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ILLINOIS: Indictments Fuel GOP Campaign

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Sunday, November 5, 2006

Federal and state prosecutors are circling around Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), and indictments of his associates are creating almost daily headlines, with charges of fraud, kickbacks and pay-to-play contracts. Still, he remains in front of opponent Judy Baar Topinka (R) the state treasurer. She was hammered so hard by Blagojevich's negative ads coming out of a divisive spring primary that her disapproval score is higher than his. A late surge has brought Topinka into a competitive position. Green Party candidate Rich Whitney is winning some newspaper endorsements and may break into double digits.

The banner House race, for the seat of retiring International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R), pits Tammy Duckworth (D), an Iraq war veteran who lost both legs when her helicopter was shot down, against state Sen. Peter Roskam (R). Both candidates have received millions from the national parties. Despite the strong GOP organization in the suburban Chicago district, the race is close.

Freshman Rep. Melissa Bean (D), who scored an upset in 2004 in another Chicago suburb, is holding on against investment banker Dave McSweeney (R), who is financing his own campaign.

Late in the campaign, Democrats sensed at least an outside chance against Rep. Mark Kirk (R), with Dan Seals (D), a black businessman. The affluent district north of Chicago is strongly against the Iraq war and President Bush.

In a downstate district vacated by retiring Rep. Lane Evans (D), Phil Hare, Evans's longtime local aide, is strongly favored over former TV reporter Andrea Zinga (R).

INDIANA: A Red State Looking Blue

The Hoosier State is positioned to provide Democrats with as many as three pickups in their battle for control of the House as the unpopularity of Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) threatens to undermine GOP candidates.

Rep. John Hostettler (R) appears finished in his race against Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth (D) in the southern 8th District. His refusal to run a modern campaign -- he does almost no fundraising and employs no paid consultants -- has served him well in past races, but not in this one. Barring disaster, Ellsworth will take this seat back for Democrats.

In the neighboring 9th District, Rep. Mike Sodrel (R) and former representative Baron Hill (D) are locked in one of the closest races in the country. Sodrel defeated Hill by 1,500 votes two years ago, while Daniels and Bush were overwhelmingly carrying the district. Sodrel and Hill have run solid campaigns, and the national parties are loath to predict a winner.

The most surprising race in Indiana is in the 2nd District, where 2004 nominee Joe Donnelly (D) is poised to upset Rep. Chris Chocola (R). After a somewhat lackluster race two years ago, Donnelly has emerged as a far better candidate in this election while Chocola has been slow to react to the competitiveness of the race. Polling shows Donnelly over 50 percent, and Republicans acknowledge that Chocola has little hope of holding his office.

The coming catastrophe for Indiana Republicans in the House is not mirrored in the upper chamber. Sen. Richard Lugar (R) is cruising to a sixth term with no challenger.

IOWA: Opportunities for Democrats

It has been 40 years since Democrats held the governorship and both houses of the legislature in the Hawkeye State, but that could be the outcome after Tuesday.

Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) is leaving office and is expected to seek a 2008 presidential nomination. Secretary of State Chet Culver (D) has the advantage over Rep. Jim Nussle (R) in the contest to succeed him.


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