Oct. 21, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

On a Run of Strong Congressional Candidates

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
South Carolina businessman Tom Rice has the makings of a strong Member of Congress, and he’s a lock to win in a newly created Horry County-based district, Stuart Rothenberg writes.

Democrat Hayden Rogers managed Rep. Heath Shuler’s first race for Congress and went on to become the Congressman’s chief of staff.

Rogers is everything Democrats could hope for — bright, personable and well-versed in policy and politics. A graduate of Princeton University (where he played defensive tackle), he’s the ultimate good ol’ boy with a Carolina accent. Unfortunately for him, he is a Democrat in a very Republican district — the most Republican district in the state after redistricting.

Moreover, Rogers’ GOP opponent is Mark Meadows, a real estate developer who has lived in Western North Carolina for 27 years. Conservative, polished and as personable as Rogers, Meadows has appeal to all wings of the GOP. But given his personal style and background, he looks much more like a mainstream businessman than a tea party activist. He also looks very likely to be the district’s next Member of Congress.

While Democrats had their share of problems finding a strong candidate in California’s 26th district — and then had to spend heavily to get her through the top two primary and onto the November ballot — state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley looks to be the real deal.

She has been involved in elective politics for the past 20 years, so it probably isn’t surprising that she is personable and substantive. She starts out in a hole financially, having spent heavily to make the general election. Her GOP opponent, state Sen. Tony Strickland, had more than a 3-to-1 cash-on-hand advantage June 30. Polling in the race is contradictory, and both Brownley and Strickland appear to be more ideological than their constituents. But this should be a good race between two strong candidates.

Republican Susan Brooks is almost certain to succeed retiring Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), and she has the potential to be a star on Capitol Hill.

A former deputy mayor under Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith (R) in the late 1990s, Brooks served for six years as a U.S. attorney. She began her service in that position about one month after 9/11.

After leaving that job, she became senior vice president and general counsel for the state’s community college system.

“I’m not in favor of raising taxes or more regulation, and I want smaller government,” she said after responding that she has not signed ATR’s anti-tax pledge. “I’m not signing any pledge,” she added, noting that she didn’t want to tie her hands before she gets to Capitol Hill.

Brooks is another conservative who wants to make government work rather than merely shut it down.

I was impressed by both candidates in California’s 47th district, based in Long Beach, Orange County.

State Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D) starts out as the favorite in this Democratic-leaning open-seat contest. A community psychologist and college professor, Lowenthal, 71, is proud of his legislative accomplishments and stresses that he is a problem-solver who doesn’t automatically support his party.

Soft-spoken, serious and thoughtful, he sounds more like a therapist than a politician. What he lacks in pizzazz, he makes up for in earnestness. If he has a weakness, it may well be that he is too confident that voters will reward him for his years working for the voters of Long Beach.

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