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NEW ENGLAND: With Favorite Son Kerry at the Top of the Ticket, Democrats Have High Hopes for House Districts

Incumbent: Chris Dodd (D)
4th term (65 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Dodd continues to look extremely solid in his bid for a fifth term, although his opponent’s willingness to spend his own money on the race could make this contest at least vaguely interesting.

Former fashion executive Jack Orchulli (R) had given his campaign $832,000 as of June 30, and has said he will donate up to $1 million in personal funds.

That personal generosity is still no match for Dodd’s fundraising prowess; he showed $4.2 million on hand at the end of June.

Orchulli has an intriguing personal story — he spent 21 years as an executive at Michael Kors in New York — but he faces a demoralized Connecticut Republican Party still reeling from the resignation of Gov. John Rowland.

An August poll suggested that voters were uninterested in changing their representation in the Senate.

Dodd held a 64 percent to 20 percent lead over Orchulli in a Quinnipiac University survey in the field Aug. 12-17.

Needless to say, Dodd is a safe bet for re-election.

2nd district
Incumbent: Rob Simmons (R)
2nd term (54 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

While this race remains a priority for national Democrats, the candidacy of former Norwich City Councilman Jim Sullivan (D) has yet to catch fire.

Sullivan won a 63 percent to 37 percent victory over former state Rep. Shaun McNally in the early- August Democratic primary, although his grasp on the nomination had been assured for months.

Simmons has been atop the Democratic target list since defeating then-Rep. Sam Gejdenson (D) in one of the major upsets of the 2000 cycle.

Though the demographics of this eastern Connecticut seat favor Democrats — Al Gore won it by 14 points in 2000 — Simmons has cast himself as an independent-minded moderate and shown an ability to attract crossover support.

Sullivan is a personable candidate but has not yet shown that he can seriously compete with Simmons on the fundraising front.

Through July 21, Sullivan had just $37,000 on hand after raising $373,000 to that point — a paltry figure given that the contest is one of only 35 or so expected to be targeted by both national parties.

Simmons continued his strong fundraising with $833,000 in the bank at the end of June.

A poll conducted for Sullivan’s campaign in early August showed him trailing Simmons 41 percent to 39 percent; in the presidential contest, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) led President Bush 54 percent to 38 percent.

Sullivan’s fundraising must improve dramatically in the remaining weeks of the campaign if he hopes to position himself to take advantage of a potential Democratic wind blowing through this district.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is likely to spend heavily on Sullivan’s behalf, which could make up for the candidate’s weak fundraising.

Simmons has done everything he can to win re-election, but because of the underlying voting patterns of the district the contest remains a Democratic opportunity.

4th district
Incumbent: Christopher Shays (R)
9th term (64 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

In the six months since entering the race, Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell (D) has gone from political obscurity to becoming the hot underdog in the eyes of national Democrats.

Much of Farrell’s meteoric rise is due to her fundraising. She had raked in $722,000 at the end of June, with $588,000 on hand. And in mid-July, Farrell was endorsed by EMILY’s List, a huge political organization that supports pro-abortion rights women and should provide a major shot in the arm to her fundraising.

Farrell’s fundraising has also been made easier by the relative wealth of the district. Nearly one in five 4th district households has an income of more than $150,000.

By the numbers, the southwestern Connecticut 4th district tilts Democratic, as Al Gore carried it by 10 points over George W. Bush in 2000.

With all of these advantages working for Farrell, however, the race remains a difficult one for her to win.

Shays has developed a reputation as one of the leading moderates in the Republican Party and has not had a serious opponent since 1996. He won that race with 60 percent.

The Connecticut Republican is also clearly paying attention to Farrell’s challenge and responding in kind — especially on the fundraising front.

He closed June with $657,000 in the bank, cresting the $1 million-raised mark.

Another major hurdle for Farrell is the cost of advertising in the 4th district, which is almost entirely encompassed by the New York City media market — the nation’s most expensive.

To run a single week of broadcast television in the New York City market Farrell will need roughly $1 million, a price that dwarfs her fundraising to this point.

That same priceyness may keep the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee off the air in the 4th district, which also hurts Farrell’s chances.

Farrell is a strong candidate, but getting known in this district is a mighty task that is likely to prove too daunting.

2nd district
Incumbent: Mike Michaud (D)
1st term (52 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

The Republican nominee, Brian Hamel, a former local economic development official, seems to be doing all the right things. And he has gotten help from some regional GOP powerhouses, like New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg.

But he probably lacks the stature — and financial firepower — to topple Michaud. Despite his freshman status, the Congressman is well known in the district. A former mill worker, union leader and state Senate president, Michaud’s economic populism and social conservatism seem to fit the district well.

His re-election is by no means a slam dunk — the sprawling 2nd is a swing district in Congressional races and in the presidential contest.

But Maine has been leaning Democratic. Unless there is a late surge in the 2nd for President Bush — who has campaigned there twice in recent months — Michaud should be fine.

10th district
Incumbent: Bill Delahunt (D)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

In this strongly Democratic district that includes Plymouth Rock, landing site of the Pilgrims, Delahunt has coasted to re-election since coming to Congress in 1996.

His Republican challenger, Washington lobbyist Mike Jones, launched his long-shot campaign to unseat Delahunt at Plymouth Rock in April. Jones has drawn some big-name Republicans to the district to help him raise money, including Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), but things seem to have stalled for him.

As of the most recent Federal Election Commission filing, he had raised just $200,000 and had spent almost all of it.

By contrast, Delahunt kicked his fundraising into high gear during the past couple of months, mostly to prepare for a possible special Senate election in 2005 if John Kerry (D) wins the White House.

Delahunt has almost $2 million in the bank.

Incumbent: Judd Gregg (R)
2nd term (68 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

The Democratic side of this race changed dramatically in June when state Sen. Burt Cohen, who had been waging an uphill battle against Gregg for a year, abruptly halted his bid.

Cohen’s campaign finances came under federal investigation, and he dropped out of the race right before the filing deadline.

In stepped 94-year-old Granny D.

The campaign finance reform advocate, who had walked across the country to bring attention to her cause, saved the party the embarrassment of running a no-name candidate against Gregg.

Doris Haddock, as she was known, officially changed her name to Granny D in August and is considered by some party insiders as a tougher challenger than Cohen had been, inasmuch as she can wage a symbolic campaign against the influence of big money in politics.

She has fairly high name recognition but very little cash.

Gregg is sitting on more than $1.8 million, while Granny D has about $10,000 in the bank.

Gregg also holds a substantial lead in the polls.

1st district
Incumbent: Jeb Bradley (R)
1st term (58 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Justin Nadeau, a young lawyer from a prominent political family, entered the race in May to win the Sept. 14 Democratic primary, earning him the right to challenge Bradley.

National Democrats are high on Nadeau and their chances in this theoretically competitive district.

President Bush won the 1st by just 3 points in 2000.

The 31-year-old Nadeau, who is the managing partner of his family’s law firm, has an uncle who is a state Supreme Court justice and his father was a local Democratic Party chairman. The Portsmouth attorney bested three opponents in the primary, winning 54 percent of the vote.

Democrats took heart in a University of New Hampshire poll from May that showed a full 32 percent of 1st district voters did not know Bradley.

Nonetheless, Nadeau trails in the money chase. Bradley reported banking $418,000 as of Aug. 25, whereas Nadeau had about $157,000.

2nd district
Incumbent: Charles Bass (R)
5th term (57 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Democrat Paul Hodes is piling up money in this marginal district, giving national Democrats some hope, but so far that has not translated into support in the polls.

One local television poll had Bass routing the Concord attorney by almost 30 points, but that was before Hodes won the Sept. 14 Democratic primary with 60 percent of the vote.

Nonetheless, the district split evenly in the 2000 presidential election between Republicans and Democrats.

Hodes banked almost $210,000 through Aug. 25, while Bass had about $280,000 in cash on hand.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently paid for $600,000 in TV advertising in the Boston media market for ads promoting Hodes and 1st district candidate Justin Nadeau.

Incumbent: Patrick Kennedy (D)
5th term (60 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Former Navy SEAL and technical analyst Dave Rogers (R) is again trying to knock off Kennedy but is likely to repeat his losing 2002 effort.

Rogers has raised about $1.6 million this cycle; he spent almost $2 million last time but took only 37 percent of the vote. Rogers ended August with less than $300,000 in the bank, while Kennedy had about $1.2 million.

Rogers again has tried to bring publicity to his cause by swimming across the district.

Incumbent: Patrick Leahy (D)
5th term (72 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Self-made millionaire Jack McMullen, who was upset in the 1998 GOP Senate primary by dairy farmer Fred Tuttle but won this year’s GOP contest in September, does not seem eager to dump his entire fortune into his uphill battle with Leahy.

The Burlington-based management consultant has lent his campaign only about $110,000 so far.

According to the Aug. 25 Federal Election Commission filings, he had less than $60,000 in the bank. Leahy, by comparison, had about $1.5 million in cash on hand.

Incumbent: Bernie Sanders (I)
7th term (64 percent)
Outlook: Safe Independent

Sanders should coast to re-election in the Green Mountain State, seeing as how he has about 20 times as much money as Republican Greg Parke.

Parke, an Air Force veteran and 2002 candidate, beat another veteran in the GOP primary for the right to face Sanders, a self-described Socialist.

Parke has raised about $360,000 this cycle but only banked approximately $30,000 as of Aug. 25. Sanders had almost $700,000 in cash on hand.

— Chris Cillizza and Nicole Duran

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