July 29, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Southwest

Arizona

Filing deadline: June 4
Primary: Sept. 2

House

1st district
Open seat: Rick Renzi (R) is retiring
Outlook: Tossup

Just how competitive this race is down the stretch might depend on the quality of the Republican nominee, and on how much the GOP in this rural Arizona district has been hurt by Renzi’s indictment on 35 counts of corruption.

The Democratic establishment, both in the Grand Canyon State and on Capitol Hill, is solidly behind former state Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D), save for Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D), who has endorsed attorney Howard Shanker in the primary. Former television reporter Mary Kim Titla and former Congressional staffer Jeff Riley are also running in the primary.

The Republican field is still fluid, with at least one recruit who had previously told the GOP no now reconsidering a bid.

Republican insiders consider state Rep. Bill Konopnicki their best shot at retaining this majority Democratic, but philosophically conservative district — and he’s re-thinking his decision not to run. Meanwhile, 2002 primary candidate Sydney Hay (R), an anti-tax activist, has been campaigning since last summer and continues to move forward with her bid.

Democrats have long eyed this district, and both the state Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are expected to spend heavily to flip the seat. Republicans contend that having Sen. John McCain (R) as the presidential nominee will benefit them down ticket in his home state, including in the 1st district.

3rd district
Incumbent: John Shadegg (R)
7th term (59 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Shadegg surprised his colleagues earlier this year by announcing that he would retire upon the conclusion of his current term. But he changed his mind days later after 150 of his House GOP colleagues implored him to stay via a letter spearheaded by the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative House Republicans.

Shadegg’s bank account is healthy, his suburban Phoenix district remains solid Republican territory and Sen. John McCain will be topping the ticket as the GOP presidential nominee. Add to this the fact that Shadegg’s opponent, attorney Bob Lord, is not a conservative Democrat, and Shadegg appears well-positioned for re-election.

However, Democrats believe voters in the 3rd district are tired of Shadegg’s partisan politics, and they plan to make an issue of his House voting record in the upcoming race. And they believe the Congressman’s almost-retirement has altered the political terrain here and created an opening for Lord, a relatively liberal Democrat who has been raising the money it will take to give Shadegg a serious challenge. Additionally, Lord has collected the support of Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon (D) and several unions.

Based on Lord’s performance thus far, it is becoming increasingly likely that state Democrats and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will throw some money at the 3rd district — at least enough to find out if their belief that support for Shadegg has softened is true.

Lord closed the first quarter of the year with $632,500 on hand. Shadegg finished the period with $937,700.

5th district
Incumbent: Harry Mitchell (D)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Although Republicans contend Mitchell’s House voting record will make him vulnerable in November in this GOP-performing district, the Congressman has clearly sought to position himself as a practical Independent, addressing issues of concern to both Republicans and Democrats.

To name a few, Mitchell has argued against Congressional pay raises and worked hard on matters affecting military veterans. Mitchell, a former state Senator and mayor of Tempe who has always been well-liked in the Phoenix area, could also benefit from Arizona’s late primary, as the Republican who emerges from what looks to be a crowded and potentially contentious nomination fight will have barely two months to make his case for ousting the incumbent.

Four Republicans are running in the primary: lobbyist Jim Ogsbury, former Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert, state Rep. Mark Anderson and former state Rep. Laura Knaperek. State Rep. Susan Bitter Smith also is considering a bid. A clear favorite has yet to emerge, though Schweikert has the endorsement of the Club for Growth.

But the factors for a GOP victory could materialize.

If the eventual winner can unite 5th district Republicans behind his or her candidacy and benefit from having Sen. John McCain at the top of the ticket as the GOP presidential nominee, Mitchell could be in some trouble. If Republicans can gain any traction in convincing voters that Mitchell is not the conservative Democrat they believed he was when they elected him in 2006, a competitive race could develop.

8th district
Incumbent: Gabrielle Giffords (D)
1st term (54 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Republicans got their man in this district, with state Senate President Tim Bee announcing in January that he would challenge Giffords this fall. Bee was not only the best available candidate to challenge the Congresswoman this cycle, he is probably the best candidate period.

Bee has secured the support of former 8th district Rep. Jim Kolbe (R), who declined to endorse Giffords’ 2006 Republican opponent, and he has a clear path to the GOP nomination. Bee and his family have a positive image in southern Arizona, and his record of governing as a fairly moderate Republican in the state Legislature makes him a perfect fit for the GOP-leaning, but practical-minded Tucson-area 8th district.

But Giffords is formidable. She has proved to be a great fundraiser, and she has succeeded in positioning herself as a moderate Democrat, even as some of her votes on the floor of the House might suggest otherwise. And with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s substantial fundraising lead over the National Republican Congressional Committee and the possibility that the NRCC might not be able to afford to spend on this race at all, Giffords appears to have some extra protection against a potential Bee sting in the fall.

Bee closed the first quarter of the year with $525,400 on hand, compared with a stratospheric $1.7 million in the bank for Giffords. Until the Republican challenger proves he can at least come close to matching the Democratic incumbent’s war chest — and unless he can paint her as the liberal Democrat the GOP claims she is — Giffords has to be the solid favorite in this race.

New Mexico

Filing deadline: Passed
Primary: June 3

Senate

Open seat: Pete Domenici (R) is retiring
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Once popular Rep. Tom Udall (D) announced that he would vacate his northern New Mexico 3rd district seat to run for Senate, Domenici’s seat immediately became one of the most likely Senate seats to change hands this cycle.

Udall is a former two-term state attorney general with high name identification and a good reputation. While his politics are probably more liberal than those of most voters, New Mexico is a swing state that rewards likability and integrity — qualities that Udall possesses.

Having a popular moderate like Gov. Bill Richardson (D) on his side is also likely to boost Udall in the general election campaign to come.

But a Republican victory is not impossible.

Rep. Heather Wilson, who is vacating her Albuquerque-area 1st district seat to run for Senate, has modeled herself after Domenici, a practical lawmaker who tended to vote conservatively enough to keep Republicans at home happy but was flexible and usually put the interests of the state above political interests.

Wilson’s moderate voting record could serve her quite well in the general election. That she is a prolific fundraiser accustomed to tough races in the most populated region in the state, combined with the fact that Domenici is her political patron and would be solidly behind her, could also aid her significantly.

But first she must get through Rep. Steve Pearce (R), who is retiring from the solidly conservative, Southern New Mexico 2nd district seat to run for Senate. Pearce is an unapologetic conservative. He can’t match Wilson on the fundraising front, but his conservative credentials make him much more appealing to the kind of Republicans that tend to vote in primaries.

Pearce contends that his philosophical consistency actually makes him the better general election candidate. New Mexicans have a history of electing trustworthy politicians with interesting personalities, and Pearce is attempting to lay claim to that mantle. In a swing state in a presidential year with a moderate Republican from a neighboring state — Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) — heading the GOP ticket, it’s too early for Pearce to be dismissed.

House

1st district
Open seat: Heather Wilson (R) is running for Senate
Outlook: Tossup

Although the Democratic and Republican primaries are contested, it’s looking increasingly likely that the general election will be between former Albuquerque City Councilor Martin Heinrich (D) and Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White (R).

Neither is a native New Mexican, but both look the part of a New Mexico Congressman. Heinrich, politically astute and an able fundraiser, is positioning himself as a progressive Democrat with moderate sensibilities on key issues like the Second Amendment. Democrats hold a slim lead in voter enrollment in this district, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will likely spend considerable resources to flip the seat, and that could give Heinrich the edge in the fall.

White is running as Republican in the vein of a Wilson or Sen. Pete Domenici: conservative but practical. New Mexico voters tend to like their law enforcement officials, and with White’s popularity and high profile as the Bernalillo County sheriff, he is well-positioned to continue the GOP’s hold on this seat, though far from guaranteed to do so.

Heinrich closed the first quarter of 2008 with $342,400 on hand. White finished the period with $297,500 in the bank.

2nd district
Open seat: Steve Pearce (R) is running for Senate
Outlook: Likely Republican

Because this southern New Mexico district actually has more enrolled Democrats than Republicans, Democrats in New Mexico and Washington, D.C., believe that a big Democratic year could enable them to flip this seat.

Maybe, but it’s unlikely. The 2nd district is solid conservative territory, with Democrats here basically Republican in every way but their party affiliation. That is why Pearce has won easily here since first taking the seat in 2002. (He won with 59 percent of the vote in the previous cycle.)

Still, it’s an open seat, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is going to have significantly more money to spend this fall than the National Republican Congressional Committee. If the eventual Democratic nominee campaigns as a conservative and outperforms his GOP counterpart, an upset is not impossible.

The Republican primary has turned into a three-way contest between wealthy 2002 primary candidate Ed Tinsley, retired banker Aubrey Dunn Jr. and Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman. The Democratic primary is a two-way affair between Doña Ana County Commissioner Bill McCamley and former Lea County Commissioner Harry Teague.

McCamley is favored by some to win the Democratic primary, with prognosticators predicting that either Tinsley or Dunn will emerge as the GOP nominee.

3rd district
Open seat: Tom Udall (D) is running for Senate
Outlook: Safe Democratic

In this overwhelmingly Democratic district, the winner of the Democratic primary is all but assured a victory in the general election.

That fact has spawned a crowded Democratic primary, with State Public Regulation Commission Chairman Ben Ray Lujan, son of state House Speaker Ben Lujan (D), seen as the early favorite. Wealthy developer Don Wiviott, who abandoned his Senate bid after Udall entered the race, is the dark horse — and claims to be well-positioned to upset Lujan’s plans.

Four other Democrats are also running in the primary.

In a race where party connections and money are likely to determine the outcome, the winner looks to be either Lujan (party connections — and money) or Wiviott (personal money).

Marco Gonzales, a former aide to Sen. Pete Domenici (R), is the likely Republican nominee.

Oklahoma

Filing deadline: June 4
Primary: July 29
Runoff: Aug. 26

Senate

Incumbent: James Inhofe (R)
3rd term (57 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Ask Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) to name where some surprise Democratic victories might come from this cycle, and he’s likely to tell you about state Sen. Andrew Rice (D), who is challenging Inhofe in solidly conservative Oklahoma.

Rice is a liberal lawmaker whose brother died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and some Democrats believe that his compelling personal story could help dispatch Inhofe in the general election.

But Rice is not a conservative Democrat in the style of popular Gov. Brad Henry (D), and his tepid fundraising indicates he has yet to gain traction in a state that remains philosophically friendly to the Republicans.

Rice closed the first quarter with $597,000 on hand, compared to a whopping $2.2 million for Inhofe.

House

5th district
Incumbent: Mary Fallin (R)
1st term (60 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

The wave that swept Democrats to power on Capitol Hill in 2006 barely registered in this Oklahoma City-area district, which remains solid Republican territory heading into this year’s elections.

Fallin is set to face financial analyst Bert Smith (D) in the general election. Smith has run before without much success, and this year doesn’t figure to be any different.

Texas

Filing deadline: Passed
Primary: Passed

Senate

Incumbent: John Cornyn (R)
1st term (55 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Cornyn is facing a challenge from state Rep. Rick Noriega, a Houston Democrat who served in Afghanistan as a member of the Texas National Guard.

On paper, Noriega looks good: He’s a Hispanic in a state with a significant Hispanic population, and he has a strong record of public service that includes military service. Texas Democrats, like their compatriots nationally, have been somewhat resurgent of late.

But Republicans still have significant advantages in Texas, whether philosophical or financial. Cornyn should benefit from both, as his politics are a better fit for a majority of Texas voters than Noriega’s are. And he is raising so much money compared to his Democratic opponent that Noriega could find himself in a permanent hole by the beginning of the summer.

Cornyn closed the first quarter of the year with almost $8.7 million on hand, compared with just $329,000 for Noriega.

Even though the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will have significantly more resources to spend in the upcoming elections than the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Texas media are so expensive in a statewide race that it is highly unlikely DSCC leaders would spend what it would take to make Noriega competitive when they could take that same amount and spend it in half a dozen other states, if not more.

Some polls have shown that Cornyn’s re-election numbers are weak and that the Republican Senator is not as well-known as he should be considering he’s spent the past dozen years in statewide elected office. Maybe so, but Cornyn is taking his re-election seriously, and he hasn’t done anything as a Senator that could so turn off Texas voters that they would vote for Noriega — a Democrat who lacks the conservative credentials to appeal to their philosophical sensibilities.

House

7th district
Incumbent: John Culberson (R)
4th term (59 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

This Republican-leaning suburban Houston district should be safe for the GOP this fall. Culberson is conservative and he represents a conservative district.

But the race warrants monitoring because Culberson’s opponent, Michael Skelly, is running as a pro-business Democrat and has so far raised more, $853,000, than the $734,400 Culberson spent on his re-election in 2006.

If Culberson fails to take this race seriously, and if Skelly can translate his fundraising traction into political traction, an upset could be in the offing.

Skelly closed the first quarter of the year with more than $666,000 on hand, compared with $270,700 for Culberson.

10th district
Incumbent: Mike McCaul (R)
2nd term (55 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

By all accounts McCaul should have nothing to worry about in this Republican-leaning district that stretches from the outskirts of Houston to the edge of Austin.

But McCaul only won with 55 percent of the vote in 2006 — solid but not impressive in a race in which he outspent his little-known Democratic opponent $1.1 million to $65,000. This year, McCaul’s opponent is attorney and television personality Larry Joe Doherty, who is personally wealthy and has raised $455,600 for the cycle through March 31.

If Doherty can trade on his public notoriety to gain political traction, McCaul could be in for a race this fall. Doherty closed the first quarter with $122,500 on hand, while McCaul closed the period with $318,000 in the bank.

22nd district
Incumbent: Nick Lampson (D)
1st term (52 percent; previously served four terms)
Outlook: Tossup

Lampson is set to face former Senate aide Pete Olson (R) in November in what should be one of the most contested House races of the fall.

Lampson is a formidable campaigner and a prolific fundraiser. Although Lampson would dispute the liberal label tacked onto him by the Republicans, he is far from a conservative. But Lampson has worked his solidly Republican district hard, attempting to find common ground on the issues where he can and trying to make up for it where he can’t by providing superior constituent services.

It might not be enough.

Olson won a contentious April 8 GOP primary runoff over former Rep. Shelley Sekula Gibbs after finishing second in the March 4 primary and beginning that race with zero name identification, having moved back to the district for the first time since high school to run for Congress.

He proved to be a tough campaigner and a good fundraiser, and he is a perfect ideological fit for the district. Republicans credit Lampson’s 2006 victory to the fact that his GOP opponent, Sekula Gibbs, was forced to run as a write-in. And although Lampson’s fundraising and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee could give Democrats the financial edge in this race, Olson will have plenty of Republican money to draw on in Texas to pull him near even.

Additionally, the Texas House Republican delegation, which helped Olson defeat Sekula Gibbs in the April 8 GOP primary runoff, has made an Olson victory its No. 1 priority this fall. That kind of help could go a long way toward aiding a GOP victory.

23rd district
Incumbent: Ciro Rodriguez (D)
1st term (54 percent; previously served four terms)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Rodriguez is set to face Bexar County Commissioner Lyle Larson (R) this fall in the competitively drawn 23rd district.

Larson brings a wealth of public service to the table, having served the people of Bexar County for about 16 years as a county commissioner and a city councilman before that.

The Texas House Republican delegation is making a Larson victory its No. 2 priority behind pushing Pete Olson across the finish line in the 22nd district, and Larson could benefit from that help in a race where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will probably spend whatever it takes to defend Rodriguez, who is not always the most effective of fundraisers.

But it’s not yet clear if Larson is the kind of fundraiser and political figure who can attract the money and support he’ll need to oust Rodriguez, who has the advantage of incumbency and his Hispanic ethnicity.

Hispanics make up a key voting bloc in the 23rd district. Larson beat wealthy attorney Quico Canseco handily in the GOP primary, but it’s unclear if he won that on the strength of his brief primary campaign or because of his superior name identification in Bexar County and Canseco’s failure to connect with voters.

This district as it is currently drawn did not exist until the summer of 2006, when a federal judge created it to comply with a Supreme Court decision that determined the district’s previous borders violated the Voting Rights Act. Rodriguez won the new seat in a special general election runoff, but his hold on it is by no means secure.

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