Congress in the Balance:
69 races are the key
By Jim Cullen, Editor
Democrats need to pick up 19 seats to regain control of the House. That
seems possible, given that there are 72 freshman Republicans seeking re-election,
many of whom narrowly won in 1992. And the GOP currently holds 28 congressional
districts with a Democratic base vote of 50 percent or more, which makes
them prime pick-up turf.
Martin Frost, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
says 50 GOP seats are vulnerable, but with 30 Democrats retiring - 19 of
them in the South, where the GOP hopes for gains - Frost thinks a Democratic
net pick-up of 30 seats is "reasonable."
National Republican Congressional Committee chair Bill Paxon also is predicting
a net gain of 30 seats - for the GOP. His plan is to hold every GOP incumbent,
while knocking off 8 Dem incumbents, taking 14 Dem open seats and losing
only 4 of their 23 open seats.
One of them is blowing smoke. But Bill Clinton has been holding onto a double-digit
lead in the presidential race and the Democrats generally are leading in
generic House votes. If the presidential race is close, the House likely
will remain in GOP control. But if Clinton remains in double figures, the
marginal Democrats should be alright and the following 69 races will be
In Arizona, freshman Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R) faces a tough re-election race
in the suburban Phoenix 6th District against Democrat Steve Owens, a former
state Democratic Party chair and former aide to then-Sen. Al Gore.
Arkansas Democrats hope a strong turnout for native son Bill Clinton will
help them pick up the 3rd District, where Rep. Tim Hutchinson (R) is running
for Senate, and the 4th District, where Rep. Jay Dickey (R) has twice won
by narrow margins in south Arkansas.
California is a major House battleground with six districts Clinton carried
in 1992 that have Republican representatives now:
· In the 1st District, north of San Francisco, progressive Democrat
Michela Alioto is challenging Republican Rep. Frank Riggs;
· In the 10th District, progressive Democratic businesswoman Ellen
Tauscher is challenging right-wing incumbent Rep. Bill Baker (R);
· In the central coastal 22nd District, right-wing Rep. Andrea Seastrand
(R) faces a rematch with progressive Democrat Walter Capps, who lost in
1994 by 1563 votes.
· The suburban Los Angeles 27th District, from which Rep. Carlos Moorhead
(R) is retiring, is a swing district. The Democratic nominee is Annenberg
publishing heir Doug Kahn; the progressive in the race is the Green Party's
Walt C. Sheasby.
· In the Long Beach 38th District, progressive Democratic lawyer Rick
Zbur faces Rep. Steve Horn (R).
· In San Diego's 49th District, Peter Navarro, a college professor,
is the progressive Democratic candidate facing incumbent Rep. Brian Bilbray
In Colorado's High Plains 4th District, which Wayne Allard (R) is giving
up to run for the Senate, Democrat Guy Kelly, a member of Colorado University's
Board of Regents, faces state Sen. Bob Schaffer in a district that went
for George Bush by just 1% four years ago.
In Connecticut, in the 5th District, Democrats have a progressive candidate
in former state Sen. Jim Maloney to challenge Rep. Gary Franks (R).
In Florida's Space Coast, Democrat John Byron, a former Navy captain who
ran the Trident Missile Range in District 15 and is now an executive at
Johnson Controls, is challenging freshman Rep. Dave Weldon (R), who came
from the pro-life movement.
In Georgia's 6th District, millionaire cookie businessman Michael Coles
(D) is taking the fight to House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) in the heavily
Republican 6th district north of Atlanta. Coles has launched a barrage of
ads in the contest. Democrats are fielding Charlie Watts, chairman of the
Georgia state House Banking Committee, against freshman incumbent Rep. Bob
Barr (R) in the 7th District, which could be a bellwether for GOP freshmen.
Democrats have a progressive candidate in the 9th District in state Rep.
McCracken "Ken" Poston, who is challenging party-switching incumbent
Rep. Nathan Deal. Democrats also see an opportunity in the 10th District,
where redistricting increased the black voting-age population to 38%; the
D's have nominated Augusta lawyer David Bell to challenge freshman Rep.
Charlie Norwood (R)
In Idaho's 1st District, freshman Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R) not only has
staked out the most extreme positions on the environment and federal law
enforcement but also finds herself in financial trouble as she faces Democrat
Dan Williams, a Boise lawyer and former state Democratic counsel, in a district
that normally would be considered a Republican lock.
In Illinois, the 5th District in north Chicago, once the turf of Rep. Dan
Rostenkowski, was taken by Republican Michael Flanagan in 1994 as a federal
prosecutor tightened the net around the Ways and Means chairman. But Flanagan
has never been rated much higher than a seat warmer for whoever the Democrats
put up once Rosty was safely in stir. State Rep. Rod Blagojevich (D) emerged
from the Democratic primary and is the odds-on favorite.
Democrats hope that a progressive candidate, Clem Balanoff, can unseat freshman
Rep. Jerry Weller (R) in the 11th District, which stretches from Chicago
south into the southern suburbs. In the Springfield-based 20th District,
which Dick Durbin (D) gave up to run for the Senate, progressive state Rep.
Jay Hoffman (D) should get a boost from Durbin's presence on the top of
Indiana has three vulnerable freshmen Republicans: David McIntosh in the
Muncie-based 2nd District; Mark Souder in the Fort Wayne-based 4th District;
and John Hostettler in the Evansville-based 8th District.
In Iowa, Democrats have good shots in three of five districts with Republican
incumbents: In the 2nd District, Rep. Jim Nussle (R) will face Dubuque County
Supervisor Donna Smith (D) in an area with a strong union presence that
Dukakis and Clinton easily carried. Democrats have state Senate President
Leonard Boswell running in the 3rd District, which is open, as Rep. Jim
Lightfoot (R) ran for the Senate. In the 4th District of southwest Iowa,
based in Des Moines, Democrats have a progressive candidate in Connie McBurney,
a former TV weathercaster challenging freshman Rep. Greg Ganske (R) in a
In Kansas, two open Senate seats have shaken up the House configuration.
In the 2nd District, which Sam Brownback (R) gave up to run for the Senate,
Democrats have a pick-up chance; in the 3rd District, where Jan Meyers (R)
is retiring, Democrats have lawyer Judy Hancock, who took 43 percent of
the vote from Meyers in 1994; and Democrats have freshman Rep. Todd Tiahrt
(R) in their sights in the 4th District. Democratic lawyer Randall Rathbun,
a former environmental lawyer, quit as U.S. Attorney for Wichita in order
to make this race.
In Kentucky's 1st District, the Democrats have lawyer Dennis Null challenging
freshman Rep. Ed Whitfield (R) in a district Bill Clinton carried by a 9-point
In Louisiana, Democrats already have recaptured the 7th District in southwestern
Louisiana, which Rep. Jimmy Hayes (R) gave up to run for the Senate, as
two Democrats, Hunter Lundy and Chris John, ended up in the Nov. 5 "runoff"
from the all-party primary.
In Maine's 1st District, freshman Rep. Jim Longley (R), considered one of
the most vulnerable freshmen, faces a progressive Democratic challenger,
former Portland Mayor Tom Allen.
In Maryland's 2nd District, Democrats have a progressive candidate in former
state Rep. Connie DeJuliis, with strong backing from unions, to challenge
freshman Rep. Bob Ehrlich (R).
In Massachusetts' 3rd District, progressive Democrat Jim McGovern is challenging
2-term Rep. Peter Blute (R). In the 6th District, which takes in the mainly
suburban North Shore, progressive Democrat John Tierney has a rematch with
2-term Rep. Peter Torkildsen (R).
In Michigan, Lansing's 8th District has progressive Democrat Debbie Stabenow,
a former state senator, challenging millionaire freshman Rep. Dick Chrysler
(R). One of the leading advocates for tax cuts for the rich while cutting
student loans, Chrysler has been targeted by the AFL-CIO, which has dumped
nearly $1.5 million into the race.
In Missouri, Democrats have Joan Kelly Horn in a St. Louis-based 2nd District
rematch with Rep. James Talent, who unseated her in 1992. Bush carried the
district by just 40 to 36 percent in 1992.
Nebraska Democrats hope that James Martin Davis, a lawyer, Vietnam veteran,
former Secret Service agent and prosecutor, will oust freshman Rep. Jon
Christensen, one of Speaker Gingrich's most reliable votes, in the Omaha-based
Nevada freshman Rep. John Ensign, a veterinarian and casino manager, upset
a crippled Democratic incumbent in Las Vegas' 1st District in 1994, but
this year state Sen. Bob Coffin (D) has a good base of support in a district
that gave Clinton a 12-point victory in 1992.
New Hampshire's 2nd District has former state Rep. Deborah "Arnie"
Arneson, a progressive Democratic challenger of freshman Rep. Charlie Bass
(R). Arnesen was the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in 1992, losing 56
to 40 percent to Republican Steve Merrill.
In New Jersey's 8th District, freshman Rep. Bill Martini (R), who won his
first term by 2,000 votes in 1994, faces Paterson Mayor Bill Pascrell, a
progressive former state legislator.
In New York's 4th District, representing Long Island, Carolyn McCarthy is
best known as the wife and mother of two victims of the 1993 Long Island
Railroad massacre, but the nurse also has staked out progressive positions
as she challenges freshman Rep. Daniel Frisa (R). She was a lifelong Republican
but decided to run as a Democrat in disgust after Republican leaders said
they would support Frisa, who voted to repeal the assault weapons ban and
supported cuts in spending for education and environmental programs. In
the 27th District, the Democrats have a progressive candidate in Thomas
Fricano to challenge incumbent Rep. Bill Paxon (R).
In North Carolina, freshman Rep. David Funderburk (R), a Jesse Helms protege,
is in trouble in the 2nd District. After a car accident in his district
last October witnesses told police that Funderburk had been driving but
switched places with his wife to escape blame in the collision.
In the 4th District, freshman Rep. Fred Heineman (R), who won his first
term by just 1,215 votes, faces a rematch with David Price (D), whom he
unseated in 1994. The district leans Democratic and Heineman would have
been vulnerable even if he hadn't declared last fall that he considered
himself "lower middle class" despite his $133,000 annual Congressional
salary and $50,000-a-year police pension. He defined a middle-class person
as making between $300,000 and $750,000 a year.
Ohio also has several potential pick-ups for the Democrats. Republican Steve
Chabot is in trouble in the Cincinnati-based 1st District, a swing seat
that belonged to the Democrats until 1994. Chabot was one of a handful of
House members to vote against the House leadership's plan to reopen the
In the 6th District of Southeastern Ohio, former Rep. Ted Strickland, a
progressive Democrat, has a rematch with incumbent Rep. Frank Cremeans (R),
the millionaire founder of a construction company who beat Strickland by
2 points in 1994.
In the 10th District, populist Dennis Kucinich is expected to give incumbent
Rep. Martin Hoke (R) a tough race. Kucinich was mayor of Cleveland in the
1970s when the city went bankrupt, but he won a state Senate seat in 1994
and says voters now understand that his actions saved the city from further
ruin. The district gave Clinton a 5-point edge in 1992.
The strength of the GOP revolution will be tested in the eastern Ohio 18th
district where Bob Ney (R) slid into office in the GOP banner year of 1994.
His challenger is three-term state Sen. Robert Burch, a progressive Democrat
who says Ney "follows Gingrich like a lemming." The district gave
Clinton a 9-point margin of victory in 1992.
In northeastern Ohio's 19th District, Democrat Tom Coyne, the Brook Park
mayor, challenges freshman Rep. Steve LaTourette (R) in a district that
gave Clinton a 3-point margin in 1992.
In Oklahoma, recapturing the Muskogee-based 2nd District, formerly held
by the late Rep. Mike Synar, is a top priority for Democrats. Democratic
state House Speaker Glen Johnson is challenging freshman Rep. Tom Coburn
Democrats believe they can take out freshman Rep. J.C. Watts in the 4th
District. Watts, who is black, pointedly refused to join the Congressional
Black Caucus and Gingrich has used him to blunt criticism of his government-bashing
In Oregon, Democrats had high hopes in the 2nd District, where conservative
freshman Rep. Wes Cooley (R) was under fire for misrepresenting his military
record and the date of his marriage. Cooley was trailing far behind Democrat
Mike Dugan, the Deschutes County district attorney, before GOP officials
replaced Cooley with former Rep. Bob Smith (R).
In the 5th District, freshman Rep. Jim Bunn (R), who won his first term
with 50 percent, faces a tough challenge from a progressive Democrat, Clackamas
County Commissioner Darlene Hooley, a former state legislator. The district
was carried by Dukakis in 1988 and Clinton in 1992.
In Pennsylvania, Rep. Joe McDade (R) has put his legal troubles behind him
after his acquittal on bribery and racketeering charges, but the 17-term
congressman could face trouble in the Scranton-based 10th District as he
has lost the support of the AFL-CIO, which supports Democratic lawyer Joe
Democrats hope to regain the 13th District, where freshman Rep. Jon Fox
narrowly beat Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D) after she cast the deciding
vote for President Clinton's 1993 tax package. The Democratic candidate
in this suburban Philadelphia district is Montgomery County Commissioner
and former state Rep. Joe Hoeffel.
Democrats have a progressive candidate in lawyer Ron DiNicola to challenge
incumbent Rep. Phil English (R) in the Erie-based 21st District. English
won in 1994 with 49 percent of the vote and this race is rated a tossup.
The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and Citizen Action have been active in the district,
which gave Clinton a 9-point margin in 1992.
Tennessee Democrats have Chuck Jolly challenging freshman Rep. Zach Wamp
in the 3rd District, centered in Chattanooga. Clinton carried the district
by 39 votes in 1992.
In Utah, the free-fall of scandal-plagued freshman Rep. Enid Greene Waldholtz
(R), who beat a one-term Democrat in 1994, has turned Salt Lake City's 2nd
District back into a tossup district. The primaries set up a contrast between
progressive Democratic lawyer Ross "Rocky" Anderson and newly
minted Republican Merrill Cook, a wealthy explosives manufacturer and staunch
conservative who has run for public office six times since the early 1980s
as an Independent.
In Washington, Democrats hope to unseat freshman Republicans Rick White
in Seattle's 1st District, which Clinton won by 10 points in 1992; Jack
Metcalf in the Puget Sound's 2nd District, which Clinton won by 6 points;
Linda Smith in southwest Washington's 3rd District, which Clinton won by
9; George Nethercutt in eastern Washington's 5th, which Clinton carried
in 1992 but Nethercutt beat then-Speaker Foley in 1994; and Randy Tate in
the 9th, a district won by Clinton with an 11-point cushion.
In Wisconsin, Democrats hope Kenosha City Council president Lydia Spottswood
can unseat conservative freshman Rep. Mark Neumann in the south Wisconsin
1st District that Clinton carried by 6 points in 1992
In the 2nd District, Democrats have a progressive candidate in Madison Mayor
Paul Soglin to challenge Rep. Scott Klug (R). Mayor of Madison since 1989,
he is known for creating a "model" Madison police force. Although
Klug portrays himself as a moderate, Democrats say he has shifted sharply
to the right this past year. The 2nd went for Clinton by 18 points in 1992.
Democrats hope LaCrosse County prosecutor Ron Kind can take the 3rd District
that is open with the retirement of Steve Gunderson (R). The Republicans,
who are fielding farmer and former state Sen. Jim Harsdorf, say Kind is
as "far left as they come" in a generally conservative district,
but Clinton carried the district by 10 points in 1992.
Court remaps Texas
Court-ordered redistricting is the story in Texas, after federal judges
threw out voting lines that were drawn to elect minorities to Congress.
New elections were ordered for Nov. 5 with runoffs on Dec. 10. Control of
the House might hang in the balance until then.
The judges took about 5 points off the Democratic total in the Dallas-based
5th District, enough to make it a tossup, particularly since incumbent Rep.
John Bryant (D) was running for the Senate. Progressive Democrat John Pouland
is facing conservative Republican Pete Sessions, who narrowly lost against
Bryant in 1994. Moderate Rep. Martin Frost, who chairs the Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee, may have a scare in the D/FW 24th District, although
he got a few more Democrats in the remap.
In Houston's 25th District, progressive freshman Rep. Ken Bentsen (D) was
redrawn into a marginal district. Among the Republicans in the race is Dolly
Madison McKenna, a well-known and moderate oil and gas banker who has run
twice before in this district.
In the clearest evidence that the court's redistricting was politically
motivated, the Republican-appointed judges tinkered with the Gulf Coast
9th District just enough to throw it open to a new election, so moderate
Democrat Nick Lampson would not have a clear shot at wounded freshman Rep.
Steve Stockman (R). Stockman capitalized on anti-gun-control and anti-incumbent
fervor in 1994 to upset longtime Rep. Jack Brooks, but Stockman's close
relationship with the reactionary Gun Owners of America and militias have
made him notorious. Lampson may be forced into a December runoff that normally
would favor Republicans.
In other areas not affected by redistricting, Democrats are expected to
keep two East Texas districts that Republicans coveted after Rep. Jim Chapman
decided to run for the Senate and Rep. Charles Wilson decided to retire
after entertaining Deep East Texas for years with his flamboyant escapades.
And retirement of conservative Democrat Pete Geren in the Fort Worth-based
12th District opens the possibility of a more progressive Democrat picking
up the seat as Hugh Parmer, a former Fort Worth mayor who had a progressive
record as a state senator, faces Republican Kay Granger, another former
Democrats may regain the 14th District, covering the middle Gulf Coast,
after party-switching Rep. Greg Laughlin was defeated in the GOP primary
by libertarian former congressman Ron Paul. Democratic lawyer Charles "Lefty"
Morris has been mining inflammatory remarks from Paul's newsletter, in which,
among other things, he made choice comments about "welfare statist"
Jack Kemp and called Republicans Bill Bennett, Bill Safire, Pete Wilson,
Newt Gingrich, Kemp and Phil Gramm, among others, "malicious jerks."
For potential entertainment value, you kind of hate to lose Paul.
Senate: Demos set to pick up
To regain control of the Senate, all the Democrats have to do is pick up
three seats. That doesn't sound hard when President Bill Clinton is running
double digits ahead of Republican Bob Dole. But out of 15 Democratic senators
whose terms expire this year, eight are retiring, while only six of 19 Republicans
are bailing out. And the Democrats are supposed to be on defense, particularly
in the South.
When you figure in the kind of people who get promoted as Senate candidates,
it looks even tougher for progressives. Ken Silverstein and Alexander Cockburn
of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch dismissed the recruits of Democratic
Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Bob Kerrey as "rich, right-of-center
'New Democrats' like himself." They noted that in eight of the dozen
races in which the Democrats stood to pick up a seat, the party was fielding
a conservative millionaire.
In Oregon, the Democratic candidate is Tom Bruggere, who made his fortune
in computer software with Mentor Graphics. According to CounterPunch, Bruggere's
company operated like a "typical software pirate, outsourcing many
jobs to low-paid workers in Pacific Rim countries" before he sold off
the company. Republican Gordon Smith, the conservative state Senate president
and frozen-vegetable magnate, took 47 percent in a hard-fought special Senate
election campaign against Democrat Ron Wyden early this year for the seat
given up by the disgraced Sen. Bob Packwood.
In Idaho, incumbent Sen. Larry Craig (R) is depicted by national Democrats
as vulnerable, but his opponent, Walt Minnick is a former Nixon White House
aide who says he is an independent running as a Democrat. Minnick has attacked
Craig's support for a controversial nuclear waste deal that allows the federal
government to ship waste to Idaho, Craig's staff involvement with an industry
front group called "Northwesterners for More Fish," his 16 years
in Washington and his attention to special interests. While Minnick has
served on the board of the Wilderness Society, CounterPunch noted that Minnick
made his fortune from TJ International, a lumber company he sold to the
largest timber company in Canada, MacMillan-Blodel, on whose board Minnick
still serves. Still, he benefits from comparison to arch-reactionary Craig,
who notes acidly that Minnick was educated at the Harvard Law and Business
States that Democrats hope to hold onto include
Alabama, where Democratic state Sen. Roger Bedford, helped by support of
labor unions and black voters, appears to be making it a race against Republican
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, son of the former FBI director and brother
of the Texas 5th District GOP congressional candidate;
Arkansas, where Democratic Attorney General Winston Bryant faces Republican
Rep. Tim Hutchinson for David Pryor's old seat;
Georgia, where moderate former Georgia Secretary of State Max Cleland (D)
is favored to retain the seat Sen. Sam Nunn (D) is giving up;
Illinois, where Dick Durban, a seven-term progressive Democratic congressman
from Springfield, is favored over conservative Republican trial lawyer Al
Salvi for the seat Paul Simon (D) is giving up;
Louisiana, where Republican state Rep. Woody Jenkins faces Democratic former
state Treasurer Mary Landrieu for the seat Sen. Bennett Johnston (D) is
Massachusetts, where moderate Republican Gov. William Weld is giving progressive
Democratic Sen. John Kerry a major fight for re-election;
Minnesota, which figures to have one of the nation's closest Senate races
as Republicans target progressive incumbent Sen. Paul Wellstone (D) in a
rematch with ex-Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, whom Wellstone narrowly beat in 1990;
Nebraska, where moderate Gov. Ben Nelson (D) is favored over GOP businessman
Chuck Hagel to win the seat Jim Exon (D) is giving up;
New Jersey, with congressmen Bob Torricelli (D) facing Dick Zimmer (R)
in a close race for the Senate seat Bill Bradley (D) is giving up;
Rhode Island, with progressive U.S. Rep. Jack Reed (D) favored to defeat
state Treasurer Nancy Mayer (R) for the seat Claiborne Pell (D) is giving
States Democrats hope to pick up:
Colorado, where Democrat Tom Strickland, a Denver lawyer, faces Republican
Wayne Allard, although Allard notes that Strickland's law firm represents
corporate clients and CounterPunch notes that Strickland made $900,000 a
year as a lobbyist before being recruited for the race.
The Kansas seat Dole quit is up for grabs, with moderate Democrat Jill
Docking, a stockbroker, facing right-wing freshman Rep. Sam Brownback after
Republican primary voters rejected the more moderate former Lt. Gov. Sheila
Frahm. In the other Kansas seat, which moderate Sen. Nancy Kassebaum is
giving up, conservative Rep. Pat Roberts (R) is favored to win.
Kentucky's Mitch McConnell (R) is favored for re-election against Democratic
former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear, but with Clinton doing well in Kentucky,
Democrats believe they can win the seat McConnell held with just 52 percent
of the vote in 1990.
In Maine, where Sen. Bill Cohen (R) is retiring, the Democrats nominated
Joe Brennan, a former governor and congressman, to face Republican Susan
Collins, the 1994 GOP gubernatorial nominee. (Collins and Brennan both lost
to independent Angus King in the general election.) Other Senate candidates
include Reformer Steven Bost, the Green Party's John Rensenbrink and Bill
Clarke, an adherent of the conservative US Taxpayers Party.
In New Hampshire, Sen. Bob Smith (R) has a tough fight for re-election
to a second term against former Rep. Dick Swett, who voted frequently with
the conservative Democratic Blue Dog Caucus.
In North Carolina, incumbent Sen. Jesse Helms (R), seeking his fifth term,
faces a rematch with former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt, a progressive
candidate Helms beat with 53 percent of the vote in 1990.
In Oklahoma, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R), seeking a full term after winning the
final two years of Sen. David Boren's term, is favored against Jim Boren,
a professor at Northeastern State University who served in the Foreign Service
and was a top aide to the late Texas populist Sen. Ralph Yarborough (D).
Boren also is a cousin of the former Oklahoma senator.
In South Carolina, 93-year-old incumbent Sen. Strom Thurmond (R) is favored
as he seeks an eighth term. His Democratic challenger, Elliott Close, is
the heir to a textile fortune and a real estate developer.
In South Dakota, at large populist U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson (D) is expected
to give incumbent Sen. Larry Pressler (R) a race to the wire. Johnson argues
that Pressler has changed over his three terms in the Senate, and is now
"far more concerned with Wall Street and big money than Main Street,
In Texas, incumbent Sen. Phil Gramm (R) was able to boast that he had "the
best friend a politician can have - ready money" and blow millions
of it on his abortive campaign for president and still maintain a fundraising
lead over upstart progressive Democratic challenger Victor Morales. Polls
show Morales trailing, but that is nothing new for the high school civics
teacher who already has knocked off two sitting congressmen in the Democratic
primary. Hold out hope for an upset.
Virginia incumbent Sen. John Warner (R), seeking a fourth term, faces former
state Democrat chairman Mark Warner, who made his fortune in the computer
business. "Both are fiscal conservatives but Mark is slightly more
liberal than John on social issues," CounterPunch notes.
Wyoming has an open seat, as Sen. Alan Simpson (R) is retiring, and Wyoming
state Sen. Mike Enzi, an oil company accountant and businessman, is favored
in the Republican-leaning state. He faces former Secretary of State Kathy
Karpan, who took 40 percent in an unsuccessful 1994 gubernatorial bid. Karpan,
an opponent of gun control, will try to stake out a position as a moderate
Democrat while portraying Enzi as too far to the right.
Republicans who appear secure include Alaska's Sen. Ted Stevens, Mississippi's
Thad Cochran, New Mexico's Pete Domenici and Tennessee's Fred Thompson.
Democrats who appear to be in control include Delaware's Joe Biden, Iowa's
Tom Harkin, Michigan's Carl Levin, Montana's Max Baucus and West Virginia's
A month before the election, Washington-based pundits still give the Democrats
barely an even chance to regain control of the Senate. But if Clinton wins
big the Democrats should be able to keep their current seats and pick up
six Republican seats that are rated as tossups - Colorado, Dole's Kansas
seat, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina and South Dakota. If they lose
one of the Democratic seats and pick up five Republican seats the Democrats
will control the Senate 51-49.
The Families First Agenda
What would the Democrats do if they regained control of Congress? House
Democratic Leader Richard A. Gephardt and Senate Democratic Leader Thomas
A. Daschle have come up with a "Families First Agenda" for the
105th Congress. Although it embraces the balanced budget and welfare reform
themes of President Clinton and the Republican 104th Congress, the Democratic
agenda also introduces the theme of corporate responsibility and mends the
safety net for the working poor. Gephardt has called the agenda "modest,
realistic and achievable."
In its section on "Paycheck Security," the agenda proposes to
enforce the Equal Pay Act, which has been largely ignored since its passage
in 1963 because of a lack of resources. The Democrats also would expand
the child-care tax credit. They noted that the Republicans voted to increase
taxes on working families through cutbacks in the Earned Income Tax Credit
and reductions in child-care funding.
The Democrats, in a sop to opponents of "free trade" agreements,
also would ban the importing into the United States of products made with
child labor - as long as those countries have laws restricting the use of
In its section on "Health Care Security," the Democrats would
mandate that insurance companies that do business with the federal government
also offer insurance policies for children up to the age of 13. Assistance
would be provided to working poor families to cover a portion of the estimated
$1,000 cost of the premium. Republicans voted to cut back health care for
children by eliminating guaranteed Medicaid coverage for 18 million vulnerable
On "Retirement Security," the Democrats would improve pension
coverage, portability and protection. Republicans voted to allow continued
corporate raids on worker pension plans.
In its crime initiative, the Democrats would extend the 100,000 Cops on
the Beat in local communities; provide after-school "safe havens"
for children who otherwise have to go home to an empty house or apartment;
provide more adult supervision for youth; and more options for juvenile
court judges. Republicans voted to replace the 100,000 Cops program with
The Democrats also call for increasing federal support for drug courts,
in which offenders receive drug testing/treatment and job training. States
would be permitted to use prison dollars provided under the 1994 crime law
to provide drug treatment to prisoners before their release and to institute
drug testing/treatment for offenders released on parole or probation.
The Democrats also call for fully funding the Safe and Drug-Free School
program until every elementary and high school student is being exposed
to drug education and prevention services. Republicans voted to cut the
program by one-half.
On "Educational Opportunity," the Democrats would provide college
students with a $1,500 refundable tax credit for full-time tuition in their
first year of college and another $1,500 in their second year.
The Democratic initiative also includes tax deductions for education and
training expenses - both the $10,000 tax deduction proposed by the Clinton
Administration for direct education and training expenses as well as a tax
deduction for student loan interest.
The Republican Congress voted to cut student loans by $10.1 billion over
seven years; eliminated the interest subsidy on student loans during the
six-month grace period after graduation; and eliminated the direct student
loan program, forcing 2.8 million students out of the program.
On "Economic Opportunity," the Families First Agenda would provide
tax relief to small businesses. One proposal would help heirs keep businesses
in the family by allowing them to pay estate taxes in annual installments,
with a favorable interest rate of 4%, on the first $2.5 million of the estate
(up from the current $1 million threshold). Another proposal would raise
the amount that small businesses are allowed to deduct as capital expenses
from $17,500 to $25,000.
The Families First Agenda also contains a proposal to use public funds to
leverage additional private investment for roads, transit systems, airports,
sewers, drinking water, schools, and other infrastructure. The Republican
Congress cut $600 million from wastewater and drinking water treatment plants.
In "Governmental Responsibility," the Congressional Democrats
endorse a balanced federal budget through closing tax loopholes for wealthy
special interests; eliminating unnecessary business subsidies; making reforms
and adjustments in various entitlement programs; requiring more burden-sharing
with allies in defending Europe and Asia; rooting out fraud and abuse by
Medicare and Medicaid providers; and continuing the "Reinventing Government"
initiative to make government more efficient.
The Democrats also promise tax relief targeted at middle-class Americans.
In comparison, they said, the Republican plan provided for tax cuts for
the wealthy, paid for by deep cuts in Medicare, education and clean air
and water programs.
In "Individual Responsibility," Congressional Democrats endorse
welfare reform that requires welfare recipients to work but also protects
innocent children. Unlike the Republican Congress, the Congressional Democrats
promises child care and transitional health care. The Democrats also endorse,
as part of welfare reform, tough legislation to crack down on "deadbeat
In its section on "Corporate Responsibility," the Families First
Agenda would 1) protect employees' pension funds; 2) require corporations
to meet their environmental responsibilities; and 3) repeal tax breaks for
shipping jobs abroad.
Under the current U.S. tax law, U.S. companies are allowed to defer payment
of taxes on profits earned overseas until they send those profits back to
the United States in the form of dividends. So companies that export good
American jobs get a tax subsidy not available to companies which continue
to manufacture in the United States. The Republican Congress voted to expand
those tax breaks.
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