||One of the nation's top political analysts, Stuart Rothenberg, dissects politics at the congressional and statewide levels.|
GOP Looks For A Beachhead In Massachusetts
In Alabama, Gov. James faces a tough opponent
By Stuart Rothenberg
Massachusetts 3 Much as the Republicans have made major inroads into the South, transferring the region from a Democratic bastion to a Republican stronghold, the Northeast has been moving in the other direction, towards the Democratic Party. And leading that move has been Massachusetts, which now has Democrats sitting in both of its U.S. Senate seats and in all 10 of its U.S. House districts.
This year, the GOP has targeted two seats in the Bay State: John Tierney's 6th C.D. and Jim McGovern's 3rd District. Much of the early focus was on Tierney, in part because a former member of Congress was running to regain that seat. But more and more, Republicans are talking about the 3rd C.D. and challenger Matt Amorello.
Worcester is the largest city in the district, but the 3rd C.D. snakes down to the south to include part of the city of Fall River at the extreme southern end of the state. Like the rest of the state, the 3rd District votes Democratic. But Republican Peter Blute won the seat in 1994 before losing it two years later to McGovern, a former congressional aide who ran then-senator George McGovern's presidential campaign in Massachusetts in 1984. (The two McGoverns are not related.)
Challenger Amorello was elected to the Massachusetts state Senate in 1990. He was re-elected in 1992, 1994 and 1996, the last two times without opposition. His district includes a number of suburban towns as well as four wards in the city of Worcester.
A pro-choice moderate who opposes repeal of the so-called assault weapons ban, Amorello complains about the congressman's lack of clout in Washington and calls McGovern too liberal. But Democrats note that Blute worked this district as well as any Republican ever could, and they argue that McGovern hasn't made any huge mistakes.
Republicans hope that Amorello's moderate positions and blue-collar style will help him hold the GOP base and eat into the Democratic base. If that happens, the challenger at least has a chance in the fall.
A formidable Democratic challenger in Alabama
Alabama Governor Lt. Gov. Don Siegelman is a strong Democratic nominee and gives his party a serious chance to win the governorship. A former state attorney general and secretary of state, Siegelman has raised more than $4 million for his campaign and has a unified Democratic Party supporting him.
Siegelman, who lost his party's nomination for governor when he came up short in the 1990 Democratic primary, faces the incumbent governor, Republican Fob James. James, a college football star who played professional football, served as governor in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But that was before James switched to the GOP.
James won the governorship as a Republican in 1994. But he has had a controversial term, and he is known more for things like his advocacy of prayer in schools than for economic achievements.
James drew a primary challenge this year, and businessman Winton Blount, who ran unsuccessfully in the GOP primary four years ago, forced the sitting governor into a runoff just to win renomination. Some Democrats, including leaders in the African-American community, urged their allies to vote for the politically moderate Blount rather than the down-the-line conservative James, but that effort may have created a pro-James backlash among Republicans and conservatives. James won the runoff and the GOP nomination.
Siegelman portrays himself as a moderate who is familiar with the state and who is a familiar figure for Alabama voters. But James and the GOP are likely to paint the attorney general as just another liberal.
The key to the election is whether James can hold onto the GOP vote, or whether moderates either stay at home or cast their ballots for Siegelman. And money could also be a significant factor. While James was spending his war chest to fend off Blount, Siegelman was stashing away millions. And that money makes him a very formidable opponent for governor.