Democrat Joseph R. Biden Jr., about to turn 60, has held the Senate seat for exactly half his life, and unless a huge upset occurs in his rematch with his 1996 opponent, businessman Ray Clatworthy (R), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee will have his sixth term.
District of Columbia
In Washington, D.C., Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) appears likely to win a second four-year term, despite a campaign marred by scandal when his nominating petitions were disallowed after they were found to be full of fake names. Williams won as a write-in candidate in the primary and now faces D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz (R), who lost to him four years ago.
Election night should be a nail-biter in Maryland. Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) faces Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) of Baltimore County in the fight to succeed Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D). Townsend entered the contest with clear advantages in name recognition, fundraising and poll numbers. But Ehrlich wiped out her lead, capitalizing on a sluggish campaign, dissension among Democrats and Townsend's gaffes, as he donned moderate garb in this heavily Democratic state.
The 8th District is home to a fierce race between 16-year Rep. Constance A. Morella (R) and state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen (D). Morella, one of the GOP's most liberal members, is asking voters to remember her years of constituent service and her independent voting record. Van Hollen counters by telling the usually Democratic constituency that his election would help put Democrats in control of the House, thus advancing the liberal agenda.
In another close race, Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) is running against former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley (R) for the seat Ehrlich left open. After surviving a difficult primary, Ruppersberger faced a tough challenge from Bentley, a pro-union conservative whose hawkish stands on defense and against free trade played well in suburban Baltimore. But Ruppersberger now may be edging ahead.
Just five weeks before Election Day, political novice and businessman Doug Forrester (R) was leading Sen. Robert G. Torricelli by double digits, amid persistent public attention to the Democrat's ethical lapses. But everything changed when Torricelli folded his reelection campaign and three-term former senator Frank Lautenberg (D) came out of retirement at age 78 to replace him. Now, with the focus having shifted to such issues as gun control, abortion rights, environmental protection and prescription drugs, polls show Lautenberg leading comfortably.
The retirement of Rep. Marge Roukema (R) has created a race where ideology wars with partisan labels. Ophthalmologist Anne Sumers (D), until recently a Republican, claims the Roukema heritage of being a supporter of abortion rights and the environment, in contrast to Assemblyman Scott Garrett (R), a conservative who twice came close to defeating Roukema in the GOP primary. The district is strongly Republican, and Garrett has the edge. Rep. Rush Holt (D) holds a marginal seat in Princeton but is favored over former Secretary of State DeForest Buster Soaries (R), who would be the first African American Republican elected to the House from New Jersey.
When Elizabeth Dole (R), a former Cabinet member and Red Cross president, began her race to succeed retiring Sen. Jesse Helms (R), state GOP Chairman Bill Cobey warned her, "It will be nasty and close." He was right about the free-spending battle. In the closing week, polls have shown Erskine Bowles (D), wealthy investment banker and former Clinton White House chief of staff, steadily whittling the lead Dole has enjoyed from the beginning. Late-arriving help from his defeated primary opponent, former state House speaker Dan Blue (D), has helped energize the black voters Bowles desperately needs. Republicans are grateful Bowles's primary was delayed from May to September, and hope that Dole can hold off his late charge in the economically depressed Tar Heel state.
North Carolina gained a House seat. State Sen. Brad Miller (D) is favored over investment broker Carolyn Grant (R) in the new Raleigh-based district. Rep. Robin Hayes (R), thought to be in trouble over a crucial vote for presidential trade authority, is holding off attorney Chris Kouri (D). State Sen. Frank Ballance (D) is set to succeed retiring Rep. Eva Clayton (D).
The governorship regularly switches parties every eight years, and it's the Democrats' turn. Former Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell (D) has led state Attorney General Mike Fisher (R) ever since Rendell's surprisingly strong primary victory over state Auditor General Robert Casey Jr. No Philadelphian has been elected governor in almost a century, but Rendell has great appeal in the populous suburbs, and multiple polls show him with a double-digit lead. Mark Schweiker (R), who succeeded Tom Ridge (R) as governor when Ridge became homeland security director, chose not to run.
Pennsylvania lost two House seats in reapportionment. Republican redistricting forced Reps. Robert A. Borski (D) of Philadelphia and William J. Coyne (D) of Pittsburgh to retire, and a defeat for Rep. Frank R. Mascara (D) in a primary against Rep. John Murtha (D). Reps. George Gekas (R) and Tim Holden (D) were thrown together. The Harrisburg-area district has a GOP majority, but Holden, a "Blue Dog" conservative Democrat, has pressed Gekas so hard that President Bush and Vice President Cheney have made multiple visits to try to salvage the seat. If anyone has the edge, it's Holden.
However, two other Democratic incumbents have run into late trouble. Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D) has come under fire for steering federal funds to a family business and could lose this normally safe seat to Hazleton Mayor Louis Barletta (R). Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D) is being hammered by optometrist Melissa Brown (R), who has opened her own purse to put him in jeopardy.
In a newly created Philadelphia suburban district, state Sen. Jim Gerlach (R) is favored over attorney Dan Wofford (D), son of former senator Harris Wofford (D). And in Mascara's redrawn district, now with a big GOP majority, state Sen. Tim Murphy (R) should have little difficulty defeating Jack Machek (D), a local school official.
Democrats decided it was pointless to challenge Sen. John W. Warner (R), so he is easing gracefully into his fifth term. There's no action in House races either, thanks to a protect-the-incumbents redistricting deal.