UPI Political Roundup

By AL SWANSON, United Press International  |  Nov. 2, 2002 at 1:44 AM
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Redistricting changes House makeup

All 435 members of the U.S. House are up for re-election Tuesday but the once a decade process of redistricting could cause more changes than any wave of voter dissatisfaction.

Most incumbents not redrawn out of their home districts are expected to win re-election. Only about 46 races are considered hotly contested.

The GOP currently controls the House by a six-seat margin, 223 to 217 over the Democrats, with two independents and three vacant seats.

Re-maps have created some interesting races, the strangest being Ohio's 17th Congressional District where former incumbent Democrat James Traficant is running an independent campaign from the federal prison in Allenwood, Pa.

The 61-year-old Traficant was convicted of 10 counts of bribery and corruption in April and expelled in July from the seat he held for 17 1/2 years. Republican state Rep. Ann Wormer Benjamin lives about 3 miles outside the district and can't vote for herself.

Democratic state Sen. Tim Ryan, who once worked for Traficant, tells the Toledo Blade he's the only candidate who lives in the district.

Four House races pit incumbent against incumbent.

In Connecticut's newly drawn 5th Congressional District, moderate Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson is running against Democratic Rep. James Maloney.

Republican Rep. John Shimkus is in a tight race with Democratic Rep. David Phelps in Illinois' new 19th District.

In Mississippi, Republican Charles Pickering was favored to win the new 3rd Congressional District over Democratic Rep. Ronnie Shows.

Ten-term Republican Rep. George Gekas was in a close race with Democratic Rep. Tim Holden in Pennsylvania's redrawn 17th District.

In other noteworthy races:

South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow was in a neck-and-neck battle with 31-year-old Democratic newcomer Stephanie Herseth in the race for the state's at-large seat. Sparsely populated South Dakota has two U.S. senators but just one seat in the House.

One of the most expensive and contentious races was in Indiana's 2nd District. Republican Chris Chocola was in a statistical tie with Democrat Jill Long Thompson.

White House-backed West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito was leading millionaire liberal Democrat Jim Humphreys in the 2nd Congressional District. Humphreys, a garbage man's son who became a lawyer, largely financed his own campaign in a rematch of their 2000 election contest.

Florida Democrat Rep. Karen Thurman was in a battle with Republican state Sen. Ginny Brown-Waite in central Florida's redrawn 5th Congressional District.

Thirteen-term Republican Jim Leach was favored to beat Democrat Julie Thomas in Iowa's newly drawn 2nd District. Republican Kentucky Rep. Anne Northrup, a three-term incumbent, was favored over Democrat Jack Conway in Louisville's 3rd Congressional District.

In Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District, the rematch between Democratic Rep. Bill Luther and Republican John Kline was too close to call. Luther won by 6,000 votes in 2000.

Eight-term Maryland Republican Rep. Constance Morella was in a close race with Democratic state Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico and South Dakota all had races for open seats.

Bush, Cheney express can't stop at every station

President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, first lady Laura Bush and other members of the GOP political dynasty probably wish they had clones to put on the campaign trail for the weekend before the midterm election.

Bush is visiting 17 cities in a last-minute campaign blitz on behalf of Republican candidates but he can't be everywhere. He'll stump in Springfield, Ill., St. Paul, Minn. and Sioux Fall, S.D. Sunday and Cedar Rapids, Iowa; St. Charles, Mo., Bentonville, Ark., and Dallas Monday, wrapping up the grueling road trip at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

The president's schedule leaves Wisconsin out and Republican Gov. Scott McCallum to face Democratic challenger Jim Doyle without a presidential bump. McCallum has been closing in the polls and presidential visit would be worth something if it just got free television news coverage.

But there's no U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin this year so no presidential visit.

"The White House is very well aware of how close this campaign is," State GOP Chairman Rick Graber told Friday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I don't think it's a statement at all of what the White House feels or how important they feel this campaign is. The White House is concentrating on congressional races and Senate races, which is very understandable from the president's perspective."

Cheney campaigned in Indiana, Minnesota, South Dakota and Colorado Friday urging Republicans to get out the vote. The president, the first lady and Cheney were to make separate appearances in Minnesota with Republican Senate candidate Norm Coleman and gubernatorial candidate Tim Pawlenty.

Cheney landed first giving a speech on a makeshift stage at Hermantown Middle School near Duluth. Laura Bush visits Egan High School in Minneapolis Saturday and Bush speaks Sunday in St. Paul -- his fourth visit to Minnesota this year.

With the turnout in off-presidential year elections notoriously lower, both parties hope the battle between Coleman and Walter Mondale to succeed late Sen. Paul Wellstone will bring their supporters to the polls.

Minnesota officials are praying the election doesn't come down to absentee ballots. The state Supreme Court Thursday ruled any absentee voter who has already cast a ballot marked for Wellstone can get another ballot that would supercede those mailed earlier.

The state expects about 104,000 absentee ballots -- about 5 percent of the expected turnout.

It could be a long night in more than Minnesota.

The Election Reform Information Project told the Philadelphia Inquirer that poorly prepared poll watchers, new voting systems and technical glitches could cause Florida-style election fiascos in at least 13 states.

Confusion caused by Florida's high-tech, new electronic touch screen system in September's state primary forced Gov. Jeb Bush to order Miami-area polls to stay two extra hours.

Former President Bill Clinton campaigned for Democrats in tight races. Clinton campaigned with Mazie Hirono, who is deadlocked with Republican Linda Lingle in a hotly contested race for Hawaii's governor. He was scheduled to speak at an election eve rally for Connecticut candidate for governor Bill Curry in Hartford Monday.

Bush boosts Sununu in N.H.

President George W. Bush, hoping to engineer GOP control of the U.S. Senate, came to New Hampshire Friday to give Rep. John E. Sununu a boost over his Democratic rival, Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.

Bush's visit came as two new polls showed Shaheen with a slight edge, while a third had Sununu with a narrow lead. The polls also showed Republicans leading Democrats in two congressional races.

"I got a strong suggestion," Bush told a gathering in Portsmouth. "If you want to do what's right for New Hampshire, if you want to do what's right for America, vote for John Sununu for the United States Senate."

A WMUR-UNH poll of 680 likely voters showed Shaheen leading 46 percent to 42 percent, with 7 percent undecided. In two other major races, Republican Jeb Bradley had a 49 percent to 31 percent lead over Democrat Martha Fuller Clark in the 1st Congressional District; and incumbent GOP Rep. Charles Bass led Katrina Swett, 47 percent to 41 percent, in the 2nd District. The poll conducted Oct. 23-28 has a margin of error of 3.8 percent.

The poll also indicated an unofficial write-in campaign for Sen. Bob Smith, defeated by Sununu in the September primary, "is showing little direct impact." An American Research Group poll of 600 likely voters gave Sununu a 48 percent to 46 percent edge over Shaheen, with 5 percent undecided. The poll, conducted Monday through Wednesday, had a 4 percent margin of error.

In the congressional races, the ARG poll has Bradley ahead of Clark 52 percent to 42 percent in the 1st District, with 6 percent undecided. In the 2nd District, Bass leads Swett 55 percent to 38 percent, with 7 percent undecided.

In a Franklin Pierce College poll Sunday through Thursday of 926 likely voters for WNDS-TV, Shaheen leads Sununu 45 percent to 40 percent, with 10 percent undecided. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percent. In the 1st District, Bradley led Clark 43 percent to 36 percent with 19 percent undecided. In the 2nd District, Bass held a 52 percent to 33 percent lead over Swett, with 12 percent undecided.

Mondale releases doctor's note

Minnesota Senate candidate Walter Mondale, who has promised to serve a full six-year term if he's elected next week, has released a letter from his doctor assuring voters he's healthy.

The 74-year-old former vice president lost center vision in his right eye after a blood clot in February but Dr. Paul Phillips, his personal physician, wrote Mondale was "certainly in good shape to perform all the duties required of a United States senator."

Mondale said he consulted his doctors and the Mayo Clinic, where he takes an annual physical, before he accepted the Democratic-Farm-Labor party's nomination to replace Paul Wellstone, who died with seven others in a plane crash Oct. 25.

"Both of them have assured me that my health should not be an impediment to either running or serving in office," Mondale said.

Other than slightly impaired vision Mondale, a non-smoker, had a small skin cancer removed from his forehead in September. He takes medication for high blood pressure and to lower his cholesterol.

Mondale's opponent, former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman is 53.

When a reporter asked Mondale if he had any memory problems, the candidate quipped, "Not that I can remember."

O'Brien's early lead erased

Negative ads appear to be taking their toll in the Massachusetts governor's race.

Democrat Shannon O'Brien has seen her 42 percent to 36 percent lead in September over Republican Mitt Romney virtually erased, according to a Boston Globe/WBZ-TV poll published Friday.

In the new survey of 400 likely voters taken Tuesday and Wednesday, O'Brien polled 41 percent to 40 percent for Romney, with 5 percent undecided. The poll had a margin of error of 5 percent.

The poll suggested O'Brien has been hurt by a barrage of negative ads against her and a Romney warning to voters that an O'Brien victory would give Democrats complete control of the state.

Romney said O'Brien, House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran and Senate president hopeful Robert E. Travaglini would complete a "Gang of Three" Democrats that would stifle dissent and "raise taxes with impunity."

He said that's why it is necessary to keep the governor's office in Republican hands.

O'Brien, on the other hand, said the Republican governors over the past 12 years "broke" promises to end patronage and shrink the size of state government.

(Thanks to Dave Haskell in Boston)

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