So Far, 20 Lawmakers Face No Major Party Challenger in '06

The calendar says there are more than seven months until Election Day. But lawmakers in a select group can relax. They have no major party opponent on the November ballot.

Among them are 13 Democrats and seven Republicans, according to official Web sites maintained by state election officials. There are first-termers like Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., and Charlie Dent, R-Pa; and veterans such as nine-term Illinois Democrat Jerry Costello and Rep. Chip Pickering, a fifth-term Republican from Mississippi.

Texas, where state political clashes loom large in the national struggle for House control, has six incumbents without major party opponents. They are Democratic Reps. Al Green, Silvestre Reyes, Charlie Gonzalez, Lloyd Doggett and Henry Cuellar, and Republican Mike Conaway.

The shortage of competition in those districts masks a larger struggle for control of the House, in which Democrats must gain 15 seats to win a majority.

"We're proud of our strong class of candidates across the country," said Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Democratic campaign committee. "There are Democratic candidates for change. We're going to make for competitive races and a very tough time for Republican incumbents."

Carl Forti, a spokesman for the House Republican campaign committee, said the GOP is "focusing on fielding candidates in the competitive races, unlike the Democrats who promised to have a challenger in every GOP district Kerry won but have already failed to fulfill this promise." That was a reference to Dent, who sits in a district that Bush lost in 2004 to Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Others without major party opposition so far, according to the Web sites, include Democrats Hilda Solis of California, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Robert Brady and Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania; Tim Ryan of Ohio, and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon. Republicans are Gary Miller and Darrell Issa of California and Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania. No Democrat filed to run against GOP Rep. Jim Leach in Iowa, but he is expected to draw a rival once the party holds its state convention.

The list is all but certain to grow as filing deadlines pass in other states.