Even in good Republican years, the West has proved to be something of a Democratic firewall. But in 2014, Republicans will likely need to win a big Senate race in Alaska to have any chance of flipping the chamber. And if the GOP were to suffer a three- or four-seat loss in California House seats, it might well put its control of the U.S. House in jeopardy.
Here are the top five races to watch in the West next year:
Alaska Senate. Defeating Democratic Sen. Mark Begich is crucial for Republicans if they plan on being in the majority in the Senate. The GOP will have a primary, but as long as the party does not nominate Joe Miller again, the party should be in the ballgame on Election Day. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Tossup/Tilt Democrat. Get the full Rothenberg Political Report analysis here ($).
California’s 52nd District. Democratic Rep. Scott Peters defeated GOP Rep. Brian Bilbray last year in a San Diego-area district, but he is already a Republican target. Former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio is running close to Peters, and the race has hardly started. DeMaio, who is openly gay, is running as a new kind of Republican, but Democrats plan to tell another story. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Lean Democrat.
Nevada’s 3rd District. This suburban Las Vegas district is the type of seat Democrats must compete in to win back the majority. But GOP Rep. Joe Heck isn’t going away easily. Democrat Erin Bilbray-Kohn just announced her candidacy and should be credible. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Lean Republican.
California’s 21st District. This district was a recruitment failure for Democrats last cycle, and Republican David Valadao won the newly redrawn seat. Democrats haven’t found their candidate yet, but keep watching. If they find even a decent candidate, they could invest outside money and make it a race. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Tossup/Tilt Republican.
Hawaii Senate. This race isn’t in jeopardy of falling into Republican hands. But U.S. Senate seats in Hawaii come open only every few decades, so the Democratic primary between Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and appointed Sen. Brian Schatz should be hard-fought. Schatz is the younger, establishment favorite. Hanabusa is the older favorite of the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye’s family. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Currently Safe Democrat.
What races would you add to or subtract from the list?
Note: The West region includes Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.