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Campaign 2006 – Top 10 Senate Races

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Voters will determine 33 Senate seats in 2006. According to veteran DC prognosticator, Charlie Cook, 17 incumbent Senators are all but guaranteed reelection. In order to regain control of the Senate, Democrats will have to win at least six of the eight Republican seats that are in play and retain all eight of the contested Democratic sets.

Here's the latest on the ten most interesting Senatorial races:

In Connecticut, the August 8th primary victory of Ned Lamont means that there will be a three-way race in November: lightly regarded Republican Alan Schlesinger, incumbent senator Joe Lieberman running as an independent, and Lamont. This is a solidly Democratic seat, so the competition will be between Lamont and Lieberman-both for the seat and the soul of the Dems. The latest polls show Lamont and Lieberman in a virtual dead heat.

Minnesota has a vacant Senate seat because Democrat Mark Dayton is retiring. The primary will be held September 12. The leading Democratic candidate is district attorney Amy Klobuchar. The latest polls show her with a double-digit lead over Mark Kennedy, her likely Republican opponent.

An interesting race is shaping up in Missouri where Republican incumbent Jim Talent has weakened in the polls. The Democratic challenger is State Auditor Claire McCaskill . The latest polls show this race as even. There's a stem-cell initiative on the Missouri ballot and that may work to McCaskill's favor, by bringing out the liberal vote

Montana used to be solid red state but elected a Democratic governor in 2004. Now it seems poised to dump Neanderthal Republican Senator Conrad Burns. The June 6th primary resulted in the nomination of populist farmer Jon Tester. The latest polls indicated the race is even. Burns has more money, however.

In Ohio, Democratic Representative Sherrod Brown is running against embattled Republican incumbent Mike DeWine, who has been implicated in the Abramoff scandal. Brown has a slight lead in the polls, but DeWine has more money.

The most highly publicized Senate race is in Pennsylvania, where Conservative Christian poster-child, Rick Santorum, is in trouble. Polls show him running behind the Democratic challenger Bob Casey, Jr., although the race has tightened up. Santorum has a lot of money on hand and can be expected to wage a vicious race to keep his seat.

The Rhode Island primary happens September 12th. The Republican incumbent, Lincoln Chafee, is facing a stiff primary challenge from conservative Steve Laffey. If Chafee gets past the primary, his likely opponent is former State Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse. Whitehouse is ahead in the polls and has more money.

There will be an open Senate seat in Tennessee because Bill Frist is retiring to run for President. In the August 3rd primary, Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker won the Republican nomination. He'll face Harold Ford, Jr., a handsome, articulate, African-American Congressman. Polls show Ford trailing Corker.

In Virginia incumbent Republican George Allen was said to have an easy reelection. So easy that he was thinking about running for President. Democrats recruited former Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb to run against Allen and suddenly there's a race. Allen didn't help himself by uttering a racial slur during an August campaign event. Where Allen once had a 20-percentage point lead over Webb, now it's only 5 percent.

In the state of Washington, incumbent Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell is facing tough competition in Republican challenger Mike McGavick. Polls show Cantwell slightly ahead.

Besides the BB top ten, there are several other races that should be watched. In Maryland, Democrat Paul Sarbanes is retiring. The primary is in September and whichever Democrat wins, will probably win the November election. In Vermont, Independent Jim Jeffords is retiring. The September 12th primary will decide the Democratic and Republican candidates. However, the prohibitive favorite is Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders.

Democrat Incumbents face stiff challenges in Michigan (Debbie Stabenow) and New Jersey (Bob Menendez).

Democrats will likely pick up a few Senate seats. But, it seems unlikely that they will win enough to regain the Senate majority.
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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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