Typically, off-year elections are both far more predictable and far less interesting than presidential election years. Not in 1994.

As November 8 approaches, statewide and local races throughout the country feature some of the most polarizing and provocative races this nation has ever seen. Opposing candidates, in many cases, represent fundamentally different world-views and thus radically different concepts of how the nation should order itself. What a difference a culture war makes.

In Pennsylvania, incumbent U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford, often viewed as a Bill Clinton-style Democrat, faces a stiff challenge from pro-life Congressman Rick Santorum in what is widely regarded as one among many referenda on the Clinton administration.

In California, seven-term incumbent congressman Vic Fazio, who earlier this year labeled Christian conservatives the "fire-breathing radical right," is being pressed by one of those conservatives, Tim LeFever. (See "The Definitive Showdown")

In Ohio, Republican Mike Dewine, who received the support of Christian conservatives for his party's nomination for the Senate, faces off against Democratic opponent Joel Hyatt. The Religious Right also has been credited with handing Iran-contra figure Oliver North of Virginia the Republican nomination for senator. North, involved in a three-person race, has been running neck and neck with Democrat Charles Robb in pre-election polls.

As for the big picture, optimistic Republicans have their eyes on the biggest political prize of all: wresting Congress from the Democratic party's dominance.

Congressional Quarterly (CQ,) reports, "For the first time in 40 years, Democrats face the prospect of losing functional control of the House."

Usually only a few dozen Senate and ...

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