- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 5, 2002

For obvious reasons, most of the hullabaloo over the elections has revolved around the issue of which party will win the Senate and the House on Tuesday, That matters a lot, but some races matter a lot more for conservatives than others. (Does any conservative really care whether Connie Morella, who is trying to get to the left of her Democratic opponent, wins?)

Quality matters too. Republicans might win the Senate, but conservatives could quickly become disenchanted with the way the weak-kneed moderate centrist Republicans govern.

So as an election night primer, I've made a list of the 10 top races for conservatives. These are races involving a clear clash in ideology between the candidates and where public policy directions could be altered depending on who wins.

(1) California Gov. Gray Davis vs. Bill Simon California is the big enchilada. Mr. Davis has been a catastrophically bad governor for four years.

He has swung a wrecking ball at the economy, dug the state into a monstrous sized budget deficit ditch, and completely mishandled the electricity crisis, by buying up electric power at twice the market rate a boneheaded move that is costing Californians billions of dollars. Bill Simon, despite a number of dreadful campaign gaffes, would be a free market conservative in the governors office.

What's at stake? If Mr. Davis wins, it confirms that California has been converted hopelessly into a one party state.

(2) Florida Gov. Jeb Bush vs. Bill McBride Mr. Bush should (must) win. He has been a superb governor.

What's at stake? If Jeb wins, he becomes the front runner for the presidential ticket in 2008.

(3) New Hampshire Senate: John Sununu vs. Jeanne Shaheen. The race is a toss-up.

What's at stake? First, conservatives, need the smart free-marketeer Mr. Sununu in the Senate so he can be groomed to be the next Phil Gramm.

Second, Republicans can't let New Hampshire, the one conservative foothold in the Northeast, go Democratic.

(4) Indiana District 2: Chris Chocola vs. Jill Long Thompson Pits a classic Reagan Republican vs. a Clinton Democrat.

What is at stake? If Mr. Chocola wins, it drives a stake through the heart of Emily's List and other radical feminist groups that have spent millions on this race.

(5) South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford vs. Jim Hodges Mr. Sanford, the challenger and former stellar conservative in the U.S. House against a bumbling incumbent.

What's at stake: Mr. Sanford has a free market reformist agenda (including eliminating the state income tax and school choice) that will make conservatives drool.

(6) South Carolina Senate Lindsey Graham vs. Alex Sanders this is the Strom Thurmond seat.

What's at stake? Whoever wins will likely hold the seat for 50 years.

(7) Arizona Gov. Matt Salmon vs. Janet Napolitano Mr. Salmon, another star conservative congressman from the class of '94 against the trial lawyer's best friend.

What's at stake? If Miss Napolitano and her trial-lawyer funders win, they will move this conservative state in a dramatically left-wing direction.

(8) Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum vs. Jim Doyle Democrats favored to win here after Tommy Thompson's four-term stint.

What's at stake? Priority No. 1 for the teachers unions and the Democrats is to defund the historic and fabulously successful school voucher program in Milwaukee.

(9) Pennsylvania District 15: Pat Toomey vs. Ed O'Brien Mr. Toomey should win again in this brutally tough union district whose biggest town is Allentown.

What's at stake? A Toomey victory proves that pro-free trade, pro-Social Security choice, pro-tax cut Republicans can win in Democratic districts. Voters respect legislators who stick to their guns. And they like tax cuts too. All wobbly Republicans should pay attention.

(10) New Jersey Senate Doug Forrester vs. Frank Lautenberg: The battle for the New Jersey Senate seat leans Democratic. Mr. Forrester is no great shakes for conservatives.

What's at stake? The principle that cheaters never prosper.

So there you have my top 10 list. Did I leave any high-priority races off the list? E-mail me at [email protected]

Stephen Moore is president of the Club for Growth.

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