In the 112th Congress, eight states will send delegations to Washington that are down to just one Democrat — and those Democrats, in many cases, will have to watch their backs in 2012.
Last Tuesday, Democrats faced massive losses across the nation, and their delegations were pared in Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, New Hampshire and South Dakota. Republicans are likely to target the loner Democrats in the next cycle, and many of the red states where the GOP posted gains might be spots lost to Democrats for a long while.
In Alabama, Rep.-elect Terri Sewell will face a lonely first term. She replaced Rep. Artur Davis, who was one of two Alabama Democrats in the 111th Congress. Fellow Rep. Bobby Bright lost his seat to Republican Martha Roby. But Sewell was elected to a safe Democratic seat, so unless redistricting leaves her in a tough spot, she’s likely to cruise to re-election in 2012.
Sewell might consider forming an alliance with nearby Rep. Bennie Thompson, who will be the only Democrat in the Mississippi delegation after Reps. Travis Childers and Gene Taylor lost re-election bids last week.
A few Democratic Senators might see 2010 as a warning. In North Dakota, Sen. Kent Conrad went from serving in an all-Democratic delegation to one where he’s the only Democrat standing. North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven (R) will replace retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan, and longtime Rep. Earl Pomeroy lost to state Rep. Rick Berg (R). Conrad, who is up for re-election in 2012, was first elected in 1986 and won his 2006 re-election with 69 percent of the vote. That seat is among those the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee plans to target in the next cycle.
A couple of Senators who won’t run for re-election until 2014 might also be taking a close look at the landscape in their home states. In New Hampshire, first-term Sen. Jeanne Shaheen went from serving as one of three Democrats in a four-member delegation to being the only Democrat.
South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson (D) lost an ally in Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who lost to state Rep. Kristi Noem (R). And Sen. John Thune (R) cruised to re-election, making the three-person delegation a majority Republican group.
Being a party loner is nothing new for Democrats from Nebraska, Utah and Oklahoma.
Utah Rep. Jim Matheson and Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren have served as the lone Democrats in their delegations for their entire tenures in the House. Representing districts that supported Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for president in 2008, they’re high on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s priority list in 2012.
Matheson was first elected in 2000, four years after the previous Democrat, Rep. William Orton, lost his seat in the 1996 election. Orton at least had the pleasure of serving with another Democrat, Rep. Karen Shepherd, who lost her seat in 1994 after serving one term.
In 2005, Boren replaced Oklahoma’s previous lone Democrat, Rep. Brad Carson.