Congressional Races: Tipping the Balance?

October 25, 1992

If the polls are right, the election of a Democrat, Bill Clinton, will end the partisan standoff that has paralyzed Washington for years. Even the most optimistic Republicans now concede that Democrats will retain control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in next month's election.

But exactly what the next two years in Washington will be like depends heavily on precisely who wins in the election this fall of 435 House members and 36 senators.

Will Democrats keep enough seats to maintain a moderate-to-liberal working majority in the House? Or will Republican challengers unseat enough incumbents to make conservatives of both parties the real power-brokers there? Can Democrats pick up enough new Senate seats to forge a filibuster-proof super-majority -- 60 votes -- that would prevent a Republican minority from using delaying tactics to block action?

One fact about the new Congress already is abundantly clear: It will look very different from the present one. There will be more than 100 new House members come January, and some experts think the figure could reach 150 or more. The smaller Senate may welcome a dozen or more freshmen.

For months, winds of political change have howled across the electoral landscape, sweeping incumbent House members from office in record numbers. Rep. Beverly Byron of Maryland was the first to fall, in the Democratic primary last March, and 19 more followed, the most incumbents beaten in primary elections since World War II.

The reallocation of House seats following the 1990 census was one reason an unprecedented number of congressmen chose to retire this year, rather than face the voters again. And it is that shift of political power from the old Democratic cities of the north to the new Republican suburbs of the Sun Belt that is largely responsible for predictions of a modest pickup in House seats for Republicans, though far less than what GOP leaders once hoped for.

A total of nine Senate seats are also open this fall -- that is, no incumbent is running -- while another half-dozen incumbents are in the re-election races of their political lives. The outcomes in these contests will likely determine how completely Democrats control the flow of action on Capitol Hill, and how effective they will be in working with (or against) the next president, whoever he is.

Beginning on this page and continuing inside are reports by Sun staff reporters on four of the most competitive Senate races around the country, plus a thumbnail look at some of the other races worth watching on election night.

TEN RACES TO WATCH

CALIFORNIAINCUMBENT:

John Seymour (R)

CHALLENGER:

Dianne Feinstein (D)

OUTLOOK:

Democrat favored

INCUMBENT:

Democrat retiring

CHALLENGER:

Barbara Boxer (D)

Bruce Herchensohn (R)

OUTLOOK:

Democrat favored

IDAHO:

INCUMBENT:

Republican retiring

CHALLENGER:

Richard Stallings (D)

Dirk Kempthorne (R)

OUTLOOK:

Tossup

ILLINOIS

INCUMBENT:

Democrat lost primary

CHALLENGER:

Carol Braun(D)

Rich Williamson(R)

OUTLOOK:

Democrat favored

Missouri

INCUMBENT:

" Kit Bond (R)

CHALLENGER:

Geri Rothman-Serot (D)

OUTLOOK:

Republican favored

OHIO

INCUMBENT:

John Glenn(D)

CHALLENGER:

Mike DeWine (R)

OUTLOOK:

Democrat favored

OREGON

INCUMBENT

Bob Packwood (R)

CHALLENGER:

Les AuCoin (D)

OUTLOOK:

Tossup

Pennsylvania

INCUMBENT:

Arlen Specter (R)

CHALLENGER:

Lynn Yeakel (D)

OUTLOOK:

Tossup

South Carolina

INCUMBENT:

" Fritz Hollings (D)

CHALLENGER:

Tommy Hartnett (R)

OUTLOOK:

Democrat favored

Washington

INCUMBENT:

Democrat retiring

CHALLENGERS:

Patty Murray (D)

Rod Chandler (R)

OUTLOOK:

Democrat favored

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