The past few days have brought an avalanche of high-profile decisions in Senate and Governor’s races, which has led me to neglect the latest developments at the House level. Yesterday, the DCCC got excellent news when IL-10 opened up because of Mark Kirk’s statewide run. This is exactly the type of district the party want to conquer: Since it clearly leans blue, a Democratic representative would likely be a reliable vote for the leadership’s priorities and would probably be safe as long as he/she wants to keep the seat.
As such, Kirk’s retirement more than compensates worrisome news Democrats might be getting in vulnerable districts of their own; the same will be true of Jim Gerlach’s PA-06 if he announces a gubernatorial run. Add to that the relief Democrats must be feeling not to have to defend an open seat in South Dakota, and we can say the week hasn’t been half as tough for the DCCC than for the DSCC. That said, Republicans have been scoring plenty of recruitment coups of their own, extending their recent Senate streak down-ballot.
In OH-15, Kilroy will have to up her game
In a district that voted for Obama by 9%, Mary Jo Kilroy underperformed not only in 2008 but also in 2006: Her unexpected defeat against incumbent Deborah Pryce was one of the few bad surprises Democrats received that night. Two years later, Kilroy was favored to win the open seat but only after a month of counting did she take the lead and win the race. Now, her 2008 opponent has announced he’ll seek a rematch: Steve Stivers might no longer be a state Senator, but he’ll make for a credible candidate who already proved himself on the trail and could use his past supporter lists to raise money and build a solid campaign infrastructure.
Yes, Kilroy will have the advantage of running as the incumbent. After two cycles in which she underperformed relatively to other Democrats, perhaps that will help her get the district’s Dem-leaning voters to finally rally by her side. But Kilroy will no longer be boosted by the national environment; she’ll have to reach 50% without relying on the GOP’s toxic brand and on Obama’s coattails. In particular, she could be at risk if turnout drops among the district’s substantial African-American population or if independents turn against the White House.
GOP field in FL-24 gets crowded
What does it say about GOP confidence that they can defeat freshman Rep. Suzanne Kosmas that at least 3 credible Republicans are vying for a shot at the nomination? In a district McCain won by 2%, the NRCC had been touting the candidacy of Winter Park City Councilor Karen Diebel but it now has two new contenders to put forward, both of whom would presumably be a tad stronger than Diebel: state Rep. Dorothy Hukill announced her candidacy earlier this week and state Rep. Sandy Adams has also made it clear she will jump in the race.
Sandy Adams has been in the legislature since 2002. Hukill is the former Mayor of Port Orange, a decently sized seat that should make for a good geographical base, and she occupies Kosmas’s former seat in the state legislature; she’ll surely tout the fact that she’s the first Republican to hold that district as evidence of her electability. One problem Republicans might face, however, is that Florida is one state in which divisive intra-party battles can be damaging: Primaries are held at a late August date, which leaves little time for a nominee to prepare for the general election. Meanwhile, Kosmas will be able to prepare herself for the challenge and stock up cash; she raised a strong $350,000 in the second-quarter.
MI-09, VA-02: Other new Republican candidates
Democrats might want to be careful about MI-09, based around blue-collar Oakland County. This is the type of district where Democrats could be hurting if Reagan Democrats, who returned to the party’s fold in 2008, now turned against the White House because of the recession. The district voted for Obama by 13%, but it also twice went for George Bush and Rep. Gary Peters is a freshman. Former congressman Knollenberg’s chief of staff Paul Welday and former state Rep. Andrew Raczkowski are already in the running. Neither is a top-tier contender, but both have enough connections to potentially mount a competitive race (Raczkowski ran for Senate in 2002, only to be crushed by Carl Levin).
In Virginia, we know that the 2nd district will be a top GOP target so it’s worth the Republican field. This week, automobile dealer Scott Rigell announced he would challenge freshman Rep. Glenn Nye; he also said he had the support of prominent Republicans like the congresswoman Nye defeated in 2008, Thelma Drake. So will Nye end up with Rigell as his opponent? The president of Freedom Automotive is the type of wealthy political novice who can get nowhere on the trail but who can also catch fire by convincing voters that business experience is what they need and by self-funding his way to a competitive position.
Some good news for the DCCC in Nebraska
In one of their biggest 2008 heart-breakers, Democrats failed to defeat Rep. Lee Terry by just 4%. Yet, Obama pulled off the unthinkable feat of winning the typically staunchly Republican district and that has given Democrats confidence that they might finally be able to overthrow Terry in 2010. Sure, the environment will not be as favorable and there will be no Obama coattails, but the DCCC believes it has found a top-tier candidate: state Senator Tom White, who represents parts of Omaha in the unicameral legislature, formed an exploratory committee earlier this week.
While White seems too conservative to excite Democrats nationwide (he is pro-life and he championed the elimination of the marriage penalty and of the estate tax), his exact profile remains to be determined. A former civil rights attorney, he attracted attention for embracing a more partisan positioning than is typical for Nebraska Democrats. (Note that it’s hard to know how to describe NE-02 since it went for Obama but also for Bush by 22%.)