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South: GOP Tries to Till New Soil in Once-Fertile Region


Filing deadline: April 2 | Primary: June 1 | Runoff: July 13


Incumbent: Richard Shelby (R)
4th term (68 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Shelby’s cash-on-hand total is enough to buy a small island, and he continues to stuff his war chest.

At the end of September, Shelby reported more than $15 million in the bank. Democrats do not have a plausible challenger to speak of.

Shelby will cruise to re-election.


2nd district
Incumbent: Bobby Bright (D)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Considering the very conservative nature of his district, it’s not a surprise that Bright has been approached by Republicans about the possibility of switching parties. He has said he has no interest in doing so, but it’s not the first time the GOP has tried to get Bright to join its team.

Republicans wanted Bright to carry their banner during the open-seat contest in 2008. He turned them down then, too, and went on to win by the narrowest of margins while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won the district by 26 points in the presidential race.

It was the first time the GOP lost the district since the mid-1960s.

Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby was courted by top GOP leaders early in the cycle, and her national party allies worked hard to clear the primary field. Their efforts paid off when wealthy state Rep. Jay Love, the 2008 nominee, decided not to run again.

Roby is a solid conservative, but she’s still relatively unknown outside of Montgomery. She’ll also need money to get her name identification up and her message out.

After bringing in more than $125,000 in the first six weeks of her campaign, Roby reported an underwhelming $91,000 raised during the third quarter. She ended September with about $179,000 in cash on hand compared with Bright’s $489,000.

5th district
Incumbent: Parker Griffith (D)
1st term (52 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Nine-term Rep. Bud Cramer (D) held the 5th district fairly easily, but Democrats knew they’d have a fight on their hands when he retired in 2008, and that’s exactly what happened.

In a contest full of mud-slinging, Griffith, a physician and state Senator, narrowly defeated advertising executive Wayne Parker (R) while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won the district by 23 points at the presidential level.

Republicans will make another go at Griffith in 2010, when they are banking that turnout will be lower, especially among the district’s African-American voters. And the GOP hopes to find a fresher candidate than Parker, who was defeated twice by Cramer in the 1990s.

Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks (R) is already in the race.

Brooks has served as a county commissioner since 1996 and represents about 45,000 people around Huntsville. He ran for lieutenant governor in 2006, and though he came in third in the Republican primary, he garnered more votes in the 5th district than both of the top two candidates in that race combined.

But before he can face Griffith, Brooks faces Navy veteran Les Phillip (R) in the primary. Phillip is an African-American who has helped the state and national party with minority outreach.

7th district
Open seat: Artur Davis (D) is running for governor
Outlook: Safe Democratic

In the majority black district where President Barack Obama won more than 70 percent of the vote in 2008, the Democratic primary will be the only election that matters in the race to replace Davis.

A June primary is scheduled, but the crowded contest appears likely headed for a July runoff.

Democratic contenders so far include state Rep. Earl Hilliard Jr., son of the incumbent Davis defeated to win the seat in 2002; attorney Terri Sewell, a close political associate of Davis’; Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Smoot, who is also a talk-show host on a Birmingham radio station; and former Selma Mayor James Perkins.

Sewell is leaving her competitors in the dust when it comes to fundraising. She had about $318,000 in cash on hand at the end of September. Smoot reported just under $40,000 in the bank, Hilliard had $29,000 in cash on hand, and Perkins had less than $1,000 in his war chest.

But while Sewell is clearly winning the fundraising battle, one publicly released poll conducted for Hilliard showed Smoot and Hilliard as the two candidates who will most likely make the runoff. Of course, Sewell will certainly have the money to try to change that before June.


Filing deadline: March 8 | Primary: May 18 | Runoff: June 8


Incumbent: Blanche Lincoln (D)
2nd term (56 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

While Democrats account for five of the six-member Congressional delegation, Arkansas has become a Republican stronghold in presidential elections in recent years. After Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) racked up a 20-point margin of victory in the Land of Opportunity in 2008 — and with polls showing Lincoln to be in a somewhat-shaky position — Republicans believe now is the time to take back a Senate seat.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the state GOP are working hard to paint Lincoln as too liberal for her state. It’s a tactic that didn’t work in 2004, when the GOP was unable to recruit a well-funded credible challenger. But Republicans believe the environment will be right in 2010, especially with Democrats now in control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Meanwhile, Lincoln may actually have to worry a little about her left flank. She has wavered in her support of the Employee Free Choice Act, and the state AFL-CIO as well as some other liberal groups are talking about finding a primary challenger.

But Lincoln is sitting on a hefty war chest of more than $4 million as of Sept. 30, and the fact that she just took over the gavel at the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee could also be tremendously helpful politically in Arkansas.

The Republican primary is shaping up to be a crowded affair.

The top prospect is state Sen. Gilbert Baker, who is one of the most senior members of the chamber. According to his third-quarter report, Baker raised more than half a million dollars in less than three weeks of campaigning.

Other GOP primary contenders include state Sen. Kim Hendren, retired Army Col. Conrad Reynolds, supermarket chain owner Curtis Coleman, financial adviser Buddy Rogers and several others.


2nd district
Incumbent: Vic Snyder (D)
7th term (77 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Despite the conservative nature of the 2nd district, Republicans did not challenge Snyder in 2008, and the Congressman has won re-election with ease over the past decade. But in the wake of Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) 10-point victory in the district last year, the GOP is determined to change that in 2010.

Snyder’s voting history has placed him near the center of House Democrats, and his vote for the controversial cap-and-trade climate change bill earlier this year particularly roiled conservatives.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has already launched robocalls and a handful of radio ads in the 2nd in an attempt to soften up Snyder. The committee also landed a solid candidate in Little Rock attorney Tim Griffin, a former special assistant in the George W. Bush White House.

Griffin — who was a potential Senate recruit before he passed on the contest — is well-connected and has name identification in the state stemming from his stint as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. He was touted as a candidate with access to a national fundraising network and proved it in his third-quarter fundraising report by raising more than $130,000 in less than two weeks.

Snyder, meanwhile, refuses to raise money in the off year. He reported less than $8,000 in cash on hand at the end of September. That figure has to have officials at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee more than a little nervous.


Filing deadline: April 30 | Primary: Aug. 24


Open seat: Appointee George LeMieux (R) is not seeking election
Outlook: Likely Republican

In a surprise move, Sen. Mel Martinez (R) announced in late 2008 that he would not seek a second term. He then resigned his seat in September 2009, and Gov. Charlie Crist (R), who was already running to replace him, appointed his former campaign manager, LeMieux, to fill the remainder of Martinez’s term.

The entry of Crist into the race turned what once seemed like a tossup into a contest that strongly favors the GOP.

But Crist doesn’t have the Republican field to himself. Former state Speaker Marco Rubio also entered the race, and he’s energized conservatives in Florida and around the country. Rubio and his supporters are hitting Crist hard for some of his moderate positions, particularly for backing President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan earlier this year.

So far, Crist has dominated the fundraising battle, but Rubio has refused to fold. Rubio’s $1 million in receipts in the third quarter proved that his campaign will remain viable.

Crist is still favored, but recent polls have shown the primary beginning to tighten. After leading Rubio by nearly 30 points in mid-August, an October survey from Quinnipiac University Polling Institute showed Crist ahead of Rubio, 50 percent to 35 percent.

The establishment Democratic candidate is Rep. Kendrick Meek, though former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre recently got into the race. Rep. Corrine Brown (D) created an exploratory committee for a possible run but abandoned her bid in mid-October and endorsed Meek.

Meek has the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the high-profile support of the Clinton family. A Rubio victory in the Republican primary would certainly help Meek’s chances. But even if Crist does win the GOP nomination, Meek’s strategists believe the governor will have moved far enough to the right during the primary to make the general competitive. They also hope to exploit their charge that Crist is abandoning the state during hard financial times by not running for re-election and seeking to advance his national profile by running for Senate instead.


2nd district
Incumbent: Allen Boyd (D)
7th term (62 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Boyd briefly considered running for Senate this cycle but decided instead to seek an eighth term in his northwest Florida seat.

The 2nd district has a conservative tilt, as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) proved by winning the district by 9 points in last year’s presidential race. But Boyd, a well-known Blue Dog Democrat, probably has more to worry about this cycle from the primary he’s facing.

State Senate Minority Leader Al Lawson, who is black, filed in March and is challenging Boyd from the left in the 2nd district, which is 22 percent black.

Boyd is still the favorite in the primary — he had $1.7 million in the bank on Sept. 30 compared with Lawson’s $34,000 in cash on hand. But if Lawson is able to raise any money, there’s the potential for the primary to become competitive, which could give Republicans an opportunity. That prospect has spurred some Democratic Party leaders to try to persuade Lawson to drop his bid.

The GOP field is still developing. Engineer and county GOP chairman Carl Meece Jr. is in the race, as are veterans Bill Fisher and Eddie Hendry. Funeral home owner Steve Southerland also recently announced his bid.

8th district
Incumbent: Alan Grayson (D)
1st term (52 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Although Democrats have gained significant ground in the once dependably Republican 8th district, Grayson faces a tough fight to hold the seat he narrowly wrested from Rep. Ric Keller (R) in 2008.

But that hasn’t deterred Grayson — a wealthy, Bronx-born lawyer with a big personality — from stepping out as a brash defender of the policy agenda pursued by President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats.

Grayson in late September took to the House floor to declare that the Republican Party’s plan for health care was “don’t get sick,— and if you get sick, “die quickly.— The remark caused a media frenzy, especially after Grayson refused to apologize and kept up the attacks. He’s quickly become a icon among liberal Democratic activists and has raked in large sums of cash from progressive supporters around the country — making him the Democrats’ analogy to Rep. Joe Wilson (S.C.), the Republican who enjoyed a big infusion of conservative money after he shouted “You lie!— at Obama during a joint session of Congress.

Republican strategists say Grayson’s antics have given them more than enough ammunition to brand the Congressman as an over-the-top liberal who is too far left for his swing district.

Yet the GOP’s confidence in its ability to oust Grayson has not been matched on the recruiting side. A series of potentially strong challengers have taken a pass on the 2010 race. But Republicans are convinced that Grayson has gone so far overboard that they’ll be able to beat him with whoever emerges from the GOP primary.

Among those who have filed are local Tea Party organizer Patricia Sullivan, real estate developer Armando Gutierrez Jr. and veteran Daniel Fanelli.

10th district
Incumbent: Bill Young (R)
20th term (61 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Young, 78, has been the subject of retirement speculation for about a decade. But this cycle Democrats are pushing particularly hard to encourage the 20-term Congressman to decide to hang up his spikes.

Along with recruiting a serious challenger in state Sen. Charlie Justice, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee targeted Young with a slew of radio ads in his district early in the cycle.

Young has never really been tested since winning his seat in 1970. His re-election percentage has dipped below 60 percent only once, in 1992, when he won a 12th term with 57 percent.

But 10th district voters have increasingly voted for Democrats at the state and national levels.

Democrat Al Gore won the district with 51 percent in the contentious 2000 presidential race. After GOP redistricters sought to shore up the district for the party in 2002, President George W. Bush won the district with 51 percent in 2004. But last November, President Barack Obama won the district by 5 points.

Young says he’ll make a final decision on whether to run for re-election sometime in 2010, but he raised only a few thousand dollars for his campaign committee between July and September.

Still, Young reported $419,000 in cash on hand as of Sept. 30. Justice, whose fundraising thus far has been lackluster, had just more than $100,000 in the bank.

12th district
Open seat: Adam Putnam (R) is running for state agriculture commissioner
Outlook: Likely Republican

The west-central 12th district certainly wouldn’t be in play if Putnam were pursuing a fifth term. But the Congressman, who weathered the GOP’s 2008 storm by a comfortable 14-point margin, has decided to run for state agriculture commissioner in 2010.

As they look to target a seat that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won by fewer than 4,000 votes in the 2008 presidential contest, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been high on Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards.

Edwards, who is running on a fiscally conservative message, raised more than $100,000 in the second quarter, but she appeared to hit a fundraising snag in the third quarter.

She raised just under $39,000, and that was despite the fact that Edwards was endorsed by the conservative Blue Dog Coalition in mid-July. It also includes more than $15,000 in donations from the campaigns and political action committees of six Members, including DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.). Edwards ended September with less than $77,000 in cash on hand.

Meanwhile, Edwards’ Republican opponent, former state Rep. Dennis Ross, reported $144,000 in receipts during the third quarter. That brought Ross’ cash-on-hand total to just more than a quarter of a million dollars.

Ross has been endorsed by several members of the Florida delegation and former Gov. Jeb Bush (R), and he has been named to the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns— program.

Still, Ross will have to win a multicandidate primary. Polk County Commissioner Randy Wilkinson (R) is in the race, as is banker Thomas Snider (R).

13th district
Incumbent: Vern Buchanan (R)
2nd term (56 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Earlier this cycle, former auto dealer Buchanan contemplated running for Senate or governor in 2010, but he decided to stay put, which heartened House Republicans looking to keep his seat in their column.

After winning by just 369 votes in the 2006 open-seat race, Buchanan cruised to victory by a much more comfortable 19-point margin in 2008 even though Democrats again nominated former banker Christine Jennings.

State Rep. Keith Fitzgerald was the early leading Democratic contender, but he doesn’t seem interested in running now that Buchanan is staying put. Former Bradenton City Councilman James Golden (D), a minister, has filed and has raised more than $42,000 since July.

This time around, national Democrats will likely try to again raise questions about Buchanan’s ethics as a wealthy businessman. But Buchanan’s deep pockets and a national political environment more favorable to Republicans should be enough to put this race out of Democrats’ reach.

16th district
Incumbent: Tom Rooney (R)
1st term (60 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Rooney defeated a scandal-plagued incumbent in 2008, who rode to victory thanks to a sex scandal surrounding his predecessor two years earlier.

Republicans consider Rooney a solid rising star, but his Palm Beach-area district is volatile enough that both parties will be keeping an eye on the 2010 race.

Democratic leaders were rebuffed by their top choice, state Sen. Dave Aronberg, who decided to run for state attorney general. Instead, 36-year-old St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Craft has announced that he will challenge Rooney, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has since embraced him.

Rooney had more than $270,000 in cash on hand at the end of September to Craft’s $52,000.

17th district
Open seat: Kendrick Meek (D) is running for Senate
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Meek’s decision to run for Senate in 2010 sets up a wide-open Democratic primary to replace him in the majority-black and safely Democratic 17th district.

Among those who have filed are state Rep. Phillip Brutus, state Sen. Frederica Wilson, Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson, state Rep. Yolly Roberson, Miami Gardens Councilman André Williams, physician Rudy Moise, Haitian-American activist Marleine Bastien and attorney Roderick Vereen. But as crowded as it is, the Democratic field is likely to continue to grow.

Wilson succeeded Meek in both the state House and state Senate, and she and Bastien led the fundraising chase as of Sept. 30. But Gibson and Brutus weren’t far behind.

There’s some potential for serious drama in the race: Roberson and Brutus used to be married, and the fight between them could get particularly nasty.

Another dramatic scenario has Meek’s mother, former Rep. Carrie Meek (D), jumping into the race at the last minute in order to keep the House seat warm for her son in case he loses his Senate bid and is looking to return to the House. But Carrie Meek told local news outlets in September that such a scenario was “not possible.—

19th district
Open seat: Robert Wexler (D) is resigning
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Wexler stunned the Sunshine State’s political world in mid-October by announcing that he’ll leave Congress at the end of the year to work for a Middle East policy think tank.

A special election to replace him will be held in the first few months of 2010, and already several Democrats are scrambling to be in position.

The frontrunner by far is state Sen. Ted Deutch, who has the Congressman’s endorsement. Deutch is a Wexler ally who won his state Senate seat in 2006 in part because the Congressman backed him over a better-known, self-funded state lawmaker who outspent Deutch 5 to 1 in that contest. Deutch now holds the Senate seat that Wexler held before he ran for Congress.

Former Broward County Commissioner Ben Graber, who lost a Democratic primary to Wexler when the Congressman first won the seat in 1996 and ran as an Independent in 2008, is running again. Other potential primary competitors in the safe Democratic seat are Broward Mayor Stacy Ritter, West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel and businessman Jose Ruiz.

24th district
Incumbent: Suzanne Kosmas (D)
1st term (57 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Kosmas defeated scandal-plagued Rep. Tom Feeney (R) in 2008, and though a freshman is always vulnerable in a somewhat volatile district, the 24th is trending Democratic and Kosmas starts with the advantage.

One potentially formidable challenger, Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer, passed on the race, and state Rep. Dorothy Hukill (R) dropped her bid in early October. Legendary Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz was also rumored to be considering the race, but he took a pass as well.

Still, a slew of Republicans have announced their candidacies with the top two candidates being state Rep. Sandy Adams and Winter Park City Commissioner Karen Diebel. Both are credible.

The National Republican Congressional Committee seems high on Diebel, and Holtz endorsed Diebel after he decided not to run. Diebel is also winning the fundraising battle in the primary.

But Republicans appear destined to have a contested primary, and it’s one that has the potential to be bloody.

Kosmas was sitting on $727,000 as of Sept. 30.

25th district
Incumbent: Mario Diaz-Balart (R)
4th term (53 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Diaz-Balart beat longtime Cuban-American activist Joe Garcia by 6 points in 2008. It was the closest race of his Congressional career.

That outcome — and the fact that President Barack Obama lost the district by fewer than 3,000 votes — may encourage Democrats to take another serious look at the district.

But Democrats have shown little activity on the recruiting front, possibly because the party will be hard-pressed to find a better environment than they had last cycle.


Filing deadline: April 30 | Primary: July 20 | Runoff: Aug. 10


Incumbent: Johnny Isakson (R)
1st term (58 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Isakson is a familiar figure in Georgia, and he’s sitting on a formidable $3.6 million war chest. While Isakson certainly took note of fellow Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ (R-Ga.) tougher-than-expected 2008 race, the state’s junior Senator has little reason to be wary heading into 2010.

National Democrats have no obvious strong challenger and have shown no sign that they are looking for one. Isakson should cruise to a second term in 2010.


8th district
Incumbent: Jim Marshall (D)
4th term (57 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Marshall continues to defy the odds in a very tough district, but he’ll never be truly safe. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) outran Barack Obama by 13 points in this conservative district last year.

It remains to be seen how aggressively the Republicans will go after Marshall in 2010. Businessman Paul Rish, a former chairman of the Bibb County GOP, has thrown his hat into the ring. Businesswoman Angela Hicks (R) is also in. Another interesting potential candidate is health care attorney Rhonda Moorman, who recently came to Washington to talk to National Republican Congressional Committee officials about a run. State Sens. Cecil Staton (R) and Ross Tolleson (R) and state Rep. Allen Peake (R) also continue to be in the mix.

9th district
Open seat: Nathan Deal (R) is running for governor
Outlook: Safe Republican

The 9th district gave Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) his fifth-largest winning percentage of the 2008 cycle, and the GOP primary will be the election that decides who will replace Deal, who is running for governor next year.

Deal is staying out of the race to replace him, and the crowded field — which includes a slew of current and former state legislators, business leaders and local elected officials — appears destined for an August runoff.

For now, the frontrunners appear to be former state Rep. Mike Evans, state Rep. Tom Graves, state Sen. Lee Hawkins and former state Sen. Bill Stephens.

Hawkins has the early cash lead. He reported about $281,000 in the bank on Sept. 30. Evans had the next-highest cash total at about $123,000.

But with so many candidates in the primary, geography may become as important a factor as money.

Graves hails from the small town of Ranger in Gordon County, about halfway between Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn. Evans and Hawkins hail from the district’s two most populous counties, Forsyth and Hall. Stephens is a native of Fannin County, on the district’s northern border with Tennessee.

Another candidate for whom geography will be an issue is state Rep. Bobby Reese (R). Reese lives just outside the 9th district in Rep. John Linder’s (R) 7th district. He previously represented part of the 9th district in the state House before Georgia’s 2005 redistricting.

12th district
Incumbent: John Barrow (D)
3rd term (66 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Barrow was first elected in 2004 over one-term Rep. Max Burns (R). He went on to win a very close rematch in 2006 after a mid-decade GOP-led redistricting. Barrow then breezed to victory in 2008 by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio against a lesser-known and under-funded Republican.

The GOP is likely to make a stronger effort in 2010. But unlike most Southern Democrats, Barrow appears less vulnerable to Republican attempts to tie him to the Democratic leadership in Washington. Voters in the 12th, where African-Americans make up more than two-fifths of the population, favored Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election by 9 points over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Republicans thought they had a strong recruit in retired Army Lt. Col. Wayne Mosley, but he dropped his bid earlier this year. For now, Republicans are left with Carl Smith, a former councilman in the town of Thunderbolt, and businesswoman Jeanne Seaver.


Filing deadline: Jan. 26 | Primary: May 18


Open seat: Jim Bunning (R) is retiring
Outlook: Tossup

Even most Republicans agree that Bunning’s decision in July to retire actually boosted the GOP’s chances of holding his seat.

But Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) handpicked candidate to replace Bunning — has run into a primary roadblock who goes by the name of Rand Paul.

Paul, an eye surgeon and son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) who runs a statewide taxpayers group and is running to the ideological right of Grayson, is proving to be a feisty opponent.

Using the same Internet-based fundraising network that helped his father collect gobs of money for his 2008 presidential run, Rand Paul broke the $1 million fundraising mark during the third quarter. Grayson raised just $645,000 and ended September with $1.1 million in cash on hand to Paul’s $912,000.

Regardless of the outcome, the GOP primary should be a cash-draining affair, which comes as good news to Democrats, who are in the midst of their own expensive and increasingly nasty primary battle.

Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, the Democratic nominee against Bunning in 2004, is running against state Attorney General Jack Conway.

Conway is generally seen as the favorite, but Gov. Steve Beshear (D) has endorsed his No. 2 (although many insiders suggest that Beshear did it out of a sense of obligation and say the two men are not close). Most of the rest of Kentucky’s Democratic establishment — as well as some of Beshear’s closest allies — have endorsed Conway.

Conway is also the better-funded candidate. He ended the third quarter with about $1.6 million in cash on hand to Mongiardo’s nearly $752,000.


2nd district
Incumbent: Brett Guthrie (R)
1st term (53 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Guthrie won a tough election against Democrat David Bosewell in 2008, but the freshman Congressman isn’t likely to have to break a sweat to earn a second term.

The 2nd district is solidly conservative, and the environment isn’t expected to be nearly as good for Democrats in 2010 as it was in 2008.

Guthrie had more than a half-million dollars in cash on hand as of Sept. 30, and no Democrat has yet filed to challenge him.


Filing deadline: July 9 | Primary: Aug. 28 | Runoff: Oct. 2


Incumbent: David Vitter (R)
1st term (51 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

Rep. Charlie Melancon’s (D) announcement in late August that he will challenge Vitter in 2010 set up a key Senate showdown in the Bayou State.

Vitter’s vulnerability is tied largely to his connection to the “D.C. Madam— prostitution scandal of 2007. Senate Republican leaders in Washington have been trying to help him rehabilitate himself politically, and Vitter has been working hard to shore up his support among his family values and fiscally conservative base. This cycle, Vitter has framed himself as a vocal opponent of President Barack Obama, who has become increasingly unpopular in Louisiana.

Talk that Vitter will get a serious primary challenge has died down since the beginning of the year, but there’s still a slight chance that Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne (R), who is personally wealthy, could challenge Vitter.

Melancon — who became Democrats’ lone Bayou State House Member after the 2008 elections — represents the party’s best chance of knocking off Vitter in a state that has trended more Republican in recent years. He’s an anti-abortion-rights, pro-gun-rights Blue Dog Democrat who ran unopposed in 2008.

State Democratic officials have worked hard to keep Vitter’s ties to the prostitution scandal fresh in voters’ minds. After Sen. John Ensign’s (R-Nev.) extramarital affair came to light in June, the Louisiana Democratic Party made sure to use the opportunity to hit Vitter.

Recent polling has shown that Vitter begins the race with a double-digit lead.

Vitter raised more than $1.2 million in the third quarter and pushed his cash-on-hand total to $3.9 million. Melancon raised $754,000 for the quarter and had $1.8 million in the bank at the end of September.


2nd district
Incumbent: Anh “Joseph— Cao (R)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

The majority-black 2nd district is at the top of Democrats’ target list next year not just because it was the only district in the state to choose Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential race, but because it did so by a 52-point margin.

Cao, who is the first Vietnamese-American Member of Congress, won the district by fewer than 2,000 votes against scandal-plagued Rep. William Jefferson (D) in an unusual December general election that saw extremely low turnout.

Since January, Cao has tried to paint himself as independent and willing to work with Obama to improve New Orleans. He’s hoping to show that he can provide voters with better constituent service than they ever received from Jefferson, who has since been convicted on 11 criminal charges including conspiracy to solicit bribes.

But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wants voters to see Cao as a tool of the Republican “party of no.— Over the August recess, the DCCC ran ads on black radio stations attacking Cao for not supporting President Barack Obama’s efforts to overhaul the health care system. The DCCC ran similar radio ads in February attacking Cao for not supporting the president’s economic recovery efforts.

Democrats are sure to have a contested primary, though some party leaders are trying to keep it from being the messy seven-way affair that it was in 2008.

State Rep. Cedric Richmond, who ran in 2008, and state Rep. Juan LaFonta are already in the race.

Cao reported $351,000 in cash on hand at the end of September.

3rd district
Open seat: Charlie Melancon (D) is running for Senate
Outlook: Leans Republican

Melancon’s Senate ambitions have given the GOP a big pickup opportunity in the heart of Cajun country.

Republicans in Washington, D.C., and south Louisiana have been crowing about their chances in the conservative district that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won with 61 percent of the vote in 2008. The last time the 3rd district seat was open, Melancon beat the son of the district’s outgoing Congressman in the closest election of the 2004 cycle. Republicans believe the district has only become more conservative since then.

State Rep. Nickie Monica (R) has said he’s running for the seat. Monica was talking up GOP chances for taking back the district even before it became clear that Melancon was running for the Senate, and he met with the National Republican Congressional Committee about challenging the Congressman.

Other potential Republican candidates include former state Speaker Hunt Downer, St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard, Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph and Billy Nungesser, the son of a former Louisiana GOP chairman.

Another intriguing possibility is Scott Angelle, who serves as the director of the state Department of Natural Resources. Angelle is a Democrat, but he’s close to Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and is rumored to be considering running as a Republican.

On the Democratic side, attorney Ravi Sangisetty has already filed for the race, and other possible candidates include Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley and state Reps. Freddy Mills, Gary Smith and Damon Baldone.

One factor that any potential 3rd district candidate will have to consider before jumping into the race is that he or she may be applying for a short-term job.

Louisiana is widely expected to lose a seat in the Congressional reapportionment process following next year’s census, and the 3rd district could well be on the chopping block.

The 3rd district’s Congressman will be low on the seniority scale come 2011, and one conservative group in the state has already released an early redistricting map that proposes eliminating the district by combining it with the majority-black 2nd district.


Filing deadline: March 1 | Primary: June 1 | Runoff: June 22


1st district
Incumbent: Travis Childers (D)
2nd term (54 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Ever since Childers won a stunning special election victory in May 2008, Republicans have been itching to win back this conservative seat previously held by now-Sen. Roger Wicker (R).

State Sen. Alan Nunnelee is the likely Republican nominee against Childers next year, and state and national party officials have been doing everything they can to avoid another divisive primary like the one that helped sink their chances in 2008. Nunnelee’s third-quarter fundraising report showed $220,000 in receipts with contributions from Gov. Haley Barbour (R) and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant (R).

Even if Nunnelee is successful in keeping the primary field clear, the general election will not be a cakewalk. Childers has a down-home style that seems to perfectly match his district, and he had $507,000 in cash on hand at the end of September. He also knows Republicans have him in their sights. But he also knows that it is possible for a Democrat to win re-election even in very Republican territory. All he has to do is ask fellow Rep. Gene Taylor (D), who is in his 11th term representing a district that is even more conservative than Childers’.

North Carolina

Filing deadline: Feb. 26 | Primary: May 4 | Runoff: June 22


Incumbent: Richard Burr (R)
1st term (52 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

Unlike former Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R), Burr returns to the state often and works hard to stay in touch with his colleagues. But he has to be worried by the thumping Dole took in 2008 and the state’s general drift in the Democratic direction. That, and also the fact that early polls have shown Burr to be in a weaker position than Dole was initially in her race.

Three Democratic candidates have already filed to take on Burr, but it’s no secret that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is holding out to see what Rep. Bob Etheridge (D) decides to do.

Earlier this cycle, Etheridge decided to pass on the Senate race. But the DSCC’s continued efforts to recruit him made the Congressman take a second look. He’s promised to make a decision by mid-November.

If Etheridge eventually decides to pass, Democrats in Washington, D.C., seem high on the prospects of Cal Cunningham, a lawyer and former state Senator who served in the Iraq War. Cunningham, who is popular among progressives in the Tar Heel State, has been quietly putting together a campaign team.

Meanwhile, attorney Kenneth Lewis (D) is in the race. Lewis filed in June and had $184,000 in cash on hand as of Sept. 30.

Also in the race is North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D), who, in less than a month of fundraising, reported $178,000 in receipts. Marshall, who ran in the 2002 open-seat race but finished a disappointing third in the primary, ended the quarter with $164,000 in cash on hand.

Regardless of who the Democratic candidate is, Burr will begin with a huge cash-on-hand advantage. The Senator raised about $1.2 million in the third quarter and had about $3.5 million in the bank as of Sept. 30.


8th district
Incumbent: Larry Kissell (D)
1st term (55 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Kissell ousted then-Rep. Robin Hayes (R) after losing narrowly to him in 2006. But after some speculation, there will be no rubber match in 2010.

Besides Hayes, a slew of other top-tier potential GOP recruits decided to take a pass on the race. Still, Kissell should be in for a tough campaign regardless of who emerges as the GOP nominee in this battleground district.

Retired Army Col. Lou Huddleston, who lost a bid for the state House in 2008, seems to have emerged as the top choice of national Republicans, at least for now. But Huddleston doesn’t have the primary to himself. Equipment entrepreneur Tim D’Annunzio has already filed, and more GOP names could be on the way.

Huddleston raised $103,000 during the third quarter compared with $312,000 for D’Annunzio. D’Annunzio’s total includes $300,000 of his own money.

Kissell (D) pulled in a dismal $84,000 from July through September and reported $245,000 in cash on hand.

11th district
Incumbent: Heath Shuler (D)
2nd term (62 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

After briefly considering a run for Senate, Shuler decided to stay put, and the former football star seems to have a fairly solid hold on his conservative district.

While Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried the 11th district by 5 points in last year’s presidential race, Shuler won a second term by beating Asheville City Councilman Carl Mumpower (R) by 26 points in a contest that national Republicans basically ignored.

As of Sept. 30, Shuler was sitting on more than $1.1 million in cash on hand.

But the National Republican Congressional Committee is making noise about giving Shuler a serious race this time and has recruited Hendersonville Mayor Greg Newman for the job. In a recent fundraising pitch, NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) included Newman on a list of five recruits that he described as “some of the best candidates we’ve seen in a long time.— Time will tell if he lives up to that initial billing.

South Carolina

Filing deadline: March 30 | Primary: June 8 | Runoff: June 22


Incumbent: Jim DeMint (R)
1st term (54 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Despite national Democratic outrage earlier this year over DeMint’s comments about making the Democratic-led health care reform effort President Barack Obama’s “Waterloo,— the party faces a steep uphill fight when it comes to knocking off one of the GOP’s highest-profile conservative champions.

DeMint had nearly $2.9 million in cash on hand at the end of September, and it’s highly unlikely that this race will become a priority for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee considering the rest of the 2010 Senate playing field.

Chad McGowan, a lawyer from Rock Hill, has already jumped in the race, as has Democrat Michael Ruckes. Ashley Cooper, a former aide to DeMint’s predecessor, ex-Sen. Fritz Hollings (D), is another potential Democratic candidate.


1st district
Incumbent: Henry Brown (R)
5th term (52 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Brown’s 52 percent victory over Food Lion grocery chain heiress Linda Ketner (D) gave the Congressman his lowest winning percentage of his Congressional career, and it came in a year that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won the district with 56 percent at the presidential level.

Next year it will be interesting to see whether Brown learned from his electoral scare.

Ketner has ruled out another run, but the district has some liberal pockets, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ran ads in early 2009 attacking Brown for his opposition to the economic stimulus package that passed Congress. A few lower-tier Democratic candidates have filed for the race, but state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, former state Rep. Robert Barber and Iraq War veteran Robert Burton remain in the mix for the race.

Still, Brown’s biggest challenge may come in the GOP primary. In late September, Carroll Campbell III, the son and namesake of the state’s former governor, made his primary challenge official. Katherine Jenerette, a former Brown staffer, is also in the race.

If Brown is defeated in the primary, national Democrats could take a closer look at the race.

2nd district
Incumbent: Joe Wilson (R)
4th term (54 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Wilson’s outburst during President Barack Obama’s September speech before Congress about health care made him a target of national liberal groups.

But it also made him a champion of conservatives across the country, and that’s probably a net gain for Wilson in a district that voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by 9 points in last year’s presidential race.

Democrat Rob Miller, who is back for another try after losing to Wilson by 8 points last cycle, certainly got a boost from Wilson’s high-profile outburst. Miller raised an eye-popping $1.7 million in the third quarter as liberals sought a way to express their outrage against Wilson.

But Wilson got the bigger boost, taking in $2.7 million for the quarter.

A poll taken just two days after Wilson’s “You lie!— outburst showed the candidates tied, but even some Democrats doubt Miller will be able to keep pace with the Congressman.

It probably hasn’t helped that Miller has taken a low-profile campaign approach and has generally avoided the national spotlight. Wilson has embraced his newfound status as a conservative icon and has even become a fundraising draw for candidates and party causes in other states.

3rd district
Open seat: Gresham Barrett (R) is running for governor
Outlook: Safe Republican

This district is a Republican stronghold where the GOP primary will decide who will replace Barrett. But the crowded contest probably won’t be decided until a June 22 runoff.

Seven Republican candidates have already filed for the contest, but none of them has shown any particular strength on the fundraising front.

State Rep. Rex Rice (R) has raised more than $110,000 since filing in the spring, but he ended September with just less than $34,000 in the bank. State Sen. Shane Massey (R) reported just $39,000 in the bank on Sept. 30, but that was enough to lead the field.

Those low early fundraising totals may make the race more inviting for an as-yet-undeclared candidate who can put large amounts of personal resources into the race.

Other Republicans vying for the nomination include state Rep. Jeff Duncan, businessman Richard Cash, physician Mike Vasovski, lawyer and former Congressional aide James Galyean, and lawyer Neal Collins.

4th district
Incumbent: Bob Inglis (R)
3rd term (60 percent; previously served three terms)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Inglis is serving his second tour in the House after serving three terms from 1992 to 1998. He left to honor his term-limit pledge, but after an unsuccessful run for Senate, he returned to the House in 2004. In recent years, some conservatives have criticized Inglis for moving too far to the center.

Inglis’ vote in early 2007 supporting the Democratic resolution opposing the “surge— in Iraq was a key reason that he attracted a primary opponent last cycle. Inglis was able to beat back that challenge with relative ease, but he became a target of conservatives in South Carolina again in September when he was one of just a handful of Republicans to back the official rebuke of fellow Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) for shouting “You lie!— at President Barack Obama during a joint session of Congress.

Inglis is likely to benefit from the fact that the primary opposition is split. Five Republicans have filed to challenge him, with state Sen. David Thomas and 7th Circuit Solicitor Trey Gowdy his most serious threats.

Inglis reported about $245,000 in cash on hand as of Sept. 30. Gowdy had $180,000 in the bank, while Thomas reported about $88,000 in cash on hand.


Filing deadline: April 1 | Primary: Aug. 5


1st district
Incumbent: Phil Roe (R)
1st term (72 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

David Davis (R) became the first Tennessee Congressman to lose a primary since the mid-1960s when Roe beat him in 2008 by just a few hundred votes. Roe ran a grass-roots campaign that, for the most part, flew under the radar of national observers.

But Davis, who has returned to his post as president of the health care services company that he founded in Johnson City, may not be done with the 1st district seat. He has hinted that he might be interested in running again but has yet to make a final decision. Roe reported $241,000 in cash on hand at the end of September.

3rd district
Open seat: Zach Wamp (R) is running for governor
Outlook: Safe Republican

Almost all of the action to decide who will succeed Wamp will be in the Republican primary in this Chattanooga-based district that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won with 62 percent of the vote in the 2008 presidential race.

Eight potential Republican candidates have filed for the race, including outgoing state GOP Chairwoman Robin Smith, Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble, ex-radio host Chuck Fleischmann, engineer Tommy Crangle and lawyer and former Congressional aide Art Rhodes.

With the help of his deep pockets, Fleischmann leads the early fundraising battle. He reported about $336,000 in cash on hand. Smith’s $121,000 in the bank was the next-highest cash total, followed by Rhodes’ $109,000.

For Democrats, former state insurance commissioner Paula Flowers, who is now an energy company executive, has entered the race. She reported about $53,000 in cash on hand on Sept. 30. It’s hard to see how Democrats have even a glimmer of hope of stealing this seat.

6th district
Incumbent: Bart Gordon (D)
13th term (74 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

As Gordon has become more loyal to his party — he voted with Democrats 74 percent of the time in the 109th Congress and 90 percent of the time in the 110th Congress — his district has become one of the fastest-growing Republican areas in the state.

But Gordon, who was tapped as chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee in 2007, just keeps winning.

After not fielding a challenger in 2008, Republicans are suddenly high on their recent recruit, Rutherford County Republican Party Chairwoman Lou Ann Zelenik. But Zelenik will need to demonstrate that she’s putting together a serious campaign before Gordon can be considered highly vulnerable.

8th district
Incumbent: John Tanner (D)
11th term (Unopposed)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Farmer and gospel singer Steve Fincher (R) came out of nowhere in September to report raising $308,000 for his campaign.

That total certainly made Tanner’s $62,000 seem weak, but the Congressman is also sitting on a $1.4 million war chest. And Tanner is another Tennessee Democrat who has consistently performed well in a fairly conservative district. Of course, he also hasn’t truly been challenged there in more than a decade.

Republicans seem confident that Fincher can turn his early fundraising splash into a viable challenge. If that happens, Tennessee could see its first competitive race outside a primary or an open-seat race in many cycles.


Filing deadline: April 9 | Primary: June 8


2nd district
Incumbent: Glenn Nye (D)
1st term (52 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Nye is defending his seat for the first time after defeating two-term Rep. Thelma Drake (R) in the 2008 election, when he won by 5 points and even outran Barack Obama, who carried the Virginia Beach-based district by a narrower margin.

Nye, one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Frontline— members, is among his party’s best-funded freshmen, with $900,000 in receipts for the first nine months of this year and $726,000 in the bank as October began.

On the legislative side, Nye has focused on issues important to the many military personnel and veterans in southeastern Virginia. He’s promoting legislation to establish a system of business centers to give veterans some entrepreneurial training on how they can finance new businesses.

Nye has one of the least liberal voting records among House Democrats. He voted against a cap-and-trade bill that narrowly passed the House in June, saying it would be too costly for Americans. Republicans charged that Nye was trying to have it both ways, pointing to an e-mail that he sent to a bill supporter that praised many provisions of the climate change bill but didn’t mention that Nye voted against it.

A half-dozen Republicans have announced candidacies or expressed interest in challenging Nye. Party officials have spoken highly of Scott Rigell, an automobile dealership executive who raised $453,000 in the third quarter, of which half came from individual donors and half from Rigell’s own pockets.

The contest includes another self-funding Republican, Ben Loyola, an engineering consulting firm owner who gave his campaign $500,000 in the third quarter.

None of the other Republican candidates has raised more than $30,000 thus far.

5th district
Incumbent: Tom Perriello (D)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Perriello, who entered Congress this year with a background in the nonprofit sector, scored one of 2008’s biggest upsets by unseating six-term Rep. Virgil Goode (R) in a conservative-leaning and mostly rural district in the south-central part of the state.

Perriello has sided with Republicans on occasion — he supports gun owners’ rights and greater disclosure of earmarks — but he came under fire for voting with the Democratic leadership in June for a cap-and-trade bill. Most Members from conservative-leaning districts opposed the bill, which detractors said would impose onerous new taxes and kill jobs.

Perriello acknowledges the political risk attached to his vote but has been aggressively defending it to constituents on the grounds that it would be good for his region and would help to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign energy sources.

About a half-dozen Republicans have initiated campaigns to challenge Perriello, but the leading candidate is state Sen. Robert Hurt, who announced his candidacy in early October. GOP officials expect that there will be a lower voter turnout among the district’s black population and liberals in and around Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia.

11th district
Incumbent: Gerry Connolly (D)
1st term (55 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Voters in this suburban northern Virginia district should be getting a rematch of a 2008 race that Connolly, then the chairman of the board of supervisors in populous Fairfax County, won by 12 points over businessman Keith Fimian (R).

That race was no nail-biter, though former Rep. Tom Davis (R), Connelly’s House predecessor, has noted that Connolly received a smaller share of the district vote than did Barack Obama, who took 57 percent.

Still, demographic and political changes have pushed this district in a more Democratic direction. Fimian will need to win the votes of lots of independents, and maybe even some disaffected Democrats, if he is to pull off the upset.

Fimian will campaign on a platform of fiscal responsibility and says he’s running again because Connolly “has proven he is incapable of addressing the challenges Northern Virginia families face.— Expect Democrats to renew previous attacks against Fimian, including an allegation that he’s more socially conservative than most district voters would prefer.

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