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West Region Roundup

After Years of Sleepy Races, All Eyes Now on California

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Republicans are skeptical of Rep. Shelley Berkley’s chances of winning Reno’s Washoe County, the second-largest county in Nevada.

ALASKA | CALIFORNIA
HAWAII | NEVADA
OREGON | WASHINGTON


Alaska

Gov. Sean Parnell (R)

2012 Electoral votes: 3
2008 Presidential Vote:
McCain 59%/Obama 38%

House

At-Large | Incumbent: Don Young (R)

19th term (69 percent) | Outlook: Safe Republican

Young, 78, will likely cruise to a 20th term. He won easily in 2010 after surviving a competitive 2008 contest; he raised more than $100,000 in the third quarter and has more than $300,000 in the bank; and so far, he has no credible opponent.


California

Gov. Jerry Brown (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 55
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 61%/McCain 37%

Senate

Incumbent: Dianne Feinstein (D)

3rd term (59 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

Along with several Golden State House Members, Feinstein’s campaign and legal teams are still working through the wreckage left behind by a campaign treasurer accused of bilking clients of millions of dollars.

Feinstein’s third-quarter report includes nearly $4.7 million in disbursements it cannot identify. To make up for the lost money, Feinstein loaned her campaign $5 million, an amount she can afford given that she is among the richest Members of Congress.

Despite her campaign’s financial frustrations, Feinstein has a clear path to re-election. No potential challengers have filed fundraising reports through the third quarter, and there is no known top contender waiting in the wings. The state’s Republicans were unable to topple any incumbents in a great year for the GOP in 2010, so it’s not likely they can make much of a showing in a presidential election year.

House

2nd district | Open seat: Lynn Woolsey (D) is retiring

Outlook: Safe Democratic

A month after winning re-election in 2010, Woolsey hinted her 10th would be her last term. That allowed candidates to begin ramping up their campaigns before she made her retirement official in June.

The district changed substantially in redistricting, with its northern peak — currently Sonoma County’s northern line — becoming the Oregon border. But the home of the beautiful and rocky Pacific coastline did not lose its strong Democratic tilt.

Assemblyman Jared Huffman picked up on Woolsey’s early hints and opened an exploratory committee at the beginning of the year. He now leads in cash on hand, but former tech executive Stacey Lawson, who outraised him in the third quarter, activist Norman Solomon and Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams are all competing to move beyond the top-two primary.

The general will likely be between two Democrats in the state’s first federal election cycle under the new “jungle primary” format, though investment firm owner Dan Roberts (R) could have a path to the general election.

3rd district | Incumbent: John Garamendi (D)

2nd term (59 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic

Republicans have already targeted this Sacramento-area district, which got much more competitive under the new map. The National Republican Congressional Committee launched a TV ad against Garamendi, tying him to President Barack Obama and the controversy over the president’s support for the failed, taxpayer-backed solar company Solyndra.

His top GOP opponent, Colusa County Supervisor Kim Dolbow Vann, slightly outraised Garamendi in the third quarter and has more in cash on hand. At this point, Garamendi is favored to win re-election, but Republicans see the potential for an upset, so this is a race to watch.

7th district | Incumbent: Dan Lungren (R)

4th term (50 percent; previously served five terms) | Outlook: Tossup

Democrats hoped to oust Lungren last year with a recruit who could raise serious money. It didn’t work out that way, but this time it could.

Lungren’s Sacramento-area district will be even more competitive now because of redistricting. Physician Ami Bera is back for another go-round and is again raising good money. Bera raised $326,000 in the third quarter while Lungren raised $179,000, and Bera had nearly $300,000 more than Lungren in cash on hand.

Lungren is in his second Congressional stint and is coming off two straight victories with 50 percent of the vote or less. If he’s proved anything over the years, it’s that he’s a survivor. But this could be his toughest test yet.

8th district | New seat

Outlook: Safe Republican

This district was carved out of the current territory of GOP Reps. Jerry Lewis and Buck McKeon, who both live in other redrawn districts. It includes about half of the state’s Nevada border.

Lewis lives in the Democratic-leaning 31st district to the west of the new 8th. He told Roll Call he is not inclined to move or run in a district he doesn’t live in, even though he’d have a better shot at re-election here.

Still, the most likely options for Lewis are to run here or retire. Only one other Republican in the area filed a third-quarter fundraising report — conservative Gregg Imus, who raised $1,000. Democrat Jackie Conaway, who lost to McKeon in 2008 and 2010, announced in early October she’ll run for this seat.

9th district | Incumbent: Jerry McNerney (D)

3rd term (48 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic

McNerney lives outside the 9th but already represents much of the territory in his current district. This San Joaquin County-based territory is Democratic-leaning, and President Barack Obama, who is back on the ballot this cycle, carried it by 15 points.

But McNerney’s challenger is Ricky Gill, a rising star in the GOP. National Republicans are excited about the 24-year-old law student, who has outraised McNerney in the past two quarters and holds a slight lead in cash on hand, $648,000 to $614,000.

McNerney was the only Californian in the past decade to defeat an incumbent (he unseated Rep. Richard Pombo in 2006), and he’s been a GOP target ever since. That won’t change, even though the district will be a little easier for him to win this time around.

10th district | Incumbent: Jeff Denham (R)

1st term (65 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican

The freshman is among the most vulnerable Republicans in the state after redistricting. He’s now in swing territory and a district with a 5-point Democratic registration edge.

Still, this Stanislaus County-based district leans Republican — Obama barely carried it and Republicans won it in last year’s Senatorial and gubernatorial elections. Denham has raised solid money so far and is sitting on a $610,000 war chest.

Democrats are raving about Jose Hernandez, a retired astronaut who is one of several Latino recruits statewide challenging incumbent Republicans. This race will be one of a string of competitive races in the Central Valley.

16th district | Incumbent: Jim Costa (D)

4th term (52 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic

Democratic Rep. Dennis Cardoza’s October retirement announcement, which had been expected, officially cleared this district for his good friend Costa to run. This Central Valley district is competitive but gives Costa more of an advantage than he would have had if he ran to the south in the 21st, which is more swing territory.

Costa is a top target of the National Republican Congressional Committee, but he does not yet have an opponent. And after subpar fundraising earlier this year, he stepped on the gas pedal last quarter and raised almost $300,000.

21st district | New seat

Outlook: Tossup

Both parties have already recruited top-tier young candidates who are on a collision course for November in this swing district.

Assemblyman David Valadao (R) and state Sen. Michael Rubio (D) were born months apart in 1977, are lifelong Central Valley residents and are both serving their first terms in Sacramento.

The district’s history proves it’s a battleground: It was carried by President George W. Bush in 2004, President Barack Obama in 2008 and by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and Senate nominee Carly Fiorina (R) in 2010. Republicans see an opportunity here, and the district is a likely candidate for outside spending. Expect Valadao and outside groups to try to tie Rubio, who touts an independent record, to Obama. A Field Poll conducted in September found the president had a 35 percent approval rating in the Central Valley.

But Democrats see Rubio as a rising star and capable candidate. This race is poised to have the closest general election result of the state’s 53 districts.

24th district | Incumbent: Lois Capps (D)

7th term (58 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic

The National Republican Congressional Committee’s California target list starts with Capps, whose infamous “Ribbon of Shame” gerrymandered district that traverses 200 miles along the Pacific Coast now stretches inland to the wine-growing territory made famous in the movie “Sideways.”

It’s now far less Democratic and considered swing territory.

The leading Republican to take her on in the newly drawn 24th is former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, an up-and-comer whom national Republicans are keeping an eye on.

Maldonado has partaken in some crafty fundraising reporting. He loaned himself $250,000 before the second-quarter deadline. He repaid himself in full in the third quarter, then loaned his campaign another $250,000 before the third-quarter deadline.

Assuming he’ll eventually be willing to spend that money, the self-funding will come in handy because he raised just $115,000 from July to September while running against the most vulnerable Democrat in the state.

Capps raised nearly $300,000 and had $860,000 in cash on hand at the end of September.

26th district | New seat

Outlook: Tossup

Republicans would love it if one of the incumbents who have little chance of winning their own districts — namely, Reps. Elton Gallegly and David Dreier — would move west to run in this new, coastal Ventura County district.

Gallegly was drawn into the 25th district with Rep. Buck McKeon (R), but his house is just outside the 26th. He would appear to be a likely candidate in the 26th, but he’s given no indication of his plans.

This district is swing territory, and both parties will be targeting it. Other possible GOP candidates include state Sen. Tony Strickland, Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, Simi Valley Councilman Glen Becerra and Moorpark Councilman Keith Millhouse, according to the Ventura County Star.

On the Democratic side, the newspaper also reported that Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett was strongly considering a bid. Already in the race is Moorpark City Councilman David Pollock and former professional tennis player David Cruz Thayne.

29th district | New seat

Outlook: Safe Democratic

Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cárdenas (D) will likely be coming to Congress in January 2013. This eastern San Fernando Valley district, carved out of Rep. Howard Berman’s (D) current territory, is a majority-Latino district and strongly Democratic.

Instead of challenging Cárdenas in the 29th, Berman opted to run in the western valley’s 30th, where he lives, against fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman.

Cárdenas, a former Assemblyman, may have primary competition, but he is the favorite at this point. He raised $162,000 in the third quarter.

30th district | Member vs. Member: Brad Sherman (D) and Howard Berman (D)

8th term (65 percent); 15th term (70 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

Nowhere is the fallout from the state’s new independent redistricting process more evident than in this western San Fernando Valley district.

Berman’s brother, Democratic consultant Michael Berman, drew the district lines in 2001 that ensured incumbent safety. Now, most of Berman’s current district is in the redrawn 29th, a majority-minority district in which he chose not to run. And he was drawn into the same district as Sherman, setting off an expensive and intriguing matchup.

The two longtime incumbents have well-established fundraising networks and are sitting on a combined $6 million in the bank as of the end of September. Berman’s fundraising reports read like movie credits, with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg just two of his many Hollywood donors. Berman also had a handful of fellow Members donate, while colleagues did not open their wallets for Sherman.

Sherman’s 2010 opponent, businessman Mark Reed (R), is also running and could make the June top-two primary interesting. But the intraparty matchup has a good chance of lasting until November.

31st district | Incumbent: Jerry Lewis (R)

17th term (63 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic

Two incumbents from different parties were drawn into this district, and there’s a good chance neither will run here. Rep. Joe Baca (D) already announced he was running in the neighboring 35th district, which is solidly Democratic territory.

Lewis hasn’t said what he will do, but he told Roll Call he was not inclined to move his home into the safe Republican 8th district to the east. Another incumbent who could possibly run here is Rep. David Dreier (R), who is currently in a more Democratic district than this one.

The 31st favors Democrats — President Barack Obama and Gov. Jerry Brown won here the past two cycles — but not by a lot, and this could be a competitive district depending on the candidates.

Democrat Russ Warner, a magazine distribution company owner who lost to Dreier by 17 points last year, and nonprofit founder Renea Wickman are running.

32nd district | Incumbent: Grace Napolitano (D)

7th term (73 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

Napolitano is running here rather than in the 38th, where she lives, removing the chance of a matchup with Rep. Linda Sánchez (D).

This is a majority-Latino district in the San Gabriel Valley. It’s solidly Democratic with a 50 percent Latino voting-age population and 19-point Democratic voter-registration advantage.

While it’s safe Democratic territory, Napolitano could face intraparty challenges from Assemblyman Anthony Portantino and El Monte City Councilwoman Norma Macias, who happens to be Sánchez’s cousin. The race could last beyond the top-two primary in June.

Dreier’s home is in the 32nd, but there is no chance he runs here.

36th district | Incumbent: Mary Bono Mack (R)

7th term (52 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican

Bono Mack has been atop Democratic target lists in the state for a few cycles now. Her district remains competitive following redistricting, but she still starts the race with an advantage.

National Democrats are excited about physician Raul Ruiz and believe he’s the right candidate to take on Bono Mack in this Coachella Valley district. His personal story was featured a couple of years ago on CNN — he knocked on doors in his community asking for donations to help him attend UCLA with a promise that he would return one day as a doctor, which he did.

President Barack Obama carried the district by 3 points, but Republicans hold a 2-point registration advantage and Meg Whitman (R) won it in the gubernatorial race last year.

39th district | Member vs. Member: Ed Royce (R) and Gary Miller (R)

10th term (67 percent); 7th term (62 percent) | Outlook: Safe Republican

This district will remain Republican, so the real excitement here is the matchup between Royce and Miller, one of three Los Angeles-area Member-vs.-Member races. Royce, an National Republican Congressional Committee vice chairman, is seen as the stronger candidate and received a visit from NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) at a September fundraiser in Orange County. An NRCC spokeswoman cautioned then that the visit should not be seen as an endorsement.

Royce outraised Miller by $300,000 last quarter ($358,000 to $58,000) and had $3 million in the bank at the end of September to Miller’s $1 million. If either moves to another district to avoid the race, it would be Miller, the 17th-richest Member of Congress.

41st district | New seat

Outlook: Leans Democratic

The two leading candidates for this new Inland Empire district are Riverside County Supervisor John Tavaglione (R) and Mark Takano (D), a Riverside Community College Board Trustee who twice ran against Rep. Ken Calvert (R) in the early 1990s.

Takano finally has a better opportunity to represent this area, which President Barack Obama won by 20 points, though it has just a 6-point Democratic voter-registration advantage.

Takano raised $161,000 in the third quarter and had $147,000 in cash on hand. Tavaglione raised $54,000 and had $96,000 in the bank.

44th district | Member vs. Member: Janice Hahn (D) and Laura Richardson (D)

1st term (55 percent); 2nd term (68 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

Hahn and Richardson are in one of three likely Member-vs.-Member contests in the state next year, but it’s the only such matchup where race could potentially become a factor.

The coastal district Hahn won in July to replace Democrat Jane Harman was diced up in redistricting, leaving Hahn’s home in San Pedro in a majority-minority district in South Los Angeles. It’s 49 percent Latino voting-age population and 28 percent African-American VAP.

Her two opponents, Richardson and Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D), are black. Richardson lives in the Long Beach 47th district to the east, but her current district was split in two and she opted to run in the more Democratic 44th. Hahn will continue to note that she’s the only incumbent who lives in the district.

Following her July election, Hahn raised $140,000 in August and September. Hall raised $158,000 in the third quarter and Richardson raised just $72,000.

47th district | New seat

Outlook: Tossup

This Long Beach-based district has no incumbent because Richardson decided to run against Hahn in the neighboring 44th district to the west, which is more favorable to Democrats.

President Barack Obama lost this district by 4 points, but Gov. Jerry Brown carried it by 8 points in 2010 and Democrats hold an 11-point voter registration advantage.

State Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D), a longtime Long Beach elected official, raised just $39,000 in the third quarter. He was easily bested by Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong (R), who raised $256,000. Other Republicans in the race include former Rep. Steve Kuykendall, who raised $23,000, and Los Alamitos City Councilman Troy Edgar, who loaned his campaign $205,000 and raised another $20,000.

51st district | Open seat: Bob Filner (D) is running for San Diego mayor

Outlook: Safe Democratic

This San Diego race features an interesting Democratic matchup between state Sen. Juan Vargas and former state Sen. Denise Ducheny, whom Vargas succeeded when he was elected last year.

The San Diego Union-Tribune called it a potential “classic political slugfest” between the two Latino legislators running to replace Filner, who’s held this seat since 1992.

Vargas, described as Filner’s “longtime nemesis,” came up 8 points short when he challenged the Congressman in the 2006 primary. He lost two prior primary challenges to Filner as well, in 1992 when it was an open seat and in 1996.

Vargas and Ducheny could duke it out through the top-two primary in June and into November.

52nd district | Incumbent: Brian Bilbray (R)

3rd term (57 percent; previously served three terms) | Outlook: Leans Republican

Bilbray is one of the top Republican targets in the state.

Former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña and San Diego Port Commission Chairman Scott Peters are the two top candidates running in the district.

Republican voters make up 36 percent of the district’s electorate, while 33 percent are Democrats and 27 percent of voters “decline to state.” President Barack Obama won the district with 55 percent, and the two Republican Senate and gubernatorial nominees won it in 2010.

Bilbray may have a slight advantage now, but Republicans are admittedly concerned about this one. Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) headlined a Bilbray fundraiser in October after the Congressman raised $149,000 in the third quarter. Saldaña raised just $27,000.


Hawaii

Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 4
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 72%/McCain 27%

Senate

Open seat: Daniel Akaka (D) is retiring

Outlook: Leans Democratic

This is Hawaii’s first open-seat Senate race since 1976, and Democrats are favored to win it in a year when President Barack Obama, a hometown hero, is on the ticket.

Republicans aren’t delirious. They know former two-term Gov. Linda Lingle (R) would need at least 20 percent of the voters who pull the lever for Obama to also vote for her.

That’s no small task, and it’s why this race still leans in the favor of the eventual Democratic nominee. But national Republicans recruited the only candidate with any realistic chance to pull it off, and Lingle’s past success and fundraising ability make this race one to watch.

On the Democratic side are two people who have clashed before, Rep. Mazie Hirono and former Rep. Ed Case. These same players took part in the 2002 gubernatorial race — when Hirono topped Case in the primary and then lost to Lingle by 5 points — and they’ll likely engage in a spirited race once again.

Hirono has establishment support and the backing of EMILY’s List. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D), the most influential political force in the state, is still miffed at Case for challenging Akaka in 2006 and has said he will vote for Hirono in the primary.

The third-term Congresswoman, who succeeded Case in the House, raised $302,000 in the third quarter and had $722,000 in cash on hand at the end of September. Case raised $136,000 and had $272,000 in the bank.

Lingle, who entered the race in October after the third-quarter fundraising deadline, is expected to pull in well more than those totals in her first fundraising quarter.

Democrats will look to tie her to Republicans in Congress and unpopular elements of the GOP agenda.

House

1st district | Incumbent: Colleen Hanabusa (D)

1st term (53 percent) | Outlook: Likely Democratic

In a rematch from 2010, Hanabusa will face former Rep. Charles Djou (R), who won the seat in a May 2010 special election.

With President Barack Obama on the ticket and Hanabusa now the incumbent, this race likely won’t be as close as last time. Djou probably would not have been elected in last year’s special if not for Hanabusa and Case splitting the Democratic vote in an abnormal, three-candidate election.

Djou, who is close with Lingle and currently deployed in Afghanistan, starts the race with more name ID than an average GOP challenger in Hawaii and a strong Republican above him on the ballot. He’ll make the case that Hawaii should balance its Congressional delegation with a Republican.

Hanabusa’s winning margin last year matched Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) from the 2004 presidential cycle, but her numbers should be lifted this time by Obama.

2nd district | Open seat: Mazie Hirono (D) is running for Senate

Outlook: Safe Democratic

Hirono won her last two races with at least 72 percent, and so far, no Republican has filed for this seat. The action will be in the Democratic primary, with former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Honolulu City Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard as the top contenders.

Hannemann had $297,000 in the bank at the end of the third quarter, while Gabbard had $130,000.


Nevada

Gov. Brian Sandoval (R)

2012 Electoral Votes: 6
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 55%/McCain 43%

Senate

Incumbent: Dean Heller (R)

1st term (appointed May 2011) | Outlook: Tossup

This is one of a handful of Senate races nationwide that promises to be competitive to the end.

Both Heller and Rep. Shelley Berkley (D), who hail from different regions of the state, have their disadvantages here. And as it is in several other states, the outcome will likely depend on how the presidential race shakes out in Nevada, which is crucial to President Barack Obama’s re-election plans.

Nevada was the center of attention in the 2010 cycle, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) was among the most vulnerable incumbents in the country — until Republicans nominated Sharron Angle.

National Republicans wanted Heller to run then, and he had a good chance of winning. But by summer 2009, around the time when then-Sen. John Ensign (R) became ensnared in scandal surrounding his affair with a staffer, Heller backed off. Ensign announced his resignation this April, and Heller was appointed soon after.

To win a full term, Heller will need to win Reno’s Washoe County, the second-largest county in the state and one evenly split in Democratic and Republican voter registration. But so will Berkley, who is from Las Vegas in Clark County, which is about 450 miles from Reno — or one-sixth the length of the entire country.

Republicans are skeptical of Berkley’s chances of doing that. Either way, she will also need to rack up big numbers in Clark, where more than two-thirds of the state’s registered voters reside.

Berkley will have help from an Obama ground game that is already ramped up in Nevada, but she has also turned in two straight $1.2 million fundraising quarters since entering the race. Heller raised a little more than half that in the third quarter, but he still only trails Berkley by some $400,000 in cash on hand.

Heller will need to pick up his fundraising pace, but thanks in part to the presidential contest and to outside groups that will surely invest in Nevada, it’s unlikely this race will be decided by a candidate’s lack of funds.

House

1st district | Open seat: Shelley Berkley (D) is running for Senate

Outlook: Safe Democratic

This redrawn district, which still includes the urban core of Las Vegas, is one of two districts likely to remain Democratic for the next 10 years.

Former Rep. Dina Titus and state Sen. Ruben Kihuen will face off in a competitive Democratic primary clash. There are no GOP candidates who have announced intentions to run. Kihuen, who considers Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a mentor, announced he was running here within hours of the redistricting maps becoming law on Oct. 27, and Titus followed a week later.

Titus, who ran for governor in 2006 and the House in 2008, was ousted in 2010 by now-Rep. Joe Heck (R) after just one term in the 3rd district to the south. Despite losing by only a slim margin, Titus was vocal about not wanting to run against Heck again, especially with her home planted in the safer 1st district.

Kihuen, born in Mexico, began his political career at the age of 21, knocking on doors for now-Sen. Mark Warner’s (D-Va.) 2001 gubernatorial campaign. He was elected to the state Assembly in 2006 and state Senate in 2010, and his legislative district is within the 1st.

One main advantage for Kihuen, who became a U.S. citizen about six years ago, is the district’s 37 percent Latino voting-age population. But Titus won’t be easy to beat, as she’ll likely have EMILY’s List support on top of some two decades in public office.

3rd district | Incumbent: Joe Heck (R)

1st term (48 percent) | Outlook: Tossup

Heck defeated former Rep. Dina Titus by just 1 point in a strong year for Republicans nationwide, and his district remains Democratic-leaning after redistricting.

No matter what the environment is like next November, it’s hard to see a better one than Heck ran in last cycle. And with President Barack Obama’s campaign already on the ground in Nevada, Heck will have a real race on his hands.

State Speaker John Oceguera (D) is challenging the freshman Republican and should have a clear path to the general. Heck raised more than twice what Oceguera did in the third quarter and had more than six times as much in cash on hand, but both should be well-funded in the home stretch of the race.

The redrawn district lost parts of northern Clark County and now includes only the southern half of the county. It has a 40 percent Democratic voter registration and 37 percent Republican registration. It has the lowest number of minorities of the three Las Vegas-area districts and is the most competitive territory.

This is the race that will decide whether Democrats hold a majority in the state’s House delegation.

4th district | New seat

Outlook: Safe Democratic

State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford is favored to win this new district, which expands north from North Las Vegas and takes in parts of seven counties.

Horsford has built a solid consulting team and has ties to Reid. He’ll have a primary against state Sen. John Lee, and the winner will be strongly favored to win this new seat.

Democrats hold a 46 percent to 33 percent voter-registration advantage here over Republicans, and Obama would have carried the district with 56 percent. It has 23 percent Latino and 14 percent African-American voting-age populations.


Oregon

Gov. John Kitzhaber (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 7
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 57%/McCain 40%

House

1st district | Vacancy: David Wu (D) resigned

Outlook: Likely Democratic

The nominees for the Jan. 31 special to replace Wu are state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici (D) and Rob Cornilles (R), the GOP’s 2010 nominee against Wu and a professional sports franchise adviser.

The district has sent only Democrats to Congress for nearly 40 years, and even Wu, who was acting erratically shortly before the 2010 election, was re-elected by 13 points in a strong year for Republicans.

But special-election dynamics are different — just ask Democrats who lost New York’s 9th district in September. So Democrats are taking Cornilles seriously.

Cornilles is aware he’ll have to pick up Democratic votes to win the traditionally Democratic district, and he’s tailored his message as an independent-minded Republican who offers a change from the Wu tenure.

With no competitive primary, Cornilles still had $423,000 in cash on hand by the Oct. 19 special primary fundraising deadline. Bonamici spent $285,000 in the first three weeks of October, about half of that on TV advertising for the primary. She had $221,000 on hand by Oct. 19.

5th district | Incumbent: Kurt Schrader (D)

2nd term (51 percent) | Outlook: Likely Democratic

If Republicans couldn’t defeat Schrader in 2010, the chances are slim he’ll be defeated in a year when there’s a presidential race. Plus, Schrader does not yet have a Republican opponent.

The district lost some of Portland’s Multnomah County in redistricting, but Democrats still hold a voter registration advantage, and the Willamette Valley is trending Democratic.

Still, with the right Republican candidate, this district could be competitive.


Washington

Gov. Christine Gregoire (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 12
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 58%/McCain 41%

Senate

Incumbent: Maria Cantwell (D)

2nd term (57 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

Cantwell should cruise to re-election.

A couple of Republicans, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner and former Bloomberg TV anchor Phillip Yin, are running against her, but none are expected to give her anything close to a scare. Former George W. Bush aide Scott Stanzel said this summer he was considering a bid but has not taken any steps toward running.

Sen. Patty Murray (D) won re-election in 2010, a strong year for Republicans nationwide, by 4 points. With President Barack Obama at the top of the ticket here, the hill is even steeper for Republicans.

The top potential GOP recruit, state Attorney General Rob McKenna, is running for governor. And state Republicans will likely focus their efforts on that race instead.

House

With Rep. Jay Inslee (D) running for governor and the state adding a 10th district in reapportionment, there will be a handful of districts to watch next year.

The state’s redistricting commissioners — two Democrats, two Republicans, one non-voting chairman — have until the end of the year to finalize the new map. So exactly how competitive each district is, and what their boundaries are, is still a guessing game.

If the 10th district is carved into Olympia’s Thurston County, former state House Majority Leader Denny Heck (D), who lost the open 3rd district race last year, would run there in what would likely be a competitive race.

The Democratic elbowing has already begun for Inslee’s territory, which is likely to be drawn to favor Democrats. Former Microsoft manager Darcy Burner, who twice challenged Rep. Dave Reichert (R), announced Nov. 2 that she was running in the 1st, joining five other Democrats. Rep. Rick Larsen (D), who held on by 2 points last cycle in the northwest corner of the state, appears likely to face 2010 GOP nominee John Koster again next year.

Meanwhile, the fate of Reichert, a regular Democratic target, is unknown, but there was some belief his district east of Seattle would become easier territory for the GOP.

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