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Campaign 2006 – Sweet Sixteen Congressional Races

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Democrats continue to gain momentum in their bid to wrest control of the House of Representatives from the Republicans. According to veteran DC prognosticator, Charlie Cook, there are now 46 House seats in play. In order to prevail, the Democrats will have to win 15 of the 36 tenuous GOP seats. And hold onto 10 shaky Democratic seats.

Here's the latest look at sixteen races where Democrats have good shot at taking a Republican Congressional seat:

Arizona - 8th district: Republican Jim Kolbe is retiring. A September 12th primary will determine the final opponents. They're likely to be conservative Republican Randy Graf against Democrat Gabrielle Giffords or Patty Weiss.

California 11: Democrat Jerry McNerney is running for the congressional seat occupied by archconservative Republican Richard Pombo. The district leans Republican, but there is great dissatisfaction with Pombo; the most recent poll shows him trailing his opponent by several percentage points. This promises to be the most expensive California Congressional contest. Pombo has a 6:1 advantage in terms of "cash-on-hand."

Colorado 7: Republican Incumbent Bob Beauprez is running for Governor. Democrat Ed Perlmutter won the August 8th primary and will run against Republican Rick O'Donnell. Perlmutter trails O'Donnell in the money race.

In Connecticut two Republican Congressman are vulnerable in Districts that have traditionally voted Democrat. In the 2nd district, incumbent Rob Simmons is getting stiff opposition from Democrat Joe Courtney. In the 4th district, incumbent Chris Shays is having trouble with Diane Farrell. So far, both Democratic challengers are keeping pace with the incumbents in terms of fundraising. Some experts say that these races will be affected by the turnout for the Lamont-Lieberman Senatorial contest: Republicans may go to the polls for Lieberman. Who wins will depend upon which Party turns out their vote.

Florida 22: Incumbent Republican Clay Shaw will face a Democratic opponent selected in the September 5th primary, probably Ron Klein. This promises to be a very expensive competition.

Illinois 6: Republican Henry Hyde is retiring. The contest will pit Republican Peter Roskam versus Tammy Duckworth a retired Army pilot who lost both legs when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq. While this is a slightly Republican district, Duckworth has run a strong campaign. The race continues to be even.

It's an indication of the trouble the GOP is having that three of their Indiana seats are vulnerable. In the 2nd district challenger Joe Donnelly is neck and neck with incumbent Chris Chocola. In the 8th district, incumbent John Hostettler is getting the race of his life from County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth. In the 9th district, incumbent Mike Sodrel is having a tough time with Democrat Baron Hill. Ellsworth has raised much more money than his opponent. Hill is holding his own. Donnelly is behind. The Dems might pick up two here.

Iowa 1: Republican Jim Nussle is retiring to run for Governor. Democrat Bruce Braley will face Republican Mike Whalen in a district that leans Democrat. This is another close race that the Dems may win.

Kentucky 4: Republican Geoff Davis is facing stiff competition from the former Democratic incumbent Ken Lucas. Although this district has traditionally voted Republican, the last poll showed Lucas ahead. Davis has a 2:1 money advantage, however.

New Mexico 1: Republican Heather Wilson is facing stiff competition from New Mexico Attorney General Patsy Madrid. Polls show that this interesting race is a dead heat. Wilson has had fundraisers with Bush and Cheney. Nonetheless, Madrid remains close in "cash-on-hand."

New York 24: Republican incumbent Sherwood Bohelert is retiring. Democrat Michael Arcuri has run a strong campaign against Republican Ray Meier.

North Carolina 11: Former pro-football quarterback Heath Shuler is challenging Republican Charles Taylor. Shuler has the lead in both money and the polls.

There's a lot going on in Ohio in this election. In the 18th district, incumbent Republican Bob Ney unexpectedly abandoned his reelection bid, because of persistent rumors about his relationship with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. While Republicans fumble to find a replacement for Ney, Democratic challenger Zack Space is running an unexpectedly strong race.

Pennsylvania 6: Republican Jim Gerlach appears to be falling behind Democratic challenger Lois Murphy. So far, she's raised more money than he has.

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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