Election Update

4 November 2002

The balance of power in Washington D.C. could shift tomorrow, and a handful of races could affect the future direction of Internet gaming legislation in the United States.

Democrats hold a one-seat edge in the Senate while the Republican Party holds a six-seat advantage in the House of Representatives, but all that could change as 435 spots in the House are up and 34 Senate posts will be contested at the polls.

In the 1998 mid-term elections, 98 percent of incumbents won their seats. This year, though, unusual sets of circumstances have made for some interesting races throughout the country.

The Republicans have six more seats to defend in the Senate than the Democrats have; the GOP has 20 seats up for reelection while the Democrats have only 14. Additionally, four incumbent Republicans are retiring from the Senate.

In the House, redistricting rules, to account for population shifts, have resulted in some members campaigning on unfamiliar turf.

Among the many legislators up for reelection are a host of politicians who have actively supported or opposed Internet gambling legislation. Following is a rundown of policymakers who've been instrumental in supporting or opposing a prohibition bill and what's likely in store for them tomorrow.

The House

Staying Put

Robert Goodlatte - Republican, Virginia

One of the leaders in the effort to ban Internet gambling in the United States, Bob Goodlatte has tried unsuccessfully to pass various version of his bill since 1996. After stalling again over the summer, the Goodlatte bill was eventually merged into the James Leach's Internet gambling funding bill, which passed the House in October. Goodlatte has no opponent in the midterm elections. He hasn't indicated, presuming the Leach bill dies this month in the Senate, whether he'll support Leach again in 2003 or reintroduce his bill.

Michael Oxley - Republican, Ohio

As chairman of the Financial Services Committee, Republican Michael Oxley paid a key role in getting the Leach bill through committee and before the House, where it passed under the suspension of the rules. He is running for reelection in Ohio's 4th District. Elected to the House in 1981, Oxley is likely to be one of the 90-plus percent of incumbents that will be reelected. He has raised more than $1 million while Democratic hopeful Jim Clark's fun raising topped out at only $10,000 as of early October.

John Conyers - Democrat, Michigan

John Conyers has adamantly opposed the Leach and Goodlatte bills because of what he perceives to be the bills' supporters catering to special interest groups. Conyers has said he will only support a blanket prohibition bill with no exemptions, and cosponsored such a bill in November 2000. That bill died and hasn't been reintroduced. Conyers is seeking reelection in the 14th District of Michigan (covering the Detroit area) against Republican Dave Stone. Conyers, who garnered 93 percent of the vote in his last bid for reelection, is expected to retain his seat.

Barney Frank - Democrat, Massachusetts

Barney Frank has been one of the House's most vocal opponents of the Leach Bill on the grounds that people have the right to choose whether they want to gamble online. Frank is running for his 12th term and is unopposed.

Michael L. Castle - Republican, Delaware

Michael Castle has objected to the Leach bill because of what he considers the bill's failure to adequately define terms. In his words, "There are a lot of words of dubious definition." Castle has held Delaware's only seat in the U.S. House for 10 years and is expected to win by a landslide this year over his Democratic Opponent, Mike Miller.

On the Way Out

John LaFalce - Republican, New York

John LaFalce, who teamed with Rep. James Leach this session to get HR 556 passed in the House of Representatives, is not seeking reelection. He served in the House for 28 years and stated in a press release dated June 26 that he is not retiring but simply switching careers, although he doesn't know what he'll do next. His 29th New York Congressional district seat is being fought for by Democrat Kisun J. Peters and Republican Amory Houghton Jr.

On the Bubble

Jim Leach - Republican, Iowa

One of Internet gambling's biggest opponents in the House of Representatives is Iowa Republican Jim Leach. In each of the last three years, he has introduced legislation aimed at prohibiting Internet gaming. His bill was passed in the House in October and could be brought up during a lame-duck session in the Senate, but political observers say such a scenario is unlikely. Leach, who was first elected in Iowa's 2nd District in 1976, faces a huge challenge in a race that could have implications far beyond the interactive gaming industry. He finds himself in a redrawn district that doesn't include his strong and friendly base of Davenport. The new district includes 20,000 more registered Democrats than it does Republicans. Leach faces Democrat Dr. Julie Thomas, a pediatrician with no previous experience in Washington. She hasn't let that stop her though from making the race too close to call leading up to the election. Despite his years of service, Leach held only a slight lead in the polls last week. Leach said that if his bill doesn't make it to the full Senate this time around, he would reintroduce it in the spring session if he's reelected. Thomas has not vocalized her position on Internet gambling.

The Senate

Staying Put

Jon Kyl - Republican, Arizona

Jon Kyl is not up for reelection this year. After serving four terms in the U.S. House, he was elected to the Senate in 1994 and reelected in 2000. Kyl is known within the Internet gambling industry for having introduced prohibition legislation a few times during his time in the Senate. In December of 1995, he introduced his Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, S 1495; it died in the Judiciary Committee that same year. Kyl introduced his bill again in February of 1997. It passed in the Senate in 1998 by a 90-10 vote after being attached to an appropriations measure, but died in the House at the close of the session. The bill was introduced a third time in 1999 and passed by a voice vote, but again died in the House.

On the Bubble

Tim Johnson - Democrat, South Dakota

Tim Johnson played a role in squelching the Leach bill when arrived in the Senate by introducing a competing bill, which stalled the movement of the Leach measure. Johnson's bill is an extension of the Federal Wire Act. Unlike Leach's bill, it has no carve-outs for horse racing or Indian gaming. While Johnson has played a role in keeping the Leach bill at bay, insiders feel that the Johnson bill wouldn't get past the House without due its lack of exemptions. Johnson is at the end of his six-year term an is on tomorrow's ballot. Some polls have him ahead of Republican challenger Rep. John Thune; others have Hume leading by a small margin. In the latest MSNBC/Zogby poll, Johnson was leading Thune by 5 percent, with 52 percent of the vote. A USA Today Gallup Poll has Johnson with a three point edge, with 48 percent of the vote.

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.