Top Races to Watch in 2016: The Southwest

Kirkpatrick's Senate run sets up a competitive race for her House district. (File Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)


Editor's note: This is the fourth installment in a series of regional looks at the most competitive House and Senate races to watch. The Southwest Region includes Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.  Arizona’s 1st District:  Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s Senate bid creates an open-seat headache for Democrats. Kirkpatrick managed to win re-election in a terrible Democratic year in 2014, but she has a unique appeal in that district that could be difficult for another Democrat to replicate (and faced an underwhelming GOP nominee). Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain won the district with 51 percent in the 2008 presidential race and Mitt Romney carried it with 50 percent in 2012.  

The candidate fields are still taking shape, including the possibility of another crowded GOP primary. Democratic state Sen. Barbara McGuire announced her exploratory committee within three hours of the Supreme Court decision. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rates the race as a Pure Tossup . But this race could end up in the Republican column and further complicate Democratic chances of making a serious dent in the GOP majority.  

Arizona Senate:  McCain has served five terms in the Senate but, unlike some of his colleagues, he won’t be caught off-guard in his re-election. McCain is always at risk of a primary challenge, but it’s still unclear how serious of an opponent he’ll get. Kirkpatrick announced her candidacy on the Democratic side. She would be a credible contender but Arizona still leans Republican in most statewide contests. The recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the state’s nonpartisan redistricting commission kept the current congressional map in place and may keep Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in the House for now. She would be a strong contender in the primary and general elections. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rates the race Leans Republican .  

Texas’ 23rd District:  For much of last cycle, even GOP strategists didn’t give Will Hurd a chance of winning. But he defeated Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego, 50 percent to 48 percent. Gallego is running again to reclaim the sprawling west Texas district and hoping that the presidential year will draw more Hispanic voters. Hurd hit the ground running in his first term, raising more than half a million dollars for his re-election campaign through March. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rates the race a Pure Tossup .  

Arizona’s 2nd District:  To some Democrats, this seat still belongs to Gabrielle Giffords, the former Democratic congresswoman who was shot in a Tucson parking lot when she was meeting with constituents. Last cycle, Republican Martha McSally defeated Democratic Rep. Ron Barber, a former Giffords aide who was also shot in the tragedy. Democrats are still searching for a challenger but would love to take back this seat for electoral and emotional reasons. McCain and Romney won the 2nd narrowly in the last two presidential races. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rates the 2nd District as Leans Republican .

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