Close races, fresh faces to watch in US mid-terms

Millions of Americans will cast their votes in early November`s mid-term elections, with all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 36 of the Senate`s 100 seats up for grabs.

Washington: Millions of Americans will cast their votes in early November`s mid-term elections, with all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 36 of the Senate`s 100 seats up for grabs.

A presidential election it is not, but there is plenty at stake in the polls that determine who controls Congress for the final two years of President Barack Obama`s White

House tenure.Voters have much to consider, as they choose not only their representatives in Washington but in some cases their governors, state and local legislators, city councils and judges. Constituents will also be heard on various ballot initiatives, from abortion and marijuana laws to guns and secession.

House: At times it can feel like the lower chamber is in a state of perpetual campaigning, with all its members -- each representing about 700,000 residents -- up for election every two years. Republicans control the chamber with 233 members, compared with 199 Democrats and three vacancies. Barring an unlikely national Democratic wave, the House will remain Republican.

Senate: A total of 53 Democrats, joined by two independents who side with them, form the majority, with Republicans claiming 45 seats. Senators are elected for six-year terms, and just over one-third of the body is up for reelection this year. 
 

Here is where it gets tricky. Twenty one of the 36 senators on November ballots are Democrats, including many in battleground states or states that voted for Republican Mitt Romney over Obama in 2012. Many Senate Democrats rode Obama`s coattails to victory in 2008, but they today face a dramatically different landscape.
 

Amid strong anti-incumbency sentiment among voters, many analysts say Republicans are well-positioned to win six net seats and retake the Senate."This is a 10-state election," said Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, citing the handful of states in play. But polls point to three states where Senate races are especially close.

Colorado: Incumbent Mark Udall is neck-and-neck with Republican Cory Gardner in this western state that increasingly leans Democratic.

Iowa: With Democratic Senate icon Tom Harkin retiring, congressman Bruce Braley has failed to define himself against Republican Joni Ernst, a charismatic local politician who benefits from national party support.

Kansas: In what may be the cycle`s unlikeliest tight contest, incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts is trailing popular independent Greg Orman, after a Democrat bowed out of the race. Orman has not said which party he will side with should he win, and in a recent campaign ad he took potshots at them both.

Other states where Democrats are under serious threat include Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina, while Republicans are strongly challenged in Georgia and

Kentucky.Every two years bright young candidates emerge, with their parties salivating at the prospect of elevating the next political superstar. Here are some candidates poised for national prominence:

Mia Love: Should she win her House race in Utah as expected, this popular former mayor, 38, would become the first black female Republican in congressional history.

Mary Burke: The 55-year-old Democrat is running for governor of Wisconsin. With support from ex-secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the former bike company owner seeks to oust Republican Governor Scott Walker, a sworn enemy of American labor unions.

Tom Cotton: Armed with a Harvard degree and battle-hardened from his army officer duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Senate hopeful Cotton, 37, manages to appeal to both the Republican establishment and the ultra-conservative Tea Party.

Joni Ernst: The self-described Iowa hog castrator, 44, bills herself in her official campaign bio as "Mother. Soldier. Independent leader." She has sparked Republican enthusiasm in a state won twice by Obama.

Alison Lundergan Grimes: Youthful at 35, the Kentucky Democrat aims to derail powerful Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 72.