Ever since 1986 when he capitalized on the Democrats' infighting and ended their 112-year monopoly of the governor's office, Gov. Guy Hunt (R) has known they would come after him hard in 1990. But he could not have anticipated drawing an opponent as liberal as Paul Hubbert (D), former head of the Alabama Education Association, who defeated two veteran officeholders for the nomination. Hunt is linking Hubbert to Jesse L. Jackson, Walter F. Mondale and support for gay teachers, but Hubbert has shown Teflon qualities and the Democrats seem determined to reclaim their ancestral rights to the office. Hunt is the narrowest of favorites. Today's Birmingham News poll shows Hunt leads 49 to 45 percent.
Sen. Howell T. Heflin (D) has had plenty of money to mount a heavy attack on state Sen. Bill Cabaniss (R), who targeted the two-term senator's vulnerable environmental record and campaign financing ties to special-interest groups but lacked the funds for a full-scale attack. The House seat vacated by Rep. Ronnie D. Flippo (D) in his unsuccessful gubernatorial nomination bid should go to Huntsville prosecutor Bud Cramer (D) over state Agriculture Commissioner Albert McDonald, a recent convert to the GOP. ARKANSAS
At the ripe old age of 44, Gov. Bill Clinton (D) knew he was trying the patience of Arkansas voters by seeking another term after occupying the governor's office for 10 of the past 12 years. But he was helped by a murderous Republican primary that badly scarred the survivor, businessman and first-time candidate Sheffield Nelson. Clinton has put up an aggressive defense of his record and has promised he won't abandon the governorship to run for president in 1992; voters seem ready to keep him around awhile longer.
Sen. David Pryor (D) has no formal opposition for a third term. Ex-representative Ray Thornton (D) should easily reclaim the Little Rock House seat abandoned by Rep. Tommy F. Robinson (R), who warred with Nelson for the gubernatorial nomination. FLORIDA
Of the Big Three governorships held by the Republicans, this is the likeliest to fall to the Democrats. Former senator Lawton Chiles (D), bolstered by a strong performance in their only debate last Tuesday, has widened his lead over Gov. Bob Martinez (R) to the point he now rates as a clear favorite. Democrats say Martinez has been hurt by his antiabortion stance, but Republicans seem more worried about an outpouring of older voters and signs of lethargy among those who regularly back the GOP in presidential years.
Rep. Bill Grant (R), who switched parties last year, is being hurt by Martinez's weakness in his Panhandle district and could easily lose to Pete Peterson (D), an Air Force retiree. Orlando lawyer Jim Bacchus (D) is favored over William Tolley (R), who lost in 1988 to Rep. Bill Nelson (D), who in turn lost to Chiles in this year's gubernatorial primary. Tolley was forced into a runoff primary and came into the general election short of funds. Freshman Rep. Craig T. James (R) beat a scandal-tainted Democratic incumbent in 1988 and is struggling to hold on against self-financed businessman Reid Hughes (D) in a race both parties rate a tossup. James is the No. 1 House target of abortion-rights forces. GEORGIA
With Gov. Joe Frank Harris (D) forced to retire after two terms, Republicans recruited an exceptionally able challenger in state House Minority Leader Johnny Isakson. He has strong backing from the Bush administration and has run a well-financed, "time-for-a-change" campaign against a Democratic establishment that has controlled the governorship since Reconstruction. But Lt. Gov. Zell Miller (D), a fixture in that office, easily turned back former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young's challenge for the nomination and has consistently led Isakson. Miller took early custody of the popular proposal for a state lottery and, as the near-incumbent, benefits from the upbeat mood created by Atlanta's acquisition of the 1996 Olympics.
Sen. Sam Nunn (D) is unopposed for a fourth term, denying him even a practice lap for his possible presidential bid. House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (R) has a rematch with David Worley (D), who got 41 percent of the vote last time, but Gingrich appears to be in no serious jeopardy. Freshman Rep. Ben Jones (D) beat a scandal-tainted Republican incumbent two years ago and is struggling to hold on against GOP state Rep. John Linder's efforts to peg him as too liberal for the district. Veteran Rep. Doug Barnard Jr. (D) has financial links to S&L king Charles H. Keating Jr., but he also has vastly more money and political credits than his challenger, Sam Jones (R), a newcomer to the sprawling district. KENTUCKY
Freshman Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) amassed a healthy treasury while his opponent, former Jefferson County executive Harvey I. Sloane (D), was mired in a primary. Sloane long has had many enemies inside the Democratic Party, but in the closing days, as McConnell showed signs of feeling the anti-incumbent wave, they rallied in an effort to reclaim the seat for the party. The race has gotten close, but McConnell's defeat would be a surprise.
In Louisville, embattled 10-term Rep. Romano L. Mazzoli (D), who looks vulnerable every day but Election Day, is proving an elusive target for Al Brown (R), the first serious black challenger he has faced in a general election. LOUISIANA
Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D) and all the incumbents in the House delegation were reelected when they won majorities in the all-parties primary Oct. 6. The lone remaining House contest, for the New Orleans seat of retiring Rep. Lindy Boggs (D), has two Democrats vying to become the state's first black House member since Reconstruction. State Sen. William J. Jefferson is favored over Marc H. Morial, son of a former mayor. MISSISSIPPI
Sen. Thad Cochran (R) wins a third term without opposition, a tribute to his quiet mastery of the Senate and home-state political game. The House seat Republicans lost in a 1989 special election, when they nominated the wrong candidate to succeed the late representative Larkin Smith (R), is now being contested by Smith's widow, Sheila Smith (R). But Rep. Gene Taylor (D) has entrenched himself and is expected to prevail. NORTH CAROLINA
If the polls are right, the South could be on the verge of electing its first black senator since Reconstruction -- but it's no certainty. Private polls support the latest newspaper-TV surveys showing former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt (D) going into the weekend with a 4 or 5 percentage point lead over Sen. Jesse Helms (R). But the number of "undecideds" is larger than that, and experience suggests that in black-white contests they tend to break against the black candidate. Helms has made minority-preference programs and homosexual support for Gantt the targets of his closing TV ads, and no one who has watched him win three other campaigns discounts his turning the trick again.
The 11th District, centered in Asheville, has a rematch between Rep. James McClure Clarke (D) and former state representative Charles H. Taylor (R). Clarke won by 1,529 votes last time and a reversal would be no surprise. Rep. David E. Price (D) has a serious, self-financed challenger in Raleigh businessman John H. Carrington (R), but the turnout efforts for Gantt should help the incumbent here more than they do in Asheville. OKLAHOMA
With Gov. Henry Bellmon (R) retiring after a second term that was more troubled than his first -- back in the 1960s -- both parties endured tough runoff primaries to pick their nominees. The nastiness has carried over to the general election battle between businessman David Walters (D), who lost to Bellmon four years ago, and former U.S. attorney Bill Price (R), running for the first time. They have accused each other of profiteering and financial chicanery. Price has also made an issue of Walters's service as Michael S. Dukakis's Oklahoma chairman, but the Democrat is the favorite this second time around.
Sen. David L. Boren (D) has only nominal opposition for a third term from attorney Stephen Jones (R). His coattails add to the threat facing two-term Rep. James M. Inhofe (R) in his rematch with Tulsa attorney Kurt G. Glassco (D), who fell 10,000 votes short of victory in the Republican year of 1988. Inhofe has been high on the GOP endangered species list, but late reports give him the edge.
Rep. Wes Watkins (D) left his safe seat to seek the gubernatorial nomination and likely will be succeeded by state Rep. Bill Brewster (D). Patrick K. Miller is the GOP nominee for the fourth time, but no Republican has held the seat since statehood. SOUTH CAROLINA
Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. (R), who had a battle all the way in 1986, has skillfully expanded his base into traditionally Democratic constituencies and may draw a sizable black vote against the Democrats' gubernatorial candidate, black state Sen. Theo Mitchell (D).
Campbell will thus remain well-positioned to succeed Sen. Strom Thurmond (R), 87, if Thurmond decides to step down. This year, again, Thurmond has only a token opponent, Bob Cunningham (D), who has run for office unsuccessfully twice before as a Republican. Despite the top-of-the-ticket GOP strength, Democrats in the House delegation, who survived a Bush landslide in 1988, are expected to ride out the Thurmond-Campbell wave of 1990. TENNESSEE
For a state that loves slam-bang politics as much as Tennessee does, this year is sheer agony. Despite some early 1990 talk that scandals in the state administration might tarnish Gov. Ned Ray McWherter (D), he is cruising to reelection over state Rep. Dwight Henry (R). And Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D) has even more negligible opposition from Knoxville economist William R. Hawkins (R) as he preps for a possible second run for the presidency. Even though Rep. Harold E. Ford (D) is awaiting retrial on bank and mail fraud charges, he is considered a safe bet in his Memphis district against 79-year-old real estate agent Aaron C. Davis (R). TEXAS
In a campaign in which both candidates have made more than their quota of mistakes, rancher-businessman Clayton Williams (R) may just have blundered so outrageously at the end as to allow state Treasurer Ann Richards (D) a chance to succeed retiring Gov. William P. Clements Jr. (R). In the final week of a race where he once enjoyed a double-digit lead, novice candidate Williams displayed his ignorance about a ballot proposition on which he had already cast an absentee vote, then disclosed that despite his wealth he has not always had to pay income taxes. Richards, who had been helped back into the race when Williams refused to shake hands with her at a Dallas luncheon, still carries the burden of being a liberal Democrat in a state that has not elected one to top office since Ralph Yarborough won a Senate seat in 1964. But a once-sure Republican victory has become a very iffy thing.
Not so for Sen. Phil Gramm (R), who has a ton of money and a little-known second-term opponent in state Sen. Hugh Parmer (D). Of the five seriously contested House districts, the closest races may involve freshman Reps. Bill Sarpalius (D) vs. state Rep. Dick Waterfield (R) and Rep. Greg Laughlin (D) vs. cattleman Joe Dial (R). Republicans hope that tucked below Gramm and above Williams on the ballot, their challengers will come through. VIRGINIA
While Sen. John W. Warner (R) appeared so secure no Democrat even bothered to challenge him, voter resentment toward Congress has jeopardized one six-term House member and raised last-minute questions about two other GOP representatives. Rep. Stan Parris (R) and his challenger, Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr. (D), have treated folks all over the national capital area to a rich diet of negative ads. Private polls show Parris could lose, in part because of his antiabortion views and in part because, even this close to Washington, voters are ready to shake up the Capitol.
The other somewhat nervous but clearly favored incumbents are Rep. D. French Slaughter Jr. (R), who faces minister-businessman David M. Smith (D), and Rep. Herbert H. Bateman (R), whose challenger is television reporter Andrew H. Fox (D).