Preview: Election Day 2002

Posted 6:02 p.m. Oct. 9

by Marcus Mrowka

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON–With election day less than a month away, both Democrats and Republicans are putting all of their energy in the congressional midterm elections which could prove to be crucial in the direction of U.S. public policy in the next two years.

Democrats control the Senate by one seat and Republicans have a minor hold of the House. Democrats need to gain six seats to take control of the House. Due to redistricting from the 2000 census, many incumbents have been pitted against one another, providing for a number of close races across the country. The control of Congress rests in the hands of voters who will determine the party of majority for the next two years.

In one of the most closely watched races in the past couple of weeks, former senator Frank Lautenberg has replaced Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) who dropped out of the race amid charges of immorality as the democratic challenger in the New Jersey Senate race. GOP candidate Douglas Forrester tried to keep Lautenberg’s name off the ballot, citing a NJ law that says no new candidates can be put on the ballot in the 51 days leading up the election but the New Jersey Supreme Court as well as the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the change is legal.

Lautenberg appears to be ahead of Forrester in recent polls but the race is still to close to call.

Another major senate race is taking place in New Hampshire where Rep. John Sununu (R-N.H.) is battling against democratic candidate Jeanne Shaheen, the current governor of New Hampshire. Republicans are hoping that Sununu’s moderate stance on a number of issues will help him beat Shaheen in the Nov. 5 election.

In Connecticut, redistricting has caused Republican incumbent Nancy Johnson to battle with Democratic incumbent Jim Malony in a newly created district. The new district leans democratically but Johnson has a substantial lead in funds, which could put her in the lead.

After knocking off the nephew of the late John F. Kennedy in the primaries, Democrat Christopher Van Hollen Jr. will go head to head with Republican incumbent Constance Morella. Redistricting has taken out a large chunk of GOP voters in the district, so Democrats are hopeful they can oust Morella out of her seat in the House.

Another battle between incumbents is taking place in Pennsylvania’s 17th District where George Gekas (R-I.A.) will face Tim Holden (D-I.A.). Polls indicate that voters in the new district are leaning towards Republican ideals, but Holden was able to win re-election five times in his old Republican district and is known as a more conservative Democrat. Pundits agree that Gekas is fighting for his political life in this election.

Moving out west, Sen. Wayne Allard (R-C.O.) is facing Democrat Tom Strickland in Colorado’s Senate race. Allard has kept a fairly low profile through his last term which has left him vulnerable in this race. In the last election, Allard won by only 5 percentage points and he is despised by environmental and gun lobbies.

In Texas, both parties have scrambled to try to replace retiring Republican Senator Phil Gramm. Democrats have chosen Ron Kirk, a former mayor of Houston. Republicans have the state Attorney General Jon Cornyn in their corner. If Kirk is elected he would become the state’s first black U.S. senator.

Republicans want revenge in Missouri after the 2000 election of Democrat Jean Carnahan over John Ashcroft. Carnahan was placed on the ballot after her husband, Mel Carnahan, had died in a plane crash in the weeks leading up to the 2000 Election. Carnahan is facing Republican Jim Talent, a former four-term congressmen who gave up his seat to run an unsuccessful campaign to win the gubernatorial race in 2000.

Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) is retiring this year after three decades of service, leaving his North Carolina seat open to either party. Two candidates have stepped up to battle it out-Republican Elizabeth Dole and Democrat Erskine Bowles. Dole has a higher name recognition in the state and also has the advantage of having more funds than Bowles. Both candidates have worked under past presidential administrations. This is another race that is, as of now, too close to call.

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