Election '84: Midwest battleground

The nation's Heartland is a major battleground in the Democratic Party's fight to regain control of the US Senate and pull an even larger share of governorships than the 35 the party now holds.

Republicans generally have more to lose in the region than the Democrats do. There are more of them in top-level offices that are being contested in the Nov. 6 national election. All three Midwestern governorships being contested this year - in Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota - are held by Republicans.

Five of the region's eight Senate seats to be voted on are currently in the GOP camp. The Democrats hope to snare three - in Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota - while the Republicans will try to keep what they have and capture a Michigan Senate seat held by a Democrat.

Midwest Democrats have a 66 to 54 advantage in US House seats, and Lynn Cutler, vice-chairwoman of the Democractic National Committee, says farmer dissatisfaction with Reagan policies will help her party fare as well in the region as it did in 1982, ''if farmers vote their self-interest.''

The outlook as of now in the 13-state region: ILLINOIS

One of the most interesting and least predictable races in the Midwest is Democratic Congressman Paul Simon's effort to unseat Republican Sen. Charles Percy.

A moderate seeking his fourth term, Mr. Percy is used to fending off more conservative challengers. Mr. Simon has drawn away much of the organized support from blacks, Jewish leaders, labor unions, labor unions, education groups, and other sources once in the Percy camp.

Percy received more political action committee (PAC) funds than any other Senate candidate between January and June.

Simon argues that Percy-supported Reagan economic policies have hurt Illinois. Percy, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, counters that Simon is too liberal and backward-looking for Illinois voters. ''I'm an optimist; he's a pessimist,'' Percy insisted during a lively first debate in early September in which the veteran senator surprised many by his confidently combative approach.

Most Illinois polls still show the senator with a narrow lead over Simon, but few political analysts will now risk a guess on the outcome.

Illinois Democrats see their biggest challenge in US House races in holding two freshman seats and picking up at least one open seat in November. Former US Rep. Kenneth Gray (D) hopes to keep county states attorney Randy Patchett (R) from getting the seat Simon is leaving. Freshman Rep. Lane Evans (D), who wrested his 17th District seat from the Republicans in 1982, faces a second challenge from former state Sen. Kenneth G. McMillan (R). The conservative GOP candidate paints his opponent as an ''extremist'' with a record few can match when it comes to voting against President Reagan. Congressman Evans, who has strong labor support in the district, supported the nuclear freeze and a halt in aid to Nicaraguan rebels.

The GOP also hopes Sangamon County Board chairman Richard Austin (R) can defeat Rep. Richard Durbin, a mainstream Democrat, who unseated veteran Republican Congressman Paul N. Findlay in 1982.

Republicans admit the southeast Illinois district of Rep. Daniel B. Crane (R) , censured by the House a year ago for sexual misconduct with a congressional page, could be difficult to hold, although Mr. Crane fared very well in the primary. His Democratic opponent is state Sen. Terry Bruce, a conservative on social issues who has strong labor support. INDIANA

President Reagan is expected to score an easy victory in this traditionally Republican state. But while Republican Gov. Robert Orr is expected to win a second term, it may not be as automatic as GOP leaders have assumed.

Democratic state Sen. W. Wayne Townsend, who has strong ties to labor in this ninth-largest industrial state, charges that the 15-year Republican hold on the governorship has largely resulted in housekeeping rather than progress.

Indiana University political scientist Edward Carmines says he thinks Orr will win largely because his campaign is so well funded and the Republican Party so well organized. But while polls show Orr ahead, his lead is not as wide as it has been, and his job approval rating is under 50 percent.

Although polls show Orr ahead, his lead is not as wide as it has been and his job approval rating is under 50 percent.

''There are still a relatively large number of undecided voters, and I see Townsend having a good shot at it,'' says Democratic Governors Association director Chuck Dolan.

Though both parties hold five Indiana congressional seats, each hopes to win back at least one it recently lost. In southwest Indiana's Eighth District, polls indicate freshman Rep. Frank McCloskey (D) is ahead in his race against Richard McIntyre, a young state legislator who supports Reagan on most policy issues. But the district has switched party control three times in the last decade and Republicans are not giving up hope.

For their part, the Democrats want to take back the Third District seat that Rep. John Hiler, a conservative Reagan supporter, took from former House majority whip John Brademas (D) in 1980 and retained in 1982 by less than 4,000 votes. His Democratic challenger is Michael Barnes, a county prosecutor who argues that Mr. Hiler's voting record has hurt the district economically. IOWA

The land of the tall corn may give Democrats their best shot at picking up a new US Senate seat in the Midwest.

Sen. Roger Jepsen (R) is running for a second term as the underdog here, trailing US Rep. Tom Harkin (D) in the polls. But as GOP Gov. Terry Brandstad says, ''He's come from behind before.''

Conservative Senator Jepsen is a fundamentalist Christian who is against abortion and gun control, in favor of tuition tax credits for parents of private and parochial school students, and strongly behind Reagan administration policies, including the defense buildup.

Mr. Harkin, from a conservative district, is more of a dove, concerned about preserving human rights in Central America. He is personally against abortion but favors freedom of choice.

''I have a feeling that in the end it will boil down to personalities,'' says University of Iowa political scientist Russell M. Ross. He cites the senator's somewhat ''arrogant'' attitude, exemplified when Jepsen used his Senate credentials to avoid arrest when stopped by police in Washington, D.C., for driving alone in the fast car-pool lane. The senator later apologized but the coverage at home left a lasting impression.

Some analysts say the real reason Jepsen is in trouble is because Iowa's farm economy has been suffering from the effects of Reagan administration policies. ''Harkin has really been hitting Reagan farm policies and has kept Jepsen on the ropes,'' says Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Bill Roberts. But the GOP's Mr. Craft says he sees no sign of the farmer rebellion Democrats hope for. ''I don't see anything like wholesale voting by farmers for Democrats, '' he says.

Iowa's present congressional split - three Democrats and three Republicans - is expected to hold. KANSAS

Few US Senate seats are considered more secure for Republicans than that of Nancy Landon Kassebaum, daughter of former Kansas governor and 1936 presidential candidate Alf Landon. Her penchant for working hard, avoiding controversy, and voting a moderate to conservative line has helped keep her job approval ratings high among Kansans. Her Democratic opponent, James Maher, president of an investment company, is making his third try for the Senate.

''He's one of the longest long shots,'' concedes Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Roberts.

One Republican congressional seat, held by retiring Rep. Larry Winn Jr. for nine terms, could shift over to the Democratic camp. Competing to represent the state's Third District, which normally leans Republican, are longtime Kansas City Mayor Jack Reardon (D) and Jan Meyers (R), a moderate who has served in the state Senate for the last 12 years. KENTUCKY

The ads Republican Mitchell McConnell is running in his well-financed quest for a US Senate seat are admittedly colorful. In one, a good old country boy and his hound dogs try to track down elusive Sen. Walter D. Huddleston (D) everywhere from the US Capitol to a beach in Puerto Rico. Mr. McConnell, a county executive officer, argues that Senator Huddleston has often missed key Senate votes to give paid speeches to various groups and is a tool of liberal Democratic Party leaders.

Despite the energy of his opposition and the fact that Reagan is favored to win in Kentucky, Huddleston, seeking a third Senate term, continues to enjoy a comfortable lead in the polls. He has spent more than $1 million in his campaign to date.

Kentucky has had two Democratic US senators for the last decade and the pattern is not expected to change in 1984. MICHIGAN

Republicans have targeted the US Senate post held by incumbent Democrat Carl Levin as one of the nation's most vulnerable. Their candidate is former astronaut Jack Lousma, a conservative and strong supporter of President Reagan.

Mr. Lousma, who favors a constitutional ban on abortion and vows he will vote for no tax increases during his term, says Senator Levin is Reagan's greatest foe, voting consistently against the President's programs.

But Lousma was away from Michigan 25 years during his military career and is new to politics. He has been running far behind Senator Levin in most polls.

Levin, a low-key, hard-working liberal (he prefers ''progressive''), has supported the extension of unemployment benefits, limits on auto imports, and arms control measures. Though his approval ratings have not been strong, he does not seem to inspire strong negative feelings either. ''There's no kind of fundamental unhappiness with Carl Levin among the mass of Michigan voters,'' says Wayne State University political scientist Richard Elling. Indeed, Democrats say that if Lousma wins, it will only be because of substantial financial help supplied by the national Republican Party and the added name recognition it will give him.

In US House races, Democrats hope to hang onto the East Lansing seat of Rep. Bob Carr (D) and the north central seat of Rep. Donald Albosta (D), who is challenged by Bill Schuette, a Republican moderate with a well-organized campaign. MINNESOTA

Republican US Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, an affable, energetic campaigner with a well-financed organization and a conservative voting record, has his work cut out for him with Minnesotan Walter Mondale heading the Democratic ticket in the presidential candidate's home state.

But most polls gave Mr. Boschwitz a strong lead over any Democrat prior to the state's Sept. 11 primary.

Joan Growe, in her third term as Minnesota secretary of state, was chosen by the Democrats to oppose Boschwitz. Although she has little legislative experience - two years in the Minnesota House - she has the backing of a long list of women's groups and liberal organizations.

''She's a good campaigner and a fighter - one of our best opportunities to put a woman in the Senate,'' says Democratic National Committee vice-chairman Lynn Cutler.

Boschwitz, a German-Jewish immigrant who started a chain of home-improvement stores in Minnesota before going into government, endorsed the payment-in-kind program for grains and supported a new law that compensates farmers for not milking their cows. His conservative stands in support of a defense buildup and against legalized abortion have bothered many of the state's nuclear-freeze proponents and more liberal voters.

The GOP, which now has only three Minnesota congressional seats to the Democrats' five, wants to pick up two more seats but may not succeed. The party's best prospect is the southeastern First District, long in the Republican camp, which was taken two years ago by Rep. Timothy J. Penny (D). Running on the Republican side is Keith Spicer, a feed company sales manager and graduate of Bob Jones University.

But Mr. Penny, a conservative Democrat and effective campaigner who spends a lot of time in the district, will not be easy to beat. MISSOURI

Republican leaders are increasingly confident the party can hold onto the governorship in this historically Democratic state. Gov. Christopher Bond, who is ineligible to run again, was the first Republican to win that Missouri job in 25 years.

Republican state Attorney General John Ashcroft, reelected to his job with 65 percent of the vote four years ago, survived a tough gubernatorial primary and has strong support in ''outstate'' Missouri.

His Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Kenneth Rothman, is an energetic campaigner and an urban political pro. Recent polls show him running 10 to 15 points behind Mr. Ashcroft, but a large number of voters are still undecided. Mr. Rothman is a St. Louis liberal who spent two decades as a state legislator and has strong labor backing.

In a largely issueless race, which some observers say could hinge on character traits, Ashcroft, the son of a fundamentalist minister and an avid churchgoer, has toured the state singing Gospel duets.

''I've never seen anyone poll better than Ashcroft on character-type questions,'' says University of Missouri School of Arts and Sciences Dean Terry Jones, who has done statewide polling for various candidates since the 1960s. Unless he slips a little in public perception of his character, he's almost impossible to beat.''

Republican Governors Association director Carol Whitney agress, adding, ''People now feel it's Ashcroft's to lose.''

Democratic state Sen. Harriett Woods, who ran a close race against GOP Sen. John Danforth last time around, is expected to win the race for lieutenant governor.

Missouri Democrats, who have six congressional seats vs. the Republicans' three, may lose one or two.

Pro-labor and anti-abortion incumbent Rep. Robert Young (D), running for his fifth term, faces a stiff challenge from former state legislator Jack Beuchner (R) in a largely white-collar district just west of St. Louis which was redrawn two years ago to include more traditional GOP territory. Ninth District incumbent Harold Volkmer (D) faces a strong challenge from Carrie Francke, a 29 -year-old assistant state attorney general and one-time aide to Senator Danforth. NEBRASKA

Though the Democrats currently hold the Nebraska governorship and both US Senate seats, Republicans have long looked on the conservative Cornhusker State as natural Republican territory. Nebraskans voted Democratic for president only once in the last five decades, and Reagan is expected to get the majority vote in 1984.

Still, freshman incumbent US Sen. James J. Exon (D), who was twice governor of state, is expected to have little difficulty winning reelection. Republican challenger Nancy Hoch won her first election in 1982 - to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

Republicans own all three of the state's congressional seats. Only Rep. Hal Daub, challenged by Omaha City Councilman Walt Calinger, is considered in any danger. NORTH DAKOTA

For the moment Gov. Allen Olson (R), who has said outsiders tend to think of his state as producing blizzards and rocks, has a comfortable 20-point lead over state Rep. George Sinner (D) in North Dakota's gubernatorial race.

Seeking his second term, Mr. Olson heads a conservative, low-tax state with a Republican-dominated legislature. But he was forced to raise taxes last year during a revenue crunch and has been criticized for some of his appointments. Two top officials have resigned amid charges of tax evasion and shoplifting.

But the governor has waged an intensive billboard campaign, claiming credit for ''getting things done'' in every realm from increasing jobs to curbing state spending.

''Governor Olson feels he has to work extra hard so there aren't any surprises,'' says GOP Governors Association director Carol Whitney,''and (his prospects are) looking a lot better now than (they were) a few months ago.''

Mr. Sinner, a sugar beet farmer who once headed the state board of education, is running a low-key, less well-funded campaign. He claims the state is adrift from lack of leadership. And he reminds North Dakotans, who traditionally bristle at any outside efforts to control their actions, that the state's governorship has been nationally targeted by Republicans as theirs to keep.

Sinner's strongest support is among urban liberals and younger rural Democrats, but polls suggest that about 20 percent of the voters don't recognize his name. Recalling that Olson himself came from behind in the polls to win on election day in 1978, University of North Dakota political scientist Ronald Pynn predicts a close race. ''Really about the only issue is breach of trust,'' he says,''but in North Dakota these things are taken pretty seriously.'' OHIO

The 1982 recession helped launch Ohio into a new Democratic period at the state level with that party in control of the governorship and both legislative chambers for the first time in two decades. And Democrats may pick up another seat or two in the state Senate this fall.

But President Reagan enjoys a comfortable lead in Ohio polls, and the Republicans could add at least one seat to their 11 to 10 congressional majority. In suburban Cleveland's relatively conservative 19th District, liberal freshman US Rep. Edward F. Feighan (D) faces a strong challenge from Matthew J. Hatchadorian (R), a lawyer of Armenian heritage who is a former state legislator and county auditor.

''The question is whether or not Reagan's coattails will help (Hatchadorian), ''says Roland Busch, a Cleveland State University political scientist.

Also, Republicans hope GOP candidate Frank Venner can win back Toledo's Ninth District seat from freshman Congressman Marcy Kaptur (D), a former member of President Carter's domestic policy staff, who unseated a Republican incumbent in 1982. SOUTH DAKOTA

Popular US Sen. Larry Pressler (R) is expected to have an easy time in his bid for a second term. ''There's nothing to indicate he has any problem,'' says National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Ceci Cole. But Democrat George Cunningham, a lawyer who was an Senate aide to George McGovern and ran Mr. McGovern's presidential primary campaign this year, is waging an energetic fight, particularly on farm issues.

Implying that the state's best interests have suffered, Mr. Cunningham points out that Senator Pressler turned down a position on the Senate Agriculture Committee for one on the Foreign Relations Committee.

''It's an uphill battle, but Cunningham could pull an upset,'' says Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Bill Roberts. South Dakota's lone US House seat appears secure for Rep. Thomas Deschle (D), who seeks a fourth term. WISCONSIN

There's little election excitement in Wisconsin. The current congressional breakdown - five Democrats and four Republicans in the US House - is expected to hold. Democrat Gerald Kleczka, a state senator who in April was elected to succeed the late Democratic Rep. Clement Zablocki in the Fourth District, is favored over Republican Robert Nolan, a Milwaukee dentist.

One chart: 13-State Regional Political Profile. Source: Statistical Abstract.

Population: 62,529,000

White 88.9%

Black 8.9%

Other 2.2%

Total electoral votes: 146

Average turnout rate - 1980:

(Percent of voting-age pop.)

60.4%

US House Delegation:

Democrats 67

Republicans 53

US Senate Delegation:

Democrats 12

Republicans 14

Governorships:

Democrats 7

Republicans 6

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