Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

5 Surprises the Wave May Wash Out in November

Critz won the last contest, when Burns was a much ballyhooed candidate, so why shouldn’t he win again?

With Republicans running well at the top of the ticket in the state and blue-collar voters increasingly resembling those Reagan Democrats of years ago, the November electorate could be different enough from those voters who showed up for the special election that Critz could be in for a surprise.

Voters usually give incumbents just elected in a special election a full term to see what they can do. But voters aren’t in a “usual” mood right now.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (Maine’s 1st district). This Democrat doesn’t look like an incumbent at risk. Pingree is a freshman who worked for Common Cause and can credibly campaign as a good government reformer. (Her daughter, Hannah, is Speaker of the Maine House.) Of Maine’s two U.S. House districts, Pingree represents the more liberal one. Republican Dean Scontras hasn’t received a lot of hype in Washington, D.C.

But Pingree won an open seat with only 55 percent two years ago, and GOP operatives see her as “a polarizer in a state that doesn’t like polarizers.” And Pingree has made herself the focus of controversy by flying around on a corporate jet owned by her fiancé, a wealthy hedge fund chairman.

This is the same Pingree who testified before Congress by criticizing legislators who used private airplanes and said flying on corporate jets “contributes to the corrosive public perception that Members of Congress are more like the fat cats of Wall Street than they are like the rest of us.”

The Democrat said she is abiding by ethics rules, but the controversy may have given Scontras an opening in a state that exemplifies quirkiness — and hates hypocrites. This race could become closer than anyone expected.

Rep. Dan Lungren (California’s 3rd district). Lungren isn’t a Democrat or a complete surprise since he had an underwhelming victory two years ago against an underfunded challenger.

Insiders know the Congressman is in a tough race, but most casual political watchers don’t realize it. In a year when Democrats are on the defensive, Lungren almost appears to be trying to lose.

A less-than-sterling fundraiser who once again is running a lackadaisical campaign, Lungren faces Ami Bera, an Indian-American physician who is running an aggressive race. Bera showed $1.6 million raised through June 30, compared with $1.2 million raised for the Congressman.

Bera may be too liberal for the Sacramento-area district, but Lungren is one of the few GOP incumbents at risk in the middle of a GOP wave.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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