Off the Radar Races II: Great Lakes states
by David Kowalski, Mon Jul 24, 2006 at 10:10:23 AM EDT
The six Midwestern states that touch on the Great Lakes provide an interesting contrast. They make up the only region in the country to vote against George W. Bush for President yet elect a solidly Republican delegation to the House. The region represents a chance for Democrats to gain ground both this year and in the mid-term future.
The reason for this odd situation is obvious. Republicans gerrymandered OH, IL, and MI giving them an edge. Indiana is a Republican state with a lot of competitive districts. MN and WI are close states each tied 4-4 in the House.
Democrats won 65% of the region's electoral votes in 2004, hold 7 of 12 Senate seats and 3 of 6 governorships. The story in the House, though, is reversed. Here, Democrats hold 32 seats while Republicans hold 45. This year, 13 Republican seats are ranked as competitive but only 4 Democratic seats. A summary of the "Solid republican" seats (per Charlie Cook) follows below the fold.
Ohio with 18 House seats sent 12 Republicans and 6 Democrats to the House in 2004. If Ohio once again seems like election central, maybe that is because the pundits consider that to be the case. Two of the state's six democratic seats make Cook's list (open seats in OH-6 and OH-13). Four of Ohio's twelve Republican seats also make the list: OH-1, OH-2, OH-15, and OH-18.
Four of the remaining Republican seats meet my super safe criteria. In each case, Republicans lead by at Least $500 K in the cash-on-hand race, the Republican won at least 60% of the vote for Congress in 2004, and no buzz has been generated. In OH-7, Dave Hobson is sitting on more than $1.7 million and won the seat by a 65-35 margin in 2004. John Boehner in OH-8 might make a lovely target as a GOP leadership member but he has over a million in the bank and won 69-31 in 2004. Pat Tiberi has $1.7 million and won 62-38 in 2004. At least the Democrat, Shamansky, is making a fight of it (having $262,131 cash-on-hand). Steve LaTourette faced off against Capri Cafaro in 2004 and won with 62.75% of the vote. At least Capri reduced his bank account (to $740,156 cash-on-hand) but Katz has only $44 K in the bank.
Of the remaining 4, the safest Republican seats would be OH-5 which Gillmor won 67-33 in 2004 (he leads the cash battle by $404,510 to $9,802 over Weirach) and OH-16 where the aging Ralph Regula trounced Jeff Seeman in 2004, 66.5-33.5% two years ago. Regula ran weakly in the primary IIRC but Shaw has a negligible amount of cash (no report) to Ralphie Boy's $339,658.
OH-4 is an open seat as Mike Oxley is retiring. Oxley won with just 58.6% of the vote in 2004 (the Democrat got the remaining 41.4%). Jordan, the Gop candidate, has a weak $135,198 cash-on-hand. Siferd, the Democrat, has just $10,279. Considering the way the state-wide races look, this one is definitely winnable.
In OH-3, Stephanie Studebaker has made more of an impression in this 62-38 district. She's got just $37,551 cash-on-hand compared to $387,065 for incumbent Rep. Rep. Turner (not a typo but a deliberate double).
Indiana, of course, is the other state in the region to vote for Bush. Surprisingly, its seven Republicans include three seats on Charlie Cook's endangered lists (IN-2, Chris Chocola; IN-8, John Hostettler; IN-9, Michael Sodrel).The remaining four seats were all won comfortably by the GOP incumbents in 2004. Two of the Representatives also have the advantage of a substantial cash-on-hand edge. That wouild be IN-5 where Dan Burton has $924,588 in the bank to challenger Katherine Carr's $14,511 and IN-6 where Barry Welsh has been running a classic guerrilla campaign on little money and a lot of tire mileage and shoe leather (Mike Pence, $714,466; Barry Welsh, $1,200). I'd still list Barry because of Buzz factor.
Two underfunded GOP incumbents are Mark Souder in IN-3 (a 69-31 winner in 2004) and Steve Buyer (69-28). Souder has less cash-on-hand ($68,358) than challenger Thomas Hayhurst ($147,758). Steve Buyer is a Committee Chair and has a more comfortable cash edge ($311,8487 to $14,571) over challenger David Sanders in a 69-28 district in 2004.
That brings us to Illinois. Three of the GOPers nine seats have hit the national list (IL-6,IL-10, and IL-11). Only one other seat meets my criteria but it is a doozy. Tim Johnson in IL-15 won by 61-39 and has a very modest cash edge of $118,905 to $32,152 over Dr. Gill. (IL-13,14,16,18, and 19 look safe for the moment).
Two of Minnesota's four Republican House seats made Cook's list. Mark Kennedy's now open seat (MN-6 were Democrat Patty Wetterling has a solid cash advantage) and Gil Gutknecht in MN-1. In Minnesota 2, John Kline won by 56.4-40.3%. Colleen Rowley has a national name and is currently at the fring of the national screen. Only Jim Ramstad in MN-3 looks in totally safe condition.
WI is a different story. WI-8 is on the lists. The other three seats look safe. Tom Petri (WI-6) is the only Republican in the region to go unopposed. Paul Ryan (Wi-1) got over 65% of the vote in 2004 and has $1.6 million uin the bank. Jim Sensenbrenner got pretty much exactly 2/3 of the vote in 2004 (66.6%) and has a solid lead in cash of $706 K ($787,806 to $81,773). As the Judiciary Chair, Sensenbrenner has the ability to raise funds but also the ability to draw in money for an opponent. If there is blood in the water, look for this one to get a lot of Democratic money in a hurry.
Michigan is the only state in the region to draw no national attention. Democrats figured to be in a tough US Senate race (Stabenow) and Governor's race (Granholm v. DeVos aka Amway, Jr.). The gerrymandered delegation includes 9 of 15 Republican seats. In three of the nine, the GOP drew 58% or less of the congressional vote in 2004.
To start with, at least three Michigan GOP House seats are super safe. Michigan 4 (Dave Camp, 64-35, $1,212,568 cash-on-hand), Michigan 6 (Fred Upton, 65-32, $1,014,212 cash), and Michigan 10 (Candice Miller, 69-30, $1,086,649) define "safe seat." Two other seats are virtually safe. Peter Hoekstra won 69-29 in 2004. He may have only $367,331 in the bank but challenger Kimon Kotos has just $491. Vernon Ehlers won 67-31 and has an edge of $407,190 to $1,372 over James Rinck, the best-funded of his challengers. That brings us to the competitive four.
Joe Schwarz won 58% of the vote in 2004 but the Democrat got just 36%. Schwarz has a huge $389,090 to $2,603 for Democrat Fred Strack. Schwarz' problem is that primary challenger Tim Walberg ($397,043) has more cash than he does. Obviously, the Democratic hope here is that the two Republicans knock each other out by emphasizing how extreme their views are and by launching personal attacks.
In MI-8,Mike Rogers has $1,148,665 in the bank and won 61-37. His opponent, ex-CIA employee James Marcinkowski has made a little stir and has raised $225,733. That is probably the minimum he neeeded to keep this race (barely) alive.
Joe Knollenberg (MI-9) won by 58-40 in 2004. He's got $1,431,461 but does face a primary challenge from Patricia Godchaux ($214,623). Nancy Skinner in the general election has a modest $84,288.
MI-11 was the worst district won by a MI Republican in 2004, 57% to 41%. Thaddeus McCotter is one of those Cro-Magnons: not as conservative as a lot of the Republican pack but definitely a Republican cave man. ("Me advanced cave man.")
Talk show host Tony Trupiano can talk the talk but can he raise the funds (behind $521,506 to $31,199 in cash-on-hand).