike Hellon, though others such as State Sen. Tim Bee could soon enter the race as well. A win in Arizona’s late primary by any one of the Republicans except Graf, who could probably never receive enthusiastic support from the outgoing Kolbe, would give this race pure Toss-up status looking ahead to November.

Candidates

Gabrielle Giffords – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,183,607.55 | Total Spent: $1,770,000.51
Website

Randy Graf – Republican – Total Raised: $984,300.29 | Total Spent: $779,849.60
Website

California (04)

Outlook: Leans Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted,Rep. John Doolittle (R) won reelection over Charlie Brown (D) with 49% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. John Doolittle (R) will win reelection over Charlie Brown (D). Doolittle’s ethical troubles have been the linchpin of Brown’s campaign in this very reliably Republican northern California district, but we don’t think the damage to Doolittle have been severe enough to cost him his seat this year.


Candidates

John Doolittle (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $ 2,131,619.55| Total Spent: $1,533,696.80
Website

Charles Brown – Democrat

Charles Brown – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,172,780.95 | Total Spent: $791,140.64
Website

California (11)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Jerry McNerney (D) unseated Rep. Richard Pombo (R) with 53% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Jerry McNerney (D) will unseat Rep. Richard Pombo (R). Our sources on the ground tell us that momentum is firmly in McNerney’s court and that late campaign help from Bill Clinton and scores of environmental groups is giving Resources Committee Chair Pombo a run for his money. Schwarzenegger’s get-out-the-vote operation may yet save Pombo, but we will go out on a limb and tap McNerney to win in an upset.

June 29, 2006 Update:

National Democrats had expected airline pilot Steve Filson to win the right to take on GOP Rep. Richard Pombo this fall, but instead, businessman Jerry McNerney, a favorite of liberal activists, swept the June 6th primary here handily. As is so often the case, the favorite of national insiders failed to gain in-district traction, and now the insiders will have to rally around the candidate they had snubbed at first.

Pombo can breathe a little bit easier now that he faces a decidedly liberal and poorly-funded opponent: McNerney’s largest support has come from fundamentally left groups such as MoveOn, and Pombo closed out the first quarter with over 12 times McNerney’s cash on hand. Still, Pombo’s biggest threat will likely not come directly from McNerney but rather will come in the form of a blistering independent expenditure campaign led by a cadre of environmental interest groups such as the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. These groups have loathed Pombo’s tenure as chair of the House Resources committee, and will spend freely to keep this district competitive. When all is said and done, we expect that more voters here will be voting AGAINST Pombo rather than FOR McNerney.


February 2006 Outlook:

Seven-term GOP Rep. Richard Pombo has carried this Stockton-based district easily for over a decade, but of late Democrats have accused him of ethics lapses and want very badly to target this seat in 2006. Although Pombo should easily dispatch liberal, anti-war Republican primary opponent former Rep. Pete McCloskey, his chief opposition for an eighth term is likely to be a Democrat: either former Top Gun Steve Filson, who has had the inside track to Washington support, or businessman Jerry McNerney, who has amassed considerable labor and grassroots backing in the district. Though a draining Democratic primary is possible, both Filson and McNerney would surely seek to take Pombo to task for alleged taxpayer-funded family vacations to national parks. Still, Pombo holds a huge fundraising advantage and will have all the resources he needs to rebut Democratic charges of impropriety.

Candidates

Richard Pombo (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $3,470,598.12 | Total Spent: $2,585,840.10
Website

Jerry McNerney – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,571,661.46 | Total Spent: $1,257,664.51
Website

California (26)

Outlook: Likely Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Rep. David Dreier (R) won reelection over Cynthia Matthews(D) with 57% of the vote.


Candidates

David Dreier (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $930,955.00 | Total Spent: $379,319.95

Cynthia Matthews – Democrat – Total Raised: $22,246.54 | Total Spent: $16,189.03

California (50) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Leans Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) won reelection over Francine Busby (D) with 54% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) will win reelection over Francine Busby (D). Is it possible that Busby could win this match-up against Bilbray the one time out of three she wasn’t really even trying? We doubt it, but the year is bad enough for the GOP to continue to keep an eye on the results here.

July 13, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Republican Brian Bilbray prevailed in the June 6th runoff, and Democratic contender Francine Busby has indicated she will run a lower-key campaign headed into November. If she couldn’t claim victory after running full speed ahead this summer, it’s difficult to see how she’ll be able to win running a half-hearted race in the fall.


March 2006 Background:

Unfavorable media attention rocked this suburban San Diego area district late last year when it was revealed that ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham had bought a new home $900,000 under market value and had accepted other grossly improper gifts from now-disgraced MZM head Mitchell Wade in exchange for delivering key contracts through a defense appropriations subcommittee. Following Cunningham’s surprise acknowledgment and emotional resignation from Congress, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called for an April 11th open primary and June 6th runoff, if necessary.

Unlike the special election held last year in the 48th District to the north in which the Republican field was fairly cut and dry, the special to be held in this similarly GOP-leaning district will feature a Republican free-for-all. Likely top party finishers on April 11th include State Sen. Bill Morrow, former neighboring Congressman Brian Bilbray, and former Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian.

Democrats locally and in Washington are hoping that their chances here will be aided by the sour taste Cunningham left in many voters’ mouths, and have coalesced around Francine Busby, a local college professor who took only 36 percent of the vote against the incumbent in 2004. Already, however, she has raised significantly more money than she spent all of last cycle, and she is sure to receive plenty of Democratic establishment help this time around, with all eyes on southern California. Special elections are apt to produce surprises every once in a while, but for now the eventual GOP nominee is favored in the June 6th runoff.

Candidates

Francine Busby – Democrat – Total Raised: $ 3,370,417.24| Total Spent: $3,076,287.00
Website

Brian Bilbray – Republican – Total Raised: $ 2,026,069.71| Total Spent: $2,104,615.77
Website

Colorado (03)

Outlook: Solid Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

Rep. John Salazar (D) won reelection over Scott Tipton(R) with 61% of the vote.

Update:

Rep. John Salazar has proven a strong fundraiser to date and continues to outpace his likely November rival, GOP official Scott Tipton, in the money chase. Even though Bush carried this district handily in 2004, some Republicans have grumbled about a slow start to Tipton’s campaign, and as a result it’s likely that this race has fallen down on both parties’ lists of priority contests somewhat. Though we still expect a competitive race here on the Western Slope, Salazar could well earn a lopsided margin for a second term, and we’ve taken this race out of the Dirty Thirty.


February 2006 Outlook:

The brothers Salazar were two of the few Democrats with reason to celebrate the results of the 2004 election, as Ken Salazar was elected to the Senate and John Salazar was elected to the House from this sprawling western Colorado district.

More recently, area Republicans have grumbled (only half-convincingly) that some voters were confused as to which Salazar they were voting for here in 2004, and they have vowed to take back this GOP-leaning district. Regional GOP Chair Scott Tipton looks to be the Republican nominee, but lags behind the incumbent Democrat in the money chase, holding only about a quarter of his target’s cash on hand. The early edge goes to Salazar (John, that is).

Candidates

John Salazar (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,939,487.51 | Total Spent: $1,645,475.47
Website

Scott Tipton – Republican – Total Raised: $529,945.92 | Total Spent: $704,360.63
Website

Colorado (04)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R) won reelction over Angie Paccione (D) with 46% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Angie Paccione (D) will unseat Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R). Musgrave has never performed as well as a Republican should in this district, and her staunch conservatism is probably the reason. Paccione has held her own in debates against Musgrave, berating her opponent’s focus on a federal marriage amendment, and if there’s any district the news of Pastor Haggard’s hypocrisy could affect, it’s this one. In this toxic year for Colorado Republicans, we think Paccione may well have the last-minute momentum to carry her across the finish line for the upset. But our sources tell us it’s tight as a tick, and we could easily be proven wrong.

July 13, 2006 Update:

There’s been no shortage of campaign drama in this northern Colorado district as of late. Fiery GOP Rep. Marilyn Musgrave’s office was the recipient of an especially unwelcome doorstep present last month: one anti-Musgrave activist (not affiliated with Democratic challenger state Rep. Angie Paccione’s campaign) left an envelope of dog feces in the office’s foyer. As much we’re tempted to place this race back into the Dirty Thirty in light of that episode alone, we’ll need to see some stronger fundraising numbers from Paccione before we believe this will be one of the top races to watch for a second cycle in a row.

Paccione is hoping that a fundraising visit this week by famous Florida widower Michael Schiavo will help close the money gap here, and we’re sure this district’s residents will be treated to plenty of escalated rhetoric here in the coming months as a consequence: Musgrave is one of the strongest social conservatives in the House.


February 2006 Outlook:

Two-term Rep. Marilyn Musgrave expected her incumbency to increase her initial 2002 winning percentage in 2004, but instead saw her margin cut in half in her rematch last year against veteran state Sen. Stan Matsunaka. Following her narrower-than-expected 51 to 45 percent win, Democrats smell blood in the water and may target this district once again in 2006.

Although this northern Colorado district’s politics are decidedly in her favor, the conservative Musgrave’s heavy focus on hot-button social issues in Congress has made her a favorite punching bag for Colorado Democrats, and this time around, she will be facing a different challenger. Democratic state Rep. Angie Paccione has announced her interntion to run against Musgrave, but for now, Musgrave still holds an advantage.

Candidates

Marilyn Musgrave (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,943,625.36 | Total Spent: $3,105,785.11
Website

Angie Paccione – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,540,080.39 | Total Spent: $1,314,607.61
Website

Eric Eidsness – Independent – Total Raised: N/A | Total Spent: N/A
Website

Colorado (05) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Leans Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Doug Lamborn (R) defeated Jay Fawcett (D) with 59% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Doug Lamborn (R) will defeat Jay Fawcett (D). Could the Haggard scandal depress fundamentalist evangelical turnout in its home base? It’s possible, but we believe Fawcett’s insurgency scared the GOP here into action in time for Election Day, and we would be very surprised to see this 66 percent GOP seat fall the way of the Democrats, though we know retiring Rep. Joel Hefley would not be all too disappointed to see it happen.


Candidates

Jay Fawcett – Democrat – Total Raised: $406,103.93 | Total Spent: $407,980.16
Website

Doug Lamborn – Republican – Total Raised: $681,078.25 | Total Spent: $702,024.18
Website

Colorado (06)

Outlook: Likely Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R) won reelection over Bill Winter (D) with 59% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R) will win reelection over Bill Winter (D). The rest of the nation has trouble understanding why this exurban Colorado district sends hardcore anti-immigration leader Tancredo to Washington every two years, but he remains popular at home. It’s a rough year for Colorado Republicans, and the Haggard scandal may depress GOP turnout slightly, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see Tancredo’s percentage fall to the mid-50’s.


Candidates

Tom Tancredo (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,548,951.10 | Total Spent: $1,379,599.41

Bill Winter – Democrat – Total Raised: $687,809.71 | Total Spent: $665,159.66

Colorado (07) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Ed Perlmutter (D) defeated Rick O’Donnell (R) with 55% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Ed Perlmutter (D) will defeat Rick O’Donnell (R). Democrats did a very good job at putting this district away early by painting O’Donnell as a far-out ideologue who once proposed doing away with Social Security. It’s likely that Perlmutter will prevail by more than a few points in what was originally supposed to be a tooth and nail fight to the finish.

August 9, 2006 Update:

In the end, the noisy primary fight between think tank executive Peggy Lamm and State Sen. Ed Perlmutter turned out to be somewhat of a rout at the polls. Perlmutter dominated Lamm by double-digits, and will have the next three months to consolidate support in his campaign against the anointed GOP nominee, Rick O’Donnell. The size of Perlmutter’s win indicates some good momentum, and while we are not ready to tag him the outright front-runner, we do give him the slightest of edges to pick up this swing district for the Democrats on Election Day.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Given the national political environment, this swing-district open seat has seemed ripe for Democrats’ picking since the start of the 2006 cycle. Still, the real fear here for Democrats is the fractious nomination battle between think tank executive Peggy Lamm and State Sen. Ed Perlmutter. Although Perlmutter banked twice Lamm’s total at the end of the first quarter, EMILY’s List and several other groups have committed to going to bat for Lamm, whose politically advantageous name has without a doubt given her assist in Colorado’s Democratic circles.

Meanwhile, waiting in the wings is GOP former state higher education official Rick O’Donnell, who has his party’s nomination all to himself and will have a full warchest from which to spend freely after Democrats select a nominee on August 8th. Democrats’ chances of a takeover here depend in large part on their eventual candidate’s ability to replenish campaign coffers and go on the offensive against O’Donnell quickly.


February 2006 Outlook:

Republican Rep. Bob Beauprez was the winner of the nation’s closest House race for a 2002 open seat, and he expanded his margin significantly in 2004. Now that he’s running for Colorado’s top executive job, this highly competitive seat–an extremely rare sight anywhere in the nation–in the northern Denver suburbs promises to host a very close contest in 2006.

With the exit of GOP Jefferson County Treasurer Mark Paschall from the race, state education official Rick O’Donnell, seen as a rising Republican star, appears to have the GOP nomination all to himself. Across the aisle, Peggy Lamm (sister-in-law of former CO Gov. Richard Lamm) and State Sen. Ed Perlmutter comprise the Democratic field, with Perlmutter receiving the lion’s share of establishment support thus far. In this, one of the nation’s few “fair fight” districts created in the last round of redistricting, all signs point to a photo finish come November.

Candidates

Ed Perlmutter – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,328,386.23 | Total Spent: $2,065,618.29
Website

Rick O’Donnell – Republican – Total Raised: $2,495,586.13 | Total Spent: $2,213,599.50
Website

Connecticut (02)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Joe Courtney (D) will unseat Rep. Rob Simmons (R). Remember where the closest House race was located in the 1994 GOP wave election? If you guessed eastern Connecticut, you’re a winner: Sam Gejdenson (D) “secured” a 21-vote victory over Ed Muenster that year. It’s entirely possible that a similar scenario will unfold yet again this year, and if we had to pick one Republican to survive in Connecticut, it would be Simmons. We’re going to go with Courtney, but it’s a pure guess.

August 12, 2006 Update:

GOP Rep. Rob Simmons is the Northeast’s textbook endangered GOP incumbent. There’s nothing particularly special about the races he and his challenger, former State Rep. Joe Courtney are running, but Simmons is simply a relatively likeable Republican incumbent running in a very heavily Democratic district in a heavily Democratic year. Simmons may receive a fundraising boost from a visit by George H.W. Bush (41), but it’s looking like a pure tossup at the moment.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Are moderate New England Republicans like Simmons (and fellow Connecticut Rep. Chris Shays) an endangered species in Congress? If 2006 produces a pro-Democratic wave even a third as swift as the 1994 GOP wave, districts such as this one will be among the first to change hands. Yes, GOP Rep. Rob Simmons is a skilled campaigner who played a role in saving an important submarine base in Groton from closure last year, but Democrat Joe Courtney is on pace to double his fundraising total from 2002 and continues to enjoy the advantage of running in a district that prefers Democratic candidates at the national level. For the moment, our gut tells us that Simmons will find a way to pull it out, but given the commitment expressed by Democrats this year to taking back this seat, the race has entered toss-up territory.


February 2006 Outlook:

Three-term GOP Rep. Rob Simmons has been a fixture on the national Democratic target list since he unseated Rep. Sam Gejdenson in 2000, and former Norwich city councilman Jim Sullivan came closest to taking the eastern Connecticut district back last year. Still, Sullivan received only 46 percent of the vote, and while Simmons faced an early scare this year when a critical sub base in the district was added to the Base Realignment and Closure commission’s hit list via the Pentagon’s recommendations, he is breathing easier these days now that BRAC commissioners voted to axe its closure at the eleventh hour.

The 2002 Democratic nominee, former State Rep. Joe Courtney, has declared a bid for the seat and will doubtless try to make hay out of Simmons’s ties to Rep. Tom DeLay throughout the race. He has also appeared to have gotten an earlier start on fundraising than he did in 2002, as his campaign reported $450,000 in the bank at the close of last year. But or now, Simmons, who has been careful to proclaim his independence from DeLay and other elements of his party’s leadership, remains the favorite.

Candidates

Joe Courtney (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,998,509.03 | Total Spent: $1,894,420.97
Website

Rob Simmons (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,583,549.31 | Total Spent: $2,025,444.77
Website

Connecticut (04)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Diane Farrell (D) will unseat Rep. Christopher Shays (R). This race may win the award for becoming the nation’s media darling for purposes of gauging voter attitudes about Iraq, but we believe Shays’ change of stance on the issue probably came too late to save his career as the top maverick of the GOP House conference.

September 22, 2006 Update:

Republican Christopher Shays has taken so many trips to Iraq lately that it’s a wonder he finds time to campaign in his Fairfield County district! And while the trips may enhance his expertise, it gives Democrat challenger Diane Farrell much more of an opportunity to drive home her case to the war is a mistake and a quagmire. Shays continues to be in grave danger of losing his seat.

June 29, 2006 Update:

It is the great irony of the current race to represent Connecticut’s 4th District: one of the House’s most knowledgeable members on the issue of Iraq is also the House’s most in danger of losing because of his position on the war.

There’s no doubt that Iraq has dominated this contest so far, with Democrat Diane Farrell staking out a clear anti-war stance and the incumbent maverick Republican Christopher Shays arguing for a full U.S. commitment to democratic transition in Iraq. Shays has always been regarded back home as a fierce independent, but as a Republican running for reelection in a liberal district and a Democratic year, he’s in for the fight of his life in 2006. At this point, we consider Shays the most endangered Connecticut Republican and this contest a pure toss-up.


February 2006 Outlook:

For all the talk of moderate Republicans’ endangered species status prior to the 2004 election, most had an easier than expected time winning reelection. But of the two Connecticut moderates who faced strong challenges last year, renegade Rep. Christopher Shays ended up with the narrower race, as he turned back a stiff challenge from Westport Selectwoman Diane Farrell by only 52 to 48 percent, the first time the campaign finance reform champion had fallen under the 60 percent mark in many years.

This year, Farrell is back for another race, and even though Shays demonstrated once again his willingness to break from his party by calling for the resignation of Rep. Tom DeLay back in April (and bragging about that call more recently), he is once again in for the race of his career. This Fairfield County-based district is one of the most Democratic seats in the nation still represented by a member of the GOP (albeit a nominal one). Still, Shays retains a strong local following and will most likely be able to count on the continued support of some liberal PACs. He has clearly not been asleep at the wheel, as he outraised Farrell 2 to 1 during the last fundraising quarter. While this race could easily move into the toss-up column as it heats up closer to November, we give Shays a tiny lead for now.

Candidates

Diane Farrell (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,702,570.23 | Total Spent: $2,238,427.70
Website

Christopher Shays (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $3,470,735.78 | Total Spent: $3,142,389.82
Website

Connecticut (05)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Chris Murphy (D) will unseat Rep. Nancy Johnson (R). Johnson recognized this challenge soon, and reacted toughly from the start. She has spent more money to defend this seat than nearly all incumbents, but her problem might be that she attacked Murphy too harshly in a recent ad; her caricature of Murphy going door-to-door sympathizing with drug dealers may have backfired, and we would be surprised to see her prevail against the former campaign manager of the woman who nearly beat her ten years ago.

September 26, 2006 Update:

With Republicans feeling the pressure for change in the House all across the nation, some are returning to common 2002 and 2004 election themes, such as national security. Rep. Nancy Johnson‘s campaign has released a graphic, new ad depicting her opponent Chris Murphy as “wrong on security, wrong for America”. Johnson believes she can overcome national trends with her huge financial edge and campaign savvy, but is obviously feeling the pressure of being an endangered Republican candidate in the 2006 House elections. Johnson’s campaign is one of the first tangible examples of acting on the advice on White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove to cast the midterm elections as a choice between a party with a “post-9/11 worldview” and one with a “pre-9/11 worldview.”

Clare Seekins, Crystal Ball Northeastern Regional Correspondent

July 13, 2006 Update:

Although it is hard to believe that this district was on very few pundits’ radar screens only half a year ago, it’s plain to see now that Democratic state Sen. Chris Murphy of Cheshire has emerged as one of the out-of-power party’s best hopes for defeating a well-entrenched House GOP moderate. The last time Murphy was this actively engaged in a race for Congress was ten years ago, when he was in his early twenties and served as campaign manager for Democratic challenger Charlotte Koskoff, who capitalized on a 1996 Democratic surge in the then-6th District to almost pull off a stunning upset against GOP Rep. Nancy Johnson.

Although it is unlikely Murphy will ever match the fundraising powerhouse Johnson dollar-for-dollar here, Murphy is holding his own, and will post a second quarter report pegging his total dollars raised for the cycle at over $1 million. Murphy’s camp finds further encouragement in a Democratic survey taken for his campaign this week showing him leading Johnson 46%-44%, within the poll’s margin of error. The Crystal Ball views those numbers with skepticism and believes Johnson is narrowly ahead, but this race is certainly well on its way to the Dirty Thirty. The 800-pound gorilla, of course, is the outcome of the Democratic primary race between Sen. Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont, and Johnson’s camp hopes a possible independent Lieberman candidacy would drive up turnout among moderate voters to her advantage. We’ll be sure to gauge this race again by August, but for now, Johnson retains the edge.

February 2, 2006 Update:

It’s true that GOP Rep. Nancy Johnson was quick to wrap herself in the shroud of “Connecticut for Lieberman” as soon as Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman announced his independent candidacy for Senate, but it’s not clear that the three-way Senate race is to Democratic state Sen. Chris Murphy’s detriment. After all, both Lieberman and democrat challenger Ned Lamont support Murphy, and will work to bring out Democratic voters in working class towns like Waterbury and New Britain. Can Johnson’s financial stockpile save her? In the end, it may be just enough, but we believe this will be a very close race.


February 2006 Outlook:

With over $2 million in campaign cash on hand, 12-term GOP Rep. Nancy Johnson boasts one of the largest House campaign warchests in the country. Still, Johnson sits in one of the most Democratic districts held by a Republican in the country, and though a moderate, she was almost defeated in the Democratic year of 1996 when activist Charlotte Koskoff came out of nowhere to hold the incumbent to 50 percent of the vote.

This year, Democrats have a credible and well-funded candidate in State Sen. Chris Murphy and are hoping to once again make this a close contest, but Republicans maintain that party ethics will actually be less of an issue this year for Johnson than it was in ten years ago. Johnson starts the race favored.

Candidates

Chris Murphy (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,179,020.52 | Total Spent: $1,837,458.12
Website

Nancy Johnson (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $3,506,494.95 | Total Spent: $4,253,924.54
Website

Florida (08)

Outlook: Likely Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Ric Keller (R) will win reelection over Charlie Stuart (D). Sure, Stuart received endorsements from several GOP officials and the Orlando-based district’s demographics are shifting in the Democrats’ favor, but Keller has won convincingly since his open seat victory six years ago, and does not look particularly vulnerable to a wave this year.


Candidates

Ric Keller (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,685,817.23 | Total Spent: $1,010,869.22
Website

Charlie Stuart – Democrat – Total Raised: $869,976.90 | Total Spent: $678,173.17
Website

Florida (09) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Likely Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Gus Bilirakis (R) will defeat Phyllis Busansky (D). Busansky turned out to be one of the Democrats’ better open seat fundraisers of 2006, but this race never really materialized as a takeover opportunity akin to the one we now see in the 13th District to the South. Thanks to solid name recognition and a solid GOP bent, this seat looks likely to stay in the Bilirakis family.

September 7, 2006 Update:

Septmebr 7, 2006 Update:

As expected, incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Bilirakis‘s son, State Representative Gus Bilirakis, proved he was his party’s favorite son in the September 5th Florida primary, winning a convincing 82 percent of the vote against a lone opponent. For the younger Bilirakis, that was the easy part.

Now, the new GOP nominee faces a stiffer than expected challenge from an EMILY’s List-backed Democrat, Hillsborough County Commissioner Phyllis Busansky, to capture the seat his father has held for five terms. Busansky starts out the general election campaign with more money in the bank than plenty of other Democratic candidates running for open seats, but Bilirakis has name identification and the district’s political profile on his side.

So in all likelihood come November 7th: meet the new Bilirakis, same as the old Bilirakis.


Candidates

Phyllis Busansky – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,133,293.06 | Total Spent: $1,125,884.80
Website

Gus Bilirakis – Republican – Total Raised: $2,495,558.62 | Total Spent: $1,563,027.04
Website

Florida (13) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Christine Jennings (D) will defeat Vern Buchanan (R). Attacks on Buchanan’s business dealings have likely taken too great a toll on the self-funding Republican, as most surveys show Jennings with a clear lead heading into the homestretch. Jennings has run a solid campaign, while Buchanan never seemed to recover from the tough GOP primary.

September 8, 2006 Update:

It’s hard to tell which party’s primary spilled the most bad blood in this Sarasota/Bradenton-area district, but it’s over, and the head-to-head race is on to succeed two-term GOP Rep. Katherine Harris, whom Republicans somehow selected as their Senate nominee despite her many well-publicized faux-pas.

On the Republican side, heavily self-funding car dealer Vern Buchanan captured just under a third of all votes, but at an astounding burn rate of nearly $200 per vote(!), his spending spree was just enough to squeeze out four competitors to win the necessary plurality. The best line of the primary fight undoubtedly came from surprise runner-up State Rep. Nancy Detert, who remarked in exasperation, “Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to pay us each to get out of the race?”

With the primary behind him, Buchanan now faces heads-up competition against Democratic banker Christine Jennings, who advanced to the general election by defeating 2002 and 2004 party nominee Jan Schneider. With a large financial advantage and the endorsement of national Democrats, Jennings posted a solid 62 to 38 percent win. Democrats here finally got smart: they realized that an under-funded candidate with the dubious distinction of being a two-time loser to Katherine Harris probably didn’t represent their best chance at winning this open seat.

Still, the primary participation numbers here tell us something about what we might expect in November. Republicans showed up to vote in the primary in much larger numbers than Democrats: 64,630 to 38,401 to be exact. Jennings and her party must improve their base’s participation vastly in this GOP-leaning district if she is to have any chance of making this race close in November.

August 2, 2006 Update:

When one prominent blog labeled Sarasota as the nation’s craziest district, the Crystal Ball couldn’t help but agree. Incumbent Katherine Harris’s Senate bid has been the laughingstock of the campaign world for ages, but now GOP contender Tramm Hudson’s statements casting doubt on the swimming abilities of African-Americans has only confirmed the district’s reputation. We bet car dealer Vern Buchanan will win the Republican nod, but with a late Florida primary, we cannot rule out Democrat Christine Jennings, who has been eagerly waiting in the wings.

July 13, 2006 Update:

This Sarasota-area district retains a strong Republican bent and a wide range of well-funded GOP contenders to fill the open seat, and Democratic hopes of keeping the fall contest competitive continue to be pinned on a bloody battle for the opposing nod, which now features a late entrant: Manatee County GOP Chair Mike Flanagan, who recently released a poll showing him atop the field. If the eventual primary winner sustains serious damage in the nomination prizefight, look for the DCCC to make a major play here on behalf of Democratic banker Christine Jennings.

Our question for November: will outgoing GOP Rep. Katherine Harris’s campaign become such a debacle that her candidacy begins to weigh down her party’s chances of holding this seat? That’s the nightmare scenario for Republicans here, though we still peg Jennings a considerable underdog. Look for either Flanagan, Hudson, or Buchanan to emerge from the GOP pack on September 12th.


February 2006 Outlook:

Controversial GOP Rep. Katherine Harris‘s decision to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson this year has created a crowded race to succeed her in this fast-growing, Sarasota-based district. Although the seat’s constituents cast 56 percent of their votes for Bush in 2004, Harris failed to break past 55 percent of the vote in both of her campaigns.

Top Republican hopefuls include auto dealer Vern Buchanan, county GOP Chair Tramm Hudson, and State Rep. Nancy Detert. Buchanan’s ability to self-fund a campaign may prove an attractive asset for GOP primary voters, but the nomination is genuinely up for grabs. Democrats will host a replay of their 2004 primary, but this time will likely nominate local banker Christine Jennings, who backers say would present a stronger general election candidacy in 2006 than rival Jan Schneider did against Harris in each of 2002 and 2004. If the crowded GOP primary advances a weakened, cash-strapped candidate to the general election this year, Democrats could have a reasonable shot at making this “swing” district truly competitive. For now, Republicans maintain the edge.

Candidates

Christine Jennings – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,044,953.65 | Total Spent: $1,878,056.65
Website

Vern Buchanan – Republican – Total Raised: $5,004,365.90 | Total Spent: $5,926,097.74
Website

Florida (16)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Tim Mahoney (D) will defeat Joe Negron (R). A recent trip to Florida convinced us: if either one of the “post-scandal special ballot circumstances” districts (this one and Tom DeLay’s TX-22) sees a surprise GOP upset, the Crystal Ball bets Negron will prevail. Still, even though we give Negron’s campaign the award for best slogan of the 2006 campaign–“Punch Foley for Joe”–we’ll bet the stigma of Foley’s name on the ballot will leave Negron just short of an upset victory in 2006. If that happens, we’ll be looking forward to the Mahoney-Negron rematch in 2008.

October 3, 2006 Update:

A unique and unprecedented situation has arisen following the resignation of Congressman Mark Foley from Florida’s 16th District seat. Recently, ABC news reported vile and lewd conversations Foley had participated in over the internet with a teenaged boy serving as a House page. The Republican Party has found a replacement in Joe Negron, a state Representative who now faces a quick-fire five week campaign against Democrat Tim Mahoney. Foley’s name will remain on the ballot, which has raised the issue of voter confusion. GOp leaders maintain their confidence in the minimal effects of the scandal on the outcome of this specific election as well as on the reputation of the Republican Party in general. Surveys, however, do not entirely support this notion–a recent poll by Constituent Dynamics, released October 1, informed respondents that a vote for Foley’s name is in actuality a vote for Rep. Negron; Foley/Negron received 46 percent of the support and Moheney notched 49 percent. This slight discrepancy is contrasted with a September 19 poll, showing Foley with an 18 point advantage over Mahoney.

Clare Seekins, Crystal Ball Northeast Regional Correspondent


Candidates

Mark Foley (I) – Republican – Second Quarter Raised: $627,754.92 | Cash on Hand: $2,913,304.24
Website

Tim Mahoney – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,115,147.46 | Total Spent: $1,400,297.98
Website

Florida (22)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Ron Klein (D) will unseat Rep. Clay Shaw (R). This race will go down as one of the most expensive of 2006, and both men have run impressive and vigorous campaigns. We’ll bet Klein prevails in this Democratic year and sends Shaw into retirement two years early.

October 3, 2006 Update:

Many elderly, devoted Republican voters are changing their votes this upcoming election, citing the Medicare Perscription Benefit. The issue that once caused quite an uproar, was quieted by the participation of many senior citizens. But now millions of other older Americans are confronting an interruption in their drug coverage that will require them to pay the full cost of their prescriptions–or go without. Many are reaching their annual spending budgets, called the “doughnut hole” fairly early into the year, resulting in thousands of dollars of out of pocket costs, or dealing with severe health risks or symptoms. This backlash is likely to hurt Shaw and provide a boost for Klein.

Clare Seekins, Crystal Ball Northeast Regional Correspondent

August 10, 2006 Update:

As Democrats have continued to gain strength nationally, so has Democratic State Sen. Ron Klein, who is poised to give GOP Rep. Clay Shaw his closest race since 2000. Klein is a well-financed and skillful Democrat in a Kerry-carried district, and though Shaw is no slouch, it’s now anyone’s guess as to who will prevail on Election Day.

June 29, 2006 Update:

It is only June, but we can already be sure that this will be the most costly House race in the nation. Both candidates, Democratic State Sen. Ron Klein and longtime incumbent GOP Rep. Clay Shaw, are on a fundraising tear, and Klein’s total is tops among all House challengers. Shaw has been able to count on crossover support in the past in this South Florida district, but Klein’s tenacity is edging this race ever closer to the toss-up column.


February 2006 Outlook:

Democrats are hoping that 13 is GOP Rep. Clay Shaw‘s unlucky number: after 13 terms representing a marginal South Florida district, Shaw has another very competitive race on his hands in 2006, this time against Democratic State Sen. Leader Ron Klein. If Democrats want to take control of the House, we consider this a must-win.

While Shaw has not faced a very strong challenge since winning reelection by less than 1,000 votes against State Sen. Elaine Bloom in 2000, Klein has proven to be one of the Democrats’ best recruits of the cycle. A good friend of next-door neighbor Rep. Robert Wexler (D), Klein is a strong fundraiser (one of the few non-incumbents with over $1 million in the bank as of the last reporting period) and plans to take Shaw to task for Shaw’s approach to Social Security reform here in one of the most senior-heavy districts in the country. Although 2002 redistricting carved Shaw more favorable turf, Kerry still held a 51 to 49 percent edge here in 2004, and Klein already represents a good chunk of the 22nd’s residents in the state’s upper chamber. For his part, Shaw won a convincing 63 percent of the vote last time around, and even though lung surgery has made his health somewhat of an issue in the news recently, the veteran insists he’s up for a tough campaign and remains the slight favorite to win a 14th term, rumored to be his last.

Candidates

Clay Shaw (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $3,979,182.74 | Total Spent: $3,514,308.67
Website

Ron Klein – Democrat – Total Raised: $3,552,321.98 | Total Spent: $3,562,318.52
Website

Georgia (08)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Democrat Jim Marshall won re-election over Republican Mac Collins with 51% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Jim Marshall (D) will win reelection over Mac Collins (R). Despite the new district’s shape, Collins has not succeeded in moving the race in his favor. Both candidates are established figures in the region, but Marshall’s moderate reputation and incumbency favor his reelection. The real comeback race seems to be to the East, in the 12th District.

August 23, 2006 Update:

Democrats continue to insist that Democratic Rep. Jim Marshall is strong, but numerous high-profile Republicans continue to help Former GOP Rep. Mac Collins raise money. Is the GOP grasping at straws, desperately hoping that at least one incumbent Democrat can be forced out this year? Or do they sense genuine opportunity? We’re not sure, but it’s hard to believe Marshall would lose this year after a near 2-1 victory last cycle.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Former GOP Rep. Mac Collins is taking his congressional comeback bid more seriously than his ill-fated run for Senate in 2004, but he probably couldn’t have picked a worse year to challenge an incumbent Democrat. The new dynamics of the reconfigured district remain the “x-factor” in this race, but Rep. Jim Marshall remains the favorite to win a third term.


February 2006 Outlook:

Now that a new pro-GOP Georgia districting plan is in effect, Republicans are eager to make a major play for this Middle Georgia seat. Although former Macon mayor and Democratic Rep. Jim Marshall has twice defeated GOP Bibb County official Calder Clay here, he has done so in a very heavily gerrymandered district.

In the revamped 3rd, Marshall finds himself in a district more centered on his base of Macon, but more significantly, the new seat is 7 percent less African-American. He also must now contend with a challenge from popular former GOP Rep. Mac Collins, whose Butts County home has been freshly drawn into the seat but whose previous district did not share all that much overlap with the newly mapped 3rd. Collins has reportedly missed serving in Congress since unsuccessfully mounting a Senate bid last year, and now that he has announced his intention to run, he is sure to give Marshall a run for his money. Speaking of money, Collins notably out-raised the incumbent by over $100,000 in the fourth quarter of 2005.

Although Marshall is an able politician, and a survivor, his survivor skills will be put to the ultimate test in a battle with Collins. Nonetheless, Marshall’s impressive 63 percent victory in 2004 is evidence that he has solidified himself somewhat in the area, and he begins the year with a slight upper hand.

Candidates

Jim Marshall (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,661,551.83 | Total Spent: $1,307,293.06
Website

Mac Collins – Republican – Total Raised: $1,875,276.93| Total Spent: $1,518,739.10
Website

Georgia (12)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. John Barrow (D) will win reelection over Max Burns (R). If the Crystal Ball had to pick one race in the country to be a GOP pickup on Election Night, this would be it. Burns has run a highly aggressive and effective campaign against the man who unseated him two years ago in a slightly more Democratic district, Georgia looks to be an exception to the national Democratic wave, and even independent observers acknowledge that a recent Bush rally here turned the tide in his favor. Democrats here express genuine concern about Barrow’s ability to draw black voters to the polls in a non-presidential election year and worry that the substitution of rural counties for Barrow’s liberal base of Athens in re-redistricting will work to his detriment. We cannot bring ourselves to bet against a Democratic incumbent who has fought back ably as Barrow has, but we would not be at all surprised to see Burns reclaim his seat tomorrow.

September 9, 2006 Update:

Democratic Rep. John Barrow may now call Savannah (and not Athens) his home, but little about this race has changed over the last year. GOP Rep. Max Burns remains the considerable underdog.

June 29, 2006 Update:

This race has been quiet, and even though the uncertainty caused by the Georgia remap keeps this race in the Dirty Thirty, it’s still hard to see how former GOP Rep. Max Burns is going to overcome his deficit from two years ago in today’s less favorable political environment.


February 2006 Outlook:

Democratic Rep. John Barrow came to Congress in 2005 after ousting GOP Rep. Max Burns, who had won in a surprise upset in 2002 after defeating a scandal-tarred Democrat in the then-newly created 12th District. Now that state legislators have reconfigured boundaries for the second time this decade, lopping off Barrow’s base of Clarke County in the northern end of the district, the freshman incumbent will be campaigning for reelection in plenty of new territory.

Burns’s decision to seek a rematch will assure that this Savannah-to-Augusta seat receives national attention and money in 2006. Even in spite of the office staff shakeups that took place during his tenure in the House, Burns will be a formidable challenger, and he significantly outraised the incumbent Barrow in the final quarter of 2005. But while Barrow’s efforts have been complicated in some respects by the repositioning of the district and the loss of his liberal, college-town base of Athens, he can take heart the fact that the new 12th contains a higher percentage of black voters than the old 12th did. If Barrow’s campaign can take advantage of that shift and turn out base Democratic voters in a midterm election, his prospects for winning a second term will remain bright. This Kerry-carried Georgia seat leans to the Democrats.

Candidates

John Barrow (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,185,949.89| Total Spent: $1,421,793.86
Website

Max Burns – Republican – Total Raised: $1,875,944.33| Total Spent: $1,437,970.76
Website

Iowa (01) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted Bruce Braley (D) defeated Mike Whalen (R) with 55% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Bruce Braley (D) will defeat Mike Whalen (R). Both men have impressed us in debates and frankly, for unelected officials, both strike us as some of the better candidates running for Congress this year. That said, this district is fundamentally Democratic, and we would be surprised to see Whalen hold it for his party tomorrow.

September 12, 2006 Update:

In this Democratic-leaning district, one of the more urban in Iowa, the political winds are favoring Democratic attorney Bruce Braley as the election cycle nears the homestretch. But Republican resaurateur Mike Whalen is getting plenty of high-profile help and support from GOP presidential hopefuls eager to meet future caucus-goers, and we’re not ready to move this race out of the tossup column quite yet.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Republican restaurateur Mike Whalen and Democratic attorney Bruce Braley won their respective party primaries on June 6th, and will face off in a general election sure to be one of the nation’s closest. We’d guess the fundamental Democratic lean of this district will advantage Braley in November, but we’ll first have to see how successful Republicans are at painting him as a liberal trial lawyer out of step with this northeastern Iowa district.


February 2006 Outlook:

Republican Rep. Jim Nussle‘s long-awaited bid for governor has left this Democratic-leaning Northeast Iowa district open, producing competitive primaries on each side. Both parties’ nomination battles are likely to be highly regionalized affairs, and national party committees are wisely staying above the fray for now.

On the Democratic side, Iowa Trial Lawyers Association head Bruce Braley and Dubuque area redevelopment officer Rick Dickinson are the favorites over former State Sen. Bill Gluba, who has contested this district twice before unsuccessfully. Braley has been especially successful courting donations from networks of his fellow trial attorneys around the state.

On the Republican side, State Rep. Bill Dix, consultant Brian Kennedy, and hotelier Mike Whalen are all actively vying for the nomination, with Dix perhaps taking an early lead as the leading fundraiser of the pack. This race is almost certain to go down to the wire in November 2006, though Republicans will certainly hammer Braley for his active trial lawyer leadership if he emerges from the Democratic field. For now, this is a pure toss-up.

Candidates

Bruce Braley (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,942,317.11 | Total Spent: $1,600,983.73
Website

Mike Whalen – Republican – Total Raised:$1,324,752.53 | Total Spent:$1,658,277.22
Website

Iowa (02)

Outlook: Leans Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Dave Loebsack (D) defeated Rep. Jim Leach (R) with 51% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Jim Leach (R) will win reelection over Dave Loebsack (D). Leach’s problem isn’t a strong challenger; it’s the fact that he is a perennially uninterested fundraiser in one of the most Democratic districts in the country still held by a Republican. College professor Loebsack has received some considerable grassroots support, but we pick the moderate Leach to win yet another term by at least several points.


Candidates

Jim Leach (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $446,725.45 | Total Spent: $471,291.30

David Loebsack – Democrat – Total Raised: $365,313.34 | Total Spent:$330,001.57

Iowa (03)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) won reelection over Jeff Lamberti (R) with 52% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) will win reelection over Jeff Lamberti (R). The greatest obstacle to reelection for Boswell over the course of this cycle has been his health, but he has run an energetic campaign this fall and we simply doubt Lamberti will be able to topple him in a Democratic year.

September 8, 2006 Update:

The chatter about Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell’s health has reduced considerably, and the incumbent has been making regular appearances on the trail as of late. Still, GOP State Sen Jeff Lamberti remains one of the GOP’s best candidates this cycle, and national Republicans continue to be committed to keeping this a competitive race.

June 29, 2006 Update:

GOP State Sen. Jeff Lamberti continues to run a strong campaign against the national tide in this central Iowa district, outraising incumbent Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell nearly 2-1 so far this year. Boswell’s health seems to have improved since our last writing, but it is unclear whether he will be able to run the kind of energetic race he needs to in order to fully escape danger this year. As Democratic incumbents go, Boswell is a rare target for the national GOP in 2006.


February 2006 Outlook:

Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell has held this district ably since 1996, although Iowa’s capital of Des Moines was only added to the seat in 2002’s round of redistricting. Boswell’s moderate profile and farming and veteran roots have served him well electorally, and he has dispatched several challenges from Republican Stan Thompson with fairly comfortable margins in the last two cycles.

In 2006, Boswell will face a credible challenger in State Sen. Jeff Lamberti, who has already been campaigning for many months. But an equally tough obstacle to reelection for the incumbent may be his health. Boswell, 71, was in the hospital for several weeks recently for surgery to remove an “abdominal mass,” which has led more than a few Iowan observers to question whether he is still up to the job. Only recently has he returned to daily congressional work, and the ailing Boswell was narrowly out-raised by his GOP foe during the last period of 2005. Still, Boswell, who flies his own plane around the district, retains a solid cash-on-hand advantage heading into the election year and remains the favorite to win a sixth term in Washington.

Candidates

Leonard Boswell (I) – Democrat – Total Spent: $1,928,263.51 | Cash on Hand: $1,795,682.95
Website

Jeff Lamberti – Republican – Total Raised: $1,493,537.05 | Total Spent: $1,457,963.89
Website

Idaho (01) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Bill Sali (R) defeated Larry Grant (D) with 50% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Larry Grant (D) will defeat Bill Sali (R). We recognize we are going severely against the grain in our prediction here, but we sense that the time is right for Idaho to finally elect a Democrat to, well, something. The mild-mannered Grant has used words from Sali’s enemies within the GOP to great effect in television advertisements, and the polls continue to show many voters undecided. To win, Grant would have to run up the score in northern Idaho and Boise to offset 80 percent-performing GOP areas around Boise, but if there’s any year this would happen, it would be 2006. Sali’s Club for Growth conservatism has turned off many in his party, and we could easily be proven wrong if the GOP base comes home on Election Day, but what the heck, we’ll pick the major upset anyway. What’s life without a few major risks?


Candidates

Larry Grant – Democrat – Total Raised: $ 448,248.06| Total Spent: $490,485.12
Website

Bill Sali – Republican – Total Raised: $904,166.01 | Total Spent: $858,145.98
Website

Illinois (06) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Peter Roskam (R) defeated Tammy Duckworth (D) with 51% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Tammy Duckworth (D) will defeat Peter Roskam (R). The late trend-line in this long-deadlocked race is slightly in Duckworth’s favor, and it’s clear her personal story and credibility on Iraq has offset the district’s fundamental Republican lean. Roskam could still pull it out, but we’ll say it’s Duckworth by a smidgen.

September 22, 2006 Update:

In wave elections, open seats are always among the first to change hands, and this fast-changing suburban Chicago district has become a prime Democratic opportunity. State Sen. Peter Roskam’s financial edge might meet its match in the strong Democratic wind at Democratic nominee Tammy Duckworth’s back. It’s now a tossup.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Democratic nominee Tammy Duckworth’s win over primary rival Christine Cegelis was much narrower than DCCC Chair and neighboring Rep. Rahm Emanuel would have liked, but as long as she remains a media darling, she will stay competitive against the GOP’s anointed candidate, State Sen. Peter Roskam. Roskam, who has three times Duckworth’s cash on hand, continues to be the favorite in this open seat contest.


February 2006 Outlook:

Sixteen-term Rep. Henry Hyde has been one of the most senior Republicans on Capitol Hill for some time now, and his decision to retire in 2006 at age 82 guarantees a lively race for his open seat. Although it is one of the most solidly Republican seats in the state, this DuPage County-based district has been trending away from the GOP in recent years, and Hyde saw his reelection percentage dip to 56 percent in 2004 against an underfunded challenger, Democrat Christine Cegelis.

With Hyde out, GOP State Sen. Peter Roskam is perceived somewhat as Hyde’s heir to the party’s nomination and has already raised over $800,000 for the race. But Democrats aren’t ready to concede this district without a fight, and DCCC Chair/neighboring 5th District Rep. Rahm Emanuel has focused considerable attention on making sure this seat is competitive come November. Unimpressed by 2004 nominee Cegelis’s fundraising, he recently recruited Iraq veteran Tammy Duckworth to join Cegelis in the Democratic field. Duckworth, who lost both her legs in Iraq, led her party’s field in 2005 fourth quarter fundraising despite her late entrance into the race, and begins the primary race the favorite despite lingering local party support for Cegelis. If Democrats have a strong national wind at their backs in November, a close race can be expected here, though we give Roskam a solid edge at the outset.

Candidates

Tammy Duckworth – Democrat – Total Raised:$3,220,209.62 | Total Spent:$2,761,242.99
Website

Peter Roskam – Republican – Total Raised: $2,591,955.53 | Total Spent:$2,398.722.86
Website

Illinois (08)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Rep. Melissa Bean (D) won reelection over David McSweeney (R) with 51% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Melissa Bean (D) will win reelection over David McSweeney (R). Republicans complain that the survey data in this race has left out anti-war Independent Bill Scheurer, but Bean’s lead on the average has been large enough that we don’t think Scheurer’s impact will be enough to matter. She has made all the right moves in this moderate-to-conservative district, and we believe she will win a second term by several points.

August 23, 2006 Update:

Although Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean’s Chamber of Commerce endorsement is remarkable considering her party affiliation, we’re still not ready to peg her as the clear favorite two win this race. Dave McSweeney is an aggressive campaigner who has adequately deflected rumors that he was cozy with Enron officials, and he is aided somewhat by the presence of a liberal independent candidate on the ballot.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean is clearly a fundraising dynamo, and Republican nominee Dave McSweeney continues to be hampered by reports of old ties to disgraced Enron official Andrew Fastow, but the Crystal Ball can’t forget that Bean didn’t win this seat in 2004 so much as longtime GOP Rep. Phil Crane lost it. We give perhaps the tiniest edge to Bean in November (incumbency matters!), but we’re not ready to move this out of the toss-up column.


February 2006 Outlook:

Let there be no mistake about it: Democratic freshman Rep. Melissa Bean was elected to Congress last year because of former GOP Rep. Phil Crane‘s giant missteps. And in Illinois’s wealthiest and most Republican district, Bean needs all the breaks she can get if she wants to win reelection in 2006.

Off the bat, one particularly big break Bean could receive might be a fractured GOP field. Bean has been well aware of the target on her back from day one and has been fundraising accordingly, but Republican banker David McSweeney and social conservative Kathy Salvi are setting out to prove that she’s representing this district on borrowed time. Salvi, who picked up an endorsement from recent GOP field drop-out Teresa Bartels, will likely spend freely of her personal resources to attempt to capture the Republican nomination.

To further complicate matters, Bean has drawn the ire of organized labor for being one of only a handful of Democrats to vote in favor of CAFTA earlier this year. The extent to which union interests might be able to exact revenge at the ballot box remains unclear, however, given that this is one of the least blue-collar seats in America.

Currently, it’s anybody’s race, though as with Indiana 9, incumbency matters. A favorite New Yorker cartoon of ours had one professor confiding to another, while pointing to a third, “There goes Professor Smith, whose weak scholarship is balanced by his mighty tenure.” The congressional equivalent here is, “There goes Congresswoman Bean, whose weak political position is balanced by her mighty incumbency.”

Candidates

Melissa Bean (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $3,701,111.48 | Total Spent: $3,594,729.04
Website

Dave McSweeney – Republican – Total Raised:| Total Spent:
Website

Illinois (10)

Outlook: Leans Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Rep. Mark Kirk (R) won reelection over Dan Seals (D) with 53% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Mark Kirk (R) will win reelection over Dan Seals (D). If there’s a moderate GOP incumbent in the Land of Lincoln that knows how to win in a tough year, it is Kirk, but even Republicans admit Seals’ challenge has been stronger than expected. We still pick Kirk to win, but he will likely see his margin cut to the smallest it has been since his first victory in 2000 over Lauren Beth Gash.


Candidates

Mark Kirk (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,954,713.00 | Total Spent: $2,245,005.00
Website

Dan Seals – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,429,541.00 | Total Spent: $1,240,842
Website

Illinois (17) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Solid Democratic


November 6, 2006 Update:

Phil Hare (D) defeated Andrea Zinga (R) with 53% of the vote.

Update:

Democratic Rep. Lane Evans’s late decision not to seek reelection as a consequence of his ongoing battle against Parkinson’s Disease prompted a hasty post-primary ballot replacement battle within his party, and Evans aide Phil Hare prevailed over a down-district state senator and the mayor of Rock Island among others with his boss’s blessing. Hare now faces 2004 GOP nominee Andrea Zinga in the general election.

Though Evans has gotten his way so far in hand-picking a successor, the Crystal Ball knows that voters often react to such late-in-the-game ballot switches with skepticism. Zinga, who only narrowly won her primary, has raised a respectable cash total, and will surely seek to paint Hare as an unworthy insider. Still, this Quad Cities to Springfield district is one of the most grotesque pro-Democratic gerrymanders in the country, and Hare is heavily favored to win if he avoids making serious mistakes.


May 2006 Outlook:

Congressman Lane Evans has announced that he will not seek reelection in 2006, and the race is on to replace him in this Democratic leaning district.

Candidates

Phil Hare – Democrat – Total Raised: $692,854 | Total Spent: $482,791
Website

Andrea Zinga – Republican – Total Raised: $394,153 | Total Spent: $262,837
Website

Indiana (02)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Joe Donnelly (D) unseated Rep. Chris Chocola (R) with 54% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Joe Donnelly (D) will unseat Rep. Chris Chocola (R). If there’s one candidate in the country who could still win after never having led in a single poll all election cycle, it’s Chris Chocola. We hear his get-out-the-vote operation is strong, but in the end, we believe that the double whammy of severe state AND federal GOP unpopularity-not to mention local controversies over time zones and toll roads-will be too much for Chocola to overcome. We believe Donnelly will prevail in a closer-than-expected race.

September 28, 2006 Update:

Joe Donnelly‘s lead over incumbent Republican Congressman Chris Chocola continues to grow. The Chocola campaign obviously knows that the incumbent is in trouble as they have requested five debates, Donnelly has only agreed to three. Chocola has benefited from campaigning with President Bush in the past; however, issues such as the Iraq war are very unpopular in the 2nd District. Will an October visit by First Lady Laura Bush succeed in reminding voters of why they should re-elect the congressman without evoking negative feelings associated with her husband and the war?

Meredith Ramsey, Crystal Ball Midwestern Regional Correspondent

July 13, 2006 Update:

GOP Rep. Chris Chocola has earned a reputation as one of his caucus’s strongest campaigners, and it’s sure to help his cause in a year when his party’s governor is unpopular and Democrats are hoping a wave will wash away conservative incumbents in marginal districts such as this one. If Democrats can’t put his seat in play this year, they may never be able to. So far, Chocola has outraised Democratic challenger Joe Donnelly impressively, and remains a solid favorite in November.

February 16, 2006 Update:

Should the Crystal Ball buy into both of the polls showing Democratic challenger Joe Donnelly with a lead over GOP Rep. Chis Chocola? Considering Chocola’s significant political skills, we’re hard-pressed to label him ripe for defeat, but it’s possible GOP fortunes are especially headed south in South Bend. We’ll be watching this one closely.


February 2006 Outlook:

Sophomore GOP Rep. Chris Chocola has still not broken 55 percent of the vote in this South Bend-area district, and Democratic businessman Joe Donnelly is following up on his 45 percent showing in 2004 with another run this year. Chocola, however, has not been one to rest on his laurels, and works his district hard. It will take a major Democratic tide to make this race close.

Candidates

Joe Donnelly (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,333,572 | Total Spent: $1,096,081
Website

Chris Chocola (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,955,623 | Total Spent: $2,496,120
Website

Indiana (03)

Outlook: Likely Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted Rep. Mark Souder (R) won reelection over Tom Hayhurst (D) with 54% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Mark Souder (R) will win reelection over Tom Hayhurst (D). This Fort Wayne-based district emerged on Democrats’ radar screen very late in the cycle, but the toxic political environment for Indiana Republicans led more than a few strategists to wonder if more GOP targets in the Hoosier State couldn’t be identified. Souder has won with solid margins in this solidly GOP district, but his win percentage could be cut substantially in this year’s race against the veteran and local official Hayhurst.


Candidates

Mark Souder (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $396,117 | Total Spent: $357,387
Website

Thomas Hayhurst – Democrat – Total Raised: $639,086 | Total Spent: $563,346
Website

Indiana (07)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Rep. Julia Carson (D) won reelection over Eric Dickerson (R) with 54% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Julia Carson (D) will win reelection over Eric Dickerson (R). We didn’t add this district to our list in response to any polls that emerged recently showing the race to be close; we added it because national Democrats’ anxieties in response led them to mount an attack mail piece against Dickerson that some speculators in the district found to contain over-the-top allegations against his personal history. Carson has consistently underperformed in this reliably Democratic district, and if Indiana voters are in a “throw the bums out” mood tomorrow, her margin of victory could drop to the high single digits.


Candidates

Indiana (08)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Brad Ellsworth (D) unseated Rep. John Hostettler (R) with 61% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Brad Ellsworth (D) will unseat Rep. John Hostettler (R). A non-traditional campaigner who has always squeaked by through word of mouth and on a shoestring budget, Hostettler has finally met his match in Ellsworth. The national GOP’s abandonment of Hostettler may be intended to make a national example out of Ellsworth; the message is: if you do not fundraise for yourself, do not expect us to come in and save you.

September 28, 2006 Update:

Rep. Josh Hostettler was swept into Congress as part of the 1994 Republican Revolution, could a similar political climate that is hostile to the Republicans carry him out of office? The latest poll shows Hostettler trailing his opponent by 15 points with 16 percent of the 8th District’s electorate undecided. The NRCC has discounted the merits of the poll and have instead focused on a poll conducted earlier in the month which shows Hostettler trailing by 4 points which is within the margin of error. Nevertheless, a large portion of the 8th District’s electorate remains undecided just over a month out from Election Day.

Will Brad Ellsworth‘s professional campaign coupled with the unpopularity of the president be enough to defeat Hostettler’s “Mayberry-styled” family campaign. In the past Hostettler has relied heavily on funding from the national GOP and this year is proving no different. The two candidates will face off in a debate on October 4th. Ellsworth and Hostettler are both socially conservative but diverge on economic issues. Hostettler did not vote in favor of the Iraq War but has voted to give the military the necessary resources to wage the war.

Meredith Ramsey, Crystal Ball Midwestern Regional Correspondent

June 29, 2006 Update:

Democrats continue to be giddy about the candidacy of Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth, but the question now is whether he can weather allegations that his sheriff’s department was negligent in accidentally releasing a convicted child molester. Ellsworth has thus far not directly responded to the ads the NRCC has run on the subject, but we’ll have to judge this dust-up’s staying power before coming to any new conclusions about this southern Indiana shootout.

April 12, 2006 Update:

Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth might be the favorite in this race by now if it weren’t for the fact that national Republicans now have a plausible crime script to use against him. Depending on whom you believe, Ellsworth has been asleep at his prison’s gate or GOP Rep. John Hostettler has been sucking the taxpayers dry for his own salary. Welcome to the Bloody Eighth, tossup-ville 2006!


February 2006 Outlook:

Southwest Indiana’s notorious “Bloody 8th” has seen its fair share of good fights ever since Democrat Francis X. McCloskey emerged the victor after an exceedingly close election and recount in 1984. Since 1994, quirky movement conservative GOP Rep. John Hostettler has managed to hold on to the seat by relying on his own network of grassroots conservative activists, but his seeming inability to break 55 percent, notorious reluctance to raise campaign funds, and controversial statements and behavior (including an illegal weapons possession charge at an airport last year) have earned him perennial target status.

Over the years, Democrats have thrown a wide variety of candidates at Hostettler, only to come up just short. But perhaps they have never fielded a candidate with quite as strong a profile as Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth, whose law-and-order background, roots in the district, and base in the population center of the district are major assets Democrats have lacked in past cycles. Add to the mix the flak Hostettler has received at home recently for his lonely House vote against $51 billion in relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina, and it’s clear that Hostettler could face his closest race yet in 2006.

Although Ellsworth’s current 10 to 1 cash-on-hand advantage gives national Republicans heartburn, the Democrat’s detractors were quick to jump on a news report concerning photos that had recently surfaced online featuring the law-and-order Ellsworth’s 19-year-old daughter, a Sophomore at Indiana University, drinking underage. In the current negative electoral environment for Republicans, however, we still rate this race a toss-up, with perhaps an ever-so-slight advantage for the incumbent.

Candidates

Brad Ellsworth (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $ 1,577,181| Total Spent: $1,528,334
Website

John Hostettler (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $509,026 | Total Spent: $269,988
Website

Indiana (09)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Baron Hill (D) unseated Rep. Mike Sodrel (R) with 50% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Baron Hill (D) will unseat Rep. Mike Sodrel (R). Who will win this best of three series? We’ll put a thumb on the scale for Hill, who has worked hard and run a determined campaign to reclaim his seat after taking his 2004 loss to Sodrel personally. Of the three Indiana Republicans, Sodrel is most likely to narrowly escape defeat, but that’s about the most we can say in his favor.

September 28, 2006 Update:

Rep. Mike Sodrel joins two other Republican incumbent congressmen in a tough reelection bid in the Hoosier state. It is looking more and more probable that Baron Hill could be able to reclaim the congressional seat that he lost in the 2004 election. A second debate between the two candidates scheduled for October 1st was cancelled because the Sodrel campaign was concerned about missing votes in the House. The Democrat Hill is playing to the culturally conservative sentiments of his district and Sodrel is suffering from his association with an unpopular president and war. Still too close to call, though.

Meredith Ramsey, Crystal Ball Midwestern Regional Correspondent

June 29, 2006 Update:

Earlier in the year, we might have rated neighboring GOP Rep. John Hostettler the slightly more vulnerable Indiana Republican incumbent, but former Democratic Rep. Baron Hill has run a strong comeback bid against GOP Rep. Mike Sodrel here thus far, and former President Bill Clinton will be coming to Indianapolis soon to help Hill fundraise. This is a toss-up, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see Sodrel ultimately fall victim to Indiana’s poor atmosphere for Republicans these days.

February 8, 2006 Update:

GOP Rep. Mike Sodrel’s razor-thin upset of Democratic Rep. Baron Hill was 2004’s House surprise of the night. And though Sodrel’s political position is aided by his new-found incumbency in this populist, Republican-trending district, such an advantage finds a counterweight in the comparatively horrendous political climate his party faces in 2006. Notably, Indiana is among the first states to report, so a big Hill win here could give the GOP chills early in the evening.


February 2006 Outlook:

Early this year, Hill announced his intention to win back the seat, guaranteeing that both major parties will be spending freely in both southern Indiana districts. While the chief political landmine for Hill remains his problematic vote against the Federal Marriage Amendment, which provided Sodrel with a useful campaign issue in 2004, it is probable that 2006 will present at least a slightly more favorable climate for Indiana Democrats. On the other hand, Sodrel is now the incumbent, with the presumption of reelection that Hill had throughout his own congressional career.

Expect this protracted race to get down and dirty, with both parties yet again spending freely in southern Indiana media markets. Although we originally predicted the campaign to “Bring Back Baron” would face a just slightly uphill battle, Hill has kept pace in the fundraising department and appears determined to run a better campaign than he ran in 2004. We now rate this contest a Toss-up.

Candidates

Baron Hill (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,672,524 | Total Spent: $1,139,317
Website

Mike Sodrel (I) – Republican – Total Raised: | Total Spent:
Website

Kansas (02)

Outlook: Toss-up


November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Jim Ryun (R) will win reelection over Nancy Boyda (D). Boyda was smart to seek a rematch against Ryun in a more favorable year, and several internal polls taken by both parties show her in poll position to erase her 12-point deficit from 2004. It is true that Democrat Kathleen Sebelius will likely win this district handily in her gubernatorial reelection bid. Still, we are doubtful that Ryun will go down; this is a reliably GOP district at the congressional level and Ryun does not appear to have made any glaring errors.


Candidates

Kentucky (02)

Outlook: Leans Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Rep. Ron Lewis (R) won reelection over Mike Weaver (D) with 55% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Ron Lewis (R) will win reelection over Mike Weaver (D). Democrats contend that Weaver has pulled within striking distance of Lewis, but if voters in red territory are coming home to the GOP late, we bet Lewis will be one of the primary beneficiaries; this district’s deep conservatism will likely prove too much for Weaver.


Background

Conservative GOP Rep. Ron Lewis has not faced a close race since he won this Western Kentucky district in a 1994 special election, a pickup for his party that foreshadowed GOP gains later that year. This year, Army veteran and Democratic State Rep. Mike Weaver will present the most serious competition Lewis has faced since then. Though this has become a heavily Republican district, the Crystal Ball still recalls when it was represented by Democrat William Natcher, and Weaver could conceivably make this a race.

Candidates

Mike Weaver (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $751,237.34 | Total Spent: $594,638.45
Website

Ron Lewis (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,404,547.99 | Total Spent: $1,192,630.84
Website

Kentucky (03)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

John Yarmuth defeated Rep. Anne Northup (R) with 51% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Anne Northup (R) will win reelection over John Yarmuth (D).We are genuinely torn on this race. There are signs Northup is very worried about her reelection prospects; exhibit A is her recent call for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s resignation in this Kerry-carried Louisville district. But Yarmuth isn’t a much stronger candidate than the one Democrats fielded in 2004, when she won convincingly with over 60 percent of the vote. Polls show Yarmuth taking a narrow lead, but Northup is one of the savviest GOP campaigners in the House, and we’ll bet she still finds a way to win.


Background

Is GOP Rep. Anne Northup out of the woods following her impressive breakthrough showing in the the 2004 election? Although it’s true that she outperformed Bush’s percentage at the top of the ticket by double digits two years ago in this Louisville Metro-contained district, a new Democratic poll suggests that she’s vulnerable this year to a challenge from Democratic newspaper publisher John Yarmuth; the July Cooper & Secrest survey shows Yarmuth within the margin of error. We have a hard time buying it at all, but it won’t hurt Yarmuth’s efforts to catch up to Northup in the money chase.

We’ve had a hard time deciding between this urban race and the rural race in the 2nd District as to which seat Bluegrass State Democrats have a more legitimate shot at capturing, but lately, the Crystal Ball has been slightly more inclined to pick this Kerry-carried district. Still, Northup has maintained good relations with several Democratic officials in the district, and retains a clear edge despite the fact that scandal-tarred GOP Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s approval ratings here are nothing short of disastrous.

Candidates

Anne Northup (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,883.846.50 | Total Spent: $2,162,390.92
Website

John Yarmuth – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,158,903.12 | Total Spent: $1,512,599.74

Kentucky (04)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Rep. Geoff Davs won reelection over Ken Lucas (D) with 51% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Ken Lucas (D) will unseat Rep. Geoff Davis (R). Of all the Kentucky districts, the Crystal Ball still foresees that Democrats’ best pickup opportunity lies in deeply red northern Kentucky. Lucas hasn’t shown the fire in the belly many in his party would have liked, and his fundraising has been dismal. But the former Blue Dog representative remains well-liked among older voters, and both state and national Republicans are in a slump. We’ll say Lucas wins a nail-biter, but we would not be shocked to see Davis win a second term.

September 26, 2006 Update:

A recent SurveyUSA poll places incumbent Republican U.S. Rep Geoff Davis ahead of Democratic challenger Ken Lucas by 4 percent. However, 8 percent of the 427 likely voters polled were undecided, and the lead was within the polls 4.8 percent margin of error. However, Lucas’ camp disputes the poll, claiming that according to their polling they have a double-digit lead. By all measures, this race is far from over.

Lucas continues to portray himself as a moderate who voted for the War in Iraq, opposes any exit timetable, and is anti-abortion and pro-Second Amendment. Davis has emphasized his ability to bring federal revenue into Kentucky’s 4th, and has out-raised Davis significantly. However, the DCCC will augment Lucas’ financial standing by spending $2.7 million in television advertising. Both sides have received prominent figures to help them in their fundraising efforts. Senator Barack Obama visited Kentucky on September 14 while President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush visited earlier in the year.

The main issues of the race have been reflected in recent television and radio advertisements. Both parties have attacked each other as soft on immigration, military readiness, and predatory payday lending to soldiers; debates are scheduled for Oct. 19, Oct. 23 and Nov. 4.

Alexander Covington, Crystal Ball Mid-Atlantic Regional Correspondent

June 29, 2006 Update:

Scandal-plagued GOP Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s popularity is in the gutter, and former Democratic Rep. Ken Lucas’s fundraising has been decent for a challenger. It would be hard to believe this race is anything other than a toss-up these days, and our rating has shifted to reflect that.

February 8, 2006 Update:

Of all truly competitive House races, we’ll probably know the results of this Bluegrass rematch first. But bellwether-watchers beware, this contest is unique. Northern Kentucky is some of the nation’s most deeply red suburban an exurban territory, and former Blue Dog Rep. Ken Lucas will need to capitalize on his personal popularity in addition to lingering voter bitterness towards state-level GOP scandal to oust the incumbent Geoff Davis, who was Lucas’s challenger just four years ago.


February 2006 Outlook:

The northern Kentucky bluegrass has been looking politically redder with each passing year, a trend that was on display when freshman GOP Rep. Geoff Davis bested his Democratic rival, anchorman and movie star dad Nick Clooney, by a wider-than-expected 54 to 44 percent margin in the 2004 open seat race here. Nonetheless, Democrats are understandably excited about the last month’s entrance of the only person who could possibly put this district in play in 2006, popular former Rep. Ken Lucas. They claim the 72 year-old Lucas’s decision to give it another go this year represents a unique recruiting coup and that Lucas will be able to raise all the money he needs to communicate his message critical of Washington scandal.

Interestingly, 2006 will not mark the first time these two candidates have met in this district. Lucas, who built a reputation as a very conservative Democrat over his three terms in Congress, fended off a 2002 challenge from Davis by just over 6,000 votes, or around 3 percent. But several factors make this rematch a vastly different ballgame, and we’ll attempt to frame it in terms of some Crystal Ball calculus. Both Davis’s two-year incumbency and the changing demographics within this district (it voted for Bush by 24 points in 2000 and by 27 points in 2004 largely thanks to growth in overwhelmingly GOP Boone County in the outer Cincinnati exurban ring) would by themselves be sufficient to erase Lucas’s 6,000 vote lead from 2002. The question then becomes, will the electoral atmosphere in northern Kentucky be sufficiently hospitable to Democrats in November to give Lucas a shot?

To have a chance, Lucas must both demonstrate he still has the fire in the belly to serve in Congress and succeed in making this race as much of a personal popularity contest as it can be. Still, you can bet Davis will seek to tie his opponent to his party label at every turn, and we give the freshman Republican an early leg up.

Candidates

Ken Lucas (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,280,425.94 | Total Spent: $1,052,538.19
Website

Geoff Davis (I) – Republican – Third Quarter Raised: $853,134.06 | Cash on Hand: $1,645,314.06
Website

Louisiana (03)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Democrat Charlie Melancon won re-election over Republican Craig Romero.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) will win reelection over Craig Romero (R). The race in the Bayou of southeastern Louisiana has been remarkably quiet, which is excellent news for the incumbent, Melancon. Sources tell us he continues to benefit from a post-Katrina “halo effect,” and we expect him to prevail on Election Day without the need for a December runoff.

August 23, 2006 Update:

Is there a post-Katrina “halo effect” working to Democratic freshman Rep. Charlie Melancon’s advantage here? It’s debatable. If it is, it’s certainly not working for Gov. Kathleen Blanco! In reality, Melancon seems a good stylistic fit for the district, and came across as an earnest advocate for his constituents in the aftermath of the calamity. The only factor leading us to keep this race in the top echelon is the size of Romero’s war chest.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Louisiana’s House races are notoriously late to take shape, but it is looking like this district might host the only battle in the Bayou worth watching in 2006. Democratic freshman Rep. Charlie Melancon has pointed to early poll results showing him with vast leads, and challenging GOP State Sen. Craig Romero has countered with endorsements from several Demcoratic state legislators. No one is sure what the electorate will look like here, but for now, we’ll bet on the incumbent, Melancon.


February 2006 Outlook:

In this, one of the most Katrina-ravaged districts along the Gulf Coast, politics is the farthest thing from many voters’ minds. In fact, it is unclear whether many of those residents who have been displaced in the hurricane’s aftermath will be back to vote here in 2006. Yet it is clear that when 2006 comes around, federal response to the storm will be a critical issue for debate.

Conservative Democrat and former sugar executive Charlie Melancon (pronounced mel-AN-sun) won a squeaker of a December 2004 Louisiana runoff over Bell Executive Billy Tauzin III, the son of the retiring senior congressman, in this Southeast Louisiana district. This proved once again that rural Pelican State voters prefer country charm over establishment credentials. But Melancon now faces a stiff challenge from GOP State Sen. Craig Romero, who Republicans hope will bring more gravitas to the race than their last candidate.

Given Melancon’s tiny margin of victory in 2004, the GOP is bound to pour resources into the district, but the ink Melancon has been given in the press lately should benefit him for some time to come, especially regarding his role in bringing to light the emergency response deficiencies of FEMA leadership during and after Katrina. We continue to rate this race a toss-up with a possible paper-thin advantage for the first-term Melancon.

Candidates

Charlie Melancon (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,460,058.03 | Total Spent: $1,697,062.27
Website

Craig Romero (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,636,656.8 | Total Spent: $1,548,130.95
Website

Louisiana (07)

Outlook: Solid Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

Republican Charles Boustany won re-election over Democrat Michael Stagg.


Background

Like its neighbor the 3rd District to the east, Louisiana’s 7th has been the scene of non-stop national news coverage, the difference being that most parishes here were hit hardest by Hurricane Rita. It almost goes without saying that reconstruction efforts and the government’s response to the emergency will be major campaign issues here in 2006. Surgeon and Republican Rep. Charles Boustany won this seat with a larger than expected majority in 2004’s December runoff and was the recent recipient of a fundraising visit from Vice President Dick Cheney. Still, should Democratic attorney Hunter Lundy enter the race, Boustany could face a real test of his strength within the district, but it looks as if he won’t be making the race.

Candidates

Charles Boustany (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,509,857.57 | Total Spent: $856,154.82
Website

Michael Stagg – Democrat – Total Raised: N/A Total Spent: N/A
Website

Michigan (07) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Likely Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Tim Walberg (R) defeated Sharon Renier (D) with 51%.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Tim Walberg (R) will defeat Sharon Renier (D). Is it possible Walberg alienated enough Republicans in his successful primary defeat of incumbent GOP moderate Joe Schwarz that he could face trouble in a general election? We doubt it, but allegations of sexual misconduct against a Walberg staffer certainly don’t’ help his chances against an unknown and under-funded Democrat whose only hope of winning lies in claiming a substantial share of disgruntled GOP votes.


Candidates

Minnesota (01)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Tim Walz (D) unseated Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R) with 53% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R) will win reelection over Tim Walz (D). A favorite of DFL party activists, the veteran Walz has stirred up the liberal base in southern Minnesota enough to put this race on everyone_s map. Republicans are headed for a potentially very bad year in Minnesota, and though we believe Gutknecht has compiled a record sufficiently moderate for political survival, Gutknecht could find himself swept away if the national Democratic wave hits high enough to put Democratic gains above 30 seats.


Candidates

Gil Gutknecht (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,917,386.57 | Total Raised: $1,362,041.35

Tim Walz – Democrat – Total Raised: $862,880.54 | Total Spent: $696,840.78

Minnesota (02)

Outlook: Likely Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted Rep. John Kline (R) won reelection over Coleen Rowley (D) with 56% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. John Kline (R) will win reelection over Coleen Rowley (D). This race dropped off nearly everyone’s radar screen early on in the cycle, but Rowley’s name recognition as a 9/11 FBI whistleblower might yet hold Kline to a single-digit win.


Background

This suburban Twin Cities district has been trending Republican all decade, but that didn’t deter former FBI official, 2002 Time Magazine co-Person of the Year, and one of the nation’s most recognizable “whistleblowers,” Coleen Rowley, from mounting a congressional campaign here in 2006. Following a stumbling start by Rowley, it is looking as if the Democratic nomination here could just as easily go to State Sen. Sharon Marko, who recently announced her candidacy.

Incumbent GOP Rep. John Kline first came to office in 2002 when a newly drawn district enabled him to handily defeat veteran Democratic Rep. Bill Luther, whom Kline had challenged several times before unsuccessfully. In 2004, he won convincingly as Bush carried the district by a substantial margin. At this point, Kline remains the strong favorite, though Marko could possibly give him a spirited challenge.

Candidates

John Kline (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,385,764.89 | Total Spent: $644,505.30
Website

Coleen Rowley – Democrat – Total Raised: $560,738.76 | Total Spent: $460,042.35
Website

Minnesota (06) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Michele Bachmann (R) defeated Patty Wetterling (D) with 50% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Michele Bachmann (R) will defeat Patty Wetterling (D). Polls show greatly differing results in this largely exurban district, and few races in the country have featured candidates with more disparate views or nastier ads. We believe that the result here will be very close, but that this district fundamentally wants to vote for a conservative. Even in the post-Foley scandal era, we give the social conservative Bachmann a tiny edge over the child protection advocate Wetterling.

September 25, 2006 Update:

When all is said and done, this race could well go down in history as the most bitter House race ever fought between two women. GOP State Sen. Michele Bachmann is a polarizing social conservative figure, and her party chides DFL activist Patty Wetterling as unprepared to hold federal office. Sure, the district is Republican, but Wetterling’s name identification advantage from the last cycle and the strong Democratic tide give her an even shot to score Democrats a pickup.

June 29, 2006 Update:

As predicted, DFL activist Patty Wetterling and GOP State Sen. Michele Bachmann won their parties’ respective nomination contests, and Minnesota will host its first ever competitive general election featuring two women in 2006. As this is her second try in as many campaign cycles, Wetterling probably starts out with a name recognition advantage, but by November we bet she will still be swimming upstream in this exurban and considerably Republican district.


February 2006 Outlook:

While GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy attempts to receive a promotion to the Senate from Minnesota’s voters, the congressional seat he is leaving open is quickly becoming the scene of a very fierce battle among several Republicans and two Democrats who all want very badly to succeed him in this northern Twin Cities suburban district.

Hard-line conservative GOP state Sen. Michele Bachmann appeared to have taken an early lead in the intra-party fight, but she faces opposition from both more moderate state Rep. Jim Knobloch and anti-tax state Rep. Phil Krinkie. To a lesser extent, former military pilot Jay Esmay may be a factor. Although all the candidates have agreed to support the winner of the standard GOP nominating convention, there exists a slight possibility at least one candidate who comes up short could prolong the nomination battle towards the fall primary.

Meanwhile, waiting in the wings was supposed to have been Democratic-Farmer-Labor Blaine Mayor Elwyn Tinklenberg, who served as the state’s Transportation Department chief in the cabinet of former Gov. Jesse “The Body” Ventura. What Tinklenberg lacks in a good political name he may make up for with a good political face, as he bears an uncanny resemblance to a younger Walter Mondale. But this month’s surprise last-minute decision by 2004 DFL nominee Patty Wetterling to go back on her commitment to Tinklenberg by switching from the Senate race to the House race here certainly complicates the DFL picture.

Overall, the entrance of Wetterling, the well-known missing children’s advocate who held Kennedy to 54 percent in 2004, slightly enhances Democratic chances in this district. She maintains excellent name recognition in the area and will likely win the DFL nomination. But for Democrats, the fact that Tinklenberg and Wetterling must now do battle in the first place is an certainly an unwelcome consequence of Wetterling’s delay in entering the race. Her office-shopping may become a serious issue in itself.

If either Tinklenberg or Wetterling is to have a shot at winning the general election in a GOP-leaning district that now includes the emerging Republican stronghold of St. Cloud, the Republican nominee will probably need to be bruised, battered, and short on funds coming out of the GOP nomination fight. At this point, that scenario is not out of the question, though we do give the Republicans an advantage.

Candidates

Michelle Bachmann (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,846,416.87 | Total Spent: $1,386,126.60
Website

Patty Wetterling – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,643,593.33 | Total Spent: $1,905,180.27
Website

Montana (AL)

Outlook: Solid Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) defeated Monica Lindeen (D) with 59% of the vote.


Candidates

Denny Rehberg (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,074,130.53| Total Spent: $675,992.77

Monica Lindeen – Democrat – Total Raised: $484,844.12| Total Spent: $435,702.21

North Carolina (08)

Outlook: Leans Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Robin Hayes (R) will win reelection over Larry Kissell (D). Whether the national campaign committees believe us or not, we’re convinced that a close congressional race has taken place in this district. The late-to-start Kissell is working hard to remind voters in textile country of Hayes’ vote in favor of CAFTA, and the district’s urban and suburban Charlotte portions are trending towards Democrats nationally. If there is one race that has not received national attention that could surprise on Election Night, it may well be this one. Still, Hayes knows never to take his reelection campaigns for granted, and we see him winning a narrower-than-anticipated victory.


Candidates

North Carolina (11)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Democrat Heath Shuler unseated Republican Charles Taylor.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Heath Shuler (D) will unseat Rep. Charles Taylor (R). We continue to believe that this district represents the best pickup opportunity for Democrats in the South. Over the past year, lingering questions about Shuler’s ability to adapt to political campaigning have largely been put to rest, and Taylor has not closed as strongly as he has in past cycles more hospitable to the GOP. Republicans still love to remind voters what happened last time ex-Redskins Quarterback Shuler was employed in Washington, but we bet that after November, it will be Taylor’s turn to seek out a new line of work.

August 28, 2006 Update:

Sure, Democratic challenger Heath Shuler looks strong now, but when will GOP Rep. Charles Taylor make his move? We’ve learned never to underestimate this particular incumbent late in the cycle.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Sure, Democratic challenger Heath Shuler out-raised GOP Rep. Charles Taylor 2-1 in the first quarter of 2006, but we can be sure that Taylor, true to form, will kick in as much of his own personal fortune as he feels necessary late in the game. Still, Taylor has never faced an atmosphere quite as adverse to his party as 2006 presents, so we’ll be watching this one closely.


February 2006 Outlook:

In the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina, GOP Rep. Charles Taylor has consistently faced credible opposition and survived by closing campaigns strong and finishing with about 55 percent of the vote. The region’s only member on the powerful Appropriations Committee, Taylor has been able to point to funding he has secured for local projects, and last year defeated Democrat ,b>Patsy Keever, who made funding for troops abroad a major issue in the race. In the past, however, this district has not been impervious to political change. While it was one of Bush’s stronger districts in the state last year, then-challenger John Edwards carried it in his 1998 race for Senate, and Asheville’s Buncombe County retains a strong Democratic heritage.

This year, Democratic hopeful and former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler has been touted as one of national Democrats’ “star recruits,” a descriptive not unfamiliar to Shuler, who was best known during the ’90s when he was leading the Vols to victory at the University of Tennessee. Shuler starts the campaign cycle with not only great name identification and some access to money, but an issue on which to take Taylor to task: earlier this year, Taylor’s make-or-break vote on CAFTA, hugely unpopular in this blue-collar district, went mysteriously unrecorded by the House’s vote tallying system even though Taylor had previously stated his opposition.

For their part, Republicans have labeled the North Carolina newcomer Shuler a carpetbagger, and it is true that Shuler remains completely untested as a political candidate. The bottom line? If these hills are home to rebellious voter sentiment in 2006, Shuler will be able to make this a genuinely competitive race. But without a national Democratic wind at his back, Shuler’s run for Congress will be the political equivalent of a Hail Mary.

Candidates

Charles Taylor (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,498,522.53 | Total Spent: $3,064,393.8
Website

Heath Shuler – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,628,327.84 | Total Spent: $1,290,860.29
Website

Nebraska (01)

Outlook: Likely Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Jeff Fortenberry (R) won reelection over Maxine Moul (D) with 58% of votes.

Update:

First-term GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry is up for reelection against Maxine Moul, Nebraska’s former Lt. Governor. A poll taken early in September showed Fortenberry with a considerable in advantage in the race, placing him ahead of Moul 56 to 32 percent. Fundraising numbers for the 2nd quarter reveal that Moul has had some success in fundraising which could be tied to increased support: Moul more than doubled Fortenberry’s 2nd quarter numbers. Fortenberry, however, still has an advantage in cash-on-hand and just this month held a fundraiser with Vice President Cheney in Omaha.

Fortenberry has also agreed to debate Moul twice in October; Moul had previously criticized Fortenberry for his unwillingness to settle on debates. Each debate will last one hour; one will be held in Lincoln and the other will be held in Norfolk. Although the Crystal Ball is not yet ready to list this race as truly “in play,” we are keeping a close eye on it to see if DCCC commitment will do anything to shift the political dynamics on the windswept prairies of central Nebraska.

Meredith Ramsey, Crystal Ball Midwestern Regional Correspondent


Candidates

Jeff Fortenberry (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,111,049.51 | Total Spent: $942,725.31
Website

Maxine Moul – Democrat – Total Raised: $800,026.25 | Total Spent: $622,920.70
Website

Nebraska (03) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Toss-up


November 8, 2006 Update:

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Adrian Smith (R) won election over Scott Kleeb (D) with 55% of votes.

November 6, 2006 Update:

November 6, 2006 Update:

Adrian Smith (R) will defeat Scott Kleeb (D). Wow, we’re talking about a competitive House seat in western Nebraska, one of the four or five most Republican districts in the country? It’s hard to believe, but the telegenic Ivy League-educated rancher Kleeb (pronounced KLEB) has run as good a campaign as any Democrat could possibly run here and the stars are as aligned as they ever will be for him in 2006. His opponent, the very conservative legislator Smith, had been considered a shoo-in after winning the primary here, but to his credit, Kleeb has worked the district extremely hard and has funded a strong broadcast offensive. There is some precedent for a close open seat race her e: in 1990, Republican Bill Barrett captured the district by only 4,000 votes over Democrat Sandra Scofield; we’ll bet on the safe side that we see a similar result sixteen years later, especially after an energetic weekend presidential campaign visit. Interestingly, these two young candidates may have the lowest combined age of any set of congressional opponents in the country.

November 2, 2006 Update:

November 2, 2006 Update:

Nebraska’s 3rd District has been in Republican control for almost half a century but recent polling has indicated the Republican stronghold could be trending Democrat. Republican Adrian Smith started the race with a 33 point lead but a recent left-leaning poll shows him now trailing Democrat Scott Kleeb by 6 points. This race garnered national attention overnight as both sides have received funds from their national operations. President Bush will visit the district in the closing days of the campaign to rally support for Smith, Bush won the district by a 50 point margin in 2004. This red Republican district could be trending blue without the former Cornhusker football coach and current Congressman Tom Osborne at the helm.


Candidates

Scott Kleeb – Democrat – Total Raised:$708,096.83 | Total Spent: $518,611.05

Adrian Smith – Republican – Total Raised: $1,114,716.04 | Total Spent: $964,598.97

New Hampshire (01)

Outlook: Likely Republican


November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Jeb Bradley (R) will win reelection over Carol Porter-Shea (D). Some of our New Hampshire sources tell us that this race has tightened considerably in the past few weeks, and Porter-Shea’s strong anti-Iraq War views may actually be in line with a strong majority of the district’s voters. But Bradley is the more liberal of the two Granite State Republicans, and national Democrats stopped paying attention to this district when their favored candidate lost the primary. We expect Bradley to survive the Democratic wave in the Northeast.


Candidates

New Hampshire (02)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Paul Hodes (D) will unseat Rep. Charlie Bass (R). State and national Democrats say that this race’s movement is the big surprise of the final week of the campaign. We would tend to agree that Hodes’ campaign has come together well thanks to the fundraising help of several 2008 Democratic contenders and a strong wind at Democrats’ backs in New England. Bass has made a political career out of stressing his independence, but his party affiliation may well sink him in the more Democratic of the Granite State’s two districts.


Candidates

Charles Bass (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,004,304.30 | Total Spent: $737,004.35
Website

Paul Hodes – Republican – Total Raised: $1,044,834.82 | Total Spent: $1,131,393.82
Website

New Jersey (07)

Outlook: Leans Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Mike Ferguson (R) will win reelection over Linda Stender (D). A recent trip to this district convinced the Crystal Ball that Ferguson is taking Stender’s challenge more seriously than he has taken others in the past. Green “Stender is a Spender” signs adorn the district, and slogan may help carry the day for Ferguson in a district narrowly won by Bush in 2004. Stender’s position on the war clearly helps her, and we won’t completely rule out an upset, but we predict she will fall short of knocking off Ferguson in this expensive district.

July 13, 2006 Update:

GOP Rep. Mike Ferguson is probably slightly to the right of this moderate central New Jersey district, which has always made Democrats here quite eager to add him to their target list. And in 2006, if any district in New Jersey is ripe to experience a competitive contest, it’s this one. Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender has raised sufficient funds to be taken seriously, and boasts a strong base in Union County. But in the wake of the Garden State’s latest budget debacle and state shutdown, it’s probably not in Stender’s best interest to place state legislative service front and center on her resume for higher office. Ferguson has hovered around 57% so far this decade, and he could see his margin reduced substantially this year, but Stender starts this race with a very wide gap to close.


Candidates

Linda Stender (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,569,825.15 | Total Spent: $1,290,748.21
Website

Mike Ferguson (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,493,104.60 | Total Spent: $2,185,844.03
Website

New Mexico (01)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Rep. Heather Wilson (R) won reelection over Patricia Madrid (D) with 50% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Patricia Madrid (D) will unseat Heather Wilson (R). Several weeks ago, this might not have been such a close call for the Crystal Ball, but even Democrats have acknowledged that Madrid has stumbled in the final stages of the campaign. A powerful Wilson television ad highlights Madrid’s painful-to-watch speechlessness as she attempts to answer a simple question on taxes during a recent debate. Wilson is clearly the stronger and more comfortable campaigner, but she makes her career in a district decreasingly hospitable to her party. We’re sticking with Madrid to ride Gov. Bill Richardson’s coattails to victory, but really, take your pick. Early voting statistics project a photo finish.

September 26, 2006 Update:

Republican U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson is in a dead heat against Democratic Attorney General Patricia Madrid. Madrid has hammered Wilson for supporting the Iraq war; Wilson has charged Madrid with ignoring a corruption scandal in the treasurer’s office.

Brenan Richards, Crystal Ball Pacific Regional Correspondent

June 29, 2006 Update:

GOP Rep. Heather Wilson is on pace to raise more money than she has ever has in any one of her previous campaigns, but Democratic nominee Patricia Madrid is keeping pace. In this Kerry-carried district, the moderate Wilson is in for the fight of her political life.

February 8, 2006 Update:

In what is shaping up to be a game of ethical finger-pointing, GOP Rep. Heather Wilson and Democratic nominee Patricia Madrid continue to duke it out in this Albuquerque swing district. It’s still anybody’s guess as to who will prevail on November 7th.


February 2006 Outlook:

Although some Republicans had encouraged a Senate bid by GOP Rep. Heather Wilson early on this cycle, it won’t happen in 2006. Now that Democrats are fielding a candidate who just may be able to match her personal appeal in this heavily Hispanic, Kerry-majority district, Wilson will have her hands full simply trying to hold onto her House seat.

Much to Democrats’ glee, popular state Attorney General Patricia Madrid recently announced her intention to run in this Albuquerque-based seat and has already raised over half of $1 million in her drive to unseat Wilson. Her long-anticipated bid promises to give Wilson her toughest race yet. Still, Wilson is known for a strong independent streak and has been critical of members of her own congressional leadership. Moreover, she has proven over the past decade that she is no stranger to close races. At this point, this race is dead even.

Candidates

Heather Wilson (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $4,092,826.16 | Total Spent: $3,846,265.27
Website

Patrica Madrid – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,907,659.63 | Total Spent:$2,487,630.48
Website

Nevada (02) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Leans Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Dean Heller (R) defeated Jill Derby (D) with 51% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Dean Heller (R) will defeat Jill Derby (D). Of the two competitive Nevada districts, this non-Las Vegas district is the safer bet for a GOP hold. Even though some residual ill will remains from the tight GOP primary, Heller has run a solid general election race in the past few weeks, and Derby is more likely than not to fall a few points short of victory in our estimation.

July 13, 2006 Update:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has added certain nominee Jill Derby to its “Red to Blue” list of takeover targets, but the key to their opportunity here remains an intense and draining three-way battle for the GOP nomination. Open seats are always tantalizing for competition-hungry parties, but this is the most heavily Republican district in Nevada, and Derby will need to hit a home run to win this sprawling seat in November.


February 2006 Outlook:

This district, which encompasses over 95 percent of Nevada’s land area but just a third of its people, will feature a fierce Republican primary in the race to replace GOP Rep. Jim Gibbons, who is leaving a safe House seat to run for governor. But what if the three-way GOP primary becomes too nasty, draining the eventual nominee of funds for the general election? Then Democratic state university regent Jill Derby just might be competitive in the general election. Still, this district is likely to stay in GOP hands.

Candidates

Jill Derby – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,227,017.29 | Total Spent: $1,123,631.03
Website

Dean Heller – Republican – Total Raised: $1,386,651.51 | Total Spent: $1,237,514.92
Website

Nevada (03)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Rep. Jon Porter (R) won reelection over Tessa Hafen (D) with 48% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Jon Porter (R) will win reelection over Tessa Hafen (D). Republicans concede that Hafen has run a stronger than expected race in this politically dead-even Clark County district, and most polls show Porter’s lead in the mid-single digits. But Porter has not made any major mistakes, and we give him a slight edge in light of his strong recent electoral performances. It is not impossible we could see the young former Reid staffer Hafen prevail in the case of a bad GOP year in Nevada.

July 13, 2006 Update:

The entry of Sen. Harry Reid aide Tessa Hafen on the Democratic side in this suburban Las Vegas seat means that sophomore GOP Rep. Jon Porter will have to spend some time tending to his reelection campaign in 2006 after all. With Reid’s help, Hafen has already erased over a quarter of Porter’s cash-on-hand advantage, but Porter’s very sizeable win 2004 here against a hyped Democratic competitor underscores just how difficult it will be for Hafen to dislodge him.


Candidates

Jon Porter (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,502,928.30 | Total Spent: $2,660,556.68
Website

Tessa Hafen – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,240,683.86 | Total Spent: $1,060,902.02
Website

New York (03)

Outlook: Likely Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Peter King (R) will win reelection over Dave Mejias (D). King is the last Republican left representing Long Island, and Democrats are hoping that if there’s any year they can finish him off, it’s this one. Nassau County legislator Mejias has run a creditable campaign, and King has spent more heavily from his coffers this time around than he has in more typical election cycles. Still, a truly huge wave would have to hit the South Shore to dethrone this long-serving incumbent.


Candidates

Peter King (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,350,252.19 | Total Spent: $1,041,503.23
Website

Dave Mejias – Democrat – Total Raised: $640,845.98 | Total Spent: $536,533.40
Website

New York (19)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Sue Kelly (R) will win reelection over John Hall (D). This Westchester-based district is only marginally Republican at the national level, and the songwriter Hall is hoping to capitalize on campaign help from music business friends and the Clintons. In a year when Democrats will be racking up big statewide victories, Hall could give Kelly headaches tomorrow. We predict Kelly will win by a narrower count than initially expected, but it’s possible we could see a surprise upset.


Candidates

Sue Kelly (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,070,870.18 | Total Spent: $1,589,569.60
Website

John Hall – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,026,012.83 | Total Spent: $916,307.56
Website

New York (20)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Kirsten Gillibrand (D) will unseat Rep. John Sweeney (R).We still believe that this district is the second-likeliest of all upstate GOP-held districts to elect a Democrat in 2006, but we cannot help but wonder if Sweeney is this year’s cat with nine lives. Gillibrand’s strong fundraising and energetic presence on the campaign trail have helped to compensate for the strong Republican tendencies of the district, but Sweeney’s most glaring vulnerabilities have been self-inflicted; reports of improper appearances at ski resorts with lobbyists and at fraternity parties with inebriated college students have dogged him. We wonder if the most recent published allegations of spousal abuse will be the last straw. It’s just a hunch, and we would not at all be surprised to see Sweeney survive, but we think Gillibrand just might sneak by.

September 2, 2006 Update:

Now that Democratic attorney Kirstin Gillibrand is up with hard-hitting ads on the Iraq War, we look forward to finding out whether her line of attack will succeed in shifting large numbers of votes in this ordinarily Republican upstate district. Republican Rep. John Sweeney is taking nothing for granted, and with some union backing remains a slight favorite. We can envision the political tides in this district shifting quickly, though.

July 13, 2006 Update:

Democrats are positively giddy that challenger Kirsten Gillibrand appears to have out-raised veteran GOP Rep. John Sweeney for the second quarter of 2006, posting over $500,000 to Sweeney’s $479,000. Gillibrand, an energetic and well-connected candidate who promises to mount the most serious challenge of Sweeney’s career, will certainly use some of those funds to project some of her best ammunition at the incumbent, who took some heat after being photographed partying at a Union College fraternity house.

For their part, Republicans are eager to paint Gillibrand as an out-of-touch city Democrat who lacks the experience necessary to represent this sprawling upstate district. Sweeney is assisted somewhat by the fact that he has received several endorsements from organized labor; he is always quick to point to his background as the son of a union household. In a moderately Republican district where Gillibrand will need to retain every Democratic vote to stay competitive, this factor leads us to keep this district out of the ranks of the Dirty Thirty this month, but just barely.


February 2006 Outlook:

Republican Rep. John Sweeney has always claimed commanding margins in this Upstate New York seat, but Democratic attorney Kirstin Gillibrand has recently gone on the attack, taking him to task for traveling to a lobbyist-funded ski vacation. Gillibrand’s main asset as a challenger will be access to money, and if she can succeed in keeping Sweeney on the defensive, she just might give the incumbent cause for some concern.

Candidates

John Sweeney (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,617,232.09 | Total Spent: $2,842,720.26
Website

Kirsten Gillibrand – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,036,213.59 | Total Spent: $1,874,076.24
Website

New York (24) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Mike Arcuri (D) will defeat Ray Meier (R). National Republicans most likely shot themselves in the foot in this district by airing an ad accusing Arcuri of calling a fantasy sex phone line on taxpayer dollars; the call log clearly showed the call was misdialed, editorialists denounced the ad, and it was quickly taken off the air. But we might have picked Arcuri to win anyway: he has run the more able campaign in a district where sentiment for change is strong. Look for Meier to fall a few points shy tomorrow.

August 27, 2006 Update:

If any open seat best represents the wide-open battle for Congress in 2006, it’s this Utica-area district, which has been represented by retiring liberal Republican Sherwood Boehlert for over two decades. Although this area of upstate New York tilted narrowly to President Bush in 2004, it’s a safe bet the president’s approval numbers are now significantly upside-down here, giving four-term Oneida County D.A. Mike Arcuri (D) a very good shot at defeating Boehlert’s personal choice of successor, more moderate-to-conservative state Sen. Ray Meier. Both parties’ candidates are unusually strong, share the same geographic base, and take every opportunity to wrap themselves in the popular Boehlert’s moderate mantle. It’s a pure toss-up each side desperately hopes will fall their way as returns are reported.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Since the Crystal Ball’s last writing, both party favorites in this open seat contest were aided by the departure of a primary rival from the race. Democrat Mike Arcuri and GOP State Sen. Ray Meier are set to do battle in a district Bush won narrowly and Spitzer and Cliton will win handsomely. The moderate Meier may retain the slightest of advantages, but in our estimation, this race still belongs in the toss-up column.


March 2006 Outlook:

It is always easier to assess races “on paper” and much harder to get a feel for developments on the ground. One race where this seems especially true, at least in the early stages, is the race to succeed longtime moderate GOP Rep. Sherry Boehlert, who dealt his party’s efforts at incumbent retainment another blow when he announced his retirement last week. Without any guarantee of ascending to the Transportation Committee’s helm, it would seem the soon-to-be septuagenarian Boehlert had little incentive to make another go of it.

On paper, it would seem as if the presence of a Boehlert-handpicked moderate GOP candidate on the ballot in 2006 would give the party a leg up in this upstate New York district that voted narrowly for Bush in 2004. Indeed, GOP State Sen. Ray Meier, who has stressed lobbying reform in the NY legislature, has both an impressive leadership portfolio and a nearly clear primary field (save for conservative Seneca Falls Mayor Brad Jones, who may or not be able to give him fits – time will tell). It’s clear that Boehlert will back him, and in any other year, that alone just might have been enough to win.

But sensing opportunity in 2006, one very credible Democrat had already entered the race before Boehlert’s retirement, and now enjoys a head-start on the competition at this relatively late stage in the candidate entry season. He is Oneida County District Attorney Michael Arcuri, and although he will face Cortland Mayor Bruce Tytler in New York’s late primary, we believe he will likely end up as the Democratic nominee. And why would he be competitive against Meier? To begin with, as an elected Oneida County official, Arcuri actually already represents more of the 24th District than Meier, whose legislative district’s overlap with the 24th comprises about 90 percent of Oneida’s electorate but nothing else.

In a February email to the Crystal Ball (before Boehlert announced his retirement), one Arcuri backer in the district noted: “Arcuri has been elected DA as a Democrat four times in a Republican County. He_s raised $50,000 so far this year (not reflected in any FEC filings yet) and plans to have $250,000 on hand by March. The large district has plenty of small, marginally Democratic cities–Oneonta, Geneva, Cortland, Auburn and Cooperstown…and the towns surrounding Ithaca that range between Democratic and Communist!…”

In this bleak electoral climate for the GOP, we’d have to differ with a few experts and rate this open seat Democratic takeover opporuntity a tossup for November. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the likely Republican hopeful to replace Boehlert, but there’s really not much going right for GOP prospects in general in 2006 nationally, and in upstate New York especially.

Candidates

Mike Arcuri – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,614,843.60 | Total Spent: $1,323,710.15
Website

Ray Meier – Republican – Third Quarter Raised: $282,689.20 | Cash on Hand: $379,407.16
Website

New York (25)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Jim Walsh (R) will win reelection over Dan Maffei (D). There’s no denying Maffei has closed the gap considerably in this moderate-to-liberal Syracuse area district, and national Democrats are optimistic about the upstart’s chances against veteran moderate incumbent Walsh. We think at least one of these Democratic “reach” districts in upstate New York will fall to the Democrats, but reliable data is not in abundance in these races and we have no idea which ones are moving more quickly away from Republicans than others. As a result, we just have to bet on the incumbent.

July 13, 2006 Update:

Democrats seeking to expand the national playing field of competitive House races have eyed this Syracuse-anchored district carefully for an understandable reason: GOP Rep. James Walsh has not faced serious competition in recent cycles in a district that voted for John Kerry in 2004. Their nominee this year will be House committee staffer Dan Maffei, who has a clear primary field and hopes New York’s poor political environment for Republicans will give Walsh some heartburn. Still, Walsh looks to be taking nothing for granted and remains a solid favorite to win reelection.


Candidates

James Walsh (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,115,395.54 | Total Spent: $1,060,680.24
Website

Dan Maffei – Democrat – Total Raised: $635,376.74 | Total Spent: $606,871.17
Website

New York (26)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Tom Reynolds (R) will win reelection over Jack Davis (D).When parties lose big in congressional elections, there tend to be a few losses that tower over others in symbolic importance. A defeat of Reynolds, the chair of Republican campaign efforts in the House, would fit that bill. And when he was first implicated in the Foley cover-up, that precise scenario seemed almost inevitable. But beyond a reasonable doubt, Reynolds has improbably come back from the dead. Why? Our guess is that voters finally had a reason to take a good look at the eccentric septuagenarian Davis and didn’t entirely like what they saw. Davis self-funds his campaigns and arrived at a not-too-shabby 44 percent of the vote in 2004, but his attacks on Reynolds may be so blustery as to diminish their credibility. We have switched our rating of this race, and now give the edge to Reynolds hanging on by a fingernail in this Buffalo-based seat.

September 28, 2006 Update:

Upstate New York Rep. Tom Reynolds, head of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee and the effort to keep the House under control of the GOP, is in danger of losing his own seat. A new SurveyUSA poll finds Reynolds clinging to a mere 2 point lead over Democrat Jack Davis, 45 to 43 percent. This variation is well within the margin of sampling error of 4.5 percent, with the added risk of the Green Party candidate, Christine Murphy, who is pulling 8 points in her favor. In 2004, Reynolds beat Davis by 12 points.

Clare Seekins, Crystal Ball Northeastern Regional Correspondent


Candidates

Tom Reynolds (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $3,745,747.68 | Total Spent: $3,684,725.94
Website

Jack Davis – Democrat – Total Raised: $51,770.99 | Total Spent: $1,751,066.41
Website

Christine Murphy – Independent

New York (29)

Outlook: Leans Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Randy Kuhl (R) will win reelection over Eric Massa (D). The lack of a major third party presence on the ballot this year-as opposed to past years-may work to Massa’s advantage ever-so-slightly, but Kuhl has compiled a moderate record that fits the district well in his first term. On the other hand, Massa is a veteran who has raised and spent a respectable amount of money in a district that is trending away from the national GOP. We cannot entirely rule out an upset, and we do believe at least one of these upstate New York districts will flip, but we can’t bring ourselves to wager against Kuhl.

July 13, 2006 Update:

Freshman GOP Rep. Randy Kuhl continues to hold a wide lead over Democratic rival Eric Massa in the fundraising department, and Kuhl’s new-found support on the Conservative Party line leads the Crystal Ball to question Democratic chances here even further. Indeed, it is possible that by the end of the cycle the next-door 26th District, featuring NRCC Chair Rep. Tom Reynolds, will overtake the race in this Southern Tier district on this list. But for now, it appears Democrats have a better candidate than they fielded in 2004, and this remains a race worth watching.


February 2006 Outlook:

GOP Rep. Randy Kuhl‘s underwhelming 51 to 41 to 6 percent victory over a flawed Democratic candidate and a Conservative Party vote-drainer in 2004’s open seat race to replace ex-Rep. Amo Houghton gave Democrats hope that they could present him with a formidable challenge in 2006.

This time around, the Democratic standard-bearer will be retired Naval officer and Wesley Clark ally Eric Massa, who has so far kept pace in the money chase but lags seriously behind Kuhl in cash on hand.

Candidates

Randy Kuhl (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,328,855.45 | Total Spent: $1,161,768.73
Website

Eric Massa – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,068,169.23 | Total Spent: $785,770.31
Website

Ohio (01)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Rep. Steve Chabot (R) won reelection over John Cranley (D) with 52% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

In this disastrous year for Ohio Republicans, it’s easy to see why Republicans are nervous about Chabot’s prospects in this marginal district. City Councilman Cranley won 45% against Chabot six years ago and has improved considerably as a candidate in the years since. Chabot’s advantage is that the district was expanded into very heavily GOP territory in 2002 and he has won with more comfortable margins both elections since. We bet Cranley would win a rematch under the old district lines; under this decade’s lines, we give the tiniest possible advantage to Chabot, and we could easily be proven wrong tomorrow night.

September 27, 2006 Update:

With incumbent Republican Congressman Steve Chabot either trailing or neck-and-neck with his Democratic challenger and City Councilman John Cranley, this race is shaping up to be one for the books. Although Ohio’s 1st district is not close to any national borders, illegal immigration has become the most focused-on issue in the race. Republicans across the country, including Chabot, have been focusing on this issue, particularly as it relates to security. Chabot’s campaign has aired three television advertisements which draw attention to his record on immigration and paint Cranley as a weak democrat seeking to give amnesty to illegal immigrants. Cranley has since fought back with ads asking why the incumbent has done little or nothing about the problem of illegal immigration during his 12 years in Congress. Immigration is also likely to fire up the conservative base, improving the odds that it will vote in large numbers.

As the race heats up and November 7th gets closer, many eyes are focusing in on both parties efforts to mobilize votes. In previous elections the Republicans have built extensive networks of voters identified not only by their party affiliation but also according to one’s lifestyle, such as church membership or magazine subscriptions. However, the energy on the Democratic side appears hard to match this year. Cranley, for one, says claims that his district will “be the most targeted field campaign in the country” that he is constantly approached by voters claiming that their anger with the Republican Party will fuel them to vote Democratic in November.

Alexander Covington, Crystal Ball Mid-Atlantic Regional Correspondent

July 13, 2006 Update:

Cincinnati Democrats are quick to point out that their hopeful against six-term GOP Rep. Steve Chabot, 2000 district nominee Democrat John Cranley, placed first in a field of many candidates in the most recent at-large city council elections. What’s more, Cranley has proven a decent fundraiser yet again, banking over a third of the incumbent’s tally as of the end of the first quarter of 2006. But the Crystal Ball knows that Chabot has dispatched his share of well-funded and well-hyped Democratic contenders during his tenure, and at this point the race still leans to the otherwise-struggling Ohio GOP.


February 2006 Outlook:

The last time six-term GOP Rep. Steve Chabot won this Cincinnati-area district with less than 55 percent of the vote was in 2000, when he squared off against Democrat John Cranley, who was at the time the subject of an MTV special on young candidates. Now a city councilman, Cranley is making another go of it six years later with a thicker resume and a more robust warchest.

On the other hand, redistricting improved Republican performance in this district considerably since Cranley last ran, and even though Republicans have been down on their luck in Ohio lately, Chabot is no slouch on the campaign trail. Watch this race closely, but Chabot starts out with a clear edge.

Candidates

Steve Chabot (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,145,644.73 | Total Spent: $2,160,045.77
Website

John Cranley – Democrat – Total Rasied: $1,744,267.53 | Total Spent: $1,466,692.59
Website

Ohio (02)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

The results of this race are contested. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) holds a slight lead of less than 3,000 votes over Victoria Wulsin (D).

November 6, 2006 Update:

Victoria Wulsin (D) will unseat Rep. Jean Schmidt (R). Is there a congresswoman in the country more polarizing within her own district than “Mean Jean” Schmidt? We highly doubt it, and although we thought we had seen the last of this district’s competitiveness in August 2005 when Schmidt won this open seat in an unexpectedly close special election, Schmidt’s congressional tenure in the months since has been marked with controversies. Her tactless jab at Democratic Rep. John Murtha on the floor of the House last year drew loud boos and is now the subject of a Wulsin spot that makes the incumbent look foolish. Schmidt has clearly run an inept campaign, and critics have pointed out her plagiarism of a local newspaper opinion piece on Medicare. One thing is clear: if Democrat Paul Hackett were running again, he would win easily. Instead, Wulsin is an even bet to win a district she should have no business running in as a liberal doctor. The district’s extremely strong GOP underpinnings may ultimately save Schmidt once again, but we’ll call the upset for Wulsin anyway.


Candidates

Jean Schmidt (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $918,437.19 | Total Spent: $812,774.88
Website

Victoria Wulsin – Democrat – Total Raised: $587,966.98 | Total Spent: $434,850.81
Website

Ohio (06) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Charlie Wilson (D) defeated Chuck Blasdel (R) with 62% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Charlie Wilson (D) will defeat Chuck Blasdel (R). It is hard to believe that this swing district was originally supposed to be the ultimate toss-up open seat of 2006, but thanks to the impending Strickland landslide in Ohio’s gubernatorial contest, Blasdel can’t even hope to come close anymore.

September 27, 2006 Update:

After a long-shot victory as a write in candidate in the May primary, Democratic state Senator Charlie Wilson has increased his lead over GOP State Rep. Chuck Blasdel. One recent poll places as much as 16 percentage points between the two. One of these two candidates will win the tough job of representing some of the poorest communities in Ohio, and their main campaign issues reflect this. Blasdel has said that he would explore reinstituting tariffs to help protect businesses in the 6th, while Wilson has said that he would push for a stricter U.S. trade policy. The two disagree more on national issues, such as the War in Iraq: while Wilson supports redeployment out of “danger zones”, Blasdell supports the president and would support ‘staying the course.”

The importance of this race has been shown in the list of prominent visitors the 6th district has recently had, including Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. However, as it stands now, Charlie Wilson doesn’t seem to be too far away from victory.

Alexander Covington, Crystal Ball Mid-Atlantic Regional Correspondent

June 29, 2006 Update:

Democratic State Sen. Charlie Wilson may have had to wage an expensive write-in campaign to win his party’ s nomination after failing to file enough petition signatures, but his surprisingly strong primary showing – he garnered many more votes than the GOP’s nominee! – may have actually proven the effort a useful exercise in boosting Wilson’s recognition across the district. And considering the national GOP used some of its best lines of attack on Wilson pre-primary to little apparent avail, it’s hard to see how Republican State Rep. Chuck Blasdel has a good a shot at this open seat as Wilson, who will also be helped by the presence of outgoing 6th District Congressman Ted Strickland on Ohio’s gubernatorial ballot. We now lean this race towards a Democratic hold.


February 2006 Outlook:

With moderate Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland‘s entrance into the gubernatorial contest, Ohio Democrats have an embarrassment of riches in the field of 2006 candidates for governor, especially compared to situations in past years. But now they also have an extremely marginal open House seat to defend in the Southeast Ohio hills.

Democrats have always known that they would have to run a blue dog centrist in order to retain this famously blue collar district post-Strickland. State Sen. Charlie Wilson, who fits the description, has thrown his hat into the ring will win his party’s nod. That said, younger Republican State House Speaker Pro Tem Chuck Blasdel is at least an equally strong candidate, and he has committed to the race as well. Republicans insist they will be able to point to skeletons in Wilson’s closet, namely an incident in which Wilson in his capacity as a regional wastewater trustee improperly fired a sewage plant superintendent. For their part, Wilson’s supporters claim that Republicans have tried to advance the issue in past campaigns to no avail. So far, the race in this sprawling Ohio River valley district, which takes about eight hours to drive from end to end, has all the makings of a pure tossup.

Candidates

Charlie Wilson – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,188,193.03 | Total Spent: $1,357,963.20
Website

Chuck Blasdel – Republican – Total Raised: $833,541.73 | Total Spent: $724,044.09
Website

Ohio (12)

Outlook: Likely Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

Rep. Pat Tiberi (R) won reelection over Bob Shamansky (D) with 58% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Pat Tiberi (R) will win reelection over Bob Shamansky (D). We are told that parts of Columbus will be voting so heavily Democratic this year that even typically safe Tiberi could be endangered, but we are disinclined to believe it. He will likely have his closest race since he first won the seat six years ago, but a Shamansky win here would represent a truly unmitigated disaster for Ohio’s GOP. We don’t think it will happen.


Candidates

Ohio (13) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Solid Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

Betty Sutton defeated Craig Foltin with 61% of the vote.


Background

It is hard to imagine that a competitive contest would develop in this strongly pro-Kerry district in 2006, but popular Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown‘s decision to seek the Democratic nomination for Senate this year has spurred strong candidates from each party to enter the race to succeed him in the House. Democratic former State Rep. Betty Sutton was one of the earliest entrants and has been touted as one of the strongest contenders, though she lives just slightly beyond the oddly shaped district’s eastern boundaries. She has been joined in the primary by Elyria Mayor Bill Grace and former Akron Rep. Tom Sawyer, who lost renomination in the 17th District in 2002 after several costly anti-labor votes.

The GOP got a boost recently when their strongest possible candidate, Lorain Mayor Craig Foltin, decided to toss his hat into the ring. Foltin, who has a reputation for performing well in Democratic areas, could be especially competitive if Democrats host a nasty primary. We give the Democrats an early edge, but don’t be surprised to see this in the “Dirty Thirty” at a later point.

Candidates

Betty Sutton – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,116,824.34 | Total Spent: $1,116,824.34
Website

Craig Foltin – Republican – Total Raised: $518,334.32 | Total Spent: $502,301.00
Website

Ohio (15)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Rep. Deborah Pryce (R) holds a slight lead over Mary Jo Kilroy (D). The race is still beiung contested.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Mary Jo Kilroy (D) will unseat Rep. Deborah Pryce (R). That may be the moral of the story in this, the other Columbus-area district, where we believe Pryce is now the underdog to win reelection in spite of her prominent role in the GOP leadership. The role may actually be her downfall against county commissioner Kilroy, whose supporters are better organized and poised to take advantage of the pro-Democratic political atmosphere. Pryce has been very aggressive, but in many respects her rustiness as a campaigner has been visible. We predict a Democratic gain here with low-to-moderate confidence.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Both parties continue to take this race seriously, and in light of this district’s fast-changing demographics and Ohio’s harsh atmosphere for Republicans, we have moved this contest into the Dirty Thirty. Still, longtime GOP Rep. Deborah Pryce retains a solid edge over Democratic challenger Mary Jo Kilroy.


February 2006 Outlook:

Seven-term GOP Rep. Deborah Pryce, the House Republican Conference Chair, has seen her Columbus-area district trend more and more Democratic in recent years: in 2000, Bush carried it by eight points, in 2004, it was virtually tied. It is this pattern that has encouraged Democrats to get behind Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy this year, and though Pryce has always won her share of crossover votes in this otherwise “swing” district, the political climate in Ohio of late has been poisonous for the GOP. Pryce enjoys a substantial financial edge, but don’t be surprised to see us upgrade this race if it heats up closer to the fall.

Candidates

Deborah Pryce (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $3,604,962.59 | Total Spent: $3,356,237.22
Website

Mary Jo Kilroy – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,102,082.87| Total Spent: $1,380,529.40
Website

Ohio (18)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Zack Space (D) defeated Joy Padgett (R) with 62% of the vote .

November 6, 2006 Update:

Zack Space (D) will defeat Joy Padgett (R). Republicans have only themselves to blame for frittering away this district to a candidate who would never be competitive under ordinary circumstances. Democrats have a simple message here: Heard of Bob Ney? Meet his ethically-challenged handpicked replacement, Joy Padgett! Enough said, except, of course, the rejoinder: Democrats, meet your new probable one-term wonder, Zack Space.

September 23, 2006 Update:

As is so often the case these days, the officeholder implicated in scandal here called it quits on his own terms before the voters could render judgment. Ohio GOP Rep. Bob Ney’s exit stage right has allowed the GOP to rally around his preferred successor, state Sen. Joy Padgett, who will very likely be able to carry her party’s banner in the November race against attorney Zack Space, who is not a particularly strong candidate. The 18th District voted for President Bush by 14 points, but Padgett’s ties to Ney and to hugely unpopular GOP elements of state government do give us some pause, and we still rate this contest a tossup, with perhaps a tiny edge for Padgett.

June 29, 2006 Update:

With former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay calling his reelection bid quits in Texas, Ohio GOP Rep. Bob Ney is now the Democrats’ poster boy for incumbent Republican congressional scandal. And Ney seems to be sweating: just last week, his hards words in a text message to a Copley News Service reporter found their way to press. If Democrats had found a more credible nominee than Dover attorney Zack Space, this race might well have already been over. As it is, Ney stands no better than an even chance of winning reelection.


February 2006 Outlook:

If August 2nd’s unexpectedly close special election outcome between GOP state Rep. Jean Schmidt and upstart Democrat Paul Hackett served as a wake-up call to Ohio’s Republican establishment, GOP Rep. Bob Ney‘s sleep that night must have been cut especially short. Voters in the Buckeye State, already on heightened alert to issues of public corruption thanks to the misreported golf outings and rare coin investment misadventures of the incumbent Republican administration led by massively unpopular Gov. Bob Taft, seem eager to send many of the state’s politicians a message in 2006. Now Ney’s implications in wrongdoing tied to the activities of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff have taken a major toll on his political prospects back home.

Indeed, Ohio’s Republican officeholders are crossing their fingers, hoping that they have already hit rock bottom and that the prevailing voter anger will subside by the fall of next year. But in Ney’s case, the likely electoral fallout from scandals within the state will be compounded by constituent reaction to his widely reported ties to Abramoff, who accompanied Ney and Rep. Tom DeLay on overseas golf outings. Democrats allege that Ney improperly inserted special language into a key piece of legislation in order to boost the financial prospects of one of Abramoff’s Native American tribal clients, and Ney’s alleged malfeasance has so far provided the impetus for one Democrat, Chillicothe Mayor Joe Sulzer, to mount a challenge to the incumbent in this east-central Ohio distsrict next year.

Ney has not let the charges against go unanswered, however, and he has been working the district extra hard in recent months. Despite a short-lived call by the Ohio GOP chair for Ney to call it quits in 2006 if he is indicted, the incumbent seems insistent on moving ahead with reelection plans regardless of legal proceedings.

Given his challenger’s relatively small base and the fact that 2002 redistricting made this of the safest Republican districts in the state, Ney started out the favorite, but the steady drumbeat of national news surrounding the Abramoff scandal and Ney’s involvement have turned this race into a bona fide toss-up.

Candidates

Zack Space – Democrat – Third Quarter Raised: $419,283.34 | Cash on Hand: $146,677.63
Website

Joy Padgett – Republican – Total Raised: $689,177.69 | Total Spent: $512,767.42
Website

Pennsylvania (04)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Jason Altimire (D) defeated Rep. Melissa Hart (R) with 52% of the votes.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Melissa Hart (R) will win reelection over Jason Altmire (D). As GOP Sen. Rick Santorum’s reelection numbers fell in western Pennsylvania this year, Democrats acquired some hope that they could mount a credible race in at least one area district, and it turns out that this is it. Although Hart remains personally popular in this ancestrally Democratic district, she is swimming upstream this year as Democrats are headed for landslides in the Keystone State. National Democrats have come to Altmire’s aid; though we think it may be enough to get him to 47 to 49 percent of the vote, we give a narrow edge to Hart to retain this seat.


Candidates

Melissa Hart (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,856,979.74 | Total Spent: $1,390,028.66
Website

Jason Altmire – Democrat – Total Raised: $654,812.81 | Total Spent: $586,710.48
Website

Pennsylvania (06)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) defeated Lois Murphy (D) with 51% of the vote .

November 6, 2006 Update:

Lois Murphy (D) will unseat Rep. Jim Gerlach (R). Let’s do the math: Gerlach won by merely 2 percent in both 2002 and 2004, years when parties were at about even strength in Pennsylvania. Is this year at least two percent less Republican? You bet. Of course, many in the district argue that Gerlach has run a more disciplined and aggressive effort against Murphy this time around and that midterm election voters are more likely to be the constituents who know him and like him best. But Murphy has out-raised him consistently and has learned from her mistakes two years ago as well. We would be fairly surprised to see Gerlach hold on tomorrow.

August 23, 2006 Update:

As “Mr. 51 percent,” Rep. Jim Gerlach has always stood out as the most vulnerable (unindicted) Republican from the beginning of the 2006 cycle. As the political environment continues to worsen for the national GOP, especially in suburbs, Gerlach in particular is feeling the heat from a better-funded challenge by Democrat Lois Murphy. The Crystal Ball doubts that Gerlach will be able to hold his tenuous 2004 majority this time around, and despite the incumbent’s best efforts, gives this race the first lean-Democratic takeover rating of the year.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Republican incumbents are feeling the heat in suburban areas of Pennsylvania this year, and the most endangered is Rep. Jim Gerlach. Facing a tough rematch against Democrat Lois Murphy, whom he narrowly bested in 2004, Gerlach has taken to the airwaves in the more conservative portions of his district with an ad talking tough on illegal immigration. Still, Gerlach stands only an even chance of running up big enough margins in those areas to offset Murphy’s advantages in the closer-in Montgomery County precincts of the district.


February 2006 Outlook:

In a seat supposedly tailor-made for him, two-term GOP Rep. Jim Gerlach has not yet been able to truly solidify his grasp at the ballot box. It seems as if each year, any advantages Gerlach has accrued as the result of his incumbency have been offset by this outer-suburban southeastern Pennsylvania district’s demographic movement towards Democrats.

In his first race in 2002, Gerlach bested Democrat Dan Wofford by a narrower than expected 51 to 49 percent margin in an open seat situation. In 2004, as the district opted for John Kerry at the top of the ticket, Gerlach eked out another 51 to 49 percent victory, this time over Democratic attorney Lois Murphy. Murphy has announced her intention to seek a rematch in 2006 and actually out-raised the incumbent Gerlach during the final quarter of 2005, setting up what will surely be one of the cycle’s marquee races. And with Republican lightning rod Sen. Rick Santorum heading next year’s GOP ticket in the Keystone State, a strong turnout on the part of a motivated Democratic base could really cause the more moderate Gerlach headaches. Of all GOP incumbents, Gerlach may be the most endangered, and though he is an experienced campaigner and shows over $1 million in the bank, we currently rate this race a toss-up.

Candidates

Jim Gerlach (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,811,107.22 | Total Spent: $2,684,384.46
Website

Lois Murphy – Democrat – Total Raised: $3,408,100.29 | Total Spent: $2,827,042.47
Website

Pennsylvania (07)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Joe Sestak (D) defeated Rep. Curt Weldon (R) with 56% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Joe Sestak (D) will unseat Rep. Curt Weldon (R). Weldon’s reelection prospects were 50/50 at best even before FBI agents raided his daughter’s home to seal evidence that she was improperly lobbying for a foreign client with ties to Slobodan Milosevic and possible government business for Weldon’s consideration. Now, it is very difficult to see how Sestak could lose this race, which seemed so far out of reach for Democrats only one year ago.

June 29, 2006 Update:

GOP Rep. Curt Weldon, who has not faced serious competition in ages, seems to be taking his campaign seriously in 2006. He clearly recognizes the shifting partisan foundations of this Democratic-trending, Delaware County-based district and is raising plenty of campaign cash, but he has also shown his rust by criticizing his Democratic rival, decorated veteran Joe Sestak, for treating his daughter’s brain tumor in a hospital outside the district. Weldon has deep roots in this district, but his persistence on the issue of finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has struck more than several observers as unusual, and it’s just enough to push this race into the Dirty Thirty for the first time.


February 2006 Outlook:

Even in the face of very weak opposition, ten-term GOP Rep. Curt Weldon failed to break 60 percent of the vote in the 2004 election. Make no mistake; this close-in Philadelphia suburban district is moving quickly towards the Democrats, and voted 53 percent for Kerry the same year. That’s why all of a sudden, the entrenched Weldon has been added to lists of possible vulnerable Republican incumbents. Opposing him this year will be veteran Joe Sestak, who only recently announced his candidacy and has not yet had time to raise money. Still, Sestak has a long way to go if he wants to put Weldon’s congressional future in jeopardy.

Candidates

Curt Weldon (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,492,971.24 | Total Spent: $2,553,501.09
Website

Joe Sestak – Democrat – Third Quarter Raised: $1,181,010.73 | Cash on Hand: $1,561,872.22
Website

Pennsylvania (08)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Patrick Murphy (D) defeated Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) by barely over 1,000 votes.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) will win reelection over Patrick Murphy (D). Of all the eastern Pennsylvania GOP incumbents, the Crystal Ball believes Fitzpatrick is in the best shape. A conservative who doesn’t rock the boat, Fitzpatrick has ably criticized Murphy’s lack of details in explaining his position on Iraq, and scored a few points with a commercial featuring an embarrassing clip of Iraq veteran Murphy’s appearance on MSNBC’s Hardball. National Democrats insist Murphy still stands an excellent chance to win, and this race could still go either way. But Fitzpatrick’s road to 50 percent plus one is much easier than that of others in his delegation, and we’re putting our thumb on the scale for him.

June 29, 2006 Update:

As expected, Democrats here selected veteran Patrick Murphy as their nominee to do battle against freshman GOP Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, and Murphy is hoping that in 2006 as opposed to 2004, his party can cut through all the clutter and get across to voters their message that Fitzpatrick is too conservative for the district. But Fitzpatrick retains a gigantic cash-on-hand advantage over his challenger, and that matters a great deal in the expensive Philadelphia media market. Continue to give Fitzpatrick an edge here.


February 2006 Outlook:

Freshman Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick won convincingly last year in this pro-Kerry, Bucks County-based district, if only because Democrats were caught off guard when longtime moderate GOP Rep. Jim Greenwood announced his decision not to seek reelection at the very last minute. Republicans had selected the conservative Fitzpatrick, a former Bucks County commissioner, over the wishes of the popular Greenwood, although Greenwood did sign on to Fitzpatrick’s campaign prior to November. Meanwhile, Democrats were stuck with their sacrificial lamb, liberal activist Virginia Schrader, who clearly would not have been her party’s choice if Greenwood had given more notice of his decision to retire.

In 2006, several Democrats are vying to carry their party’s banner in what each hopes will be a banner year for Pennsylvania’s Democrats. Prosecutor Patrick Murphy, former Bucks County commissioner Andy Warren, and Coast Guard Veteran Paul Lang each bring very different sets of credentials to the nomination race, but Murphy appears to be the attracting the most support in the campaign’s early stages. In the general election, the Democratic nominee will certainly seek to hold Fitzpatrick’s feet to the fire over his hesitance on Stem Cell research (one issue on which Fitzpatrick and the socially liberal Greenwood vigorously disagree) in this highly college-educated district, but given the freshman’s strong showing last year, Fitzpatrick holds a substantial early edge.

Candidates

Mike Fitzpatrick (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,456,376.78 | Total Spent: $2,407,530.22
Website

Patrick Murphy – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,859,350.15 | Total Spent: $1,478,203.38
Website

Pennsylvania (10)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

November 6, 2006 Update:

Chris Carney (D) defeated Rep. Don Sherwood (R) with 53% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

November 6, 2006 Update:

Chris Carney (D) will unseat Rep. Don Sherwood (R). Two words: mistress and choking. Sherwood’s substantial settlement agreement and too-late mea culpa lead us to continue to believe he is in serious hot water tomorrow. Carney’s devastating ads have featured Republicans repudiating Sherwood’s behavior, and this may prove to be the one district where the Foley scandal caused an unmistakable and long-term refocusing of a race on personal behavior and moral values.


Background

There’s only one explanation for GOP Rep. Don Sherwood’s rather anemic 56 percent to 44 percent primary victory over political unknown Kathy Scott, and it’s the fact that Sherwood’s five-year affair with political activist Cynthia Ore was recently brought to light by ugly accusations of choking and a resulting undisclosed settlement. Sherwood’s unexpected and underwhelming limp across the primary finish line served as a wake up call that his personal pecadilloes have taken a toll on his standing with this far-northeastern Pennsylvania district’s electorate.

Make no mistake about it: even though the 10th is as reliably GOP a district as you can find in northeastern Pennsylvania, Sherwood will need to rally far more than 56 percent of Republican voters to support him in November if he wants to win a fifth term in Congress. Democratic challenger veteran Chris Carney is mounting as serious an effort as any Democrat has here since Democrat Patrick Casey lost here in 2000, and if he raises anything close to Sherwood’s fundraising total for the second quarter, we may consider upgrading this race, though Sherwood’s personal wealth all but guarantees the incumbent a financial advantage down the stretch.

Candidates

Don Sherwood (I) – Republican – Total Raised:$1,568,449.13 I Cash On Hand: $1,735,371.91

Chris Carney – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,159,792.89 I Total Spent:$938,692.00
Website

South Carolina (05)

Outlook: Solid Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

Democrat John Spratt won re-election over Republican Ralph Norman.

July 13, 2006 Update:

As it turns out, GOP state Rep. Ralph Norman had his party’s nomination all to himself in South Carolina’s recent primary, but he will face a decidedly uphill battle to dislodge the 5th District’s veteran representative, Democratic Rep. John Spratt. Norman boasted slightly over half of Spratt’s cash-on-hand total as of the end of the first quarter of 2006, but Spratt is no slouch and has a strong reputation for paying attention to local concerns. The Crystal Ball believes Republicans looking for opportunities to pick off the seat of a Democratic incumbent in 2006 can probably find slightly better prospects in Iowa against Rep. Leonard Boswell or in West Virginia against Rep. Alan Mollohan, though this is still a race worth keeping an eye on.


February 2006 Outlook:

Twelve-term Democratic budget expert Rep. John Spratt has been reelected consistently with large margins in this fairly conservative northern South Carolina district. But he certainly has not faced much of a serious Republican challenge for over a decade. GOP State Rep. Ralph Norman is hoping to take Spratt by surprise, and though the challenger mightily outraised the incumbent during the fourth quarter of 2005, Spratt’s popularity in the district will likely carry him to more victories until he retires.

Candidates

John Spratt (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,090,435.45 | Total Spent: $2,174,443.67
Website

Ralph Norman (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,061,831.12 | Total Spent: $831,898.84
Website

Texas (17)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Chet Edwards (D) will win reelection over Van Taylor (R). Sure, the president will be voting for Taylor, but in this case his opinion will be worth just as much as everyone else’s. Taylor is a young veteran and an attractive candidate, but it’s likely that Edwards’s incumbency and considerable political skills will pull him through yet another election in this severely red district.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Iraq veteran Van Taylor captured his party’s nomination to run against longtime Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards in this, the most conservative Texas district still held by a Democrat. But his victory in the primary came at a cost, and now he must replenish his campaign coffers quickly if he wants to have any hope of ousting Edwards, who is possibly the most able campaigner in the state’s congressional delegation. This race still leans to the Democrats.


February 2006 Outlook:

Texas’s 17th District may be home to President Bush’s ranch in Crawford and last year’s anti-war protests outside of it, but GOP State Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth still came up about 8,000 votes shy of knocking off Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards in this reconfigured Waco-based seat last year. The politically talented Edwards was the only one of the five targeted Texas Democrats to win enough crossover support to survive pro-Republican redistricting in 2004, and Republicans will have to find a stronger candidate to win here in 2006.

What does not destroy an incumbent like Edwards strengthens him. On the other hand, with so few truly competitive House districts, both parties have tens of millions to spend in the handful of close battles, so Edwards will likely be hard pressed again in 2006. So far, Marine Reservist Van Taylor holds a sizeable edge over Tucker Anderson for the GOP nomination. Either would give Edwards a good race, but for now, the Crystal Ball gives the incumbent Democrat the edge. If the GOP unites behind one well-funded candidate soon, however, this race could easily make its way back to the toss-up column.

Candidates

Chet Edwards (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,899,630.39 | Total Spent: $2,257,067.89
Website

Van Taylor – Republican – Total Raised: $1,817,372.68 | Total Spent: $2,058,085.71
Website

Texas (22) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Democrat Nick Lampson defeated Republican Shelley Sekula-Gibbs.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Nick Lampson (D) will defeat Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R). We really do wonder about this district. Republicans chose to gamble on expensive voter education campaigns here and in Florida to salvage scandal-tarred seats. Late word on the street is that party efforts are finally paying off in both places, at least in part because awareness of the special situations seems to be high among the midterm electorate, which skews affluent and well-educated. Still, we believe a write-in vote for “Sekula-Gibbs” is a lot to ask of most voters, and we tend to think Lampson still has a very thin advantage–for the full term, that is–going into Election Day.

October 2, 2006 Update:

Republican Shelly Sekula-Gibbs is asking voters to check her name twice in the Nov. 7th general election. She is running in special contest for the remainder of former Rep. Tom DeLay‘s term, and she is running in a write-in campaign to allow her to serve in the seat for the next two years. Sekula-Gibbs is fighting an uphill battle because historically no write-in candidate in Texas has ever won a congressional race. Her opponent, Democrat Nick Lampson, is also already 2.2 million dollars ahead in fundraising because of Sekula-Gibbs’ late start after Delay’s resignation. According to the Dallas Morning News, Sekula-Gibbs is telling voters: “It’s the first time that you get to vote for the same person twice on the same day. Usually it’s cheating if you do that, but I’m asking you to do that to keep this district conservative and Republican.”

Erin Levin, Crystal Ball Southern Regional Correspondent

August 10, 2006 Update:

In a stunning reversal of fortune, the state GOP was denied the opportunity to replace Tom DeLay on the ballot, and instead was forced to coalesce around a write-in candidate to take on Democrat Nick Lampson in the general election. The GOP’s pick? Conservative Houston City Council woman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, whose name isn’t particulary easy to remember or spell! We do not yet know whether Republicans will try to pour substantial sums into the race in hopes of keeping it competitive, but their odds of mounting a successful write-in bid are slim, if history is any guide. In November, the advantage must be given to the well-funded Lampson, who may well turn out to be a one-term wonder if the GOP gets its act together here in time for 2008.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Just when we thought we might get to witness a House race for the ages in this district, Majority Leader Tom DeLay announced his retirement from Congress and shattered everything we had come to know and expect about the race here.

Currently, the ballot replacement struggle is playing out in court, with Democrats fighting to keep DeLay’s name on the ballot for November and the GOP claiming that his move to Virginia makes him ineligible to stay on the ballot. Our guess is that Republicans get to field a replacement nominee who will start off as a favorite against former Reps. Democrat Nick Lampson and Independent Steve Stockman, the latter of whom may not even appear on the ballot as a result of not filing proper paperwork.

The end result of these developments? GOP chances of retaining this seat will improve quite dramatically with DeLay off the ballot. But in the Crystal Ball’s view, with yesterday’s Supreme Court redistricting ruling in mind, Texas might want to think about changing its slogan to “Land of Litigated Congressional Elections.”


February 2006 Outlook:

As if residents of the Texas Gulf Coast were in need of another storm besides Rita, those living in the 22nd District have observed one brewing for nearly a year now, and this one in the southwest-of-Houston area won’t be over until November 7th.

First, take the fact that now-indicted ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay vastly outspent a little-known, Howard Dean-supported Democrat in 2004 and received only 55 percent of the vote. Next, consider that since then, news of his indictment and his demotion from the GOP leadership has saturated his Houston-area district’s media market and that his favorability ratings have plummeted in polls of his constituents. Finally, take into account that both a former Democratic Texas congressman who used to represent 20 percent of DeLay’s current district AND a former maverick Republican congressman have decided to run against him. What do you have? A barnburner of a race that conceivably could result in the biggest upset of 2006.

Although a conviction in the next several months would likely sink his congressional career entirely, DeLay doesn’t yet have the smell of death about him. For his part, DeLay has embarked on a massive public relations campaign to return fire on Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle and has missed few opportunities to brand Earle’s charges “baseless” and “frivolous.” Furthermore, DeLay’s territory is one where it is mighty tough for a Democrat to win. But surely it is no more inhospitable to Democrats than the district won by redistricted Democratic Congressman Chet Edwards in 2002. DeLay is going to have to work hard, and spend his time and money at home rather than around the country for other members of his caucus.

Democrat Nick Lampson‘s decision to oppose DeLay in 2006 met with jubilation among Washington Democrats who have their minds set on exacting revenge for the GOP’s 2004 takeout of another congressional party leader named Tom. And for Lampson, an upset of DeLay would be payback for DeLay’s role in bringing about the mid-decade redrawing of district lines that resulted in the loss of the Democrat’s Galveston-to-Beaumont district.

If indeed the “Hammer” loses in 2006, he would likely be a victim of his own creativity. In the 2003 redrawing process, he collegially agreed to take on a few more Democratic precincts in exchange for boosting GOP chances elsewhere. Still, don’t count DeLay out: even though he no longer can point to clout commensurate with a top House leadership position, he can easily raise all the money he needs to wage a breathtakingly vigorous defense of his seat. At the year’s end, he had $1.45 million in the bank to the Democrat’s $1.29 million in cash on hand.

Lest we forget, the nascent independent candidacy of former GOP Rep. Steve Stockman could be a complicating factor in this race. While there is certainly no love lost between Stockman and DeLay, Stockman is not on especially good terms with Lampson either: it was Lampson who unseated him in a nasty runoff held in Texas’s old 9th District back in 1996. And while Stockman will surely claim many Republican votes, he may actually aid DeLay by splitting the anti-DeLay vote with Lampson.

This will be the marquee House race of 2006 and we’ve moved it into the toss-up column.

Candidates

Steve Stockman (I) – Independent – Total Raised: N/A | Total Spent: N/A

Nick Lampson – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,963,110.58 | Total Spent: $2,190,247.15
Website

David Wallace – Republican – Former Mayor of Sugar Land, will be Tom DeLay’s write in Candidate Second Quarter Raised: $203,421.43 | Cash on Hand: $157,814.15
Website

Shelley Sekula-Gibbs – Republican – Total Raised: $585,903.25 | Total Spent: $672,650.4
Website

Texas (23)

Outlook: Leans Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Republican Henry Bonilla won re-election over Democrat Ciro Rodriguez.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Henry Bonilla (R) will win reelection over Ciro Rodriguez (D). The fact that this race has been practically inaudible on the national stage since the district’s creation this summer is very good news for Bonilla, who will be dominating the field in the open primary tomorrow. The question, of course, is whether he will reach 50 percent in this race, which might as well be held in Louisiana. If he is held under 50 percent, we believe it will be Rodriguez who advances to the runoff, although businessman Lukin Gilliland has an outside shot. This newly configured district is expansive as ever and poses numerous message communication difficulties, meaning that Bonilla’s insurmountable cash edge may enable him to run circles around the competition even if Democrats are the district’s political majority.

August 9, 2006 Update:

Longtime GOP Rep. Henry Bonilla contends that the new court-imposed Texas congressional district boundaries do not harm his reelection prospects, as the addition of southern Bexar County to the district means residents of the territory surrounding his boyhood home will finally have the chance to vote for him. But in all truth, though Bonilla is still the favorite under the new lines, he is by no means guaranteed victory, especially now that Democratic Rep. Ciro Rodriguez of San Antonio’s south side has entered the race.

And what an intriguing game of musical chairs this district has played! Bonilla, Rodriguez, and neighboring Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar will have all faced off against each other in the span of just three election cycles. Bonilla’s chances in November against any credible Democratic nominee will come down to geography: the removal of heavily anglo Kerr, Kendall, Bandera, and Real counties from the district outweigh the district’s loss of portions heavily Latino Webb County politically, and the switcheroo could really end up causing the incumbent headaches, perhaps even in a runoff.


Candidates

Henry Bonilla (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $3,305,615.18| Total Spent: $2,479,514.57
Website

Ciro D. Rodriguez – Democrat – Total Raised: $858,393.81 | Total Spent: $897,074.86
Website

Virginia (02)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Republican Thelma Drake won re-election over Democrat Phil Kellam.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Let there be no mistake about it: this race right here in the Crystal Ball’s backyard is emerging as one of the top priorities for both parties in the 2006 congressional elections. Democrat Phil Kellam’s geographical base and well-respected last name give him advantages previous Democratic contenders here haven’t had, and his fundraising to date has been respectable.

Still, freshman GOP Rep. Thelma Drake isn’t taking anything for granted, and she was the beneficiary of a recent fundraising visit from Vice President Dick Cheney. Her campaign contends Kellam’s stands on a variety of issues mirror her’s and seeks to tie him to the liberal group MoveOn.org, which recently sponsored ads in the district attacking Drake. The national attention being given this race earns it a place in the Dirty Thirty, and we at the Crystal Ball are glad to have a front row seat to a truly competitive House race for the first time in six years!

Update:

Word on our street is that while team Democrat Phil Kellam’s is running the better candidate, team freshman GOP Rep. Thelma Drake is running the better campaign. Kellam’s name recognition is phenomenal, yet two months out from the election, his critics are correct to point out that he has been slow to outline his views on most issues of national import. Still, Sen. George Allen’s new-found vulnerability following remarks that were perceived to be racially insensitive can’t help his party’s down-ballot candidates. We now rate this race a tossup, though we would give an ever so slight edge to Drake if a gun were at our head.


February 2006 Outlook:

A last-minute replacement candidate for a scandal-tarred Republican incumbent in 2004, freshman GOP Rep. Thelma Drake won this district with 55 percent against Democratic Iraq veteran and political neophyte David Ashe. But her political position in this military-heavy Tidewater district is still not considered particularly strong for a first-term incumbent. For one, Drake’s geographic base is the city of Norfolk, which accounts for only a small fraction of the district when compared to Virginia Beach, where about two thirds of the district’s voters reside. Drake may also have to spend time and money on turning back a primary challenge if Virginia Beach sheriff Paul Lanteigne enters the race for the GOP nomination.

Democrats are excited about their 2006 recruit here, popular Virginia Beach Commissioner of Revenue Phil Kellam, whose chief advantages are name recognition and geography. His family has a long history of involvement in city politics dating back to the mid-20th century, and the Kellam name is still very valuable in the area. Kellam has won overwhelming victories in several technically nonpartisan city-wide Virginia Beach elections, meaning his is already a household name among two thirds of the district’s electorate. By contrast, Drake has only run once district-wide and has successfully run many times in a Norfolk House of Delegates district about a sixth the population of Virginia Beach.

Of special significance to this race were the local results of the 2005 Virginia gubernatorial election; Democratic candidate Tim Kaine‘s narrow win of the city of Virginia Beach was a stunning result. While Drake will most likely be better funded this time around and can point to a seat on the Armed Services Committee, this race has all the makings of a decently competitive contest, and certainly will be the closest congressional race held in Virginia this year. Drake retains an early advantage, but don’t be surprised to see this race move into the “Dirty Thirty” at a later point.

Candidates

Phil Kellam (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,157,495.14 | Total Spent: $1,150,998.78
Website

Thelma Drake (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,855,459.57 | Total Spent: $1,520,472.77
Website

Virginia (10)

Outlook: Leans Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

Candidates

Vermont (AL) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

July 13, 2006 Update:

Without the presence of an established third-party Progressive on the November ballot, Democratic state Sen. Peter Welch seems to stand a much improved chance of succeeding Senate aspirant and Independent Rep. Bernie Sanders in Vermont’s only House seat.

GOP standard-bearer National Guard Gen. Martha Rainville has kept pace with Welch in fundraising as of the close of the first quarter of 2006, and Republicans claim she is receiving good reviews on the campaign trail. At the end of the day, however, it is difficult for the Crystal Ball to believe Rainville has a good shot at capturing this open seat in the bluest of states in a pro-Democratic year, especially when Welch seems to have Sanders’ blessing.

Update:

State Sen. Peter Welch’s skeptics point out that he has been an unsuccessful seeker of statewide office in the past, but he remains the favorite to defeat National Guard Gen. Martha Rainville, who is performing as well as can be expected as a Republican in a Democratic state and a Democratic year.


February 2006 Outlook:

Self-professed socialist and Independent/Progressive Rep. Bernie Sanders is running for Senate, so Vermont legislators on each side of the aisle are lining up for the shot to win one of the Green Mountain State’s three tickets to Washington.

National Republicans are bullish on the chances of National Guard Gen. Martha Rainville, who several months ago delcared her GOP affiliation and her interest in the seat. She is the current favorite to claim the Republican nomination.

Democrats seem to have coalesced around the candidacy of liberal State Sen. Peter Welch. In this, the “People’s Republic of Vermont,” Welch will likely have the advantage in November 2006, though if Progressive Party state legislator David Zuckerman proceeds with a House candidacy, the left-of-center vote could be split to Rainville’s advantage.

Incidentally, in one of the oddities of American politics, the handful of states like Vermont that have just a single U.S. Representative (seven states total) always have pitched battles for an open seat. After all, it’s a statewide election, the equivalent of a U.S. Senate contest, with one distinction: The House winner is more special than the senators. He or she has the House floor alone in representing the state’s interests, while the two senators inevitably become rivals, jockeying each other for credit and status within their legislative chamber.

Candidates

Peter Welch – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,829,628.74 | Total Spent: $1,351,974.33
Website

Mark Shepard – Republican – Third Quarter Raised: $11,434.85 | Cash on Hand: $1,263.51
Website

Martha Rainville – Republican – Total Raised: $797,341.76 | Total Spent: $752,231.61
Website

Washington (02)

Outlook: Solid Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

Rep. Rick Larsen (D) won reelection over Doug Roulstone (R) with 65% of the vote.


Background

Three-term Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen‘s unconvincing 50 to 46 percent win over Republican Norma Smith in 2002 earned him a place on future Republican target lists in this Snohomish County-based district. Although the GOP failed to field a top recruit in 2004, they believe retired Navy officer Doug Roulstone will mount a competitive bid for this seat in 2006. This is a classic “swing” district, but Larsen’s large cash advantage and considerable incumbency put him in the driver’s seat for now in this race.

Candidates

Rick Larsen (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,318,210.32 | Total Spent: $1,376,447.89
Website

Doug Roulstone – Republican – Total Raised: $550,222.97| Total Spent: $518,405.58
Website

Washington (05)

Outlook: Leans Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Rep. Cathy McMorris (R) won reelection over Peter Goldmark (D) with 56% of the vote.


Candidates

Cathy McMorris (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,454,104.00 | Total Spent: $1,238,370.00
Website

Peter Goldmark – Democrat – Total Raised: $871,928.91 | Total Spent: $483,604.52
Website

Washington (08)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Rep. Dave Reichert (R) won reelection over Darcy Burner (D) with 51% of the vote.

July 13, 2006 Update:

This contest fell out of the Dirty Thirty this month not so much because its competitiveness declined but rather because other competitive races around the country entered the picture. If the Crystal Ball were to choose to create a Dirty 31, however, this race would be in it. News this week that Democratic hopeful Darcy Burner will post over $1 million raised so far this year at the conclusion of the second quarter means that this suburban Seattle district will once again experience a battle royal in 2006.

Freshman GOP Rep. Dave Reichert hasn’t done anything in particular to put his seat in jeopardy, but national Republicans are certainly cognizant of the marginal nature of this district, which is why President Bush dropped in for a high-dollar Reichert fundraiser last month. In addition, GOP activists in this tech-heavy district have taken Burner to task for allegedly inflating her resume by referring to herself as a Microsoft executive rather than a project manager; although the Crystal Ball does not foresee this dust-up will have much of an impact on the race, it is clear that Republicans plan to run an aggressive race to defend this seat, and for now, Reichert has the leg up in his fight for a second term.

Update:

Former Microsoft manager Darcy Burner is clearly on a fundraising tear, and it’s not clear that Freshman GOP Rep. Dave Reichert recent change of heart in favor of embryonic stem cell research has won him many new devotees. This race is back in our upper echelon.


February 2006 Outlook:

Freshman GOP Rep. Dave Reichert‘s biggest claim to fame before coming to Congress in 2004 was his role in the capture of the Seattle area’s much-feared “Green River Killer” in 2001, when he served as King County Sheriff. So when Republican Rep. Jennifer Dunn decided to step down last cycle, Reichert’s name recognition in this suburban Seattle swing district at the time he threw his hat into the ring was already the envy of several other candidates.

Democrats were disappointed last November when their nominee, popular radio talk show host Dave Ross, trailed Reichert 52 to 47 percent in the final tally. Nevertheless, Reichert’s freshman status and the fundamentally competitive nature of this district are sure to encourage national Democrats to fund at least one follow-up try, and former Microsoft manager Darcy Burner has emerged as the favorite to oppose Reichert. Although Microsoft’s home base of Redmond lies just beyond the district’s boundaries, plenty of the 8th’s residents have ties to the corporation, including one very well-to-do voter named Bill Gates (this is one case in which Democrats probably wish individuals could legally contribute unlimited sums to candidates!). Nevertheless, Burner’s total haul for the fourth quarter of 2005 amounted to just over $100,000, a decent but not spectacular showing. Give Reichert the advantage.

Candidates

Dave Reichert (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,377,052.05 | Total Spent: $1,875,980.47
Website

Darcy Burner – Democrat – Total Raised: $ 2,376,575.47| Total Spent: $1,699,253.55
Website

Wisconsin (08) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Steve Kagen (D) defeated John Gard (R) with 51% of the vote.

July 13, 2006 Update:

For several reasons, the Crystal Ball sees fit to downgrade this race slightly from the perspective of July. First, current GOP Rep. Mark Green now has his party’s gubernatorial nomination all to himself, and although he’s currently down by double digits in the polls, it’s a safe bet that he’s well ahead in his home district, which is a certain boon for likely Republican nominee State House Speaker John Gard

Second, Democrats, who constitute a clear minority in this fairly conservative Green Bay-area district, continue to be treated to a tough three-way showdown for the House nomination. Left-leaning interest groups are divided between the candidates, and only personally wealthy allergist Steve Kagen could conceivably emerge from a bruising primary fight with a ready supply of cash. Democrats will certainly be targeting this open seat, but this race remains an uphill battle against the well-funded Gard and the relatively united GOP.

Update:

The late primary here could really be working against Democrats, as the State House Speaker John Gard continues to save precious dollars for the general election fight. This is one fairly moderate GOP open seat the incumbent party stands an excellent chance to hold.


February 2006 Outlook:

Much like Minnesota Rep. Mark Kennedy, Wisconsin Rep. Mark Green is vacating a safe seat in Congress to run for a different office in 2006 – only Green is mounting a bid against an incumbent governor while Kennedy is running for an open Senate seat. In the Green Bay-centered 8th district Green is leaving behind, the battle to fill the open seat could potentially get as frigid as Lambeau Field’s frozen tundra.

On the Republican side, state Rep. Terri McCormick and State House Speaker John Gard will compete for their party’s nod, with the early edge going to Gard. Across the aisle, former Brown County executive Nancy Nusbaum, businessman Jamie Wall, and independently wealthy, self-funding allergy clinic magnate Steve Kagen will duke it out for the Democratic go-ahead. So far, a poll conducted by EMILY’s List showing Nusbaum in a near dead-heat against Gard has given Nusbaum encouragement and has earned the race some media attention.

Although the strong Republican heritage of this district will make it exceedingly difficult for the eventual Democratic nominee to nab this open seat, the Crystal Ball has not forgotten the outcome here in 1996, when Democratic newscaster Jay Johnson bested a GOP nominee who emerged weakened from a fractured Republican field. Of course, Green easily sent Johnson packing two years later, but a similar scenario this decade would not be entirely out of the question. This race leans Republican.

Candidates

Steve Kagen – Democrat – Total Raised: $437,257.48 | Total Spent: $2,139,207.99
Website

John Gard – Republican – Total Raised:$2,104,421.91 | Total Spent: $2,028,258.58
Website

West Virginia (01)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Allan Mollahan(D) defeated Chris Wakim (R) with 64% of the vote.

October 1, 2006 Update:

Has the Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan earmark scandal blown over? Or has the furor simply died down? WIth high-profile fundraising help, GOP State Rep. Chris Wakim is doing all the right things, but Mollohan won’t easily be dislodged, especially in such a Democratic-leaning year.


June 29th, 2006 Outlook:

A few months ago, no one could have guessed that this district would make its way into the top tiers of competitive House races, but new ethical clouds hanging over Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan, the ranking member of the House Ethics committee, have put his long-running grip on this northern West Virginia district in some jeopardy.

Accusations that Mollohan sought the insertion of earmarks that improperly boosted the value of much of his family’s property back home have dogged him, and though he has always won with very solid margins in this, the most Republican district in the state, he does face credible opposition this year in GOP State Rep. Chris Wakim. Still, with four times as much cash in the bank as his Republican foe, Mollohan has the resources to fight back, and starts out as a clear favorite.

Candidates

Alan Mollohan (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,252,085.73 | Total Spent: $1,171,761.63
Website

Chris Wakim (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $551,121.22 | Total Spent: $463,699.44
Website

Wyoming (AL)

Outlook: Toss-up


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Rep. Barbara Cubin (R) won reelection over Gary Trauner (D) with 48% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Barbara Cubin (R) will win reelection over Gary Trauner (D). If it were not for the fact her opponent can be easily mocked as a transplanted New Yorker, Cubin would likely be staring down tougher odds of winning another term in Congress. As it is, a recent episode in which she threatened to slap a disabled third party candidate after a debate reinforced many voters’ concerns that she’s not the most respectful person the state could possibly send to Congress. She has had bigger problems shoring up her base every year, and her latest antics will likely cost her a few precious votes she badly needs. That Vice President Cheney stumped for Cubin in his old House seat this weekend speaks to the seat’s evident toss-up status, but this is Wyoming after all, and we’ll predict Cubin will barely eke out a win.


Candidates

Barbara Cubin (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,046,089.09 Total Spent: $788,915.90

Barbara Cubin (I) – Republican – Third Quarter Raised: $284,891.44 | Cash on Hand: $324,999.57
Website

Gary Trauner – Democrat – Third Quarter Raised: $256,932.71 | Cash on Hand: $333,031.76
Website

Gary Trauner – Democrat – Total Raised: $782,685.87| Total Spent: $603,103.80