Ten Races to Watch
- Stick a fork in 'em (they're done):
- With voters itching to "throw the bums out," no targets are more obvious than the two parties' congressional leaders. House Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash., scraped by with just 55 percent of the vote in 1992, then defied voters by going to court to overturn the statewide term limits they had just approved. Private polls say that half his constituents want someone new. In Georgia, Minority Leader-to-be Newt Gingrich's outsider shtick is wearing thin after 16 years in office. "If Gingrich is for term limits," asks his Democratic challenger, "why is he running for a ninth term?" Many voters are asking the same.
- Just wait 'til Daddy gets here:
- First, legendary drag racer "Big Daddy" Don Garlits said he'd unseat the Democratic freshwoman in Florida's third district. Then he switched to run against the Democratic freshwoman in the fifth district. (Garlits doesn't live in either district.) Garlits says "white people in this country are not the violent ones," proposes sending Haitian refugees to Montana, and wants the government to prosecute citizens who question America's greatness. The state GOP chairman applauds Garlits for "expressing the anger and frustration" of local voters.
- Out of the cloakroom:
- This spring, in a keynote address to a gay rights dinner, Rep. Steve Gunderson, R-Wis., referred openly to his male companion, prompting Rep. Bob Dornan, R-Calif., to call him a "homo." But if Gunderson wins re-election in his conservative rural district, gay-bashers like Dornan will have a hard time claiming to represent the GOP, much less mainstream America.
- Taxing woman:
- Democrat Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky wrested her suburban Philadelphia seat from the GOP in a 50 percent to 49 percent squeaker in 1992. A year later, when she cast the deciding vote to pass Clinton's tax/budget package, Republicans chanted "Goodbye, Marjorie" on the House floor. The GOP wants to make her race a referendum on taxes, defeat her, and hoist her scalp as a warning. But the state Republicans may have blown it, renominating the same idiot she beat in 1992.
- Breaking the seat:
- Just when you thought Republicans would seize Congress, they've gone back to killing each other. Last year, police caught Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., in an awkward position--with a hooker in his parked car. His plea that he was ignorant of his date's profession isn't washing with the Christian right. They're running an Independent candidate against him, which will almost certainly tip the election to the Democrats. Talk about wrecking the family.
- Tattered Teddy:
- Sen. Edward Kennedy's personal life may be back in order, but his 32-year marriage to Massachusetts voters may be on the rocks. Kennedy faces Republican Mitt Romney, a Mormon family man whose TV ads promise that he'll fight "the breakdown of the moral fiber of our society." Hint, hint. National GOP leaders smell blood and plan to throw in an extra $540K to unseat Kennedy. But if they succeed in liquidating their favorite fund-raising bogeyman, it'll end up costing them a lot more.
- Health worries:
- In 1991, Harris Wofford's promise of universal health coverage carried him to an upset Democratic victory in a Pennsylvania Senate race. Three years later, Wofford's Republican challenger is turning the issue against him, warning middle-class voters that Wofford's universal health plan would destroy medical quality. Meanwhile, moderate Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., now running for Senate, is getting hit from both sides. His GOP opponent lambastes Cooper's conservative health reform bill as an expensive government program, while liberal activists call him an insurance industry stooge (which he is). If Wofford or Cooper loses, health reform may move from intensive care to the morgue.
- Guess who's coming to dinner:
- Two candidates in this year's field have decent shots at becoming the first black men elected to the Senate as Democrats. Rep. Alan Wheat of Missouri has already broken one color barrier by thrashing his white Democratic rivals in the race for campaign money. In Washington state, Ron Sims, a county councilman from Seattle, has emerged as the Democratic front-runner to take on GOP Sen. Slade Gorton. There goes the neighborhood.
- Surrender or Di:
- Early on, Republican Rep. Michael Huffington scored with his attacks on California incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein's support of Clinton's 1993 tax/budget package. Feinstein responded by withdrawing as a co-sponsor of Clinton's health care plan, demanding the expulsion of illegal immigrant lawbreakers to jails in their own countries, and touting her efforts to help a local company sell arms to Taiwan. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
- Oh, brother:
- When Hillary Clinton's brother Hugh Rodham decided to run against Sen. Connie Mack, R-Fla., it was leaked that Hillary feared he'd embarrass the White House. Already, he's revealed that he didn't vote in Bill Clinton's races while in Arkansas and that he failed the bar exam "a bunch of times." The state GOP chair calls him "Billy Carter with a law degree." At least Roger Clinton is off the hook.