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Members Eye Opportunities in Gubernatorial Races

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Schock is considering trading in his Capitol Hill office for a gubernatorial run in his home state.

Members of Congress looking to ascend the political food chain — and leave Washington, D.C. — will have a plethora of opportunities in 2014.

There are 36 gubernatorial races this cycle, providing ambitious members frustrated with Congressional gridlock or the commute to Capitol Hill the perfect avenue for a promotion.

The map of seats in cycle reveals especially bountiful opportunities for Democrats. This is the class of governors first elected in the 2010 Republican wave, many of whom are seeking re-election in competitive states and possibly in a much more neutral political environment.

Democratic strategists noted the following gubernatorial races as their top targets: Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania. President Barack Obama won all of these states last month.

Republicans occupy 22 of those governors’ mansions, so the GOP will mostly play defense. Still, the GOP could have a few unique opportunities in traditional Democratic territory such as Illinois, or in a competitive state such as New Hampshire.

Below is a breakdown of the races where there are members worth watching as potential gubernatorial candidates this cycle:

Potential Democratic Candidates

Iowa: Rep. Bruce Braley, D, has kept mum about his future plans since comfortably winning a fourth term last month. But an Iowa Democrat close to the congressman noted “he’s seeing what’s shaking out here” to decide whether to challenge Gov. Terry E. Branstad, a Republican.

Braley has eyed a statewide bid for a while: He started doing public events outside the 1st District more than a year ago. But Democrats also point to Braley as the most obvious candidate to succeed Sen. Tom Harkin, who may retire in 2014. It would be an easier contest than challenging Branstad, who remains relatively popular compared to other governors on the list of top targets.

Maine: Democrats talk up Rep. Michael H. Michaud as a potential challenger to the controversial, tea-party-backed Gov. Paul R. Le- Page, a Republican.

There’s probably going to be an independent in this race, businessman Eliot Cutler, which could complicate Michaud’s path to victory. But would he give up his new spot as the ranking member on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee for a three-way race? A source said that’s the greater factor in his decision.

When asked about his interest in the race, a Michaud spokesman said the congressman is focused on his new committee role “and the job at hand, like the fiscal cliff and other immediate issues.”

Michigan: Rep. Gary Peters is the Democrat in the best position to run statewide in 2014 — the question is, for which office? A favorite of organized labor, Peters blasted first-term GOP Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, for ramming a right-to-work bill through the state’s lame-duck session last week.

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