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Pennsylvania Has All the Tough Races in a Region Where Most Incumbents Appear Safe


Filing deadline: July 30
Primary: Sept. 11


Incumbent: Mike Castle (R)
6th term (72 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Castle improved his re-election margin in 2002, winning 72 percent of the vote in a rematch with Democratic businessman Michael Miller.

During the race, Miller was rebuked by the beer giant Miller Brewing Co., which sent the candidate a letter warning him to stop using its trademarked slogan “It’s Miller Time” on his campaign signs.

There is no indication that Miller, who lost to Castle in 2000 by 37 points, is looking to make a third run, but regardless, the well-respected moderate will have little trouble winning a seventh term.

Although Castle has shown previous interest in running for an open Senate seat, he now appears to be content in the House. Besides, the next time the 64-year-old lawmaker might have a clear shot at a Senate seat is in 2008, if Sen. Joseph Biden (D) decides to retire.


Filing deadline: Dec. 22, 2003
Primary: March 2


Incumbent: Barbara Mikulski (D)
3rd term (71 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Mikulski, the diminutive, feisty populist, continues to be enormously popular in the heavily Democratic Free State.

Maryland Republicans talked boldly about finding a top-tier challenger, but those people they touted — former Prince George’s County Executive Wayne Curry, a Democrat; Maryland First Lady Kendel Ehrlich; former Rep. Connie Morella; and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele — all demurred.

So instead the GOP nominee is likely to be first-term state Sen. E.J. Pipkin, who represents the Eastern Shore.

Pipkin, a political moderate, has some attributes: He is a wealthy investment broker, with deep enough pockets to have knocked off a powerful Democratic committee chairman in a 2002 state Senate election after ponying up $600,000 of his own money. But even if he’s willing to spend millions of dollars, he is unlikely to make a chink in Mikulski’s armor.


1st district
Incumbent: Wayne Gilchrest (R)
7th term (77 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

The action in this district, as it was in 2002, is in the Republican primary, where the moderate Gilchrest is facing a challenge from the right in this Eastern Shore district.

Last cycle, 30-something attorney Dave Fischer put up a credible fight, buoyed by the backing of the conservative Club for Growth. He took 36 percent of the vote.

This time, state Sen. Richard Colburn (R), one of the most conservative members of the state Legislature, is running. He has the benefit of being a veteran elected official instead of a neophyte like Fischer was. But he’s hardly anybody’s idea of a fiery campaigner, and the Club for Growth and other conservative organizations have yet to signal whether they plan to play extensively in the district. Already Gilchrest has a $104,000-to-$8,400 advantage in cash on hand.

He’ll have to work a little harder than he might like, but Gilchrest should coast in the primary, and there are no top-level Democrats on the horizon.

6th District
Incumbent: Roscoe Bartlett (R)
6th term (66 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Now 77, Bartlett faces a spirited primary challenge from Frederick County States Attorney Scott Rolle, and the back story of the race for this Western Maryland seat is as interesting as the main themes.

Bartlett is an unusual character, a scientist, inventor and former IBM executive who is one of the smartest Members of the House — and one of the most unconventional.

Ideologically, there isn’t much separating Bartlett and Rolle, a 42-year-old prosecutor now in his third term. But stylistically the two couldn’t be more different, and Rolle and his supporters are sure to cast the race as a battle between old and new.

Publicly, Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) and other state GOP leaders have promised to rally around Bartlett. But privately, they acknowledge that Bartlett has done little to help the party through the years, and some suggest the Congressman is hanging on to try to figure out a way to secure the seat for his son, state Del. Joseph Bartlett (R).

Rolle, meanwhile, is a close friend of Ehrlich’s, and party leaders have promised him the GOP nomination for state attorney general in 2006 or some other plum if he forgoes the House race. But Rolle seems undeterred. The question is whether he’ll be able to raise enough money to knock off the incumbent, because he has the ability to win otherwise. As of Sept. 30, Bartlett had $133,000 in the bank.

New Jersey

Filing deadline: April 12
Primary: June 8


5th district
Incumbent: Scott Garrett (R)
1st term (59 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Garrett won the seat of retiring Rep. Marge Roukema (R) last year, even though he was pegged in both the primary and general elections as too conservative for this moderate Republican-leaning district.

He had challenged Roukema from the right in the 1998 and 2000 GOP primaries, and the outgoing Congresswoman did not back anyone in the general election after endorsing one of Garrett’s opponents in the GOP primary.

Garrett was aided in the primary by the conservative Club for Growth, and he must continue to watch out for the potential of a primary from the more moderate wing of the party.

Meanwhile, national Democrats tried to target this race in 2002 with ophthalmologist and former Republican Anne Sumers as their nominee. While she outspent Garrett, she ended up getting a disappointing 38 percent of the vote, an indication that the district is much more reliably Republican territory than the Democrats had anticipated.

As of yet, no one from either party has stepped forward to challenge Garrett, and he appears likely to cruise to a second term next November.

7th district
Incumbent: Mike Ferguson (R)
2nd term (58 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

A spate of unwanted press surrounding Ferguson earlier this year bolstered Democrats’ hopes of competing against the second-term Congressman, but it’s still not a race they are widely discussing, and they have yet to recruit a challenger for the 2004 contest.

In April, Ferguson got into an altercation with a female Georgetown University student at a Washington, D.C., bar over whether he had given her his Congressional pin. The police eventually were called to resolve the dispute, which was chronicled two days later in The Washington Post.

Then in June the Federal Election Commission fined Ferguson for improperly funneling more than a half-million dollars from his parents to his 2000 campaign. The penalty, $210,000, was one of the stiffest ever imposed on a candidate.

After winning a competitive first race in 2000, Ferguson was not a top target for Democrats last year, and he won re-election with 58 percent of the vote after redistricting helped to shore up all of the state’s Congressional incumbents.

Financier Tim Carden, who was handily defeated by Ferguson last year after a respectable fundraising effort, and Marine Lt. Col. Steven Brosak are mentioned as potential Democratic challengers in 2004.

Still, the 33-year-old Ferguson, who has future statewide ambitions but has said he will not run for governor in 2005, appears to be on stable re-election ground in this swing district that looks competitive only on paper.

12th district
Incumbent: Rush Holt (D)
3rd term (61 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

After winning one of the closest re-election battles of the 2000 cycle, Holt was not a top target last year, and national Republicans appear unlikely to change that in 2004.

Last year’s Republican nominee DeForest “Buster” Soaries, a black Baptist minister, received little financial support or attention from Washington-based Republicans aside from then-House GOP Conference Chairman J.C. Watts (Okla.), who came to the district to campaign.

Aside from a Republican recruiting coup, Holt appears safe in this district that voted 56 percent for then-Vice President Al Gore (D) in the 2000 presidential contest.

One of the more interesting names mentioned as a potential candidate is that of former Independent Counsel Robert Ray, who lives in the eastern portion of Holt’s central New Jersey district. Ray, who headed up the investigation into the Clintons’ Whitewater dealings, flirted with a run for Senate in 2002.

Holt had $326,000 in the bank as of Sept. 30.

New York

Filing deadline: July 15
Primary: Sept. 14


Incumbent: Charles Schumer (D)
1st term (55 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Already sitting on a boatload of cash, the media-savvy Schumer should have no problem winning re-election — assuming the Republican field continues to be as weak as it appears now.

The only GOP candidate so far, Michael Benjamin, is a little-known veteran of the financial services industry, who ran unsuccessfully for the House in 1998. For now, the question for Schumer appears to be how much of the $18 million he has in his campaign account he’ll be able to hold onto — and whether he has any interest in running for governor in 2006.

Still Democrats warn that a “name” Republican, like Gov. George Pataki or former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani — or a wealthy political newcomer — could jump in at the last minute, and they are counseling against overconfidence. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to worry, however.


1st district
Incumbent: Tim Bishop (D)
1st term (50 percent) Outlook: Likely Democratic

Bishop, who was then the provost of Southampton College, pulled one of the few upsets of the 2002 cycle, ousting one-term Rep. Felix Grucci (R) following a series of Grucci missteps.

Republicans like to think they have a chance of taking the Suffolk County-based seat back in 2004, but their hopes apparently rest on Brookhaven Town Supervisor John Jay LaValle (R), an energetic and photogenic local official who has talked about running.

LaValle said he would put off a decision until his Nov. 4 re-election contest — he won — but it is not clear how soon he will announce his intentions. Republicans, who dominated Long Island politics for decades, are wracked by scandal and in decline nowadays, and that could hurt LaValle.

If LaValle does not run, the GOP has no obvious alternatives, and Bishop, who is sitting on $203,000, should do fine. If he does, the race should be close.

24th District
Incumbent: Sherwood Boehlert (R)
11th term (71 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

The question in this district is whether Boehlert faces a Republican primary rematch in 2004 with Cayuga County Legislator David Walrath (R). Running hard to Boehlert’s right, Walrath — without much support from national organizations that were aiding conservative primary challengers elsewhere — finished just 2,800 votes behind the incumbent in the primary.

Walrath traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier this year to discuss another challenge with various conservative groups, but he hasn’t been heard from much since. National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) has made it clear that he strongly supports his colleague, and Boehlert is sitting on $348,000 in his campaign account. But Walrath, who had no money left in his treasury, still could provide a stiff challenge if he decides to make the race and gets some national backing.


Filing deadline: Feb. 17
Primary: April 27


Incumbent: Arlen Specter (R)
4th term (61 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Specter finds himself in the primary fight of his political life in his bid to win a fifth term in the Senate.

Rep. Pat Toomey (R), who is keeping a pledge to serve only three terms in the House, announced in February that he would challenge Specter in next year’s primary.

Toomey’s strategy is to paint Specter as too liberal for the Republican Party, and he has the backing of the conservative Club for Growth in that endeavor. He is likely to focus heavily on his support of President Bush’s tax cuts and opposition to abortion, two issues where he can draw the sharpest contrasts with Specter.

Interestingly, it was Toomey’s tacit support for abortion rights that helped him emerge from a crowded primary in his 1998 House victory. He has since said he opposes the procedure in all cases except rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger.

Despite a brief truce brokered by the state Republican Party in an effort not to detract from this year’s local races, both Specter and Toomey (or groups working on their behalf) have already aired negative radio ads, providing just a taste of the nasty battle ahead.

While most political prognosticators give Toomey a third of the primary vote as a base to work from, there are few Washington insiders who see how he gets the yardage needed to beat the entrenched former prosecutor.

The White House and Senate GOP leaders are publicly supporting Specter and working on his behalf. Furthermore, Specter showed a $9.2 million campaign war chest at the end of September, while Toomey reported a little more than $1.8 million in the bank.

One of the keys for Specter will be making sure that the voters who switched registration to vote for now-Gov. Ed Rendell (D) in last year’s gubernatorial primary are brought back into the GOP fold.

Rendell and Specter are longtime friends, although Rendell has pledged to help Rep. Joe Hoeffel, the likely Democratic nominee next year.

But while Specter is still widely favored to win the primary, it remains to be seen how battered he will emerge from the contest.

It is Democrats’ hope that the moderate Specter will be forced to sharply swing right of center and endure a bloody fight with Toomey, two factors that would improve Hoeffel’s chances in the general.

Hoeffel won re-election to the House last year with just 51 percent after not being heavily targeted by the GOP. But he was wooed by national Democrats after a number of potential self-funders looked at the Senate race and passed.

With Specter initially appearing unbeatable, most ambitious Democrats in the state looked ahead toward challenging Sen. Rick Santorum (R) in 2006. If Hoeffel loses next year by a respectable margin, he could also be well-positioned to lead the party’s primary pack in 2006.

But if Toomey somehow pulls the upset of the cycle and defeats Specter, both parties know that the Senate race in this hotly contested presidential territory will become one of the most intensely fought tossup races of the year.

Specter was not targeted by Democrats in 1998, but the last time he faced re-election in a presidential election year he won just 49 percent when Bill Clinton (D) carried the state in 1992.

A Quinnipiac University poll conducted in October found that 50 percent of the registered voters surveyed would vote for Specter, while 33 percent said they would vote for Hoeffel in a hypothetical matchup.

More telling, however, is that while 46 percent of those polled said they would vote to re-elect Specter, 41 percent said they wanted someone else. That could spell trouble down the line for the incumbent.


6th district
Incumbent: Jim Gerlach (R)
1st term (51 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Gerlach won a narrow victory in this redrawn suburban Philadelphia district last year, in a race that Democrats did not pay particular attention to until late in the cycle when polling showed it would be a tight battle to the end.

Attorney Dan Wofford (D), the son of former Sen. Harris Wofford (D), who ran a strong race in 2002, announced earlier this year that he would not run again, dampening Democratic hopes of vigorously contesting this marginal district in a presidential year. In 2000, the 6th narrowly supported Al Gore over George W. Bush, and the high concentration of “Rendell Republicans” there voted 2-to-1 for the former Philadelphia mayor in the 2002 governor’s race.

Democrats have talked about recruiting state Sen. Connie Williams (D) to run for the seat, but she appears more focused on the opportunity to face Sen. Rick Santorum (R) in 2006.

With Democrats fielding a surplus of top candidates in the nearby open 13th district, there has been some suggestion that the party coax one of those contenders into the race against Gerlach. However, none appears likely to do so, and the freshman currently has no opposition.

As of Sept. 30, Gerlach had a little more than $400,000 in the bank.

9th district
Incumbent: Bill Shuster (R)
2nd term (71 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Shuster was elected to replace his father in a closer-than-expected 2001 special election that had been written off as unwinnable by national Democrats. Then he easily won re-election to his first full term last November, taking 71 percent of the vote.

But now the 42-year-old Congressman is facing a primary challenge from local businessman Michael DelGrosso, a political neophyte who has family money and a well-known last name.

DelGrosso’s family runs DelGrosso Foods Inc., which produces 1.5 million cases of tomato sauce each year, and DelGrosso’s Amusement Park in Tipton.

DelGrosso graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and has worked as a corporate strategy consultant in Chicago, a factory floor supervisor and program and account manager in Michigan’s automotive industry.

Earlier this year he quit his job as a management consultant in the Washington, D.C., suburbs and moved back home to run for the seat full time.

DelGrosso is charging that Shuster was essentially handed the job by his father, 30-year Rep. Bud Shuster (R), and his political machine. He argues that his campaign will give residents of the district their first real choice in years, and he believes they are ready for a change.

Shuster, meanwhile, has dismissed DelGrosso as an unemployed rich kid with no real ideas, but there is evidence that he is not taking the primary challenge lightly. In June, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas) came to the district for a campaign event in Altoona.

The potential for DelGrosso to pour family money into the race cannot be underestimated, either.

Shuster had raised more than $300,000 through the end of September and showed $188,000 in cash on hand. DelGrosso, meanwhile, raised $91,000 for his campaign (all but $2,000 of it from individual contributors) and had $35,000 left on Sept. 30.

For now there’s no indication that Shuster is in jeopardy, but this race is worth watching.

13th district
Open seat: Joe Hoeffel (D)
is running for Senate
Outlook: Leans Democratic

With little competition so far in other swing districts, the race for this suburban northeast Philadelphia seat is shaping up to be the state’s blockbuster House contest of the cycle.

Democrats look headed toward a bruising primary battle between heavyweights state Sen. Allyson Schwartz and former National Constitution Center President Joe Torsella. State Rep. Mark Cohen (D) is also running.

Schwartz and Torsella combined have raised more than $1 million for the race so far. Schwartz, who announced her candidacy in late July, pulled in $605,000 through the end of September, and Torsella raised $416,000 in a little less than a month after getting in the race in early September.

Schwartz, who placed second in a six-way Senate primary in 2000, got the early backing of EMILY’s List, as well as Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman Marcel Groen and Philadelphia Controller Jonathan Saidel (D).

Torsella, meanwhile, is a close ally of Gov. Ed Rendell’s (D) and served in the governor’s administration when he was mayor of Philadelphia. More recently, Torsella helped to raise more than $180 million for the Constitution Center, a high-priority project of Rendell’s that opened in July.

Schwartz does not currently live in the district, which Torsella has already sought to point out. Still, she represents portions of the district in the state Senate, and it’s unclear whether the issue will be a huge factor in the primary. Cohen also lives outside of the district, but he has said he will move before the primary.

Republicans, meanwhile, also face a primary, although at this point it looks to be less contentious. Ophthalmologist Melissa Brown is considered the favorite of the GOP establishment after she narrowly lost to Hoeffel last cycle, even as Democrat Rendell was winning by large margins in the same areas.

Brown is a moderate and if Democrats nominate a male candidate, she could appeal to suburban Democratic “soccer moms” in the district.

But she must first win the primary, where her most formidable obstacle is state Rep. Ellen Bard (R). Bard is running for re-election to the state House as well as for Congress, which could hurt her.

Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce President Al Taubenberger is also running in the GOP primary, and as the conservative he could benefit from the two women splitting the more moderate vote.

Former Rep. Jon Fox (R), who lost to Hoeffel in 1998, has also been mentioned as a candidate, but at this point he doesn’t look likely to run.

The likely scenario of an expensive showdown between Brown and either Schwartz or Torsella will be a battle in which both national parties will play heavily. Although Democrats argue that the district was improved in their favor after last cycle’s redistricting and that Hoeffel underperformed there, the presidential contest should help the Republican nominee, especially with get-out-the-vote efforts, and a Democratic hold is by no means a certainty.

15th district
Open seat: Pat Toomey (R) is running for Senate
Outlook: Likely Republican

This race, almost above all others in the country, illustrates House Democrats’ recruiting troubles this cycle.

Although Toomey won with relative ease there last year in a rematch of his 2000 race against a lackluster Democratic opponent, this swing district should be prime territory for Democrats looking to make up a 12-seat deficit in the House.

Party strategists hope that Lehigh County Judge Thomas Wallitsch (D) will run, but he’s not in the race yet.

National Republicans, meanwhile, have coalesced behind state Sen. Charlie Dent (R), an affable moderate who got the early support of National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) and his would-be colleagues in the state’s GOP Congressional delegation.

Still, Dent faces primary opposition from Lehigh County Commissioner Joe Pascuzzo and attorney Brian O’Neill, who are vying for the conservative vote.

O’Neill got the early endorsement of the Campaign for Working Families’ Gary Bauer, although it has been reported that the group was unaware that there were two conservatives in the race and is now determining whether to also back Pascuzzo.

But Dent, who had $335,000 in the bank at the end of September, is still favored to win the nomination and the general election unless Democrats are able to field a top candidate.

One of the party’s leading prospects, state Rep. T.J. Rooney, chose instead to become Pennsylvania Democratic chairman.

Another name widely circulated was state Sen. Lisa Boscola (D), who carried enough political baggage that even fellow Democrats were wary of her candidacy. But Boscola has announced she will stay in the state Senate.

If Democrats can field a top candidate, the marginal makeup of this district, enhanced by a presidential year, would ensure a competitive race. But that prospect dwindles with each day that no candidate emerges.

Al Gore carried this district in the 2000 presidential contest with 49 percent to 48 percent for George W. Bush.

17th district
Incumbent: Tim Holden (D)
6th term (51 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

It’s no secret that Holden is a top target for Republicans next year, after he beat veteran Rep. George Gekas (R) in one of the four Member-versus-Member general election races created by last cycle’s redistricting.

However, with no clear frontrunner in a field of second-tier candidates, this isn’t one of the races that GOP operatives are talking up.

That could change, depending on what happens in the primary, especially since this district is tough territory for Democrats.

While Holden won 51 percent in this district last year by outworking Gekas, who hadn’t had a competitive race in two decades, President Bush carried 56 percent in the 2000 presidential contest, and his name at the top of the 2004 ticket will no doubt benefit the Republican nominee.

Still, Holden proved he could withstand a tough battle last year, and Republicans know they can expect the same in 2004.

After a couple of well-known state lawmakers passed on challenging Holden, the field includes accounting consultant Frank Ryan; Ron Hostetler, a school teacher and the brother of former NFL quarterback Jeff Hostetler; Harrisburg real estate agent Sue Helm; and Dauphin County Sheriff Jack Lotwick.

Scott Paterno, the 31-year-old son of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, is also reportedly close to entering the race. Paterno, who has never run for office and currently works for the state Senate Majority Leader, is moving into the district in order to run.

Ryan, a retired Marine, had been considered the frontrunner in the race until a restraining order sought by Ryan’s former wife and records of unpaid child support from a messy 1993 divorce came to light in August. Ryan disputed the allegations and maintained he had done nothing wrong, but even some Republicans believe the revelations tarnished his campaign beyond electability.

Ryan has donated $100,000 to his effort so far and showed $146,000 in the bank at the end of September, more cash on hand than any other Republican in the race. Ryan also outraised Holden, who had $308,000 in the bank, in the third quarter.

18th district
Incumbent: Tim Murphy (R)
1st term (60 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

National Democrats had high hopes of winning this GOP-leaning reconfigured open seat in 2002, only to have them dashed when their preferred candidate lost the Democratic primary.

Instead, Murphy, a psychologist and former state Senator, was granted a free ride by Democrats and won easily against little-known challenger Jack Machek (D).

But Democrats may look to play in this western Pennsylvania district in 2004, especially if no viable challenger emerges against Gerlach in the 6th.

Pittsburgh-area pediatrician Mark Boles (D) is running and has already donated more than $91,000 in personal funds to his campaign. He showed close to $40,000 in the bank at the end of the third quarter. Murphy, meanwhile, had nearly $300,000 in the bank.

Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi (D), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee-backed candidate in the 2002 primary who was then Washington County sheriff, would be a strong candidate but hasn’t indicated he’s interested in running again.

Still, whether Democrats decide to target Murphy will largely depend on how much they are forced to spend on races in the 13th, 15th and 17th districts.

West Virginia

Filing deadline: Jan. 31
Primary: May 11


2nd district
Incumbent: Shelley Moore Capito (R)
2nd term (60 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

After wealthy trial lawyer Jim Humphreys (D) poured $14 million of his own fortune into back-to-back losing efforts against Capito, it’s back to the drawing board for Democrats looking to field a top challenger in 2004.

So far, they haven’t come up with much.

Perennial candidate Curtis Robinson, Charles Town Races & Slots employee David Caruthers and Charleston real estate agent Howard Swint make up the list of unknown Democrats who have said they are running.

The party would like to recruit state Supreme Court of Appeals Judge Robin Davis (D), who appears unwilling to run. Attorney Jim Lees, who lost a 2000 gubernatorial primary, is also mentioned as a possibility.

There is some talk in Charleston GOP circles that state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Callaghan may end up running if the party is unable to find a viable candidate, but he has batted down that speculation to this point.

Outgoing Gov. Bob Wise (D), who held the seat before Capito, installed Callaghan as chairman, and Callaghan isn’t seen as likely to continue in that post after 2004, when Wise is no longer governor.

Although Capito is viewed as an eventual statewide candidate, she turned down the opportunity to run for governor in 2004 when Wise announced earlier this year that he would not seek a second term.

Her crushing defeat of Humphreys last cycle only helped to cement her standing, although she can never quite be considered safe in this Charleston-based district.

Capito has already begun to benefit from the heavy attention the White House is paying to West Virginia heading into the presidential election year (Vice President Cheney recently held a fundraiser for her), and that assistance will only increase in the next 12 months.

As of Sept. 30, she had almost $570,000 in the bank.

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