Handful of House Races to Decide Power

A handful of competitive races will decide who controls the U.S. House of Representatives.

As they are every two years, 435 House seats are up for grabs, although only 57 are considered competitive.

Democrats currently hold four of the 57, putting the GOP on defense.

The Democrats need to pick up 15 seats to gain control of the House.

Chances for Democratic control seem more likely in the House than in the Senate. Early in this campaign season, the Democrats expanded their playing field by taking advantage of the president's tumultuous political year, recruiting strong candidates and raising early money.

"One of the reasons is these candidates had an opportunity to put their organizations together, build on the ground, and define themselves before negative campaigns defined them for them," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen Jr., D-Md., during a recent news conference on the midterms.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has raised $108 million for the election cycle; the National Republican Congressional Committee $152 million.

At the same event, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York said, ultimately, each race boiled down to one thing: the candidates.

"Although House races are debated on cable news by national pundits," Reynolds said, "we are dealing with fierce contests fought by local personalities on local pocketbook issues."

This campaign season thrived on the localization of national issues, a strategy the Democrats used to their advantage to thrust certain races, however local, into the national spotlight.

The war in Iraq has been a defining issue in this election, driving vote preferences.

In preliminary exit poll results, nearly six in 10 voters disapprove of the war, while about four in 10 approve.

Approval of the war was higher, 51 percent, in the 2004 election. And about four in 10 now "strongly" disapprove of the war, up from 32 percent two years ago.

Related to concerns about the war in Iraq, voters are more apt today to say the country's seriously off on the wrong track than to say it's going in the right direction.

The last time this view was more negative than positive was in 1994, when Republicans took control of the House of Representatives.


National Democrats were keeping a careful watch on Indiana's 7th Congressional District to ensure voting problems in African-American neighborhoods wouldn't endanger incumbent Rep. Julia Carson, D-Ind., against opponent Republican Eric Dickerson.

Carson told ABC News' Julia Bain that earlier problems had been corrected, for the most part. Carson's campaign said that most of the problems with optical-scan machines in the 7th District had been addressed this morning.


No House race has received as much national attention as the fight for Illinois' 6th Congressional District.

One of four Democratic Iraq War veterans running for the House, Tammy Duckworth, an Army pilot who lost both legs in a 2004 attack, faces Republican State Sen. Peter Roskam in a right-leaning district represented for the last three decades by retiring Republican Rep. Henry Hyde.

Roskam holds a clear funding advantage over Duckworth and has focused his campaign on immigration and taxation.

Duckworth has attacked Roskam for insider status in Washington, most notably his association with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who resigned amid scandal earlier this year.


NRCC Chairman Reynolds identified Arizona's 8th District -- the seat of retiring Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe -- as one of the toughest seats for Republicans to hold on to in this time.

The immigration debate that has consumed Arizona is indicative of a larger issue the GOP faces in the arena of immigration reform.

Republican candidate Randy Graf is highly critical of the Bush administration's stance on immigration, which he describes as too soft, while Democrat Gabrielle Giffords nearly echoes the president's immigration platform.

To further complicate matters, Kolbe withheld an endorsement of Graf in the district, saying in a written statement, "There are such profound and fundamental differences between his views and mine on several key issues that I would not be true to my own principles were I to endorse him now for the general election in November."


Tinged with scandal, three other congressional districts also occupy a national interest.

The race for Florida's 16th District cannot escape the shadow of former Republican Rep. Mark Foley's teenage page scandal as much as the Republican contender, Joe Negron, might like it to.

Under Florida's election rules, in order to cast a ballot for Negron, Florida voters have to vote on a ballot that reads "Mark Foley."

The NRCC pumped more than $1.5 million into the race in October, hoping to educate voters and hold on to the seat.

Ultimately, election officials in the 16th District agreed to post signs at voting precincts informing voters that a vote for Foley counted for Negron.

After protests by Florida's Democratic Party, the signs also mentioned Democratic candidate Tim Mahoney and the unaffiliated Emmie Ross to avoid unfair electioneering.


Republican state Sen. Joy Padgett and Democrat Zack Space are competing to succeed former Republican Rep. Bob Ney following Ney's resignation after pleading guilty in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling probe.


In the 22nd District of Texas, Democrat Nick Lampson faces Republican Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs for former DeLay's vacated seat.

Earlier this year, DeLay surveyed the political landscape and realized he was in serious jeopardy of losing his seat in November because of his indictment in a felony campaign finance case and the investigation into his connection to Abramoff.

Texas election law required the indicted DeLay to remain on the Nov. 7 ballot, leaving Sekula-Gibbs to contest as a write-in candidate.

Both Lampson and Sekula-Gibbs have been the focus of national attention and financial support -- Lampson from early direct contributions anticipating a run against DeLay; Sekula-Gibbs from the National Republican Congressional Committee offsetting the difficulty of her write-in campaign.


In Connecticut, the race between Republican Rep. Christopher Shays and Democratic challenger Diane Farrell is a tight rematch from 2004, when Shays beat Farrell by a four-point margin in a district that favored Democratic Sen. John Kerry over President Bush for president.

A nine-term, left-leaning Republican, Shays endorsed a timetable for troop withdrawal in an effort to recruit anti-war Democrats.

Farrell opposes a timetable in favor of an exit plan.

Officials announced that 13,000 new voters had registered in Connecticut's 4th Congressional District -- 5,740 registered as Democrats, more than double the 2,315 Republicans.


In Pennsylvania, the Senate race between incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum and Democratic challenger Bob Casey takes political center stage, but congressional races made headlines when the Federal Election Commission released reports indicating that the national campaign committees had spent in the neighborhood of $18 million to help candidates in five House races across the Keystone State.

The financial influx has surrounded three congressional races, particularly in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where Democratic voter registration has increased in what was once a traditionally Republican area.