AK-AL: Don Young’s second opponent is a Republican
Don Young’s re-election prospects have gotten unexpectedly complicated in recent weeks. As it became clear that his two 2008 opponents would not seek a rematch - Sean Parnell replaced Sarah Palin as Governor and Ethan Berkowitz is running for Governor as well - it looked like Young might be spared that competitive a race. But that was before Democratic state Rep. Harry Crawford entered the contest, guaranteeing that the race will be worth watching.
Now, the ethically embattled Young has another challenger to worry about - this time a Republican. A former state legislator, radio talk show host Andrew Halcro has announced he will run. His conservative profile means we should have a repeat of the 2008 primary, in which the Club for Growth-endorsed Parnell hit Young for fiscal irresponsibility (Young barely survived after weeks of counting). On labor and fiscal matters, Young is a rare Republican moderate: one of the few who voted in favor of EFCA in 2007, he often bucks his party on appropriation votes.
Yet, there is one major twist. In 2008, Parnell represented the Palin wing of the Alaska party - the one that claims to prefer fiscal restraint and makes a big show of refusing stimulus funds rather than the one that prides itself on securing congressional earmarks. Halcro might use similar arguments as Parnell did, but he will do so as a one of the state’s most outspoken opponents of Palin: Ever since receiving 10% in an independent bid for Governor in 2006, he has been a conservative critic of the governor. That makes it highly unlikely Palin or Parnell will get involved in next year’s primary.
It will be interesting to see whether the Club is interested in getting involved again; Alaska is certainly a cheap enough state that they can do so without draining their financial resources - and for once they couldn’t be accused of helping Democrats pick-up a seat. Indeed, Crawford would probably prefer facing Young than Halcro: Alaska is red enough that it’s unlikely a Republican without any ethical baggage loses a statewide race. Even if Young is a towering figure in state politics, the bottom line is that he is under federal investigation and might be indicted any moment.
Combine the fact that the DCCC’ best chance is to face Young and the fact that Democrats can at least count on Young’s vote on some issues whereas they’d have nothing to expect from a new-guard Republican congressman, and we’re left with the rare conclusion that Democrats could be better-off having an incumbent survive a primary challenge.
In Dem-held districts, meanwhile, NRCC scores or nears recruitment coups
The most noteworthy is former U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan, who announced he will run for Joe Sestak’s open House seat. Given that Meehan was deemed credible enough to be a top-tier gubernatorial contender, he should be quite formidable in a congressional race and he makes PA-07 far more competitive than it would be otherwise. The only reason I am not making a bigger deal out of this is that I already wrote a lengthy analysis when the rumors first started, so I refer you back to this post.
In AR-02, the NRCC has been talking up its chances against entrenched Blue Dog Vic Snyder for months. According to a Politico report, it might be on its way towards recruiting a top-tier candidate as former U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin is considering the race. I will wait for Griffin to actually make an announcement before analyzing this in more detail, however, because for now I share SSP’s skepticism: Griffin was expected to run for Senate until he ruled out a run this spring. Given that he could have cleared the GOP primary (unlike Meehan in PA) and that Lincoln is far more obviously vulnerable that Snyder, why would he do so only to consider a House race months later?
In the NH-02 open seat, the GOP is close to getting its wish: former Rep. Charlie Bass now says he is leaning towards seeking his old seat back. His 2006 defeat is enough not to make him that formidable a candidate, but Republicans don’t have enough of a NH bench left to be picky. If Bass does get in, it would make NH-02 a key 2010 battleground. There is also speculation that the NRCC might land a state Senator in TX-17, the most Republican district represented by a Democrat; Chet Edwards survived with only 53% against a low-tier candidate last year, so a higher-profile contender would go a long way towards making him endangered.
OH-18: GOP does find a state Senator after all
Back in August, the last of the 3 Republican legislators mentioned as challengers to Rep. Zach Space announced he would not run in 2010. With the NRCC clearly disappointed, I wrote that this would force the NRCC to find a Plan B and reduce Space’s vulnerability. I might have spoken a bit too soon, as a state Senator is getting in after all: Bob Gibbs just filed a candidacy statement, giving Republicans a higher profile candidate than I expected them to land at this point. That said, Gibbs does not look like he is a top-tier contender like the Republicans who declined the race.
While some of his legislative district falls in the 18th congressional District, most of it is in the 16th District. This obviously reduces Gibbs’ appeal since most of Space’s constituents have no exposure to him - not to mention that he will have to campaign in unfamiliar territory. Furthermore, the one county he represents that falls in the 18th District is staunchly conservative so Gibbs has no track record as to how he will fare in more competitive areas. Finally, Gibbs served in the state House until 2009, which further reduces the share of the district he has a history representing.