Last week we covered the campaigns of Ken Salazar in Colorado as well as Melissa Bean and Alex Alben in Illinois and Washington State. Today, we're going to take a look at some underdogs in the 2004 election, who nonetheless have advantages that may give them victory in November. These campaigns are those of Paul Van Dam in Utah's Senate race, and two House candidates, Charlie Broomfield and Diane Farrell, of Missouri and Connecticut, respectively.
So, without further ado, let's take a look at some of the races that matter in 2004!
Paul Van Dam-
At first glance, Utah appears to be an unforgiving place for Democrats. With only one Democrat elected to either statewide or federal office (that being Congressman Jim Matheson), and with President Bush leading John Kerry 64-31 in a recent independent poll of the state, you'd expect Senator Bob Bennett (Republican) to breeze to reelection.This is not necessarily the case in 2004.
With a reinvigorated Democratic Party in the state (under the leadership of the young, charismatic Donald Dunn), and with the GOP likely to nominate a conservative Republican over the moderate incumbent Governor (Olene Walker), Democrats have a shot at winning some races in the Beehive State in 2004. One of those races is the US Senate race. This race, in a state where the last Democratic Senator was in the 1970's, features Bennett up against former Attorney General Paul Van Dam.
Paul Van Dam was born in 1938 in Utah, the son of an ironworker. After pulling himself up by his bootstraps, as well as serving in the US Army Reserves as a Judge Advocate General, he became the DA for Salt Lake County. There, he became well known in Utah and in the nation for the first prosecution of serial killer Ted Bundy. In 1988, he overcame a GOP tide in the state to oust the longtime incumbent AG of Utah, and became the only elected Democrat in statewide office. During his term, he established the state's first Consumer Protection Unit, and chaired the National AG's Anti-trust Committee. He would have likely won a second term in 1992, but he chose to retire from politics instead. Now, after a decade in retirement, he is returning to politics. Why? "George Bush." is his answer, according to the Deseret News.
Van Dam admittedly faces an uphill climb in his bid for the US Senate. The Bennett name is still golden in Utah after decades of public service, as Bennett's father was a US Senate for many years as well. However, Van Dam has a few advantages as well. The fact that he was elected statewide in a GOP year (where a Bush clobbered a Massachusetts liberal in the state) in Utah shows that he can win independent and moderate Republican voters over to his side. In Utah, 74% of registered voters are independents, and Van Dam should be able to win a great deal of them over to his side (with Democrats mustering just 6% of the electorate, he'll need roughly 60% of them to win). In addition, Bennett has remained largely ineffective in the Senate, staying in the shadow of Senator Orrin Hatch. Bennett has been under fire recently for voting in favor of allowing nuclear waste to be transported through the state to Nevada.With Democrats having a good shot at the Governorship in 2004, Paul Van Dam may surprise a lot of folks in the Senate race. His campaign website is http://www.vandamussenate.com .
Charlie Broomfield- Missouri's 6th District is one of the most competitive ones in the nation-on paper. After all, it has virtually even registration between the two parties, and was a close finish between Bush and Gore in 2000. However, Congressman Sam Graves, who narrowly won in 2000, won with 63% in 2002 against a weak opponent. His opponent in 2004, Charlie Broomfield, is no weak challenger, and the DCCC is targeting this race for precisely that reason. The district, which stretches from the Kansas City Suburbs into the "Heartland of America" (Rural Missouri), includes the towns of Liberty, Saint Joseph, and includes Clay and Platte counties just north of Kansas City. Guess what-Sam Graves lives in the northeast corner of the district, where 1% of the population is! By contrast, Charlie Broomfield lives and works in the population center of the district, Clay and Platte counties.
Charlie Broomfield is another unlikely, yet strong candidate for Congress. Born in 1937 to a poor, working class family, he joined his father at the local box factory at age 16 (he worked the night shifts and went to school in the daytime). After graduating from William Jewell College, he taught American History/Government for a time, then went into politics. In 1964, he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives, and served four terms. In 1974, he went on to be elected as a Clay County Commissioner, and served until 1990 in that post. From 1976 on, he was in the private sector as well, forming a consulting business, a storage facility business and also served as President of the Missouri Cable Telecommunications Association (MCTA) for 20 years. After retiring from his work in 2001, he began to plan a run for Congress in 2003. I had the honor of speaking to Mr. Broomfield, and he clearly is a wise man with some great ideas for the district. He told me he plans to concentrate on the issues of jobs, health care and the national debt.
Broomfield is a much stronger candidate against Graves than the Congressman's 2002 opponent was. First off, Broomfield has already raised a strong amount of cash, most of it from small donors. Second, he hails from the area of the district where the people are-over 50% of the district already knows who Charlie Broomfield is. Thirdly, Graves was recently involved in a scandal involving a campaign aide who ambushed Broomfield at a campaign event and snapped dozens of photos of him at close range. The local DA is considering pressing Assault charges against the aide, named Jason Klindt.
The incident has actually helped Broomfield by raising his name recognition in the district. All in all, Charlie Broomfield has an excellent shot at making this race competitive, and possibly winning back the 6th district for the Democrats in 2004. His website is http://www.broomfieldforcongress.com .
Diane Farrell- Connecticut's 4th District at first glance would seem like a foolish attempt by Democrats to win a House seat. After all, the incumbent is Republican Chris Shays, co-writer of the Campaign Finance Reform bill in the House. However, a closer look shows that, in a Democratic-leaning district with a strong Democratic opponent, Shays might lose. Diane Farrell is that opponent, and that district is almost certain to support John Kerry in November.
Diane Farrell was born in 1955, and moved to Connecticut as a child. She currently serves as First Selectwoman (essentially Mayor) of Westport, Connecticut, in the state's southwestern corner (the district also includes Stamford and Greenwich). She has been elected and reelected in landslides to the post, winning plenty of Republican and Independent voters in each race. In addition, she has served in numerous leadership positions in Westport, including the Finance Committee. As a mother of two, a community leader and a popular public figure, Farrell is the strongest opponent to Shays in several cycles.
With the GOP in Connecticut reeling from the scandals and possible impeachment surrounding Governor John Rowland, and with John Kerry likely to sweep the districts, Farrell will also have the wind of public opinion in her favor. Although Shays is a tough incumbent, remember this: in 2000, a weaker Democrat held him to 57% of the vote. With the same conditions, a top-notch challenger like Diane Farrell could make this race worth watching. Her website is http://www.farrellforcongress.com .