Election 2002: Races to Watch

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Range War: President Bush has given big support to South Dakota Senate candidate John Thune

It's a midterm election, so the White House isn't in play. And in some states, Tuesday's votes will amount to little more than ceremony, sending veteran politicians back to their still-warm seats on Capitol Hill. In a handful of other states, however, voters will weigh in on some extraordinarily close races — and decide which party controls the U.S. House and Senate, each of which are split almost as evenly as possible. The Democrats need 6 seats to capture the House; Republicans are looking for just two seats to take the Senate.

President Bush knows the outcome could determine the agenda for the rest of his term. A sympathetic Congress will make it far easier to pass bills on Iraq, tax cuts and homeland security issues. It would also help speed up the stalled process of judicial appointments. The President has spent weeks on the road campaigning for Republican candidates, breaking fundraising records and helping to net a whopping $190 million for GOP races. Democrats, who've just begun to take advantage of Bill Clinton as a fundraiser, raised $130 million.

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 Dems Squander Their Chances
 Why Jeb Bush Won Big

 Balance of Power Tally
 Senate | House | Gov.

 Presidential Firsts
 Election Special Issues

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Then there's the issue of restoring the American electorate's faith in its ability to cast votes that count. After the 2000 voting fiasco in Florida, some localities rushed to correct their tabulation problems. While this year's primary voting showed there are still plenty of glitches to be fixed, in Florida and elsewhere, voters are hopeful they will be able to pull, push or check for their candidate of choice with a minimum degree of hassle or confusion.

Some uncertainty may be inevitable: analysts predict that given the number of extremely close races up for grabs Tuesday (and the absence of any meaningful voting system overhaul), we may not know the election results with absolute certainty for days — even weeks.

With that cheerful thought in mind, here are the races to watch Tuesday (and probably into Wednesday as well.)


Bush vs. McBride

Bill Clinton campaigned throughout Florida for Democrat Bill McBride, who is in a tight gubernatorial race with Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother.

Kennedy-Townsend vs. Ehrlich

Initially it looked as though Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend would walk away with this race, playing on her name and her much-praised tenure as Lt. Governor. But Bob Ehrlich has run a strong campaign, and the latest polls put them in a dead heat.


New Hampshire
Sununu vs. Shaheen

GOP leaders are all over this race, plugging John Sununu as often as possible. Jeanne Shaheen, the former governor of New Hampshire, has also drafted party bigwigs to help her cause.

North Carolina
Dole vs. Bowles

Bob Dole is back on the campaign trail — but this time, he's stumping for wife Elizabeth, who's battling Democrat Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff to President Clinton.

Chambliss vs. Cleland

Democratic incumbent Max Cleland held the edge in his race against Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss until the last weekend of the campaign, when Chambliss began to even the score.

Carnahan vs. Talent

Republican Jim Talent wants Jean Carnahan's Senate seat, which she took over two years ago after the death of her husband, incumbent Mel Carnahan. While she is a sentimental favorite, Carnahan has lost some ground to Talent in the final days before the vote.

South Dakota
Thune vs. Johnson

Pegged as a battle between Bush and Daschle surrogates, this campaign is also widely seen as perhaps the best chance the GOP has for re-taking the Senate. The battle between Tim Johnson, the Democrat, and Republican John Thune has had its ugly moments, and it's running tight right down to the wire.

Coleman vs. Mondale

This is the talker of the Senate races; Senator Paul Wellstone's sudden death in a plane crash just one week before the election left many Minnesotans wondering how to talk politics at such a tragic time. That hesitancy seems to have dissipated; Norm Coleman, the former St. Paul mayor, and Walter Mondale, the former Carter V.P. and presidential candidate met for a debate Monday, just hours before voters head to the polls. This one is too close to call.

Strickland vs. Allard

It's deja-vu all over again in the Rocky Mountain State, where two candidates are reprising their roles from 1996. And the competition promises to be just as exciting this year as it was six years ago; while Colorado leans right, polls put the race in a near dead-heat. The money is flowing, too. While Democrat Tom Strickland was plagued by financial problems in his first try against Republican incumbent Wayne Allard, this year both candidates look flush. That's thanks in part to the DNC and RNC — proving that when you need cash from the front office it never hurts to have the fate of the U.S. Senate hanging in the balance.


Morella vs. Van Hollen

The race between Republican Rep. Connie Morella and Democratic challenger Chris Van Hollen has been tight all along, ever since redistricting pulled more Democrats into the eight-term incumbent Morella's once-solidly GOP district. A win here for the Democrats would be historic; with that in mind, Al Gore and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been on hand stumping for Van Hollen.

Northrup vs. Conway

Incumbent Anne Northup faces a tough challenge from Democrat Jack Conway. Sensing a dangerously close race, President Bush has made two trips to Louisville to campaign for Northrup.

Johnson vs. Maloney

Another battle borne out of redistricting, the race between Republican Nancy Johnson vs. Democrat Jim Maloney pits incumbent against incumbent. Johnson held a slight edge coming into Election Day, but pollsters warn that edge may not hold.

Gerkas vs. Holden

The 17th District fight pitting Rep. George W. Gekas (R) against Democrat Tom Holden is turning into one of the year's most expensive congressional races — and one of the closest. President Bush, appearing at a Pennsylvania rally two days before the election, urged voters to pull for "both George W's" on Tuesday.

Chocola vs. Thompson

In the Indiana 2nd, Republican Chris Chocola is barely holding off Jill Long Thompson for this hotly contested seat.


Oklahoma: Cockfighting
Ballot Question 58

Yes, it's true. In Oklahoma, the sport of cockfighting is still O.K. Also permitted in New Mexico and Nevada, the practice's days may be numbered in the Sooner State. Now, at long last, ballot question 58 allows voters to weigh in: do cockfights constitute cruelty to birds or are they just feathery family fun?

Ohio: Drug treatment vs. jail time
Issue 1

If Issue 1 passes, judges would be required to impose treatment, not jail time, for nonviolent first- and second-time offenders who request it. Democrats generally support the measure, which is backed by three billionaires, including New Yorker George Soros, while Republicans — including the governor and several prominent judges — oppose it.

Colorado, Nevada, Alaska and others: Arts funding

A slow economy has left some states' arts communities more desperate than ever for money. Tuesday, voters in five states will decide the immediate future of state-funded arts programs and museums — but will personal financial concerns push citizens to vote "no?"

Florida: Class size
Amendment 9

Governor Bush opposes this measure, which would limit the number of students permitted in each public school classroom, saying the restrictions would cost the state too much money and force tax increases or cuts from other programs. Democratic challenger McBride supports the proposal.