Projected New Senate: 49 Democrats 51 Republicans
News from the Votemaster
No new polls today, but that is just as well as this is Super Tuesday, Fall edition (well, almost). Nine states hold primaries today to determine the candidates in a variety of contests. These states are Arizona, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. Let's take a quick look at some of the more important races. For additional information, check out this story on Political Wire, always a good source for political news.
By anybody's standard, the Republican senatorial primary in Rhode Island is the most bizarre race in memory and says a lot about the Republican party. It pits incumbent Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) against Cranston mayor, Steve Laffey. Chafee is what the Republicans dismissively call a RINO--Republican In Name Only. Chafee voted against the war in Iraq, against most of the Bush tax cuts,and against most of the other programs the Bush administration holds dear. To make it worse, he supports gay marriage and even voted against Bush in the 2004 election (he wrote in George H.W. Bush's name). Steve Laffey is a true blue neocon conservative who supports everything the administration stands for. so what is the NRSC (National Republican Senatorial Committee) doing? They told Rhode Island Republicans yesterday that if they nominate Laffey, the NRSC will abandon Rhode Island and let Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse be elected senator.
So why is the GOP elephant standing up on its hind legs attacking a very conservative Republican they like a lot and supporting a RINO who votes in the Senate like a Democrat and whom they can't stand? Simple. If there is one thing even more important to the neocons than ideology, it is power. If Laffey wins the primary, he has zero chance against Whitehouse in this highly Democratic state, so the RSCC is holding its trunk and supporting a guy it hates. Even more ironic is that in neighboring Connecticut, the NRSC has long abandoned its own candidate, Alan Schlesinger/Gold, and is supporting one of the two Democrats in the race, Joe Lieberman, as the lesser of two evils. Republican politics in New England is sure weird.
A second key Senate primary is in Maryland. Here two Democratic congressmen, Kweisi Mfume (formerly Frizzell Gerald Gray) and Ben Cardin are fighting for the right to replace retiring senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) in this Democratic state. Mfume had a troubled youth, getting entangled with the law multiple times and fathering five children with a variety of women. At 23, he got his act together and eventually graduated from Morgan State University magna cum laude in 1976. He has since been elected to Congress five times from MD-07. He sees his campaign as a beacon of hope to African Americans--they can reject the way of the ghetto and become successful in mainstream America. His opponent is Ben Cardin, a 10-term congressman from MD-03. Cardin is a much more conventional politician. He first served in the Maryland House of Delegates (the state Assembly), working his way up to Speaker before running for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986. The U.S. Senate would be the next logical step up for this career politician. The latest polls show Cardin slightly in the lead. The Republican senatorial candidate is Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. Since Mfume and Steele are black and Cardin is white, the race has some racial overtones, especially since Mfume and Cardin don't really differ on the issues.
The other Senate primaries are essential done deals. Hillary is going to be nominated for president--oops, for senator--in New York and stuff like that, although John Spencer and K.T. McFarland are duking it out for the right to be crushed by her in November, Spencer is expected to be the crushee.
There are many exciting battles for House nominations, however. Arizona alone has Democratic primary fights in AZ-01, AZ-02, AZ-03, and AZ-08. In the first three, the winner will have to do battle against entrenched Republican congressmen Rick Renzi, Trent Franks, and John Shadegg, respectively. In AZ-08, five Republicans are fighting for the right to replace retiring congressman Jim Kolbe. AZ-08 is expected to be a huge and expensive battle in the coming two months once the players are known.
Maryland has a number of House battles today. The Republicans in MD-02 are fighting for the chance to lose to Dutch Ruppersberger (D) in November, In Cardin's district, MD-03, there are large numbers of candidates on both sides. In MD-04, incumbent Albert Wynn (D) is facing a strong challenger from antiwar activist Donna Edwards, who has garnered the support of every major liberal group in the country. Winning the primary is "tantamount" (as they used to say in the South) to being elected, because the Republicans aren't even bothering to field a candidate in this highly Democratic district. Finally, there are primary fights on both sides in MD-06 and MD-08. For maps of these and all other CDs, look here .
Minnesota has senatorial primaries on both sides, but it is virtually certain Amy Klobuchar (D) and Mark Kennedy (R) will win them. However, the House is more competitive. The biggest fight is in MN-05, which contains Minneapolis and some inner suburbs. Rep. Martin Sabo is retiring, and eight people have lined up to succeed him in this heavily Democratic district. The race has gotten national attention because one of the candidates, Keith Ellison, would be the first Moslem in Congress if he wins the election. Ellison formerly belonged to the rabidly antisemitic Nation of Islam, which has caused quite a stir. On the other hand, he is probably the most progressive candidate of the lot and has been endorsed by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party. Mike Erlandson, Sabo's chief of staff also has a good shot at it.
In New Hampshire, there is a Democratic primary in NH-01 for the right to challenge incumbent Jeb Bradley, who has to deal with a minor challenge himself. In NH-02, incumbent Charlies Bass (R) also has to fend off a challenger, which should be easy, but his general election battle against Democrat Paul Hodes will be one of the most closely watched in the nation.
In New York, NY-11 will be a wild fight in Brooklyn as the incumbent Democrat, Major Owens is retiring. The Republicans have a primary in NY-18 around White Plains to take on Nita Lowey, a nine-term liberal Democratic congresswoman (Westchester County is not what it used to be). Finally, in NY-19 (Northern Westchester, Orange, and Putnam counties), five Democrats are slugging it out to face six-term congresswoman Sue Kelly, who will be hard to beat.
The final state with a lot of action is Wisconsin, with contested primaries in WI-01, WI-07, and WI-08. The most interesting one is the swing district of WI-08, which is an open seat since the incumbent, Mark Green, is running for governor. Both sides have primaries there. John Gard will probably win the Republican one, but the Democratic one is up for grabs. The seat leans Republican, but it will be hotly contested in November, so the Democratic nomination is worth having.
See the details of the Senate and House races with photos, maps, links, polls, etc.
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-- The Votemaster