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Sept. 30, 2004

Election 2004: key U.S. Senate races

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
This year's presidential election extremely is important: Democrats are looking to reclaim the Senate that they lost two years when the Republicans had a huge night on Election Night 2002. The party that controls the Senate will be able to greatly aide or stop the progress of the president's bills, Supreme Court appointments and cabinet recommendations. Essentially, the race for control of the Senate is immensely important to the future of the nation. Thirty-four Senate seats are up for grabs this year: 15 currently held by Republicans and 19 by Democrats. Here are some of the key races that will help determine whether the Democrats takethe Senate or whether the Republicans retain control. Currently there are 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one Independent senator.

ALASKA- Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) vs. Gov. Tony Knowles (D)- Inc. Republican
Sen. Murkowski's father, Gov. Frank Murkowski, appointed her to the Senate in 2002 when he was elected governor of Alaska. She is currently seeking her first elected term as Alaska senator. The state is very conservative, but Democratic former Governor Tony Knowles is giving Murkowski a major run for her money in this race. Knowles was very popular during his eight years in office and is leading in some polls. The race may become the most expensive in Alaska history, with each candidate having raised over $2 million each.

COLORADO- Pete Coors (R) vs. The Hon. Kenneth Salazar (D)- Open Republican
You likely remember him as the guy in the jacket in those Coors Light commercials urging you that "1 means 21." Well, now Pete Coors is running for Senate, proposing a lowering of the drinking age to 18, saying that it would promote responsibility at a younger age. Coors, a conservative and the heir to the Coors beer fortune is running against very popular Attorney General Ken Salazar, and is looking to retain the senate seat vacated by retiring Republican senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Salazar has twice won races in the Republican-leaning state. In a name recognition survey, most respondents matched Coors with the word "beer,"while Salazar with the words "attorney general," good news for Salazar. Quickly, name your state's attorney general. Most polls have Salazar up a couple percentage points in this Republican-leaning state.

FLORIDA- Betty Castor (D) vs. Secy. Mel Martinez (R)- Open Democrat
With the retirement of Democratic senator Bob Graham, the Democrats have a challenge ahead of them if they want to retain the seat for the party. However, the Republicans might do the work for them. Betty Castor, the former state education secretary under Lawton Chiles and Buddy McKay and former president of the University of Florida, will run for the Democrats against former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez. Martinez resigned from his position at HUD as the Bush administration's hand picked choice to run for the seat. Martinez beat Rep. Bill McCollum in the primary; where he came under fire for brutal and slanderous attacks that called McCollum the "new darling of homosexual extremists" for his support of a bi-partisan bill against hate crimes. The St. Petersburg Times withdrew its endorsement of Martinez and gave it to McCollum, who lost by 14% in the primary. The latest Gallup poll has Castor up 6% over Martinez.

ILLINOIS- Alan Keyes (R) vs. St. Sen. Barack Obama (D)- Open Republican
Barring perhaps the biggest collapse in political history, the Democrats will cruise to a Senate seat pick-up thanks to State Senator Barack Obama. Obama was launched into the national political spotlight with his riveting speech on the second night of the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Obama has raised over $4 million and has been often called an amazing speaker who can appeal to people of all races and backgrounds. Obama is leading challenger Alan Keyes by between 40 and 55% in the latest state polls, one of the biggest leads for a non-incumbent Senate candidate ever. The state is very liberal, and the senate seat is being vacated by Republican Tom Fitzgerald, who cited the struggle of campaigning in an overwhelmingly Democratic state as a reason to retire. Obama led initial Republican candidate Jack Ryan by roughly 10% in late June, when Ryan quit the campaign after divorce documents came out stating that Ryan urged ex-wife Jeri Ryan (from Boston Public) to go to fetish sex clubs, a revelation Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called "troubling." So the challenger is Keyes, a resident of Maryland, who has never won elected office. Things have become so dire for the GOP in Illinois that they considered offering Hall-of-Fame football player Mike Ditka a shot at the candidacy.

NORTH CAROLINA- Erskine Bowles (D) vs. Rep. Richard Burr (R)- Open Dem.
Former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles is looking to retain the Senate seat vacated by John Edwards. The Democrat was defeated two years ago when he ran for the Senate against Elizabeth Dole, but polls have him currently leading the Senate race in this politically conservative state. Bowles helped draw up the 1997 federal budget, the first balanced budget in 30 years. Burr is a five-time congressman who is in favor of restricting abortion to only cases of rape or incest, and who currently serves on the House Intelligence committee. He's giving up his House seat for a shot at the Senate. After leaving Washington, Bowles went back to North Carolina where he became head of the N.C. Rural Prosperity Task Force, which helped bring high-speed Internet to the whole state. Bowles, a Charlotte native, has been a major proponent of increased benefits for veterans, National Guard members, and programs that encourage small businesses and the increased availability of health care.

SOUTH DAKOTA- Sen. Tom Daschle (D) vs. Rep. John Thune (R)- Inc. Democrat
Following an extremely close loss two years ago, former Representative John Thune is back to take on arguably the most powerful Democrat in Washington, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. Thune, elected the state's only Representative in1996, 1998, and 2000, lost by just 500 votes out of over 320,000 cast to Sen. Tim Johnson two years ago. A major issue to South Dakota voters is over the fuel additive ethanol, a tool used for farming. Both Thune and Daschle backed the Bush Administration's bill to double ethanol production, but the bill stalled and Daschle was criticized for failing to win his party' support of bill. All polls have the race in a statistical dead-heat, though a defeat of the party's leader could prove devastating for the Democrats.

OKLAHOMA- Rep. Tom Coburn (R) vs. Rep. Brad Carson (D)- Open Republican
Brad Carson, a registered Native American is looking to use that to his advantage in running for the Senate in the state with the largest Native American population in the country. Carson, a Democratic Representative is squaring off against former Republican Congressman Tom Coburn. The race is getting so heated that both members skipped their party's political conventions in order to get more campaign time in. Coburn is an unabashed conservative, with plays well with this states' large conservative base that will go overwhelmingly for President Bush in November. However, Coburn's habit of shooting himself in the foot with his mouth may tip the election to Carson. First, Coburn said that the election was a choice " tween good and evil," comment condemned across the state by op-ed pieces. Another time, Coburn said that Oklahoma is lagging in business development because of "a bunch of crap heads in Oklahoma City that have killed the vision of anybody wanting to invest in Oklahoma." Even his spokesman was at a loss of words. He also has spoken out in favor of the death penalty for abortionists. And even more recently, The Washington Post reported that Coburn, an obstetrician, has been accused of Medicaid fraud stemming from a medical malpractice suit filed by a 34-year-old woman who stated in the lawsuit that, 14 years ago, Coburn removed one of her fallopian tubes without her consent, leaving her sterile. The winner of this tight race will replace retiring Sen. Don Nickles, a Republican.

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  • sam silsbee (View Email) on October 1, 2004
  • Anonymous on October 2, 2004
    nice article, some others i would include are Dem whip Harry Reid's seat in nevada, fritz holling's open seat in SC, with the contest b/w Rep. Jim DeMint(R-dis 2) and SC Secretary of Education Inez Tenenbaum, and the contest in Louisiana b/w David Vitter(R), John Kennedy(D) and Chris John(D). while vitter leads in polls, louisiana has never elected a republican to the senate, given its wierd system, where the General Election reduces the candidates to 2, and a runoff in December to see who wins the majority, not just plurality, of votes.
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on October 2, 2004
    Reid will win big, but Tenenbaum has given DeMint a real run at this race in South Carolina. One poll; granted, a Democraticly funded one; had Secy. Tenenbaum up three points.
  • Go Obama! on October 3, 2004
    Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama
    President 2008
  • jeff (View Email) on October 4, 2004
    Also of note is Denise Majette(D) v Johnny Isakson(R) in Georgia, although Georgia has turned republican very recently, especially with the election of Saxby Chambliss over Max Cleland, and Zell Miller pulling a, well, Zell Miller. Majette is only the second African-American woman to ever be nominated as a Senate Candidate.
    Also, Reid will win big, as the Republicans put a bad canidate, so Reid will win even though he won by 428 votes in 1998.
    Also of note is Joe Hoeffel vs Arlen Specter in PA, as Specter had trouble defending his incumbency in a primary against an ultra-right win canidate, but unless Kerry drags out the vote heavily in PA, Hoeffel has no chance, especially given that the AFL-CIO, a traditional liberal group, has endorsed Specter. Lastly, there's Kit Bond and Nancy Farmer in MO, but a similar situation applies, unless Kerry can GOTV in missouri, farmer has little chance.
  • Armin Rosen (View Email) on October 4, 2004
    Good God this is biased.

    A breakdown:

    ALASKA- No bias. Great job, Mike.

    COLORADO- For some reason the author finds it prudent to mention that the Republican is associated with beer. And isn't word association what elections are really about?

    FLORIDA- An unfortunate quote from Mel Martinez and the Times' withdrawal of its endorsement appear to totally define Secretary Martinez's campaign. Of course this comparison does not once mention the candidate's stances on the issues, nor does it contain any information about the Democratic challenger aside from her former cabinet position.

    Is this article a true comparison, or an opportunity to bash the GOP?

    ILLINOIS: The author felt it necessary to spend half the paragraph talking about a person who ISN'T EVEN IN THE RACE ANYMORE. I ask you, Mike: do you even care about the issues? Did you research the issues? Or have you lowered yourself to the sensationalism that you liberals have long criticized Fox News for?

    NORTH CAROLINA: The author's mention of representative Burr's involvement with the Senate Intelligence committee marks the article's first (and only) instance of objectivity. Unfortunately, this is offset by a lengthy discussion of the Democrat's past accomplishments, juxtaposed with a mere passing mention of the Republican's extreme stance on abortion.

    SOUTH DAKOTA- Wow. Some damaging information about a Democrat. I'm impressed. Maybe I was wrong and this entire thing is totally free of any bias whatsoever.

    OKLAHOMA- Wait a sec, no it isn't. The author, again, does not once mention the issues up for debate in the great state of Oklahoma, or the stances that the candidates take on these issues. Instead, he spends the entire paragraph grasping for negative pub about the Republican. Finding none, he resorts to mentioning "allegations of Medicare fraud." Crack journalism, SCO.

    Crack journalism indeed. If I wanted something blatantly one-sided masquerading as objectivity I'd, oh I don't know, watch Fox News or something.
  • Armin Rosen on October 4, 2004
    Also, what are your sources? Print cites everything. You haven't cited anything.
  • jeff (View Email) on October 4, 2004
    well actually, armin, some pollster, either zogby or gallup, did a word association with Coors and Salazar, with most people replying "beer" to coors and "attorney general" to salazar, so its not just word association, it truly is what coors represents.

    as for illinois, jack ryan had a very legitimate shot at winning, before barack obama even became known. jack ryan IS relevant to obama/keyes, altho i highly doubt whether it is "key" anymore, as alan keyes will get his butt smoked like a bad cuban cigar.

    as for oklahoma, that's all that's been going around period. mike could talk about negative personal attacks, but he's not going to even start with kerry and bush's smear campaign, knowing very well that it would likely be derided by the conservatives among us as "liberal"

    also, its an opinion column, get over it.
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on October 4, 2004
    Armin, what am I going to say about Pete Coors? How do you omit the fact that he owns the company? It's in his name! That's unfair, and I thought you knew better than that.

    In Florida, they do define his campaign. He and Castor have not done much. No, it's not a chance to bash the GOP.

    Armin, there is a reason why the Democrats are winning all of these races.

    Bowles did write the 97 budget. It's a fact.

    Coburn and Carson agree on the issues. One big thing is Coburn's radical abortion stance.

    Next time instead of trashing it becuase you're a Republican, tell me what I omitted.
  • Armin Rosen (View Email) on October 4, 2004
    Not necessarily...for instance Coors opposes the death penalty and the PATRIOT act. I think that's notable coming from a conservative Republican.
  • Dwayne Keeney (View Email) on October 8, 2004
    My thoughts on Armin's charge of biases journalism.

    It would seem to me that if this were an article attempting to explain or even state all major candidates' positions on issues that you might have a legitimate complaint.

    But clearly the intent here is to offer a quick snapshot of the political landscape in the state and handicap certain races based on what's happened in the races so far. As an Ohioan, do I really care what the finer points of Tom Coburn's political leanings are? No. I just want to know how many seats the Democrats and Republicans may each pick up in 30 days. The author is trying to identify the key movers in the 51-48 split. Nothing more.

  • Betty Bonsignor (View Email) on October 9, 2004
    The comment on Dr Tom Coburn is so biased and unfair, a bit of dirty tricks ordinarily used by uninformed and partial Democrats. The charges of medical malpractice against Dr Coburn were dismissed.The 34 year old woman requested her fallopian tubes tied, and her request was witnessed to by a nurse. Dr Coburn was not charged with medicaid fraud. If you weren't so ardently supportive of Brad Carson I guess you would have reported the complete story. Dr Coburn is an American who care about anything other than that. Stop making race such an important issue. No one care but the racist. Lastly are you trying to insinuate because Carson is a Native Indian he will only be looking out for the Native Indian's sole interests? I hope not..
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on October 9, 2004
    They are not dirty Democratic tricks, but yes, I should have updated the fraud part of the story. Apologies are in order for that, and I'm sorry for not updating that. But as for your other comments, Ms. Bonsignor, I put race in as a brief sentence, and nothing more. He's Cherokee...I think that would be an interesting tidbit seeing as how he doesnt really look like it. It's like saying Carol Moseley-Braun was the last black Senator; it's an interesting tidbit. And no, I'm not insinuating anything. I don't see where you pulled that from.
  • Monica (View Email) on October 10, 2004
    I, for one, that you for this summary. I was just looking for the Senate races this year--nationally they've been drowned out by this mud slinging Presidential race--and goggled for quite some time before I came across this page. So, accurate or not, at least I have an idea of what's going on across the land.

  • erica (View Email) on October 12, 2004
    can you send me a figure close on the actual momney raised for the election
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