No race better demonstrates the difficulties that Republicans are up against this year than the re-election battle of Congresswoman Deborah Pryce, the fourth-ranking Republican in the House leadership. Pryce has not faced a serious challenge since her first election in 1992, despite the fact that her Columbus, Ohio, district has otherwise trended more Democrat. But as election day has approached this year, the moderate Republican has been considered the underdog against liberal Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy.
Though Kilroy is a stronger opponent than Pryce has faced in the past, the incumbent's difficulties come largely as the result of a lagging state economy, a G.O.P. scandal in the statehouse and opposition to the Iraq war. As if all that weren't enough, in a local magazine interview published just a month before the Mark Foley scandal broke in Washington, Pryce named the Florida Congressman as one of her closest friends in the House. Kilroy seized upon that connection in an ad she placed on Christian radio stations, in which the announcer intoned: "Deborah Pryce's friend Mark Foley is caught using his position to take advantage of 16-year-old pages."
Kilroy has largely hammered on national Democratic themes. Her mantra: "We need a change in Washington. We need a new direction." Pryce has portrayed herself as a moderate counterweight to the rest of the GOP House leadership, and to the Republican Party nationally. She also has stressed the amount of federal money that she has been able to bring back to her district by virtue of her seniority and her leadership position. Both sides agree that this race will ultimately be a test of which candidate has the better turnout operation.