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Some Lawmakers Breathing Easy About November

July 8, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Ten Republican House members are breathing easy about the fall elections, among them two freshmen and Ways and Means chairman Bill Archer of Texas.

Democrats failed to recruit candidates to run against the 10, despite an all-out effort nationally to unseat first-term Republicans and regain control of the House.

The first-termers without Democratic opposition in November include Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Matt Salmon of Arizona.

Archer, who represents the area around Houston and is a relentless critic of the federal income tax system, will win his 14th term.

Other Republicans unopposed are Reps. Sam Johnson of Texas; Harold Rogers of Kentucky; Bill Barrett of Nebraska; 13th-termer Floyd Spence of South Carolina, chairman of the National Security Committee.

Three Floridians have no Democratic opposition. They include Reps. Tillie Fowler; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen; and Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

In contrast, Republicans have failed to field candidates in two districts thus far, those of Reps. John Lewis in Georgia and Alan Mollohan in West Virginia.

Filing deadlines are still ahead in several states, so the roster of candidates enjoying an easy ride to Election Day could increase.

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Democrats have the opposite problem in Vermont, where they evidently feel that having one candidate is one too many.

Rep. Bernard Sanders, a socialist independent with a liberal voting record, is seeking his fourth term in the House, and Democrats have given him their tacit support in the hope they can keep the seat from falling to Republican challenger Susan Sweetser.

But several days ago, attorney Jack Long, a former environmental official in the administration of Democratic Gov. Howard Dean, decided to enter the race as a Democrat.

Democrats in Washington reacted swiftly _ and none too cozily.

Rob Engel, political director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, called Long. Engel said, ``We were left with the belief that he supported (GOP House Speaker) Newt Gingrich and Susan Sweetser.″

Long recalls the conversation with Engel differently. ``He wanted to convince me to withdraw from the race,″ he said in an interview. ``We were not very far into the conversation when he started getting really agitated to the extent that he was yelling.″

Long says he’s in the race to stay, would vote against Gingrich and supports President Clinton’s programs. ``I’m a moderate candidate. Mr. Sanders is on the far left of the political spectrum and Susan Sweetser has embraced Gingrich and (House Majority Leader Dick) Armey,″ he said.

Engel was quoted in a newspaper in Vermont as suggesting that Long might be a Republican ``plant″ to help topple Sanders, an allegation that Long denied. ``It’s more than silly, it’s just preposterous,″ he said.

For their part, Republicans couldn’t be happier.

``In what truly must be a first, the national Democrats don’t want one of their own to run for a key swing district,″ crowed Rep. Bill Paxon of New York, chairman of the GOP House campaign committee.

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When he announced plans to retire more than a year ago, Wisconsin GOP Rep. Steve Gunderson didn’t know that he’d be in line to become chairman of the House Agriculture Committee if he was able to win one more term. At the time, the Democrats controlled the House, and besides, Gunderson was several rungs down the seniority ladder among Republicans.

But in the past 18 months, the Republicans have won control of the House, the committee chairman, Kansas Rep. Pat Roberts, decided to run for the Senate and the next-in-line lawmaker, Rep. Bill Emerson of Missouri, died of cancer,

Even so, Gunderson says he won’t change his mind unless another contender gets out.

That’s not likely. Fellow Republican Jim Harsdorf, a former state senator, has been running for months and last week filed his candidacy papers. ``He is irrevocably in the race,″ says a spokesman, Blane Huppert.

Gunderson, 45, serving his eighth term, has until next Tuesday’s filing deadline to change his mind. Last week, in a tour of his district, he said there was a ``one in 10 chance″ of another run because of the excitement of a chairmanship in ``a time of change in the agriculture community.″

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