||One of the nation's top political analysts, Stuart Rothenberg, dissects politics at the congressional and statewide levels.|
Democrats eye GOP House seats in North Carolina, Washington
By Stuart Rothenberg
July 21, 1999
Web posted at: 12:17 p.m. EDT (1617 GMT)
WASHINGTON (July 21) -- Democratic congressional hopeful Mike Taylor might be in Congress today if he had been able to convince party strategists and political handicappers last year that he was locked in a tight race with the Republican nominee, Robin Hayes, for the seat of retiring Democrat Bill Hefner.
But Hayes's great personal wealth in a congressional district that was carried by Republican George Bush in 1992 and GOPer Bob Dole in 1996 contributed to the belief that while Taylor was an attractive nominee, he didn't have much of a chance against the Republican.
That won't happen again next year.
Taylor, an attorney who served in Vietnam, raised just $360,000 last time but hopes to raise and spend three times that amount next year. The congressional challenger markets himself as a moderate, and his anti-abortion views and opposition to the assault weapons ban make it more difficult for Republicans to portray him as a liberal.
Taylor's showing last year -- he came within 3,378 votes of upsetting Hayes -- probably guarantees that no other top tier Democrat will enter the race for 2000. But the presidential year could offer a hurdle that the Democrat didn't face last time, as GOP voters turn out for the presidential election.
For his part, Hayes has the advantage of incumbency next year, and he continues to have his considerable personal wealth at his disposal. Before his congressional bid, Hayes served in the North Carolina Legislature. He won a tough Republican gubernatorial primary in 1996, but he drew just 42 percent against popular incumbent Gov. Jim Hunt (D) in the general election.
Taylor will get early support from Democratic insiders who feel guilty that they underestimated him last time. But Republicans know they can't keep the House and lose seats like these. That should make for a real battle in North Carolina 8.
Washington C.D. 2
Term limits may come back to haunt the Republicans in Washington's 2nd Congressional District.
Back in 1994, conservative Republican Jack Metcalf promised to serve no more than three consecutive terms in the U.S. House if he was elected. Metcalf won that election, as well as re-election contests in 1996 and 1998, and the one-time state senator has decided to abide by his pledge and retire after three terms.
The open seat gives the Democrats a great chance for a pick-up, since the 2nd C.D. tilts slightly Democratic. Last year, the Democrats hoped to pick up this seat, but their nominee, retired Army colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer, proved to be a better fund raiser than a candidate.
The congressional district is located in northwest Washington State. Everett is the largest city in the district.
Two Republicans and two Democrats are actively in the race. On the GOP side, it's former state Rep. Barry Sehlin and state Rep. John Koster. The two Democrats are state Rep. Jeff Morris and Snohomish County Commissioner Rick Larson.
Sehlin spent more than two decades in the U.S. Navy. He went on to serve three terms in the state Legislature. Koster is a dairy farmer who lost a state Senate primary in 1992 but went on to win state House races in 1994, 1996 and 1998.
Sehlin's reputation is as a moderate, while Koster is widely regarded as more conservative. An ideological primary -- featuring a number of outside groups trying to influence the outcome -- is likely.
Morris worked for Cong. Al Swift (D), then for a public affairs firm. He was first elected to the Legislature in 1996, and was reelected in 1998. Larson was director of public affairs for the Washington State Dental Association. He was elected to the Snohomish City Council in 1997. Both Democrats prefer the "moderate" tag.
This seat will be a race to watch, since it's a high priority for the Democrats. If they don't win here, they'll have a tough time winning a House majority.