The Dog Days of Summer

July 10, 2006 · 12:10 AM EDT

School’s out for summer and families are headed for vacation, and the average American is more likely to contemplate the acceptable number of daily sunscreen applications rather than getting into the weeds of the immigration policy and stances of two congressional candidates. But even though people’s attention will be largely diverted away from politics in the next couple months, there are a handful of political events worth keeping an eye on between now and Labor Day.

July 18. In Georgia, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor and Secretary of State Cathy Cox are locked in a competitive race for the Democratic nomination for governor. Either candidate will start the general election as the underdog against Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), but the race is still worth watching.

August 3. Republican primary voters go to the polls in Tennessee to choose a Senate nominee who will face Memphis Cong. Harold Ford (D) in November. Former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker’s early and heavy television campaign appears to be boosting his poll number as expected. But the real test will be when his under-funded competitors, former Cong. Van Hilleary and former Cong. Ed Bryant, finally get on television with ads of their own. With both Bryant and Hilleary fighting over conservative voters, Corker still has the advantage, but with three credible contenders, the race is still volatile.

Ridiculously crowded open seat races in Tennessee 1, retiring GOP Rep. Bill Jenkins’s seat, and in Tennessee 9, Ford’s open seat, are also on August 3. The primary outcomes are virtually impossible to predict, but both seats will remain in their party’s hands in November.

August 8. Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (D) faces a serious primary challenge from wealthy businessman Ned Lamont (D). Lieberman is being criticized by the liberal wing of his party (including both state activists and liberal bloggers hundreds of miles away) for being too close to President Bush. Lieberman could run as an Independent in the general election, but he would need to start gathering signatures at least a couple weeks before the primary in order to meet the August 9 deadline.

In the Michigan Senate race, Republicans will choose between Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard and the Rev. Keith Butler, a former Detroit City councilor. Bouchard has the edge, but Butler’s profile as an African-American Republican has given him some national attention. Either man would start as the underdog against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D), but GOP insiders certainly believe Bouchard gives them their best chance.

August 15. In Nevada, competitive primaries for governor on both sides will shape the general election race. Cong. Jim Gibbons is the likely Republican nominee, but he faces two credible opponents. And Democrats will choose between Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson and state Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus. Gibson is regarded as the more formidable general election candidate, but Titus currently has the edge for the nomination. The GOP primary in the open 2rd District between Gibbons’s wife, Dawn, Secretary of State Dean Heller, and state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle is also worth watching.

This column first appeared in the July 7, 2006 print edition of the Rothenberg Political Report.