West: Veterans in Both Parties Find Themselves Targeted

Posted October 30, 2009 at 9:34am

Alaska

Filing deadline: June 1 | Primary: Aug. 24

Senate

Incumbent: Lisa Murkowski (R)
2nd term (49 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Murkowski could have had the most difficult election of her life in 2004, when former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) challenged her for a full term. Murkowski was appointed by her father, then-Gov. Frank Murkowski (R), to serve out the rest of his term when he became governor. Even though Knowles was initially favored to defeat Murkowski, the Senator pulled out a 3-point win on Election Day.

Democrats have no plans to challenge Murkowski, as several of the state’s well-known Democrats have opted to run for governor in 2010. Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R), who defeated the Senator’s father in a gubernatorial primary, has said she won’t run against Murkowski either. Murkowski, a member of Senate Republican leadership, appears to be on a path to skate to re-election next year.

House

At-large
Incumbent: Don Young (R)
19th term (50 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

Young was hit on all sides last year, first favored to lose the primary to a statewide officeholder and then favored to lose the general election to one of Democrats’ top recruits of the cycle. Young surprised everyone — including himself, aides say — and won both 2008 races. Young defeated then-Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell (R) by 304 votes in the primary and then came from behind in public polls to defeat former state House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz (D) by a 5-point margin.

Not shockingly, Young has attracted both general election and primary opponents again this cycle. Young is still under investigation by the federal government. The scandal that plagued his candidacy last cycle has not gone away: Most recently, Young was accused of bribery in a former oil executive’s official testimony. Young was forced to step down from his top post on the Natural Resources Committee at the beginning of this Congress.

Businessman Andrew Halcro announced he would challenge Young in the primary in September. Halcro ran as an independent candidate for governor in 2006 and has developed a reputation on his radio show and Web site for being critical of former Gov. Sarah Palin (R). Halcro is considered by local Republicans to be a formidable candidate, but only time will tell whether he lives up to that billing when he files his first fundraising numbers early next year.

State Rep. Harry Crawford (D) announced his candidacy in late August and reported raising a meager $19,000 through the end of September. Although Crawford presents a different candidate profile than Berkowitz, he’s still viewed as having an uphill battle to compete with Young — who had only $123,000 in his bank account at the end of September. But if the Congressman’s legal situation changes in the next year, all bets are likely off.

California


Filing deadline: March 15 | Primary: June 8

Senate

Incumbent: Barbara Boxer (D)
3rd term (58 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Though California long was a partisan battleground, today the nation’s most populous state is deep Democratic blue. This was underscored by President Barack Obama’s whopping 2008 landslide in the Golden State — he got 61 percent, the highest vote share in the state for a Democratic presidential candidate since Franklin Roosevelt drew 67 percent in 1936.

Boxer’s image as an outspoken liberal has held her approval ratings down — a Field Poll released Oct. 19 pegged it at 44 percent — and Republicans think she could be vulnerable in the right political environment. Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, has been exploring a run and is expected to announce a campaign in November. She is the challenger of choice of GOP leaders in Washington, D.C., thanks to her ability to help fund an expensive statewide campaign, moderate political tendencies and name ID. But she also has baggage — her tenure at the helm of Hewlett-Packard was controversial and her stint as an economics adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 also got mixed reviews.

Early polls don’t have Fiorina performing much better against Boxer than conservative state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, who is also campaigning for the GOP nomination. DeVore is already proving to be a nuisance to Fiorina and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Businessman Al Ramirez (R) is also running.

House

3rd district
Incumbent: Dan Lungren (R)
3rd term (50 percent; previously served five terms)
Outlook: Leans Republican

Democrats regard Lungren as vulnerable after he had a close call in 2008, when he faced a rematch with Bill Durston (D). Lungren’s winning margin over Durston decreased from 22 points in 2006 to 6 points two years later even though he outspent the little-known Democrat by a 2-to-1 ratio.

Democrats are further encouraged by the fact that the suburban Sacramento 3rd district narrowly favored President Barack Obama in 2008. The prospect of a competitive race has drawn early interest from several Democrats, including Bill Slaton, director of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, and physician Ami Bera, both of whom outraised Lungren in the third quarter. Bera, whose impressive war chest is built almost entirely on individual donations, also enjoys a cash-on-hand advantage over the incumbent. Calaveras County Supervisor Steve Wilensky is also contemplating the race.

The district, however, usually leans Republican. And Lungren, who formerly represented a Congressional district in the southern part of the state and then served two terms as state attorney general before his unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 1998, is well-known. His Democratic challenger will no doubt have to make up a serious name identification deficit, and that won’t be cheap.

4th district
Incumbent: Tom McClintock (R)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

The reputation of the largely rural 4th district as a Republican stronghold was underscored in 2008, when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried it by 10 points. Yet the conservative McClintock won the open-seat race in northeastern California by a razor-thin margin over retired Air Force officer Charlie Brown (D), who had come close to ousting longtime Rep. John Doolittle (R) in 2006.

McClintock appears much better positioned for re-election, though he doesn’t have a particularly large war chest. A competitive challenger has yet to emerge.

10th district
Vacancy: Ellen Tauscher (D) resigned to become undersecretary of State for arms control and international security affairs
Outlook: Safe Democratic

After a spirited open primary, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi (D) is poised to win the Nov. 3 special election. He is well-known and popular, after more than 30 years in public office. Republican nominee David Harmer, an attorney and the son of a former lieutenant governor, has worked hard to make the special election competitive, but the GOP registration in the district is just 28 percent compared with Democrats’ 47 percent registration, so it’s hard to see how Harmer can win. And the national parties have largely stayed out of the race.

11th district
Incumbent: Jerry McNerney (D)
2nd term (55 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

McNerney proved two important things when he won a second term in 2008 by a relatively comfortable margin. First, his 2006 ouster of then-Rep. Richard Pombo (R) was not solely a referendum on Pombo’s ethics. And second, the 11th district is no longer presumed to be solidly Republican territory, as it was through most of Pombo’s seven-term tenure.

McNerney won re-election in 2008 by a 10-point margin over Dean Andal (R), a former state Representative. District voters also favored President Barack Obama by 10 points, four years after they gave President George W. Bush a 9-point margin of victory.

Several Republicans have begun preparing campaigns to challenge McNerney in 2010, including vineyard owner Brad Goehring; Tony Amador, a former U.S. marshal for Northern California; and Elizabeth Emken, an advocate for children with autism and former financial manager for IBM Corp. Goehring is the best-funded of the GOP field, thanks largely to a $650,000 infusion of personal money to his campaign.

44th district
Incumbent: Ken Calvert (R)
9th term (51 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

A very close call in 2008 ended a string of easy victories for Calvert and alerted both Democrats and Republicans to his potential vulnerability in 2010. So did the 1-point edge that voters gave to Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama just four years after they favored President George W. Bush by 19 points.

Calvert, in his ninth term in a Riverside County district in Southern California, was dogged by accusations of past ethical improprieties, including allegations that he used Congressional earmarks to benefit commercial real estate in which he had a personal financial interest.

Now, the incumbent faces competition in the 2010 primary and general election. Commercial real estate broker Chris Riggs (R) has established a campaign. Bill Hedrick, the 2008 Democratic challenger and president of the Rialto Education Association, is seeking a rematch. The Democrat’s fundraising has not been strong — he reported just less than $75,000 in the bank at the end of the third quarter — but he was outspent 6 to 1 by Calvert in 2008 and still nearly managed to pull off the upset. And he’ll have the support of national Democrats this time.

45th district
Incumbent: Mary Bono Mack (R)
7th term (58 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Democrats see this Palm Springs-based district moving their way, but Bono Mack has had no trouble holding it so far. Her 2010 bid for re-election may be one of the most difficult of her career, however. Though the Riverside County district has a long-standing Republican lean, its increasingly competitive nature was evident in President Barack Obama’s 5-point edge over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential voting. Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet (D), who is openly gay, is running, and he could be formidable. Bono Mack reported double the Democratic challenger’s cash reserves at the end of September, though.

47th district
Incumbent: Loretta Sanchez (D)
7th term (70 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

The 47th district in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, is hardly the friendliest territory for Republicans — Barack Obama outran Sen. John McCain (Ariz.)there by a 22-point margin in 2008. But Republicans point out that the district narrowly favored President George W. Bush as recently as 2004. And GOP officials are touting state Assemblyman Van Tran as their most competitive challenger to Sanchez since the 2002 redistricting that strengthened the Democratic base in the district.

Tran, who is Vietnamese-American, could have significant appeal among the Asian-Americans who make up roughly a sixth of the district’s population. But he doesn’t have the Republican field to himself: Marine Corps veteran Quang Pham is also seeking the Republican nomination. Tran got himself into some hot water in August 2009 in his capacity as the lawyer for a local politician who was arrested for drunken driving, and Democrats pounced immediately. He also starts with a significant cash disadvantage — with $283,000 in the bank at the end of the third quarter compared with $769,000 for Sanchez.

50th district
Incumbent: Brian Bilbray (R)
3rd term (50 percent; previously served three terms)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Republican strategists hoped Bilbray would settle into a political comfort zone in the San Diego-area district after narrowly winning a special election in 2006. That didn’t happen in 2008, though. His edge shrunk back to 5 points over Democratic challenger Nick Leibham, while district voters favored President Barack Obama by 4 points on the presidential level.

Democrats thus argue that Bilbray has no lock on the seat, and they have the challenger who party strategists think is best suited to test that proposition: Dave Roberts, a city councilman and former mayor in Solana Beach, announced his candidacy Sept. 3. Roberts touts his military background — he is an Air Force veteran — and his past experience working on Capitol Hill as an aide on the House Appropriations Committee. His candidacy may receive some added attention because he is openly gay.

But Roberts appears likely to face a multicandidate primary and could have some trouble given the fact that he was a registered Independent until early 2009. The field includes Francine Busby, an educator seeking a third try against Bilbray, and Tracy Emblem, an appellate attorney. Leibham, a former prosecutor, has yet to decide whether he will seek a rematch.

>Hawaii


Filing deadline: July 20 | Primary: Sept. 18

Senate

Incumbent: Daniel Inouye (D)
8th term (76 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Republicans’ only shot at winning this seat was with Gov. Linda Lingle (R), who is stepping down because of term limits in 2010. Lingle, however, has made it clear that she has no interest running for Senate this cycle. Without a single strong Republican on the horizon, Inouye is in a good position to win a ninth term; he is already the third-longest-serving Senator in history.

House

1st district
Open seat: Neil Abercrombie (D) is running for governor
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Abercrombie’s departure to run for governor has opened up an opportunity for many local politicians who have been waiting their turn to run for Congress in the Aloha State. And although the district has traditionally elected Democrats, national Republicans are cautiously optimistic about their chances for an upset.

Former Rep. Ed Case (D) announced he would run in late March. Case left Hawaii’s other House seat in 2006 to challenge Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) in the primary but has never hid the fact that he hoped to return to elected office someday. The former Congressman had only raised an unimpressive $169,000 for his campaign through the end of September, even though he has been in the race for six months.

State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa (D) announced her candidacy in mid-September, and she has plenty of time to catch up on the fundraising front before next year’s primary. EMILY’s List was quick to back Hanabusa, and the group’s support will no doubt boost her fundraising.

But a late primary could also hurt Democrats’ chances of keeping the seat. If Hanabusa and Case get into a bruising battle, it could open the door for Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou (R) in November.

National and local Republicans have touted Djou as one of their best candidates for Congress in a decade. He started fundraising for the race in 2008 and boasted $268,000 in cash on hand at the end of September. Although the district is heavily Democratic, there might be a path to victory for Djou in the Aloha State.

Nevada


Filing deadline: March 12 | Primary: June 8

Senate

Incumbent: Harry Reid (D)
4th Term (61 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

After surviving close contests in his first three Senate elections, Reid won by a breakout margin in 2004 and then gained national prominence in his current role as Senate Majority Leader. Therefore, Reid should be in a solid position to win again in 2010, with Democrats coming off a strong 2008 Nevada campaign in which President Barack Obama easily carried the swing state and his party gained a 2-1 edge in the House. But Reid is highly unpopular right now among Silver State voters, the result of his role as a lead player in partisan fights on Capitol Hill and Nevada’s struggling economy. And as a result, he is looking vulnerable to a GOP challenge next year.

The state Republican Party, however, has struggled to produce a top-tier challenger. The two Republicans widely regarded as the leading potential contenders — Rep. Dean Heller and former Rep. Jon Porter, who lost his 3rd district seat in 2008 — ruled out runs this summer. Nonetheless, hypothetical matchups in recent polls have shown Reid trailing a couple of lesser-known Republicans: Danny Tarkanian, a Las Vegas real estate developer and son of legendary college basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian; and former state Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden, who served two terms in the state Senate in the 1990s. Other declared or likely GOP contenders are state Sen. Mark Amodei; former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle; physician Robin Titus; John Chachas, a New York banker and native of Ely in rural Nevada; and Chuck Kozak, a Reno lawyer.

Any Republican who takes on Reid will have to pull together significant resources. He reported $12 million in campaign receipts as of Sept. 30 with $8.7 million remaining in the bank. That, in turn, enabled him to launch his first two campaign ads in mid-October, both positive spots focused on his efforts on behalf of his home state. But Republican strategists believe whoever emerges as the GOP challenger will be able to rally financial support from around the country.

House

2nd district
Incumbent: Dean Heller (R)
2nd term (52 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Heller comfortably won a second term in 2008 in a rematch with Democrat Jill Derby, despite the significant inroads that Democrats made in the state.

One potential Democratic challenger has come and gone. Cindy Trigg, the Douglas County school board president, said in spring 2009 that she intended to challenge Heller in 2010, but she dropped out in July. The Democrats don’t have another obvious contender.

Heller has politically inoculated himself to some degree with his growing clout in the House. However, his funding advantage is not insurmountable — he reported just more than $315,000 in the bank at the end of September.

3rd district
Incumbent: Dina Titus (D)
1st term (47 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Titus, the longtime Democratic leader in the state Senate, met a Democratic Party goal in 2008 when she unseated three-term Rep. Jon Porter (R). The 3rd district, which takes in part of Las Vegas and a big portion of its suburbs, was drawn prior to the 2002 elections to be a partisan battleground.

After splitting nearly right down the middle in the 2000 and 2004 presidential contests, the district went for President Barack Obama (D) by a comfortable 12-point margin last year. And Titus this time will be running against a challenger rather than a Republican incumbent. But her 47 percent plurality and 5-point margin over Porter has done nothing to dissuade the Republican Party from staging a targeted effort in 2010 to win the seat back.

The initial Republican recruit, bank executive John Guedry, declared his candidacy in August only to drop out in September, citing undisclosed family reasons. In his stead, former state Sen. Joe Heck, who had launched a long-shot bid for governor, swapped that for the 3rd district contest and is now the frontrunner for the GOP nomination.

He will face a primary challenge from real estate investor Rob Lauer, who is prepared to put some of his own money into his campaign. The state of the economy at the time of the 2010 election, and public opinion about the agenda pursued by Obama and Congressional Democrats, could be decisive in determining whether voters give Titus a second term. The district has been hit hard by foreclosures, a loss of construction jobs and a drop in tourism revenue caused by the deep economic recession.

Oregon


Filing deadline: March 9 | Primary: May 18

Senate

Incumbent: Ron Wyden (D)
3rd term (63 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Wyden appears to be in for an easy re-election race in 2010. Senate Republicans have indicated that they do not plan to target him.

House

4th district
Incumbent: Peter DeFazio (D)
12th term (83 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

House Republicans were initially bullish about Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken’s chances in this district. National Republican Congressional Committee Recruitment Chairman Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) made a personal visit to the state to tout Leiken’s candidacy as an example of his party expanding the 2010 playing field.

DeFazio has never had a tough race, plus he was rumored to be interested in running for governor in 2010. The western Oregon district gave President Barack Obama 54 percent but has elected Republicans on the national level in previous cycles. House Republicans thought they had a real shot at the seat, especially if DeFazio stepped down.

But since Leiken announced his candidacy in June, he’s received bad press for misrepresenting his campaign fundraising. Leiken had only raised $52,000 for his campaign as of the end of September.

What’s more, DeFazio is unlikely to run for governor. Although he has not officially ruled out a bid, he has kept mum on running since a former Democratic governor got into the race. Although Republicans were once optimistic about this district, it now appears unlikely that they will be able to steal this seat.

5th district
Incumbent: Kurt Schrader (D)
1st term (54 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Republicans see this as their best chance to pick up a seat in the state. Former Rep. Darlene Hooley’s (D) retirement last cycle created an open-seat race, but a viscous GOP primary ruined their chances of having a competitive race. Schrader defeated businessman Mike Erickson (R), 54 percent to 38 percent.

Schrader knows he has a target on his back, and he told the local press in October that “the only competitive race— in the state is in his district. National Democrats are prepared to fight to keep Schrader in place, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already put him in its “Frontline— program for potentially vulnerable incumbents.

National Republicans appear to be impressed so far with state Rep. Scott Bruun, who got into the race in early October. Although Republicans consider Bruun to be a political moderate, the caliber of his candidacy will become clearer in the next few months after he hits the trail and starts to raise money.

National Republican Congressional Committee Vice Chairman Greg Walden (Ore.) personally recruited Bruun, and the committee has indicated it plans to support him.

Washington


Filing deadline: June 11 | Primary: Aug. 17

Senate

Incumbent: Patty Murray (D)
3rd term (55 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Murray has consistently performed well and could perform even better in 2010 without an opponent in sight. While national Republicans always target her colleague, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D), Murray has for the most part skated to re-election.

Murray defeated then-Rep. George Nethercutt (R), 55 percent to 43 percent, in 2004. Not only was that a good year for Republicans, but the gubernatorial race was so close that it went into overtime and was decided after a months-long recount. Murray will probably win by an even larger margin this cycle unless Republicans find a prominent candidate. But at this point it doesn’t seem like they are even bothering to look.

House

8th district
Incumbent: Dave Reichert (R)
3rd term (53 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

Reichert could be headed down the path to another tough race in 2010. After defeating former technology executive Darcy Burner (D) in 2006 and 2008 by slim margins, Reichert has acquired another well-funded Democratic opponent.

Democrats still face a difficult road to defeating Reichert in 2010. The Congressman won re-election with 53 percent while President Barack Obama won his district with 56 percent, and the National Republican Congressional Committee has held him up as an example to other Members to show them how to fundraise and prepare for tough races.

Former Microsoft executive Suzan DelBene entered the race in late February, and political operatives immediately thought they had a case of déjà vu on their hands. DelBene’s profile was similar to that of Burner, who was also a technology executive.

Unlike Burner, however, DelBene has already put $489,000 in personal funds into her campaign. At the end of September, she showed an impressive $615,000 war chest. Reichert, meanwhile, has also been fundraising at a torrid pace. He had raised $805,000 so far this cycle through the end of September, but he only had about $333,000 in the bank. Republicans say his cash on hand is low because he was paying off his debt from the previous cycle.