Key Senate Races Highlighted Could Shift Control to Democrats
When voters go to the polls on Nov. 7 they will decide which party controls the US Senate, with Republicans defending a slender 54-46 majority. Also at stake, in addition to the White House, is control of the House of Representatives, where a shift of six seats could put the Democrats back in control.
Thirty-four of the 100 Senate seats are up for grabs.
Here are capsule looks at some key races as prepared by Reuters news service:
- DelawareTwo of the most popular politicians in state history, incumbent Republican Sen. William Roth and Democratic Gov. Tom Carper, square off in a race that has been a dead heat for months. The latest poll gives Carper, who has been anti-gun in state office, a slight edge, but within the surveys margin of error.
- FloridaConsidered a prime opportunity for a Democratic pickup, with Democratic state insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson leading in public opinion polls over Republican Rep. Bill McCollum, chairman of the House Judiciarys Subcommittee on Crime and a House prosecutor during President Clintons impeachment trial.
- MichiganFirst-term Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham opened a slight lead over Democratic Rep. Debbie Stabenow after flooding the airwaves with ads attacking Democratic prescription drug plans, but Stabenow has been fighting back and the gap has narrowed again. The gun issue is important in this Michigan race, because of Abrahams pro-gun voting record and the high percentage of gun ownership.
- MinnesotaPro-gun Sen. Rod Grams, considered probably the most vulnerable of all Republican incumbents, trails in polls against well-financed department store heir Mark Dayton, who beat out a crowded Democratic field in that states Sept. 12 primary and has spent his own money heavily.
- MissouriStill a tight race despite the death of Democrat Gov. Mel Carnahan early in October. Carnahan, who led the charge against concealed carry in Missouri last year, was set to face Republican incumbent John Ashcroft, a staunch pro-gunner. Missouri election law keeps Carnahan's name on the ballot. Should he win the election, the vacancy would be filled by Gov. Roger Wilson, a Democrat, for a two-year term. Wilson has indicated he would appoint Carnahan's widow, Jean, who has accepted the proposal.
- MontanaPro-gun Republican incumbent Conrad Burns faces a stronger than expected challenge from rancher Brian Schweitzer, who has closed a huge early gap in polls to a 9-point margin by emphasizing the prescription drug issue. State and national Republicans are fighting back with a new ad campaign that slams the Democratic drug plan.
- NebraskaWith the retirement of Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey, the Democratic hold on this seat in a firmly Republican state seemed tenuous. But former two-term Democratic Gov. Ben Nelson has taken control of the race after losing to Sen. Chuck Hagel in 1996. Nelson, an anti-abortion conservative Democrat, faces Attorney General Don Stenberg, who lost the 1996 Republican nomination to Hagel.
- NevadaA prime opportunity for Republicans to pick up a Democratic seat after the retirement of Sen. Richard Bryan. Pro-gun Republican John Ensign, a former congressman and 1998 Senate nominee, leads Democratic trial lawyer Ed Bernstein, who has pulled slightly closer in polls after pouring nearly $1 million of his own money into the race.
- New JerseyBig spending Democrat Jon Corzine, a former chairman of the Goldman Sachs investment bank, has opened a wide lead in the bid to replace retiring Democrat Frank Lautenberg. Republican Bob Franks is struggling to keep from being buried under an avalanche of ads by the anti-gun Corzine, who has spent a record-shattering $50 million so far and is spending $1 million a week on television commercials in the expensive New York and Philadelphia markets. There are no major TV outlets in the Garden State.
- New YorkIn the countrys most watched Senate race, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has pulled into the lead over Republican Rep. Rick Lazio and moved over 50% in approval ratings for first time in their bitter fight to take over retiring Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihans Senate seat. Clinton would be the first first lady ever to win elective office if she wins, but all polling suggests it will be a close race to the finish.
- VirginiaThe Democratic incumbent, Sen. Chuck Robb, who has shown some facility for come-from-behind wins after his 1994 comeback against Oliver North, has pulled closer to former Republican Gov. George Allen. Allen has a cash advantage, but both parties are spending heavily on soft-money ads, and Allens past pro-gun positions have become a big issue, especially in the more liberal, anti-gun Northern Virginia. Allen hasnt helped himself with gun-owning voters by edging away from his solid pro-gun record.
- WashingtonPro-gun Republican incumbent Slade Gorton, a top Democratic target, is locked in a tight race with big-spending software millionaire and former Democratic Rep. Maria Cantwell, who won a tough Sept. 19 primary. Gorton drew only 44% of vote in the open primary, often a bad sign for an incumbent in a general campaign. The race remains competitively close, however.
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