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From Sea to Shining Sea: Races for Congress and The Governor's Mansion

Senate and House

By Steven Schorr

Even if President Ford manages to defeat Jimmy Carter in today's election, he will still have to contend with a heavily Democratic Congress that should appear very similar to the one he has frequently attacked during the current campaign. Of the races for 33 Senate and 435 House seats up for election, only a handful provide the Republicans with any hope of changing the Congressional balance of power and regaining any of the seats they lost in the Democratic Congressional land-slide of 1974.

Ordinarily such a landslide sweeps into office many freshman Congressmen from districts that in less volatile years are counted as "safe" for the opposition party. These Congressmen in the next election find themselves highly vulnerable when the turbulent circumstances--like Watergate and Nixon's resignation--that prompted the lanslide have subsided. However, this pattern, which held true in 1966 and 1938, may not take hold this year.

Only one of the 71 freshman Democrats elected in 1974, Representative Allan T. Howe of Utah, is currently running behind his opponent, and his political troubles stem almost entirely from a conviction on charges of soliciting a police-decoy prostitute this summer. Aside from Howe, about 20 other freshmen representatives are involved in close re-election contests, but 12 of them were leading their Republican opponents in polls taken in October.

This leaves 50 freshmen as solid favorites to retain the seats they acquired in 1974. Although fellow Democrats have described the 1974 freshman group as particularly "aggressive" and dedicated to performing the unglamorous constituent work, their expected re-election also underscores the continued importance among the electorate of the Watergate-related issues of honesty and integrity that brought them to the Hill in the first place.

The apparent Republican failure to mount effective challenges to many of the presumably most vulnerable members of the 94th Congress obviously hinders their chances to recoup the 1974 loss of 43 seats. Some observers give the GOP a chance to pick up as many as a dozen of those seats, but they also concede, often in the same sentence, that the minority party may suffer a net loss in the House.

The Senate picture is not much brighter for the Republicans. Although a half-dozen states may elect a Senator with a different party affiliation than that of the incumbent, the Democrats still might wind up with a net gain of one or two seats. The best the GOP can hope for is to break even or perhaps pick up one seat if most of the close races break in their favor.

The numerical shift anticipated for the 95th Congress may be small, but the personality of Congress when it convenes in January will differ markedly because of the retirement of many old standbys on the Hill. Both parties in the Senate are losing their leaders, Democrat Mike Mansfield of Montana and Republican Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania. In addition, such Democratic stalwarts as Philip Hart of Michigan and STuart Symington of Missouri are ending Senate careers that began in the 1950s.

Speaker of the House Carl Albert of Oklahoma is leaving after 30 years in the lower chamber, and two important and powerful House committee chairmen, Wilbur Mills of Ways and Means and Wayne Hays of House Administration resigned their posts earlier in the session.

The departure of these powerful leaders should produce some fierce struggles in January, but the election results, barring unforeseen upsets, should not significantly affect the outcome of the leadership contests. None of the major candidates for leadership posts face serious challenges, and the small number of new faces expected should reduce the often intense infighting for the support of congressional newcomers.

As with the Presidential campaign, the congressional contests have often been marked by the candidates' superficial treatment of issues. With few exceptions, policy stances have taken second place to personality. Fallout from the Watergate scandal has produced a political climate where an image of candor, honesty, and integrity is crucial. In almost every case where an incumbent appears to be in trouble with his constituency, the problems stem from charges or investigations of alleged corruption.

Where issues have played a role, candidates have echoed--with regional variations--the positions taken in the national party platforms to an unusual degree. The state of the economy, and charges of excessive spending by Congress, predominate the dialogues between most candidates, but busing and abortion are clearly the most volatile issues in many states. A large number of Senate races that either appear extremely close at present or involve important political figures warrant further examination on a state-by-state basis, as do several interesting House races.

THE EAST

Maine--Democratic Senator Edmund S. Muskie has encountered the most active challenge for his seat since he first won the position in 1958. Nevertheless, his Republican opponent, Robert A.G. Monks, has little chance of scoring an upset despite the state's serious economic woes. Monk's attempts to pin the charge of "fiscal irresponsibility" on Muskie have proven ineffective, particularly in light of the Democrat's position as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

New Hampshire--The state that in 1974 had the longest fight for a Senate seat in history has been spared a similar agony this year, but one close House race has generated some national interest.

J. Joseph Grandmaison, the strategist of Senator George McGovern's victory in the 1972 New Hampshire primary, is waging with some success a battle against an incumbent whom many had presumed to be unbeatable..

Republican Representative James C. Cleveland still holds a slight edge over Grandmaison, most observers say, but the contest is close. Grandmaison has sought to characterize the conservative Clevelend as a pro-business and anti-consumer candidate, frequently pointing to Cleveland's vote to remove controls of gas prices as a prime example

Connecticut--The image of Republican Lowell Weicker, the state's junior Senator, as a political maverick who votes his conscience despite party labels has enhanced his chances for re-election over a formidable Democratic opponent, Gloria Schaffer. Schaffer, Connecticut's secretary of state, is considered handicapped in her bid for the Senate by the presence of one woman already holding statewide office, Democratic Governor Ella Grasso. Weicker's acceptability to liberals should undercut Schaffer's base of support, and his unique appeal to both the right and the left should insure his return to the Senate.

Rhode Island--The Democratic party has dominated statewide elections here in recent years, but a bitter and divisive primary struggle for the Senate nomination may open the door to former Governor John Chaffee, an unsuccessful Republican Senate candidate in 1974. Richard P. Lorber won the September 14 Democratic primary by defeating controversial Governor Philip Noel with a margin of only 100 votes. Noel's refusal to support Lorber and his threats to challenge the primary results has injected a personal squabble into an otherwise issue-oriented campaign.

Both candidates have stressed their stances on the issues, and some original ideas have emerged during the campaign. Lorber presents the electorate with an elaborate plan for preserving the nation's ethnic neighborhoods (remember Carter's infamous "ethnic purity" remark?). His plan includes the establishment of neighborhood court systems where citizens could argue their own cases in minor legal matters. Lorber's platform also calls for a freeze on public housing rents and a property tax freeze for senior citizens living on a low or fixed income.

Chafee fits the traditional mold of the Northeastern liberal Republican. He favors national health insurance, but also supports plans to drill for oil off the New England costs and a freeze on real estate taxes. His position as Secretary of the Navy under former president Nixon might hurt Chafee's chances, especially because the closing of Rhode Island navy bases in 1973--after Chafee left the government--seriously exacerbated the state's unemployment problems.

Despite Chafee's 20-point lead in October polls the overwhelming majority of registered Democrats in the state makes the race too close to call.

Maryland--Representative Paul Sarbanes, a Democrat, received invaluable public exposure during the impeachment hearings of the House Judiciary Committee, exposure that appears strong enough to catapult him to the other end of the Hill. Maryland voters sent the present incumbent, Republican J. Glenn Beall, to the Senate six years ago as a replacement for Joseph P. Tydings, a liberal Democrat considered by many as too aristocratic and aloof to appeal to ethnic, working-class voters in Baltimore. Sarbanes's Greek ancestry provides natural ties to these voters, while his Rhodes scholar background helps him among the intellectual chic of Washington's suburbs.

Sarbanes's chances are further enhanced by the native-son support he should get from his hometown of Salisbury in the conservative Eastern Shore area that strongly supported Beall against Tydings.

THE SOUTH

Florida--Lawton Chiles, the Democratic candidate who originated the "walking-the-length-of-the-state" campaign in 1970, is once again hiking through this state of swamps and resorts in search of votes. His election this time is much more of a certainty than it was last time when a bitterly divided state GOP failed to coalesce behind one of its founding fathers, former Representative William Cramer. Chiles' present Republican opponent, John L. Grady, a physician who ran for the Senate as an Independent in 1974, lacks the support of many Republican party regulars, who view him as an outsider.

Missouri--The airplane crash that killed Representative Jerry Litton just hours after he had captured the Democratic Senate nomination probably also dashed the Democrat's hopes to hold the seat occupied for so long by Stuart Symington. The candidacy of former Governor Warren E. Hearnes, the state committee's choice to replace Litton, is tainted by an investigation into corruption in his administration that produced no convictions but cast a long shadow of suspicion over him.

Hearnes's problems are compounded by the formidable qualities of his Republican opponent, John C. Danforth. Danforth built the modern Republican party in Missouri, nurturing its growth during his tenure as attorney general, when he was the only Republican official elected statewide. Heir to the Ralston-Purina fortune, Danforth projects a more youthful, personable image than his opponent. And in a race where the candidates differ only slightly on the issues, image could be the deciding factor.

Tennessee--One of the few incumbents facing a serious challenge, Republican Senator William Brock has encountered problems chiefly because of his campaign style. Brock's stuffy and aloof manner apparently suffers in a comparison with the folksy, at-east styles of his fellow Senator, Republican Howard Baker, and his Democratic opponent, James Sasser. Sasser banks his hopes for election on the lack of enthusiasm for Brock and on the coattails of Jimmy Carter, which are expected to be long through out the South.

Texas--Senator Lloyd Benson's brief and unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination may have damaged his chances for re-election at home. By shifting slightly to the left on some issues to appeal to a national constituency, Bentsen alienated much of the conservative support in the business community that helped him capture the seat in 1970. His support for an elimination of the oil depletion allowance for major oil companies also strained his ties to the business sector of his constituency. However, many Democrats are still cool to Bentsen because he unseated liberal Senator Ralph Yarborough in a 1970 Democratic primary.

Such new problems and old wounds provide an opportunity for an upset by Representative Alan Steelman, Bentsen's GOP challenger. However, Steelman has problems of his own. His voting record in the House stands out as quite moderate in comparison to his fellow Republicans in the state delegation. He has complicated matters by attacking Bentsen from the left by support the Equal Rights Amendment and liberalized abortion laws, and from the right, by favoring state right-to-work laws and opposing oil company divestiture. This tactic has in effect reproduced Bentsen's problem of fracturing the electorate.

In an attempt to control the center, the two moderates have taken conflicing stances within their own party platforms, so that support from both left and right will be scattered in both camps. However, Bentsen's strong support from organized labor may be the trump card that allows him to eek out a narrow victory.

Virginia--The Republicans don't have a Senate candidate in Virginia, or do they? The party asked Senator Harry F. Byrd Jr., the Independent incumbent, to accept its nomination, but he declined, preferring to run again as an independent. Byrd left the Democratic party before his last campaign without seriously damaging his popularity. In the Senate he joins with the Democrats for organizational purposes, but often sides with the Republicans in opposition to legislation proposed by Senate liberals.

The Byrd family has long dominated Virginian politics, as either the current Senator or his father has held some statewide office during each of the last 50 years. Although the Democrats have a strong candidate in Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, former Chief of Naval Operations, Byrd's chances to perpetuate the family tradition are excellent.

THE MIDWEST

Indiana--No one in the Senate has survived as many "squeakers" as Vance Hartke, a Democrat from Indiana. He narrowly won his seat in 1958 and in 1970 he defeated then-Representative Richard Roudebush by only 4283 votes. In both cases, the victories were unexpected. Hartke's bag of surprises may have run out this year, however. In 18 years as a Senator he has failed to construct a solid base of support, and this severely hampers his ability to withstand the strong challenge of Republican candidate Richard G. Lugar, former mayor of Indianapolis.

Lugar ran a close race in 1974 against Senator Birch Bayh, a far more popular figure in the state than Hartke. Despite his dubious distinction of being "Richard Nixon's favorite mayor," Lugar projects an image of integrity and freshness to the voters.

Michigan--Representative Donald W. Riegle's switch from the Republican to the Democratic party several years ago might result in a Senate set for him, but he is presently locked in tight match with a fellow member of the House, Representative Marvin L. Esch. The two candidates differ most widely on the busing issue, as Riegle supports busing to achieve integration and Esch is a major sponsor of a constitutional amendment to prohibit the practice.

Nebraska--Nebraska has not elected a Democratic Senator since 1934, but the retirement of Republican Senator Roman Hruska may have created an opportunity for the Democrats to break their lengthy losing streak. The party has selected Edward Zorinsky, mayor of Omaha, as its hope to do just that. Although Zorinsky has the backing of popular Democratic Governor J.J. Exon, the race is very much a toss-up at this point. Representative John Y. McCollister, the Republican candidate, has tried to paint Zorinsky as a liberal and tie him to the national party. But this is proving difficult because Zorinsky has campaigned as a conservative who opposes abortion and busing--though the latter is hardly a burning issue in Nebraska--and who stresses the role of the private sector in dealing with national problems.

Senator Robert Taft Jr., the latest in a family of Republicans, is embroiled in a close rematch with Howard M. Metzenbaum, the Democrat he vanquished to first win the seat in 1970. Since that defeat, Metzenbaum, a Cleveland businessman, has been in and out of the Senate, as the appointee of Democratic Governor John Gilligan to replace Republican Willian B. Saxbe when Saxbe retired to become Attorney General. Metzenbaum lost his bid for election in a hard-fought 1974 primary battle against the eventual winner, Senator John Glenn (D).

That primary battle spawned an animosity between Glenn and Metzenbaum that has impaired Metzenbaum's bid to defeat Taft. Taft, a staunch conservative whose father was known to a generation of Americans as "Mister Republican," has attacked Metzenbaum for his support of the Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill and extensive cuts in the defense budget. Metzenbaum responded with criticism of Taft for support the de-regulation of oil and natural gas prices and opposing common situs picketing.

THE FAR WEST

Arizona--Both candidates for the Arizona Senate seat vacated by retiring Republican Paul J. Fanin have emerged from difficult primary fights, but the Republican contest turned particularly ugly. The eventual winner, Representative Sam Steiger, has not received the endorsement of his opponent, Representative John B. Conlan. Conlan constructed his political base around his Christian fundamentalism and during the primary, Steiger, who is Jewish, accused his opponent's campaign of anti-Semitism.

This divisiveness gave an early lead to Democrat Dennis DeConcini, a former district attorney from the Tucson area. DeConcini has drawn fire from Steiger for his stance in favor of the decriminalization of marijunan, but the Democrat has employed his work as a prosecutor as a countervalent to charges of "liberalism."

California--In a state that has cooked up a dazzling array of eccentric political personalities, the current Senate contest between Democratic Senator John F. Tunney and Republican S.I. Hayakawa is certainly not an anomaly. Hayakawa, a conservative folk-hero from the days of campus unrest, has launched his political casreer at the ripe age of 70. With a tam-o-shanter upon his head as a trademark, the college president travels the state with a bizarre campaign style that features frequent expressions of disinterest about a wide variety of issues. Tunney's bland, Eastern style--including a Kennedyesque accent--palls in comparison with his opponent's. Hayakawa has captured the electorate's imagination, but it is highly questionable if he can capture enough of their votes to unseat Runney.

New Mexico--Most of the Senators who served on the Select Committee on Watergate benefited from the national television exposure they received. New Mexico's Democratic Senator Joseph M. Montoya, however, did not turn in a particularly stellar performance, and he may pay3

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