As Reps. Andy Barr, R-Ky., Ami Bera, D-Calif., and Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., can attest, sometimes the second time is the charm.
All three freshmen won rematch races in 2012 after narrowly losing bids for Congress in 2010.
Three months into the 2014 midterm cycle, there are at least a handful of highly anticipated House race rematches on tap. More are likely to materialize in the next year.
The 2012 opponent of Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., made his comeback official Tuesday, and Minnesota hotelier Jim Graves is expected to announce Thursday whether he will again challenge GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann. Observers believe he will run.
The House landscape is far from set at this early juncture, with first-quarter fundraising reports due Monday and challengers just starting to roll out their campaigns.
Also, a presidential-year electorate differs (in some districts greatly) from a midterm electorate. Depending on the district, that could mean that a rematch race is less — or more — competitive.
At this point, these are the most anticipated — and indeed competitive — instances of 2012 House race déjà vu in 2014:
1. Utah’s 4th District Jim Matheson vs. Mia Love
There is no Democrat sitting in a more Republican district in the country than Matheson, according to the Cook Political Report’s recently released PVI ratings. So it would have been far more surprising had Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, opted not to challenge Matheson again, especially after losing to the longtime congressman by only 768 votes. Matheson says he withstood the “perfect storm” last year and still pulled out the “W.” The harrowing adventure included being drawn out of his district, having Mitt Romney atop the ballot in November and facing a dynamic and potentially history-making opponent in Love. A fellow Mormon, Love would become the first black Republican woman elected to Congress. Love told CQ Roll Call recently that with Dave Hansen, a highly touted Utah strategist, aboard, she now has the best campaign team possible.
2. North Carolina’s 7th District Mike McIntyre vs. David Rouzer
After a recount and ultimately a 654-vote loss in 2012, Rouzer made it official Tuesday that he is taking another shot at the nine-term Democratic incumbent. It’s a testament to McIntyre’s political acumen that he survived in 2012. Republicans were even privately skeptical about knocking off the battle-tested incumbent last year, despite drawing him into a difficult district and unloading an onslaught of negative TV ads against him. Republicans won three Democratic-held districts in the state last cycle. McIntyre held on despite representing the third most Republican district of any Democrat in the country. That was thanks, in part, to his relatively moderate voting record and the TV ads McIntyre ran that called him a “strong conservative and Christian.” Rouzer, now a former state senator, proved a good candidate with a competent campaign, and Republicans have this race listed among their top targets.
3. Minnesota’s 6th District Michele Bachmann vs. Jim Graves
Bachmann largely got a free pass from outside groups in 2012, but she shouldn’t expect one again in 2014. Touted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman last month, Graves is likely to take another shot at the four-term congresswoman. After her failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination kept her outside her district quite a bit last cycle, Bachmann squeaked out just a 1-point victory over Graves. Since then, the Tea Party Caucus founder has shunned the national spotlight and spent far more time meeting with constituents in her suburban Twin Cities district than on national cable TV shows. Despite the district’s GOP lean, national Democrats are expected to invest financial resources here. Along with the DCCC’s interest in the race, Bachmann was among the first Republicans listed as a top target of the Democrat-aligned House Majority PAC.
4. California’s 31st District Gary G. Miller vs. Pete Aguilar
There is no Republican representing a more Democratic-leaning district than Miller, and Aguilar hopes to finally get a one-on-one shot at him. Thanks to California’s new top-two primary format and four Democrats splintering the vote, Aguilar finished third in the June primary behind Miller and another Republican. Aguilar announced April 2 that he’s running again, and Democrats are intent on avoiding the embarrassment of not fielding a candidate in the general. That may be more difficult than first imagined, though, as several other Democrats are looking at the race. That includes former Rep. Joe Baca, who lost in a neighboring district in 2012 and earlier this year announced he would be running against Democratic Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod in the 35th District again. However, a recent report confirmed rumors swirling in the Inland Empire that Baca would run in the 31st District instead. Baca did not return a message by press time.
5. California’s 26th District Julia Brownley vs. Tony Strickland
The president carried this district by 10 points, but Brownley won by just a 5-point margin and California Republicans are optimistic Strickland will have better odds against the freshman in a non-presidential year. Millions of dollars in outside spending went to helping Brownley, a strong candidate in her own right, advance beyond the top-two primary and ultimately defeat the state senator in this Ventura County-based district. Like McIntyre and Matheson, Brownley was named to the DCCC’s candidate-retention Frontline program. Still, Brownley won’t be easy to take out. That’s probably why rumors persist in Golden State GOP circles that Strickland would likely run in the neighboring 25th District if GOP Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon opts to retire. Strickland has filed papers to the Federal Election Commission as a candidate in the 26th District, but he is not expected to launch his campaign formally until later this year.