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Johnny Z's Look at the Top 30 US House Races of 2004
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Election 2003 * Election 2004 * Charlotte * State Legislatures * Governors * US House * US Senate * Senate 06

While all 535 US House seats are up for election in 2004, only about 30 will be truly competitive. This page profiles the most vulnerable Republican and Democratic incumbents and the most competitive open-seat races. There are many more than 30 profiled at this point, as it is too early to be certain which incumbents will have strong challengers and which open seats will be hotly contested. I will also spotlight a few long shot races. Historically, open-seat races are the ones most likely to result in competitive races that could make a real difference in the current GOP margin in the House.

Speaking of which, Republicans currently control the House of Representatives 228-205-1, with one seat currently vacant. At a minimum, Democrats will end up with fewer than 200 seats after the 2004 elections. I predict a Republican gain of 6 seats.


This will be a great year for incumbents. The POTENTIAL is there for as many as 15 incumbents to lose but I'll be surprised if more than 3 lose outide of Texas, where several Democrats are endangered. I'm predicting that EVERY INCUMBENT OUTSIDE TEXAS WINS. That is at once safe and radical. We'll see.

CO-3: Walcher 50.5, Salazar 49.5
KY-4: Davis 50+, Clooney 50-
LA-3: Tauzin III 38, Melancon 22, Romero 20, Others 20 -- Tauzin wins runoff
LA-7: Boustany 33, Mount 30, Cravins 25, Thibodeaux 7 -- Boustany wins runoff
NY-27: Naples 52, Higgins 48
PA-8: Fitzpatrick 57, Schrader 43
PA-13: Schwartz 55, Brown 45
PA-15: Dent 56, Driscoll 44
WA-5: McMorris 55, Barbieri 45
WA-8: Reichert 51, Ross 49

For the rest of the predictions, see the ratings below.

Democrat Incumbents
in order of vulnerability
TX-1 Max Sandlin LOSE
TX-32 Martin Frost* LOSE
TX-2 Nick Lampson LOSE
TX-19 Charlie Stenholm* LOSE
TX-17 Chet Edwards
SD-AL Stephanie Herseth
PA-17 Tim Holden
IN-9 Baron Hill
NY-1 Tim Bishop
OR-1 David Wu
KS-3 Dennis Moore
UT-2 Jim Matheson
GA-3 Jim Marshall
ND-AL Earl Pomeroy
ME-2 Michael Michaud
KY-6 Ben Chandler
OR-5 Darlene Hooley
FL-2 Allen Boyd
WI-3 Ron Kind
IA-3 Leonard Boswell

* Stenholm and Frost are in incumbent vs. incumbent contests
Democrat Open Seats
switch to Republican
TX-10 no incumbent
TX-11 no incumbent
TX-25 no incumbent
KY-4 Ken Lucas
LA-7 Chris John

PA-13 Joe Hoeffel
CA-20 Cal Dooley
MO-5 Karen McCarthy

OK-2 Brad Carson
WI-4 Jerry Kleczka
MO-3 Dick Gephardt
FL-20 Peter Deutsch
Jim Turner of Texas is retiring after significant changes to his district (the old TX-2) in redistricting
Republican Open Seats
switch to Democrat

LA-3 Billy Tauzin
WA-8 Jennifer Dunn
PA-15 Pat Toomey
CO-3 Scott McInnis

NC-5 Richard Burr
GA-6 Johnny Isakson
VA-2 Ed Schrock
PA-8 Jim Greenwood
GA-8 Mac Collins
LA-1 David Vitter
CA-3 Doug Ose
SC-4 Jim DeMint
FL-14 Porter Goss
NC-10 Cass Ballenger
NE-1 Doug Bereuter
MI-7 Nick Smith
WA-5 George Nethercutt
Republican Incumbents
in order of vulnerability
CT-2 Rob Simmons
GA-12 Max Burns
PA-6 Jim Gerlach
NM-1 Heather Wilson
IL-8 Phil Crane
NC-11 Charles Taylor
IN-8 John Hostettler
AZ-1 Rick Renzi
GA-11 Phil Gingrey
CO-7 Bob Beauprez
KY-3 Anne Northrup
NV-3 Jon Porter
FL-5 Ginny Brown-Waite
AL-3 Mike D. Rogers
IA-2 Jim Leach
NM-2 Steve Pearce
TX-19 Randy Neugebauer*
LA-5 Rodney Alexander

* Neugebauer is in an incumbent vs. incumbent contest

Democrat Incumbents

TX-17: Chet Edwards
Opponent Arlene Wohlgemuth or Dot Snyder, most likely.
Upshot Either should defeat Edwards in this radically redrawn district.

TX-19: Charlie Stenholm vs. Randy Neugebauer
Democrat Stenholm has a regional reputation but barely survived a challenge in his old district.
Republican Freshman Randy Neugebauer will have a tough race but the district is very kind for Republicans.
Upshot Neugebauer is the clear favorite and leads Stenholm in the only released poll.

TX-2: Nick Lampson
Opponent Most likely Judge Ted Poe, famous for his creative sentences.
Upshot This race will be closer than some others, but Poe should win.

TX-32: Martin Frost vs. Pete Sessions
Democrat After many years, Frost is a goner.
Republican Sessions is a seasoned, well-funded incumbent.
Upshot Frost just can't handle this new district.

TX-1: Max Sandlin
Opponent Probably state rep. Wayne Christian.
Upshot Sandlin is seen as the surest bet to lose of the Texans.

KS-3: Dennis Moore
2002 margin: 50-48 over Adam Taff
Opponent Adam Taff, the 2002 nominee, will be opposed in the primary by two highly qualified conservatives: state rep. Patricia Lightner and Justice Department lawyer Kris Kobach, both of Overland Park. Pro-life Kobach has rivalled pro-abortion Taff in campaign contributions, while Lightner has lagged considerably. Kobach, a former Overland Park city councilor, is running on homeland security, illegal immigration, tax cuts, and education. Kansas Republicans have had several divisive primary fights over the abortion issue, and this looks to be another in the string.
Primary August __
Upshot Moore has won three close races in this GOP-leaning seat. One of these times his luck will run out.

GA-3: Jim Marshall
2002 margin: 51-49 over Calder Clay
Opponent Calder Clay, former Bibb County Commissioner
Upshot Marshall, a pro-life Catholic, is in the wrong party. He'll get another strong challenge in 2004 from Calder Clay. In Marshall's favor is his moderate voting record and the advantage of incumbency. Working against him is the collapse of the Georgia Democratic Party. Marshall is favored to win, but the race will be close either way.

OR-5: Darlene Hooley
2002 margin: 55-45 over Brian Boquist
Opponent Jim Zupancic or Jackie Winters. Brian Boquist announced he will not run this time, in keeping with the tone of his public statements and in harmony with my prediction: ("I would bet Boquist does not end up running, especially considering the quality of the other announced candidates"). Jim Zupancic is the preferred establishment choice and probably more conservative, though state senator and restauranteur Jackie Winters will generate a great deal of interest as a very personable politician with a record of electoral success and an African American.
Upshot Hooley has a relatively conservative district with only a slight Democrat tilt, but she will still have an edge as an incumbent.

LA-5: Rodney Alexander
2002 margin: 50-50
Opponent Probably former congressman John Cooksey
Upshot Elected in a 2002 runoff after GOP infighting handed him a narrow victory, Alexander, though a social conservative, will have a tough race in 2004 if he faces Cooksey. There's no real impetus to replace him, though, given his conservative voting record. He briefly considered switching to the GOP in 2004, but decided against it.

ND-AL: Earl Pomeroy
2002 margin: 52-48
Opponent Former naval officer Duane Sand

Upshot Two member of Team North Dakota, now in the minority hinterlands, are up for re-election in 2004: Pomeroy and Sen. Byron Dorgan. Pomeroy can be taken out, but a good campaign is needed to make that a reality. Duane Sand walked across the state in a hopeless campaign in 2000 against Sen. Kent Conrad, but now has name recognition for this run.

UT-2: Jim Matheson
2002 margin: 49-49 over Swallow

Opponent Probably John Swallow, outside chance for Tim Bridgewater or David Wilde
Primary June 22
Upshot It's amazing Matheson is still kicking in ultra-Republican Utah. He almost succumbed to a surprisingly strong challenge from state rep John Swallow in 2002, prevailing by 2,000 votes. Matheson is the son of former Utah governor Scott Matheson, Sr., and his brother Scott, Jr. is running for governor in 2004. Swallow is running again, and hoping for stronger Republican turnout in a presidential year.

NY-1: Michael Bishop
2002 margin: 50-49 over incumbent Republican Felix Grucci
Opponent John Jay LaValle is out, so Bill Manger or perhaps legislator Michael Caracciolo will run. Other candidates will give the race a look as well.
Upshot This Long Island seat leans GOP and was lost in 2002 by an inept incumbent, Felix Grucci. A solid challenger should be able to pick off this freshman. LaValle was the best Republicans had to offer, but he had a little thing called a wedding to attend to this year.

PA-17: Tim Holden
2002 margin: over fellow incumbent George Gekas
Opponent One possibility among the many candidates running is football scion Scott Paterno, who has drawn support from national party figures.
Upshot Holden managed to beat a lethargic incumbent when their districts were merged in 2002. The district leans strongly Republican but Holden is a pro-life moderate.

ME-2: Michael Michaud
2002 margin: over Kevin Raye
Opponent Jobs developer Brian Hamel
Upshot "Jobs developer" is a great occupation for a candidate to have in 2004, especially in this district, which has faced several closings since Michaud went to Congress in 2002. This is an odd race in that the Democrat is pro-life while the Republican is pro-abortion.

OR-1: David Wu
2002 margin:
Republican Tim Phillips and Goli Ameri.
Upshot Strongest challenge Republicans have put forward for this seat in a decade.

FL-2: Allen Boyd
2002 margin:
Opponent Cosmetologist and state representative Bev Kilmer.
Upshot Kilmer is a strong, well-funded challenger who has Boyd on the defensive. This is the strongest challenge Boyd has faced.

IN-9: Baron Hill
2002 margin: 51-46 over Sodrel
Opponent Mike Sodrel
Upshot Sodrel will pour more money into a second challenge after self-funding much of his last campaign. He came close in 2002 and has a shot in 2004, though Hill is still favored.

WI-3: Ron Kind
2002 margin:
Opponent State Senator Dale Schultz, a farmer and veteran.
Upshot Schultz is the strongest challenger Kind has faced in years, and he will benefit from a strong Republican focus on this district from the Bush-Cheney campaign and the state Republican Party. It's an uphill race nonetheless.

IA-3: Leonard Boswell
2002 margin: over attorney Stan Thompson
Opponent Stan Thompson, again.
Upshot Rematches rarely pan out, but this time Anderson has a strong top of the ticket to follow and a new issue: Boswell is breaking his term limits pledge to run again in 2004.

KY-6: Ben Chandler
2003 margin: 54-44 in a special election
Opponent Likely state Senator Tom Buford.
Upshot Chandler rebounded from his gubernatorial defeat to take this open house seat in a swing district. Buford will be scutinizing Chandler's every vote up until the election.

Republican Incumbents

GA-12: Max Burns
2002 margin: 55-45
Opponent County commissioner John Barrow, ex-state sen. Doug Haines, or state rep. Keith Heard; most likely Barrow or Haines.
Upshot This seat was created expressly to elect a Democrat, but Burns won the open seat anyway against the ethically-challenged Champ Walker. It will be the #1 target in 2004. Burns has already been elected president of the 2002 House freshman class and lost the lottery for congressional office space. He'll get a lot of help from fellow Republicans in the state and nationally, and he'll need every bit of it.

GA-11: Phil Gingrey
2002 margin: 52-48
Opponent Former state board of education member Cathy Henson has been mentioned.
Upshot Gingrey, a pro-life physician, won marginal seat in a new district in 2002. He has a big pile of campaign cash, which should tide him over through reelection.

NM-2: Steve Pearce
2002 margin: 56-44
Opponent Attorney Gary King or activist Jeff Steinborn
Upshot Pearce, though far from a great candidate himself, drew a weak Democrat opponent to win an open-seat race fairly comfortably; this is the most Republican of the state's three districts. Expect the Democrats to come back with a stronger challenger this time around, especially now that Bill Richardson is running the state. New Mexico is a swing state for the presidential election, so there will be plenty of money and support for both candidates here. Still, Pearce should be fine as an incumbent.

IA-2: Jim Leach
2002 margin: 52-46
Opponent TBD
Upshot Leach's district was given a dollop of new Democrat voters in 2002, but somehow it didn't matter. He just keeps on winning, now in a district that leans Democrat.

AZ-1: Rick Renzi
2002 margin: 49-46
Opponent Paul Babbitt, ex-mayor and county supervisor, is the brother of former governor and Cabinet Secretary Bruce Babbitt.

Upshot Babbitt is a very strong challenger for Renzi, a freshman Congressman. In Renzi's favor: incumbency and the difficulty of campaigning in the expansive 1st district.

CT-2: Rob Simmons
2002 margin: 54-46
Opponent TBD
Upshot Has survived a couple of close elections since first winning this district. He will again be a target.

PA-6: Jim Gerlach
2002 margin: 51-49
Opponent Attorney Lois Murphy is a weak challenger.
Upshot Gerlach is a freshman congressman; he won an open seat and should be stronger as an incumbent.

CO-7: Bob Beauprez
2002 margin: 47-47
Opponent DA Dave Thomas gained prominence in the Columbine shooting, and has the primary all to himself so far.
Upshot Beauprez won this new district by the closest margin of any House race in 2002. He's drawn a stong opponent, but should be fine with the power of incumbency and George W. at the top of the ticket.

FL-5: Ginny Brown-Waite
2002 margin: 48-46 over incumbent Karen Thurman
Opponent So far no strong challenger has stepped forward; Brian Moore and male nurse John Russell are the only announced candidates.
Upshot Knocked off Rep Karen Thurman in 2002 in a district made more Republican-friendly. If she can beat an incumbent, she should be able to hold the seat, and the Democrats seem to have written this one off.

Democrat Open Seats

KY-4: OPEN SEAT (Lucas)
2002 margin: Ken Lucas (D), 51-48, over Geoff Davis (R)
Republican 2002 nominee Geoff Davis, a former Army Ranger and current manufacturing consultant, is running again. He brings to the race a ready-made campaign organization and fundraising base from his strong 2002 campaign against Lucas.
Democrat Ken Lucas is retiring and has recruited newsman Nick Clooney to run. Clooney, the father of actor George Clooney, has a high profile in the district from many years as a TV news anchor, but promises to run on a more liberal platform than Lucas ever did. He also has a conundrum: if he accepts fundraising and campaign help from George Clooney's Hollywood, he risks tying himself to the liberal Hollywood values out of step with this conservative Kentucky district.
Upshot Clooney is probably the strongest nominee the Democrats could produce, but Davis should have the edge in this strongly Republican district. Davis has a strong lead in campaign contributions.

TX-10: OPEN SEAT (Redistricting)
District .
Republican Attorney Mike McCaul has been drawing plaudits and endorsements in a large field.
Primary March 9th.
Upshot No Democrats filed for this seat, so the Republican nominee is the new Congressman.

TX-11: OPEN SEAT (Redistricting)
District Midland, etc.
Republican This district was drawn for Mike Conaway, a friend of President George W. Bush who finished 2nd in the race for Larry Combest's open seat in 2003. Professor Bill Lester is running hard, but is the underdog.
Democrat Teacher Wayne Raasch.
Primary March 9th.
Upshot Say hello to Congressman Conaway.

TX-24: OPEN SEAT (Redistricting)
District Dallas area
Republican State representative Kenny Marchant is the favorite.
Primary March 9th.
Upshot Marchant will likely take this seat, considering he drew it for himself.

MO-3: Richard "Dick" Gephardt
2002 GOP vote: Gephardt 60%, Enz 39%
GOP Nominee Former state Representative Zane Yates and 2000 nominee Bill Federer are running. Yates was the assistant floor leader in the House before resigning to become a family court commissioner. He is only 42 but politically able and an appealing candidate. He ran against Matt Blunt for the Sec. State nomination in 2000, so he has solid name recognition.
Dem Nominee Running so far: Gephardt ally state Senator Steve Stoll (say THAT ten times fast!); state Rep Rick Johnson.
Upshot Dick Gephardt is giving up the House seat he has held for 26 years and running for president. While Gephardt hasn't had any very close races, he only received 59% in 2002 against an under-supported challenger. Republicans should be competitive in an open-seat race, and will likely target it as a key pickup opportunity.

Republican Open Seats

WA-5: George Nethercutt
Safe GOP district
GOP Nominee
Dem Nominee

Nethercutt is running for US Senate against Patty "Osama" Murray.

SD-1: Bill Janklow
2002 GOP vote:

Republican Farmer Larry Dietrich
Democrat 2002 nominee Stephanie Herseth

Upshot Herseth starts out with a lead, but Dietrich may be able to hold the farm vote that some Republicans have been losing.

PA-15: Pat Toomey
2002 GOP vote: 57%

Republican State Senator Charlie Dent is the frontrunner, but county commish Joe Pascuzzo has put together a strong challenge as well.
Democrat Carpetbagger Joe Driscoll or local Rich Orloski.

Upshot Toomey has term-limited himself and will not seek re-election in 2004. He has launched a primary challenge to pro-abortion GOP senator Arlen Specter. The congressional seat is a tossup, as Toomey has shown strong crossover appeal in northeaster Pennsylvania. An early poll by the NRCC showed Dent defeating Pascuzzo in a primary and Lisa Boscola, then considered a possible Democrat candidate, in a general election matchup. The GOP establishment rallied behind Dent early, while Democrats have imported Driscoll from deep in Montgomery County.

SC-4: Jim DeMint
2002 GOP vote: 69%

GOP Nominee: likely ex-Rep. Bob Inglis
Dem Nominee:

DeMint is self-limited to three terms and will enter the GOP primary for the right to challenge Senator Fritz Hollings in 2004. GOP Rep. Bob Inglis, who formerly represented SC-4 before his 1998 challenge to Hollings, announced he will stand for his old seat. This is safe GOP territory.

GA-6: Johnny Isakson
Republican State senator Rob Lamutt may be the conservative favorite, and was endorsed by Newt Gingrich, who held the seat before Isakson; state senate majority leader Tom Price are also running.
Primary July 20
Upshot The Republican nominee will win this strongly Republican district.

NC-5: Richard Burr
strong GOP district

GOP Nominee Ed Broyhill, Vernon Robinson, businessman Jay Helvey, state senator Virginia Foxx, attorney Ed Powell, businessman Nathan Tabor, and former county commissioner Joe Byrd. And a whole bunch of other folks.
Dem Nominee ha ha ha!

Richard Burr is running for the US Senate seat currently occupied by John Edwards. Black Winston-Salem Alderman Vernon Robinson is said to have the inside track for the nomination for this GOP seat encompassing Winston-Salem and surrounding areas. A primary victory by Robinson would draw national attention to this race, as there are currently no black Republicans in Congress. State senator Virginia Foxx has a strong following in her district, but the entry of Ed Broyhill, son of former senator Jim Broyhill of the Broyhill furniture company, dealt her a severe blow.

Broyhill has garnered endorsements from ex US Senators Jim Broyhill (surprise, surprise), Lauch Faircloth, and Jesse Helms. Vernon Robinson has been endorsed by 1996 VP nominee Jack Kemp and other nationally known conservatives.

Jay Helvey is leading the money chase so far with a cool half million, including a substantial infusion of his own funds and strong support from his corrupt J.P. Morgan cronies. (Ha ha! Just kidding, I'm sure all Jay's supporters are fine upstanding citizens -- don't sic Todd on me again!) If Helvey does gain voter support, it will be by virtue of his dynamic campaign manager, a lawyer named . . . Matlock. Did I mention this district includes the town of Mount Airy, famous as Andy Griffith's boyhood home, aka Mayberry? This Matlock got a lot of razzing throughout law school, but looks nothing like the TV character. She's MUCH prettier -- very Tina Fey. Where was I? Oh yeah, Jay Helvey. I'll say this much for him: on my recent visit to the district his was the only political sign I saw up, so he's out there, and again, he has money. But Jay's a 2nd tier candidate at this point and needs a few breaks a seriously splintered field to make the runoff.

If no candidate gets at least 40% of the vote -- and none will -- there will be a runoff between the top two candidates. If I were a betting man (I'm not), my money would be on Broyhill, with establishment support, and Vernon Robinson, running to the right, squeezing out Virginia Foxx for the two runoff spots, while Helvey, Nathan "Soybean" Tabor, et al split the rest of the vote.