Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

2012 Candidates: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
Democratic Congressional candidate Denny Heck earns praise from Stuart Rothenberg for being articulate, politically savvy and likable. Heck is seeking a seat in Washington state.

DeLong is an underdog in another California race, but he looks like a potential fit for his Democratic-leaning district. A moderate Republican who supports abortion rights and gay marriage, DeLong talks about policy and politics with ease. He’s never defensive and never apologetic about his issue positions. He is who he is — like him or not. In other words, he’s a breath of fresh air.

Arkansas’ Cotton has to be one of the few people from Dardanelle, Ark., with an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. A veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, he worked for McKinsey & Co. after leaving active duty. As conservative as any Republican I’ve ever interviewed, Cotton is smart, articulate and serious.

Heck, a Washington state Democrat, lost a bid for Congress two years ago but is in much better position this time thanks to the creation of a new Congressional district in the state. A former state House Majority Leader, he understands government and policy. Heck is a thoughtful, no-nonsense legislator whose generally liberal views should fit his district. But unlike some Members from both parties, he is likely to be more about legislating than posturing.

Maryland’s Delaney is a wealthy businessman and Democratic activist who won a competitive Democratic primary in his first bid for elective office. Measured, serious and experienced, he has deep roots in his community and his party, but he didn’t depend on party insiders to win the primary. That makes him a potentially interesting freshman legislator if he beats GOP Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in November.

Heitkamp has had her political and personal ups and downs, but she retains a sense of humor and a quiet confidence that gives her great appeal. She doesn’t talk like most politicians. She seems straightforward and honest, a North Dakotan who knows politics and policy — and her state. She doesn’t duck and dodge, even responding to a question about her support for the president’s health care law with, “I own it. I said what I said about health care.”

Castro, poised and polished and with degrees from Stanford and Harvard Law, is a state legislator who is a slam dunk to win an open House seat in Texas. The 37-year-old identical twin brother of the mayor of San Antonio, he could become a major player in Texas and even in national politics.

There are many other candidates I could have put on this list. I’ve seen plenty of appealing, quality candidates this cycle. But not every candidate interview this cycle has been enjoyable.

In their interviews with me and my colleagues, Maryland state Sen. Rob Garagiola (D) and Arizona special election nominee Jesse Kelly (R) stood out for being the most arrogant, least likable candidates of the cycle.

Garagiola, 39, who lost to Delaney in his primary and remains my own state Senator, behaved as if he were already the Democratic nominee when I interviewed him in late January. He acted as if he were Tom Cruise doing an exaggerated imitation of himself in the movie “Cocktail.” Calling him cocky simply doesn’t capture the ego he displayed.

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