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Aside from defending troubled incumbents in safe seats, upcoming primaries and runoffs could also complicate Democrats’ math.
Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco (R-Texas) is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country, and Democrats are bullish on their recruit, state Rep. Pete Gallego. But there is a realistic chance he might not make it through the July 31 runoff with former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, who has consistently raised fractions of Gallego’s quarterly fundraising hauls.
Some Democrats wonder if the DCCC will even compete for the seat if Rodriguez is the nominee.
“We’ve all been down the road with Ciro before,” the senior Hill staffer said. “I think Ciro is great in a safe Democratic seat. But Ciro does not have a good track record in a swing seat in a tough year. And he’s got a lot of voting baggage from our time in the majority.”
Others insist the seat is still in play with Rodriguez, who carries sizable name identification and voter familiarity from his tenure in Congress.
In other primaries, outside groups could be the determining factor even though the candidates they are backing may be problematic nominees.
Former Arizona state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Connecticut state Speaker Chris Donovan could prove to be two of those candidates.
Sinema is an Arizona political star with a smart team and EMILY’s List behind her, but she has a 10-year record of public statements that local Democrats worry do not fit the new tossup 9th district. The statements have already surfaced in her three-way primary, and the GOP has made clear that her liberal record will be fair game if she is the nominee in the fall.
For Donovan, an FBI sting resulting in the arrest of his finance director has sent his campaign into turmoil. He has not been implicated, but his fundraising dropped below $100,000 in the second quarter. Former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty, one of the other Democrats running in the open-seat race, posted a strong second quarter, and some party strategists are hoping she will emerge as the nominee. Still, organized labor has doubled down on Donovan, and that support could pull him through the primary.
In both races, the DCCC has shown no hint of a preferred candidate, but local Democrats have shown concern about the prospect of either as the nominee.
Party strategists remain hopeful about the overall House landscape, even if they get the less desirable nominees.
“There are such things as flawed candidates, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to lose,” a national strategist said.