Republicans hold a 23-seat lead in the 435-member US House of Representatives. Democrats have picked up two seats in special elections in the past year and need to pick up 12 more to regain control of the House, where there are now 228 Republicans, 205 Democrats and one independent (Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with the Dems).
That wouldn't seem like an insurmountable goal, but mid-decade redistricting by a Republican-dominated legislature in Texas threatens to eliminate four to six Democratic incumbents. Only 50-60 House districts are considered "up for grabs" on paper and only about 20-30 of those seats are expected to be seriously contested this fall.
Using a model based on party preference in the past two elections, the Center for Voting and Democracy projects winners in 354 districts this fall, with 209 House members set for a landslide (109 Ds and 100 Rs), 108 projected to win comfortably (38 Ds, 70 Rs), and 37 facing close races (15 Ds, 22 Rs). Sixty-eight districts are viewed as competitive (32 Ds, 36 Rs) and 13 incumbents are ranked as "vulnerable" -- all Democrats. (See projections at www.fairvote.org/2004/monopoly.htm.) The center, which claims its projections are 99% accurate, promotes "full representation" or "proportional representation" voting, in which legislators are elected in multi-seat districts in proportion to their share of the vote.
Dan Kusler, spokesman for Americans for Democratic Action, a prominent liberal political action committee, reflects the conventional wisdom in Washington when he predicts that the Democrats will pick up a few seats from the Republicans, but he doubts that the House will change leadership. ADA has contributed to at least 25 House candidates as well as nine Senate candidates -- all Democrats except for Sanders -- but it has focused most of its attention on the presidential race, mounting a "Regime Change 2004" campaign during the primaries in an effort to get candidates to embrace fair trade policies. In the general election campaign it has adapted the trade project into "Stop Outsourcing Our Future," with 12 organizers working to educate voters in eight battleground states. That effort likely will help Congressional Democrats in those states, he said.
The 21st Century Democrats, which promotes progressive populist candidates, is devoting more attention to House races, with more than 120 full-time employees as well as other canvassers and student organizers working on grassroots organization in 10 congressional races as well as 50 state legislative races.
The 10 progressive populists endorsed by 21st Century Dems include Paul Babbitt, challenger in Arizona's 1st District; Don Barbieri, Washington's 5th, Tim Bishop, incumbent in New York's 1st; Emanuel Cleaver for open Missouri's 5th; Raul Grijalva, incumbent in Arizona's 7th; Stephanie Herseth, incumbent in South Dakota's at large; Jon Jennings, challenger in Indiana's 8th; Lois Murphy, challenger in Pennsylvania's 6th; Richard Romero, challenger in New Mexico's 1st; and Allyson Schwartz, open seat in Pennsylvania's 13th.
All 10 of the endorsed Congressional candidates are in competitive races, and 21st Century Democrats haven't given up on getting a Democratic majority, spokesman Adam Ebbin said. "Voters are engaged and there's a palpable interest in changing the course of the country as it has been taken by President Bush and his cohorts," he noted. "We're trying to win elections by organizing voters in targeted districts."
For example, 21st Century Democrats' field organizers are helping three progressive Democratic candidates in the Greater Philadelphia area. Two are Congressional candidates: Lois Murphy, a Montgomery County attorney, running in the 6th District, and state Sen. Allyson Schwartz, running in the 13th District. Another is a candidate for the state General Assembly, Josh Shapiro, running in the 153rd District.
"While Republican operatives were gathered in New York for their national convention last week, these campaigns have been doing what matters -- having direct contact with the voters," said Kelly C. Young, executive director of 21st Century Dems in a Sept. 7 press release. "The front porch politicking in Philadelphia and surrounding counties is what will really make a difference in these elections. TV commercials get a lot of attention, but there is no substitute for the less glamorous work of contacting voters and winning an election one vote at a time."
21st Century Democrats also has kicked off the on-campus Young Voter Project to increase the youth vote in the battleground states of Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon. The project targets 500,000 voters from the key 18- to 34-year-old constituency in those three states, with goals to register more than 19,000 and to increase turnout in targeted precincts by 3%, resulting in 50,000 additional votes being cast. The rate of voter contact has accelerated dramatically with the start of the fall college semester, as 21st Century Democrats is now active on 27 campuses. As of Sept. 7, organizers had made 115,553 in-person contacts with young voters.
Alabama -- Mike Rogers (R) is in a competitive Montgomery-based 3rd District. Democratic challenger is former state Human Resources Commissioner Bill Fuller.
Arizona -- Democrats see a pickup opportunity in the Flagstaff-based 1st District, where former Flagstaff mayor Paul Babbitt, an Army veteran and brother of former governor Bruce Babbitt, is challenging Rep. Rick Renzi, who won his first term with 49.2% of the vote in the Democrat-leaning district. This is rated a tossup. 21st Century Democrats are endorsing Babbitt and freshman US Rep. Raul Grijalva, "a rising star in the Progressive Caucus whose campaign is doing great work organizing Latino voters," in District 7.
Arkansas -- Rep. Vic Snyder (D) faces a challenge in District 1 from Marvin Parks (R), state House minority leader.
California -- Gabe Castillo (D), a financial consultant, faces former congressman and attorney general Dan Lungren (R) and Libertarian D.A. "Art" Tuma in open District 3, which went 54% for Bush in 2000. Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D) is vulnerable in District 18, with retiree Charlie Pringle (R) taking him on.
Colorado -- Democrats are targeting the 3rd District (Western Slope), where Rep. Scott McInnis is retiring, setting up what should be a competitive race between state Rep. John Salazar (D), a farmer and Army veteran, and Greg Walcher (R), state natural resources director who was hurt among GOP ranchers and rural residents with his support for a measure to export water to Denver. Salazar needs a big turnout from Democratic Pueblo to overcome the traditionally GOP voters elsewhere. Democrats also are targeting the suburban Denver 7th District, which leans Democratic but Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) won by 122 votes in 2002. Jefferson County Attorney Dave Thomas (D) gets the rematch.
Connecticut -- Democrats are targeting Rep. Rob Simmons (R) in the 2nd District, which voted for Gore by 18%. Simmons held off former Norwich City Councilman Jim Sullivan by 8% in 2002 but Sullivan gets a rematch. Westport First Selectwoman and ex-advertising executive Diane Farrell (D) is challenging Rep. Chris Shays (R) in the adjoining 4th District that went to Gore by 10 points in 2000. Theresa "Terry" Gerratana (D), ex-state representative, is challenging Rep. Nancy Johnson (R) in the 5th District, which voted for Gore by almost 10 points.
Delaware -- Family service caseworker and ex-union organizer Paul Donnelly (D) is challenging Rep. Michael Castle (R) in an at-large district that votes Democratic in presidential elections but since winning the seat in 1992 the former governor has coasted to re-election.
Florida -- Robert Whittel (D), a lawyer and Naval Reserve officer, is challenging Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R), who should be vulnerable in northwest coast District 5 after winning in 2002 with 47.9%. Jan Schneider (D), gets a rematch with first-term Rep. Katherine Harris in the Sarasota-based 13th District, which Harris won with 54.8% in 2002; voters overwhelmingly favor the GOP in statewide races. Jim Stork (D), ex-Wilton Manors mayor, was expected to give Rep. Clay Shaw (R) a challenge in southeast coastal District 22 until he suspended his campaign in late August, citing fatigue.
Georgia -- Rep. Jim Marshall (D) faces a rematch with Calder Clay (R), in Macon-based District 3. Polk County Chief Magistrate Rick Crawford (D) is challenging freshman Rep. Phil Gingrey (R), who won the northwest 11th District with 51.6% in in 2002. Clarke County Commissioner John Barrow (D) of Athens has a good chance to beat Rep. Max Burns (R) in east Georgia District 12, which has a strong Democratic tilt. Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, a progressive who flirted with the Green Party, is favored to win back the suburban Atlanta 4th District after first-term Rep. Denise Majette, a conservative Democrat who beat McKinney with 58.3% in 2002, ran for the Senate.
Idaho -- Lin Whitworth (D), an ex-state senator and retired railroad worker, is challenging Rep. Mike Simpson (R), who should be vulnerable in eastern District 2, but cruised to re-election in 2000 and 2002.
Illinois -- Democrats hope the GOP's disarray in the Land of Lincoln and Barack Obama's apparent strength in the Senate race against imported Republican Alan Keyes will help Melissa Bean (D) in her rematch with Rep. Phil Crane (R), who beat her with 57.4% in 2002 in the northwest Cook County 8th District. Christine Cegelis (D), a technology consultant, is a longshot against Rep. Henry Hyde (R) in District 6, but Hyde reportedly has been ill, leading some to wonder if he can finish the race.
Indiana -- In the "Bloody 8th" District, which John Hostettler (R) won by only five points in 2002, Jon Jennings (D), a former college and professional basketball coach who worked with the Department of Justice on legislative issues during the Clinton administration, is challenging Hostettler, who got a suspended sentence for bringing a loaded gun into Louisville International Airport April 20. Rep. Baron Hill (D) will get a rematch of the close 2002 race with Mike Sodrel in the Bloomington-based 9th District which Hill won in 2002 by five points. And Joe Donnelly (D), a lawyer who ran for state senator in 1990, is challenging US Rep. Chris Chocola (R), who won by only five points in the South Bend-based 2nd District.
Iowa will likely have four competitive races out of five districts in the state, the product of a non-partisan redistricting process. Democrats are targeting Rep. Jim Nussle (R) with former state Sen. Bill Gluba (D) in the Davenport-based 1st District, which voted 52% for Gore in 2000. Rep. Jim Leach (R) will get a challenge from Iowa City school board member Dave Franker in the Cedar Rapids-based 2nd District, which has a Democratic lean. Democrats must protect four-term Rep. Leonard Boswell (D), who gets a rematch with Stan Thompson, whom Boswell beat with 53.4% in the Des Moines-based 3rd District. Rep. Tom Latham, who won in 2002 with 54.8%, faces a challenge from Paul Johnson (D), a former state rep, former state natural resources director and ex-USDA official. Rep Steve King (R) is in the strongest position in the rural western Iowa 5th District, home of The Progressive Populist. If E. Joyce Schulte (D), a psychologist, educator and former restaurant owner, makes much headway against King, current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will be ordering new drapes for the Speaker's office.
Kansas -- Dennis Moore (D) eked out a 50.2% win in the suburban Kansas City 3rd District in 2002 after the GOP legislature stuck him with Republican Johnson County. This time he drew Kris Kobach (R), a former Department of Justice official, ex-Overland Park city councilman and 2000 state Senate candidate.
Kentucky -- Ben Chandler must defend District 6, which he won earlier this year in a special election. State Sen. Tom Buford (R) is challenging him. Vulnerable Republicans include Anne Northrup, who drew a challenge from popular Jefferson County Circuit Court Clerk Tony Miller (D), the 2003 candidate for lieutenant governor in Louisville-based District 3, which Gore carried. Nick Clooney, father of actor George and a TV personality in the Ohio-Kentucky area, is the Democratic nominee in north Kentucky District 4, where Rep. Ken Lucas (D) is retiring after three terms in a district that went 60% for Bush in 2002. Clooney faces Geoff Davis (R), a manufacturing consultant and 2002 nominee.
Louisiana -- An open Senate race and a turncoat has shaken up the congressional delegation. In east District 1, where Rep. David Vitter (R) is running for the Senate, hopefuls include Bobby Jindal (R), former state health secretary and 2003 candidate for governor; Mike Rogers (R), health care consultant; Roy Armstrong (D), white supremacist activist; M.V. "Vinny" Mendoza (D); Jerry Watts (D), surgeon, attorney and Air Force veteran; Dan Zimmerman (D), software engineer. Democrats probably can't win this race but it might be fun to watch. In District 3, where Billy Tauzin (R), is stepping down to become a lobbyist, hopefuls include physician Kevin Chiasson (R), state Sen. Craig Romero (R); telecom executive Billy Tauzin III (R), son of the retiring congressman; state Rep. Damon Baldone (D); Charmaine Caccioppi (D), a Chamber of Commerce official and ex-congressional aide; Charlie Melancon (D), former sugar industry executive and ex-state rep; a longshot for Dems. Freshman Rep. Rodney Alexander was vulnerable as a Democrat in northeast/central District 5, but he assured Dems he would stick with the party and solicited money from them right up to the filing deadline, when he changed his registration to Republican. He is challenged by John "Jock" Scott (R), a lawyer, college professor and former state rep, and Zelma "Tisa" Blakes (D), a homemaker and former public relations executive. In southwest District 7, which Rep. Chris John left to run for the Senate, the Republican establishment is promoting businessman and surgeon Charles Boustany, but college professor David Thibodaux also is another R in the race. Democrats are split between white state Sen. Willie Mount of Lake Charles and black state Sen. Don Cravins, from near Lafayette. December runoffs are likely.
Maine -- Michael Michaud (D) faces a challenge from Brian Hamel (R), Loring Development Authority president, in northern District 2.
Massachusetts -- John Tierney (D) faces lawyer Steve O'Malley (R) in North Shore District 6.
Michigan -- When Rep. Nick Smith (R), from the Battle Creek-based 7th District, who was retiring after six terms, objected to the GOP Medicare deform bill, he said Republicans threatened to derail the candidacy of Smith's son, who was running for the GOP nomination. Coincidence or not, Joe Schwarz, former state senator and 2002 governor candidate, ended up as the GOP nominee. Sharon Renier (D), paralegal, organic gardener and 2002 state rep candidate, is the Democratic candidate, but the race also has candidates from the Constitution, Green and Libertarian parties. Rep. Bart Stupak (D) gets a rematch with Don Hooper (R), in northern District 1.
Minnesota -- Burnsville City Councilwoman Teresa Daly (DFL) is challenging freshman Rep. John Kline (R), who won a close race in southern Twin Cities suburban District 2 with 53% in 2002. Democrats are targeting Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) in north Twin Cities suburban District 6 with Patty Wetterling, a child safety activist. Rep. Collin Peterson (D) drew a challenge from Marshall City Councilman David Sturrock (R) in western District 7.
Mississippi -- Rep. Gene Taylor (D) drew a challenge from state Rep. Mike Lott (R), an educational foundation executive director, in southeast District 4.
Missouri -- In Kansas City-based District 5, former Kansas City Mayor Emanuel Cleaver (D), a Methodist minister and civil rights activist endorsed by 21st Century Democrats, is favored against Jeanne Patterson (R), a healthcare information technology executive, for the seat Karen McCarthy is giving up. In the South St. Louis-based 3rd District, Russ Carnahan, son of the late governor and former senator, is favored to win Dick Gephardt's old seat. Democrats are targeting Rep. Sam Graves (R) in the northwest 6th District, with Charlie Broomfield (D), a former state rep and ex-Clay County commissioner.
Nebraska -- Rep. Doug Bereuter (R) is retiring after 13 terms in the Lincoln-based 1st District. The district leans Republican, but Democrats think they can be competitive with state Sen. Matt Connealy, a farmer, against Jeff Fortenberry (R), former Lincoln city councilman who supports a GOP proposal to replace the income tax with a national sales or consumption tax of 24% or more. Green Steve Larrick is also running.
Nevada -- Tom Gallagher (D), a gaming executive, lawyer and former congressional aide, is challenging freshman Rep. Jon Porter, who won the suburban Las Vegas 3rd District with 56.1% in 2002, helped by his Democratic rival's ethics problems. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) faces Russ Mickelson (R), a retired Air Force officer and GOP activist, in Las Vegas District 1.
New Hampshire -- Democrats are targeting both House seats, with Justin Nadeau (D), a lawyer, taking on Rep. Jeb Bradley (R) in western District 1 and Paul Hodes (D), former assistant attorney general, challenging Rep. Charles Bass (R) in western District 2, which Gore carried in 2000.
New Jersey -- sophomore Rep. Mike Ferguson (R) faces a challenge from investment banker and retired Marine Lt. Col. Stephen Brozak in the north central 7th District. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R) faces a challenge from Tim Robb (D), a Democratic activist and Navy veteran, in southern District 2. Rep. James Saxton (R) faces state Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D), a physician, lawyer and Air Force veteran, in south central District 3.
New Mexico -- Dems see a possible pickup in the 1st District (Albuquerque), where state Sen. Richard Romero, a retired teacher and Air Force veteran, gets a rematch with Rep. Heather Wilson (R), who won with 55.3% in 2002. In the southern 2nd District, Rep. Steve Pearce (R) faces Gary King (D), former state rep and 202 governor candidate. Rep. Tom Udall is challenged by Gregory Tucker (R), San Juan County district attorney, in northern District 3.
New York -- Rep. Tim Bishop (D), who bucked the Iraq war and Bush's tax cuts, won his seat by less than 2,000 votes in 2002 and is targeted by the GOP with Bill Manger (R), former Southampton trustee and transportation official in the Bush administration, in eastern Suffolk County District 1. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D) is challenged by Hempstead Mayor James Garner (R) president of the US Conference of Mayors and Vietnam war veteran, in southwest Nassau County District 4. Democrats are targeting Buffalo District 27, vacated by retiring GOP Rep. Jack Quinn, where Erie County Comptroller Nancy Naples (R) faces state Assemblyman Brian Higgins (D), former Buffalo city councilman. Rep. Amo Houghton (R)'s retirement puts the Southern Tier 29th District up for grabs, as state Sen. John "Randy" Kuhl (R), faces Samara Barend (D), a non-profit executive, graduate school student and Democratic activist.
North Carolina -- In the Winston-Salem-based 5th District, Rep. Richard Burr (R) is running for the US Senate, and the Democrats have a strong candidate in Surry County Commissioner Jim Harell Jr. but state Sen. Virginia Foxx (R) has the advantage in a Republican district. In the Asheville-based 11th, Democrats are targeting Rep. Charles Taylor (R), saddled with a banking scandal, with a challenge from Buncombe County Commissioner Patsy Keever (D). Rep. Robin Hayes (R) faces Beth Troutman (D) in Charlotte-based District 8. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D) faces state Rep. Billy Creech (R) in District 2 and Brad Miller (D) faces former congressional aide Virginia Johnson (R) in District 13.
North Dakota -- Rep. Earl Pomeroy faces Duane Sand, a retired Navy officer and 2000 US Senate nominee. Pomeroy won his sixth term in 2002 with 52.4% in a state Bush won handily but the rep is ranked "vulnerable."
Ohio -- Democrats hope that job losses will make at least two GOP congressmen vulnerable: Rep. Mike Turner (R) faces a challenge from political consultant L. Jane Mitakides (D) in southwest District 3. Rep. Steve LaTourette (R) faces a challenge from public relations consultant Capri Cafaro (D), an ex-congressional aide, in northeast District 14 (Cleveland and Akron suburbs).
Oklahoma -- In the "Little Dixie" 2nd District seat that Rep. Brad Carson (D) is giving up to run for Senate, state Rep. Dan Boren (D), son of ex-US Sen. David Boren, faces racehorse breeder Wayland Smalley (R).
Oregon -- Democrats are protecting two vulnerable incumbents: Rep. David Wu (D) faces telecom consultant Goli Ameri (R) in District 1 and Darlene Hooley (D) faces Jim Zupancic (R), former Lake Oswego school board chair and 2002 state rep nominee, in District 5.
Pennsylvania -- Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) faces a challenge from Lois Murphy in the southeastern 6th District, which went for Gore in 2000. In the 8th District (north Philly suburbs), where Jim Greenwood (R) is retiring, Bucks County Commissioner Mike Fitzpatrick (R) faces Ginny Schrader (D), lawyer and 2002 state rep nominee, in a district Gore carried. In the 13th (northeast Philly), where incumbent Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D) is running for the Senate, state Sen. Allyson Schwartz (D), a progressive Democrat in a marginal district, faces Melissa Brown (R), a surgeon. In Allentown-based District 15, which Rep. Pat Toomey (R) gave up to run for the Senate, the seat is seen as a tossup between state Sen. Charlie Dent (R) and developer Joe Driscoll (D). Rep. Tim Holden (D), who narrowly survived in the east central 17th District in 2002, in a district that gave Bush a 15% margin in 2000, faces Scott Paterno (R), lawyer and son of the Penn State football coach.
South Carolina -- Rep. John Spratt (D) faces a challenge from Albert Spencer (R), a college professor, in north central District 5.
South Dakota -- Stephanie Herseth won the June 1 special election for the at-large seat formerly held by former Rep. Bill Janklow, who was convicted of manslaughter, with 50.6% over state Sen. Larry Diedrich (R). She faces another close race in the rematch with Diedrich (R), a farmer who was slowed with heart surgery.
Tennessee -- Rep. Lincoln Davis (R), who won his first term in 2002 with 52.1%, gets a rematch with Tullahoma Alderman Janice Bowling (R) in midstate District 4.
Texas presents the biggest challenge for Democrats because Republicans redrew congressional districts to unseat Democratic incumbents and created at least five takeover opportunities. Democrats are seeking to protect veteran Reps. Max Sandlin, Nick Lampson, Lloyd Doggett, Martin Frost, Chet Edwards and Charlie Stenholm. Doggett of Austin is in good shape in a heavily Democratic Latino district that stretches to the Rio Grande, but the other five are struggling against the Bush tide in GOP-tilting districts. In Houston District 9, Justice of the Peace Al Green (D) beat Rep. Chris Bell (D) in the primary and is favored to defeat Arlette Molina (R). Democrats also hope to give House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R) a headache with a challenge from lawyer Richard Morrison (D) in District 22 (southeast Houston suburbs). DeLay, who also faced a grand jury in Austin investigating charges of corruption in 2002 state races, has polled below 50%. (The grand jury on Sept. 21 indicted three of DeLay's associates and eight corporations.)
Utah -- Republicans get another shot at two-term Rep. Jim Matheson (D), who won re-election in 2002 with 49.4%. John Swallow (R), former state rep, gets the rematch in a race that also includes Constitution, Green and Personal Choice candidates.
Virginia -- When Rep. Ed Schrock (R) abruptly retired in August in the face of rumors that he is gay, the GOP slipped in state Delegate Thelma Drake (R) to face David Ashe (D), a lawyer, Iraq War veteran and ex-congressional intern in a GOP-leaning district. Rep. Rick Boucher (D) has drawn opposition from Kevin Triplett (R), an ex-NASCAR official and former journalist, in southwest District 9. Dems' slim hope for a takedown is in south central District 5, where Rep. Virgil Goode, who switched to the GOP in 2002, faces Al Weed, rural preservation activist and winegrowing pioneer who ran for the state Senate in 2001.
Washington -- Spokane-based 5th District in eastern Washington is up for grabs as Rep. George Nethercutt (R) runs for the Senate and State Economic Development Commissioner Don Barbieri (D), retired former CEO of Westcoast Hospitality hotel chain, faces state Rep. Cathy McMorris (R), a farmer. Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R)'s surprise retirement sets up a tossup in the Seattle suburban 8th District, where King County Sheriff Dave Reichert (R) faces radio talk show host Dave Ross (D). Democrats Jay Inslee in the 1st District, Rick Larsen in the 2nd and Brian Baird in the 3rd District are vulnerable.
Wyoming leans Republican but State Business Council board member Ted Ladd (D) is challenging Rep. Barbara Cubin (R) in the state's at-large district. Cubin drew some attention with her 2003 House floor remarks contrasting her "blue-eyed, blond" sons with African Americans in trustworthiness to carry a gun.
For a list of candidates in each state and their websites see www.politics1.com. See also OurCongress.org for updates on Congressional races.