Gov. Bill Owens (R) barely won his first term in 1998, but his pragmatic conservatism (cutting taxes but supporting stricter gun laws after the shootings at Columbine High School) has built a solid political foundation. He is far ahead of business owner and first-time candidate Rollie Heath (D).
On the other hand, freshman Sen. Wayne Allard (R) has been unable to establish a durable lead in his rematch with former U.S. attorney Tom Strickland (D). Six years ago, Allard won fairly easily by labeling Strickland a "millionaire lawyer-lobbyist," but the prosecutor's job has given Strickland more support from law enforcement groups, and some newspapers that had backed Allard the first time are now calling his Senate record "lackluster." Colorado has become more Republican, but many of the newcomers are pro-environment and support abortion rights, and Allard may be too conservative for their tastes. Democrats have mounted a huge turnout effort and, with the farm and high-tech economy both in trouble, are clearly competitive in this race.
The new suburban Denver congressional district was drawn to give the parties equally good chances of success -- and the plan has worked. Bob Beauprez (R), a former state party chairman, and Mike Feeley (D), a former state Senate minority leader, are good candidates, and their parties have invested heavily in this toss-up race. In another district, Rep. Robert W. Schaffer (R) is retiring, and state Sen. Marilyn Musgrave (R) is favored over state Sen. Stan Matsunaka (D).
This banner GOP state should perform as usual this year by reelecting Gov. Dirk Kempthorne (R) to a second term over newspaper publisher Jerry Brady (D) and Sen. Larry E. Craig (R) to a third term over former ambassador Alan Blinken (D). There's more excitement over a voter initiative to reverse the legislature's ban on term limits.
The famous -- and controversial -- "hairdresser ad" ended what little doubt existed about Sen. Max Baucus (D) winning an extension of his 24-year Senate career. State Sen. Mike Taylor (R) withdrew after being shown in his previous life as a beautician, but later resumed campaigning.
Gov. Kenny Guinn (R) is the closest thing to a bipartisan candidate running this year. He enjoys strong union support, and one recent poll showed him gaining more backing from Democrats than the struggling Democratic nominee, state Sen. Joe Neal (D). In the newly created suburban Las Vegas district, state Sen. Jon Porter (R) leads Clark County Commissioner Dario Herrera (D).
Democrats had counted on a pickup here, but Herrera has been plagued by conflict-of-interest charges and has dauntingly high unfavorable ratings.
Redistricting threw freshman Rep. Jim Matheson (D) out of much of his Salt Lake City base and into 16 more conservative, rural counties, spanning nearly half the state.
He adapted by advertising himself as someone who has no trouble agreeing with President Bush on many issues. The district is Republican, but Matheson seems likely to withstand the challenge from state Rep. John Swallow (R), whose national help came later than he might have wished. Rep. James V. Hansen (R) is retiring, and Rob Bishop, former state House speaker and state GOP chairman, is a clear favorite over advertising executive Dave Thomas (D).
This state, home to Vice President Cheney and an "Old Faithful" for national Republican candidates, is witnessing the unusual this year.
Former U.S. attorney Dave Freudenthal (D) has pushed around businessman and former Wyoming House speaker Eli Bebout (R) in the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Jim Geringer (R). Freudenthal has at least an outside chance of winning, despite Republicans' 2-to-1 registration edge. Even Republicans concede Freudenthal has out-campaigned Bebout and has tied him to the status quo policies of the Geringer administration. Freudenthal has gained some GOP support but faces a rift in his own party from the primary.
Sen. Mike Enzi (R) faces no such problems in his second-term campaign against Joyce Jansa Corcoran (D), a nursing home administrator and former mayor of Lander.