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I usually draw a blank when people ask me to offer a possible upset or two. After all, I’d rather not be surprised on election night, though there are almost always a couple of unexpected outcomes.
But I’ve been looking at some numbers recently and have been struck by a handful of races that I assumed I wouldn’t be watching at this point but that are now intriguing. The favored candidate may well win the election (these are only possible upsets, after all), but at the very least, these races seem worth watching.
The idea that Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) would lose to challenger Ricky Gill (R) always struck me as little more than wishful thinking by Republicans. Gill, after all, is a 25-year-old Indian-American law school graduate making his first run for office. True, Gill raised almost $1 million in the off-year and GOP strategists have been promoting his candidacy since last year, but McNerney, who ousted incumbent Rep. Richard Pombo (R) in 2006, has proved to be more adept than Republicans ever believed.
But insiders on both sides of the aisle agree that Gill has become a serious threat to McNerney. Democrats are scratching their heads in disbelief over the development, while Republicans are simply happy with the situation. Redistricting moved the district farther east, and President George W. Bush carried the redrawn district narrowly in 2004. Because of that, the idea of a Gill upset of the Congressman is not delusional, but it isn’t something that many believed was truly possible.
If Democrats are worried about McNerney, some Republicans are nervous about Rep. Mary Bono Mack, an eight-term Republican from Palm Springs who finds herself with a serious challenge from Harvard University-educated physician Raul Ruiz (D), the son of migrant workers.
Democrats have been hammering the Republican on the usual issues, including Medicare and the House GOP budget spearheaded by Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), and the district’s growing Hispanic population is a long-term problem for the Republican Congresswoman. While most of the polling in the race still shows Bono Mack ahead, this district is getting more attention from insiders of both parties than I initially expected.
This new district was expected to elect a Democrat, but Republican Danny Tarkanian has been able to hold onto a lead over state Senate Majority Leader Steve Horsford (D).