North Carolina 4: Rep. Fred Heineman (R) vs. David Price (D) Central North Carolina -- Raleigh; Chapel Hill
TIME Election Guide: North Carolina
The 4th District is one of the bellwethers of the Democrats' efforts to reverse their electoral debacle of 1994, particularly in the South. Many party officials believe they must win back districts like this one if they are to have a chance of regaining partisan control of the House, or even making significant gains.
Freshman Republican Rep. Fred Heineman was one of the unlikiest GOP upset winners in 1994, and he faces a rematch with the Democratic incumbent he defeated, former four-term Rep. David Price.
A former Raleigh police chief, Heineman edged Price by about 1,200 votes two years ago. Since then, however, he frequently has been criticized as being insensitive to average voters' concerns. Heineman has been targeted by Democrats and their supportive interest groups for backing GOP proposals to overhaul Medicare and scale back environmental regulations.
Heineman is having an especially hard time living down his comments of early 1995 when he suggested that those with incomes of $133,000 should be regarded as middle-class. The statement fueled charges from Heineman's opponents that he is out of touch with the district's citizens.
The district has a solid Democratic base in the Research Triangle area, which includes the state capital, Raleigh, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Organized labor has focused heavily on the race, pumping money into television ads aimed at drawing attention to Heineman's conservative voting record.
For his part, Heineman has denounced labor's involvement in the race and argues that Price is too liberal for the district. The tactic appeared to work for Heineman in their first matchup.
However, it is also possible that Price, who had never before had an especially close election in the 4th, was caught unprepared for a Republican tide in 1994 that cost the Democrats a net loss of four House seats in North Carolina.
President Clinton carried the district in 1992 and appears to be holding his own this time around, which could be good news for Price. Leans Democratic.