Southwest: GOP Looking to Recapture House Seats It Lost

Posted October 30, 2009 at 10:12am

Arizona


Filing deadline: May 26 | Primary: Aug. 24

Senate

Incumbent: John McCain (R)
4th term (77 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

McCain, the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee, has never faced serious competition in a career that began in 1982 with a successful House bid. But the 54 percent he won his home state with against Democrat Barack Obama was 23 points less than he received in his last Senate race, in 2004. He also must rebuild his campaign treasury after shifting his cash reserves to his presidential account.

A Sept. 24 poll from Rasmussen Reports, a firm with GOP ties, showed McCain’s road to re-election looks comfortable. The only Democrat who has taken an official step toward running is Rodney Glassman, a 31-year-old first-term Tucson City Council member who has opened an exploratory committee.

McCain’s only significant threat comes from within the ranks of his own party. The self-proclaimed Republican “maverick— has drawn primary opposition from Chris Simcox, a founder of the Minuteman group, which staunchly opposes illegal immigration. And Phoenix-area former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a primary challenge. He is a favorite of social conservatives and anti-immigration groups in the state, constituencies that have never been overly fond of McCain.

House

1st district
Incumbent: Ann Kirkpatrick (D)
1st term (56 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Kirkpatrick ran as a centrist Democrat in 2008, when she captured the seat left open by the retirement of scandal-plagued three-term Rep. Rick Renzi (R). The freshman Democrat’s comfortable 17-point winning margin suggests she has a decent electoral cushion, but Republicans are not hesitating to target the former county prosecutor in 2010.

GOP operatives argue that the House race blowout last year was the result of the cloud cast by Renzi’s legal problems and point to the 9-point edge that district voters gave home-state Sen. John McCain (R) in the 2008 presidential race.

The Republican field is still taking shape. Former state Senate Majority Leader Rusty Bowers (R) filed federal paperwork to organize a campaign committee in late September, but Democrats are already pointing out that he does not live in the district. Paul Gosar, a Flagstaff dentist, and lawyer Bradley Beauchamp are also running. State Rep. Bill Konopnicki, who was recruited by national Republicans in 2008 but decided against running, continues to contemplate a bid, but he has expressed doubts about wanting to serve in the minority on Capitol Hill.

5th district
Incumbent: Harry Mitchell (D)
2nd term (53 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

National Republican strategists predict the 5th district race will be very competitive in 2010. This would be nothing new for Mitchell in a mostly suburban Phoenix-area district that voted 52 percent to 47 percent for Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential contest.

Despite that result, Mitchell more than doubled his margin of victory from 4 points in 2006, when he upset then-Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R), to nearly 10 points over state Rep. David Schweikert (R) last year.

Schweikert is seeking a rematch in 2010, but he won’t have the Republican primary to himself. Businessmen Jim Ward and Eric Wnuck are also in the race. Former state Rep. Susan Bitter Smith, who lost to Schweikert in the 2008 GOP primary, has not ruled out another run. Schweikert led the GOP field in fundraising through the third quarter, but the majority of his receipts came from a personal loan. Another hard-hitting GOP fight through the late August 2010 primary could ultimately benefit Mitchell.

8th district
Incumbent: Gabrielle Giffords (D)
2nd term (55 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Giffords has won by the same comfortable 12-point margin the past two cycles, ever since she won the 2006 race to replace veteran Rep. Jim Kolbe (R).

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won the district in 2008 with 52 percent of the vote. But Giffords, a former Member of both the state House and Senate, has had success casting herself as a centrist and a pragmatist, gaining support from moderate voters in the process.

Barring a big change in the political climate, her two Republican challengers, Marine Corps combat veteran Jesse Kelly and Brian Miller, a major and senior pilot in the Air Force Reserve, face an uphill climb.

New Mexico


Filing deadline: Feb. 9 | Primary: June 1

House

1st district
Incumbent: Martin Heinrich (D)
1st term (56 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Heinrich’s 2008 open-seat win to succeed Rep. Heather Wilson (R) was a long-sought win for Democrats in the Albuquerque-based district. Republicans had held the seat straight through since 1968, when the state converted from at-large to district-based House elections. Heinrich won by an unexpectedly wide margin, while Barack Obama dominated the district’s presidential vote, winning by 21 points over Sen. John McCain (R) of neighboring Arizona. That was a vast improvement over the 3-point margin of victory for 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry and the 1-point edge for 2000 nominee Al Gore.

Heinrich, a former president of the Albuquerque City Council, also impressed fellow Democrats after his election, and they voted him president of the freshman class for the first half of 2009. Yet as a freshman Democrat in a district with a long history of electing Republicans, Heinrich is by no means safe. The GOP field includes Jon Barela, a former vice chairman of the state Republican Party and past president of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce. Heinrich is preparing for a tough race — he has raised $844,000 in campaign funds, and he reported $630,000 in cash on hand at the end of September.

2nd district
Incumbent: Harry Teague (D)
1st term (56 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

What little edge Teague had, as a Democratic freshman in a Republican-leaning district, evaporated when his Republican predecessor, ex-Rep. Steve Pearce, announced he would run in 2010 to try to reclaim the seat he had held for three terms. Teague won the open seat after Pearce left Congress to run, unsuccessfully, for the Senate in 2008.

Pearce’s $500,000 fundraising tally in the third quarter just underscores what a slugfest the 2nd district race is shaping up to be. Teague is not short on cash either as he prepares to play defense: He raised $875,000 through Sept. 30 and led Pearce in cash on hand, $757,000 to $460,000. The campaign committees of both major parties will play heavily in this tossup race.

Pearce won easy victories with 59 percent of the vote in 2006 and 60 percent in 2004. But New Mexico as a whole shifted to the Democrats in the 2008 cycle, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) edged out President Barack Obama by just 1 point in the traditionally conservative district. Teague is working hard to prove that he is the breed of conservative Democrat who fits his Republican-leaning district, but the GOP is not going to make it easy for him.

Oklahoma


Filing deadline: June 9 | Primary: July 27 | Runoff: Aug. 24

Senate

Incumbent: Tom Coburn (R)
1st term (53 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

When Coburn finally announced on Memorial Day that he was going to seek re-election, any thought of a competitive race pretty much went out the window.

Coburn reported just $1.1 million in cash on hand at the end of September, but the fiscally conservative champion won’t need a big war chest to cruise to victory in the Sooner State next year.

House

5th district
Open seat: Mary Fallin (R) is running for governor
Outlook: Safe Republican

The 5th district is a conservative seat that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won by 18 points in last year’s presidential race, so the GOP primary will be the only contest that will matter when it comes to replacing Fallin.

A half-dozen Republicans have filed to run in the primary, and three frontrunners have emerged. It’s a safe bet that two of those three will meet in an August runoff.

One of those two could well be state Corporation Commissioner Jeff Cloud, who filed for the race in mid-October. Cloud waited to make his decision until Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett (R) — who lost the 2006 GOP runoff to Fallin and was viewed as the early favorite this time — passed on the contest in late August. It will be interesting to see if Cornett will throw his support, publicly or privately, behind any primary candidate.

Cloud — who was re-elected in 2008 to a second six-year term on the corporation commission and was once a staffer for then-Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) — faces his most serious competition from state Rep. Mike Thompson and former state Rep. Kevin Calvey, who also ran in the 2006 open-seat primary.

Calvey and Thompson filed in the early spring, which allowed both men to amass impressive war chests by the end of September.

Thompson raised $201,000 from July to September and ended September with about $303,000 in cash on hand. Calvey raised about $148,000 in the third quarter and reported $374,000 in the bank as of Sept. 30. Key to Calvey’s fundraising success has been support from the anti-tax group Club for Growth. Calvey was the first Congressional candidate of the 2010 cycle whom the club endorsed.

Urologist Johnny Roy, who also ran in 2006, is back for another shot at the GOP nomination. Other Republican candidates include youth camp director James Lankford and Navy veteran Rick Flanigan.

Texas


Filing deadline: Jan. 4 | Primary: March 2 | Runoff: April 13

House

10th district
Incumbent: Michael McCaul (R)
3rd term (54 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

One of the biggest-spending races of the 2010 cycle will take place in this Republican-leaning district in and around Austin and Houston, where McCaul faces a challenge from technology executive Jack McDonald (D).

McDonald’s campaign technically is in an exploratory phase, but his fundraising reports leave no doubt that he’ll be a full-fledged candidate. He reported raising $933,000 in the first nine months of the year — the vast majority of which came from individual donors — and began October with $805,000 in the bank, the second-highest total among 2010 House candidates who are challenging incumbents.

There’s no doubt that McDonald will easily surpass the $1.2 million raised by McCaul’s 2008 opponent, lawyer Larry Joe Doherty (D), who lost by 11 points.

McDonald’s fundraising strength is one reason national Democratic officials are touting him as one of their strongest challengers in the nation.

McCaul says that McDonald hasn’t taken any positions on major issues. But there’s evidence the Congressman is taking the challenge seriously. McCaul, one of Congress’ wealthiest Members, in September loaned his campaign $500,000, bringing his 2009 campaign receipts to more than $1.2 million. He has $892,000 left in his campaign fund.

A top priority for McDonald is boosting his name recognition district-wide, but especially in the strongly Republican-leaning western suburbs of Houston.

17th district
Incumbent: Chet Edwards (D)
10th term (53 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Edwards has been a political survivor in a swath of east-central Texas that has a decidedly conservative lean. Targeted for defeat in 2004 under a reconfigured, GOP-drawn district, Edwards held on to win re-election, won handily in 2006 against a big-spending opponent, then prevailed more narrowly in 2008 against a light-spending opponent.

Republican officials point to that most recent race — against Republican Rob Curnock, a little-known Waco businessman who raised just $111,000 for his entire campaign — as evidence that Edwards can be unseated in a midterm election year that should be more favorable to the GOP.

Edwards, a member of the Appropriations Committee and the chairman of the panel that oversees spending for veterans’ programs and military construction, says he usually runs more strongly in midterm years, when fewer Republicans come to the polls than in higher-turnout presidential election years.

Curnock is back for a rematch and thus far is the best-funded of the half-dozen Republicans who are planning campaigns. That isn’t saying much, though: He raised $70,000 through the end of September.

Other GOP candidates include Chuck Wilson, a former CIA case officer; David McIntyre, a radio host who lost a 2004 primary for this seat; and Timothy Delasandro, a Navy veteran and registered nurse.

Edwards doesn’t seem to be taking anything for granted. In the first nine months of this year, he built a $1.1 million campaign war chest, the most money he has ever banked 13 months before an election.

23rd district
Incumbent: Ciro Rodriguez (D)
2nd term (56 percent; previously served four terms)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Rodriguez is settling into his second tenure in the House, thanks to a 2006 court-ordered revision to a GOP-drawn redistricting map that appended a heavily Hispanic and Democratic-leaning area of south San Antonio to the 23rd district, where Rodriguez unseated Rep. Henry Bonilla (R). Rodriguez won more handily in the 2008 election against Republican Lyle Larson, an elected commissioner in the county that includes San Antonio.

Rodriguez merits the strong early edge, though this district isn’t so strongly Democratic — President Barack Obama took 51 percent of the district vote — that a competitive 2010 campaign by Republican lawyer Francisco “Quico— Canseco can be ruled out. Canseco, who lost the 2008 GOP nomination to Larson, has the ability to self-fund his campaign.