Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

A Look at Potential Switches in Our House Overview

In House on October 6, 2014 at 11:40 am

Now in the first full week of October, it is time to peruse the aggregate House political situation. The Republicans appear to be a cinch to retain control of the body, but several individual seats could well change hands. Below is a quick description of those with the strongest potential of switching parties.

Democratic Seats Headed to Republicans


• NC-7 (Rep. Mike McIntyre-D):
The southeast North Carolina seat is now no contest with Rep. McIntyre retiring. The closest election district of 2012 now becomes an easy ride for Republican former state Sen. David Rouzer.

• UT-4 (Rep. Jim Matheson-D): This was the site of another close 2012 race, but veteran Rep. Matheson’s retirement should leave this south Salt Lake City seat in the hands of Republican Mia Love. Her victory percentage might be a bit lower against attorney Doug Owens (D) than many today project, but Love is almost assuredly headed to Congress.

Democratic Seats Trending Republican

• NY-21 (Rep. Bill Owens-D): It was always believed that when the Republicans and Conservatives could get behind the same candidate, the seat would return to the GOP. Such is the case this year, and with Rep. Owens not seeking re-election, Republican former White House aide Elise Stefanik is well positioned to defeat businessman Aaron Woolf (D).

Republican Seats Trending Democratic

• IA-3 (Rep. Tom Latham-R): Rep. Latham’s retirement opens what is a swing Des Moines-anchored congressional district. State Sen. Staci Appel, unopposed for the Democratic nomination, has taken advantage of the Republicans splitting their votes among six candidates before finally settling upon former congressional aide David Young in a Republican district convention. Even though Young placed fifth in the primary, he was able to win the district convention. Appel leads in polling and fundraising, and is running the superior campaign. Young is battling to make the race close, but the Democrats still have the inside track to converting this seat.

Republican Toss-up Seats

• AR-2 (Rep. Tim Griffin-R): Rep. Griffin running for lieutenant governor opens the Little Rock seat, and the campaign between Republican banker French Hill and former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays (D) is turning into a tight contest. Hays’ strong ads, invoking business themes and job creation, are moving him into position to upset Hill. The Republicans are responding with a major attack theme targeting Hays.

• CA-31 (Rep. Gary Miller-R): The San Bernardino seat is open with Rep. Miller’s retirement, and Democrats eye this as a key opportunity to convert a Republican seat. Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D) is strong with national Democrats and the activist base, but he has not performed particularly well within the congressional electorate either this year or in 2012. Republicans nominated former Navy veteran Paul Chabot (R) who is utilizing a strong grassroots campaign. Aguilar has a slight edge because Chabot has not raised sufficient funding to become highly competitive. Therefore, the Democrat could win here by default.

• CO-6 (Rep. MIke Coffman-R): Rep. Coffman was a victim of the 2011 court-drawn redistricting map that added 42 percent new territory to the previous 6th District, most of which was more favorable to a Democratic candidate. Coffman, a winner in 2012 with only 48 percent of the vote, now faces former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D). With both candidates raising huge dollars, and independent allies of both candidates spending heavily, this could become the most expensive race in the country. At this point, Rep. Coffman likely enjoys the slightest of advantages.

• FL-2 (Rep. Steve Southerland-R): The panhandle district of Florida is inherently conservative, but the addition of the Tallahassee region makes the seat politically marginal. Sophomore Rep. Southerland faces Leon County school official Gwen Graham (D), who is the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham (D). Ms. Graham has orchestrated a strong challenge, which would be far more formidable in a presidential year rather than a mid-term. The last month of this campaign will be telling.

• NY-11 (Rep. Michael Grimm-R): The incumbent’s indictment for certain business activities before he was elected to Congress has obviously clouded this race and zapped him of adequate campaign resources. Even so, Grimm is still running even with his Democratic opponent, NYC Councilman Domenic Recchia. In the last month, Recchia’s monetary advantage will likely take hold giving him the edge going into Election Day. This is probably the best Democratic conversion prospect in the country.

Democratic Toss-Up Seats

• AZ-1 (Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick-D): A new 1st District poll (North Star Opinion Research; released Oct 3) gives challenger Andy Tobin, the Republican state House Speaker, a 48-42 percent lead over Rep. Kirkpatrick. Democrats dispute the poll’s accuracy but have yet to produce numbers of their own. This is a swing district that has both elected and defeated Kirkpatrick. The immigration issue probably gives Tobin a further boost in this east Arizona region.

• AZ-2 (Rep. Ron Barber-D): The Tucson seat could be the site of a seat change as GOP nominee Martha McSally, who came close to defeating Barber in 2012, is well positioned for victory. A midterm turnout model and a negative reaction to the immigration issue could well propel McSally to a win.

• CA-26 (Rep. Julia Brownley-D):
The Ventura County district was drawn to be a highly competitive congressional seat, and that goal has been achieved. In 2014, freshman Rep. Brownley and state Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R) are doing battle. This race filters into the Toss-up category but recent reports suggest that the incumbent has improved her position.

• CA-52 (Rep. Scott Peters-D): Polling yields that former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio (R) was leading freshman Rep. Peters in early polling, but now the incumbent has come roaring back. This is a pure toss-up, but Peters has regained the momentum. The last month of the campaign could well dictate the final outcome.

• FL-26 (Rep. Joe Garcia-D): Rep. Garcia picked up this seat when freshman Rep. David Rivera (R) self-destructed under scandal. Now, Miami-Dade school board member Carlos Curbelo is attempting to re-claim the seat for his Republican Party. The district should lean toward the GOP under a midterm turnout model, since it was drawn to elect a Republican in the 2011 redistricting plan. The turnout will be the determining factor in this race.

• IL-10 (Rep. Brad Schneider-D): In the north Chicago suburbs, a re-match of the tight 2012 race between freshman Rep. Schneider and ex-Rep. Bob Dold (R) continues. The district is drawn to elect a Democrat, but Dold almost held on two years ago even with Illinois favorite son Barack Obama leading his party’s ticket in 2012. This is a strong Republican conversion opportunity.

• IL-12 (Rep. Bill Enyart-D): The southwestern Illinois district is the only Democratic seat in the state that took a step toward the Republicans in 2011 redistricting. Freshman Rep. Enyart was able to hold the seat for the Democrats in 2012, but state Rep. Mike Bost (R) is giving him all he can handle in his first re-election. Certain polls actually show Bost leading (We Ask America; released 10/2; Bost, 45-40 percent). This race has upset potential.

• NH-1 (Rep. Carol Shea-Porter-D): Like the situation in AZ-1, this district swings back and forth between the two parties. This is the third contest between Rep. Shea-Porter and Frank Guinta, the former mayor of Manchester who held the seat for one term. Both individuals have won one race. The latest polling suggest that Guinta may yet again return to the House. New Hampshire swings more routinely than any state in the country. Therefore, anything can still happen in the Granite State this year.

In conclusion, the Republican hold upon the majority is secure and they appear to be headed for a seat gain in the single-digit realm.

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