West: Beating Reid Would Be the Title Prize for GOP

Alaska


Filing deadline: June 1 | Primary: Aug. 24

Senate

Incumbent: Lisa Murkowski (R)
1st term (49 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Incumbents don’t get much safer than Murkowski this cycle. While Alaska was a hotbed for political races in 2008, this year’s set of campaigns is a snoozer.

One Republican, attorney Joe Miller, has filed to run against her in the primary. A perennial candidate has filed for the Democratic nod as well. Neither is expected to make Murkowski sweat, let alone give her a race.

House

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

It’s hard to believe that the same Republican who the national party thought would not win his primary or general election in 2008 appears to be getting by without a serious challenge this cycle. Young won the GOP nomination by just over 300 votes two years ago and then came from behind to win another term in the general election.

This cycle should be a pretty easy electoral ride for the 19-term incumbent. Young’s primary opponent, businessman Andrew Halcro, dropped out of the race. What’s more, his chief Democratic competition, state Rep. Harry Crawford, can’t get his campaign off the ground and reported only $55,000 in the bank at the end of March.

Barring any unforeseen legal problems, Young appears headed to a much smoother ride to re-election in November.

California


Filing deadline: Passed | Primary: June 8

Senate

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

Every six years, Republicans talk boldly of sending Boxer home. Each time, it is their nominee who retreats with his tail between his legs.

But there is some evidence this time that Boxer really does have to worry. Her poll numbers have been mediocre, and she’s been running fairly evenly with her three prospective GOP challengers: former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, ex-Rep. Tom Campbell and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.

Just how much Boxer has to sweat may have something to do with who emerges from the GOP primary and how Republicans comport themselves in the next month and beyond. Fiorina, who is personally wealthy, is the choice of most of the national GOP establishment. But Campbell has plenty of establishment support of his own in the Golden State.

DeVore is the most conservative of the three, and he’s been endorsed by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and other conservative leaders who are skeptical that Fiorina and Campbell are true believers. DeVore can’t win the nomination, if polls are to be believed — Fiorina and Campbell are running close — but he can certainly affect the outcome.

Democrats fear Fiorina and her star power and her money, but they also think her history at Hewlett-Packard, including the multimillion-dollar golden parachute she received when she left the company — can be mined for negative advertisements.

Through March 31, Boxer had $8.7 million on hand, compared with $2.8 million for Fiorina, $1.1 million for Campbell and $412,000 for DeVore.

House

3rd district
Incumbent: Dan Lungren (R)
3rd term (49 percent; previously served five terms)
Outlook: Leans Republican

This is one of the few House districts in the country where Democrats are on offense, after Lungren, a veteran officeholder, had a weak showing in 2008 that surprised both parties. The Sacramento-area district is definitely changing and becoming more friendly territory for Democrats. But whether that’s enough — especially in an anti-Democratic year — to cost Lungren his job is another story.

Democrats are very high on Ami Bera, their likely nominee, who they barely knew until he started running. He’s a young physician who has proved to be a very aggressive fundraiser. Through March 31, Bera had raised almost $1.3 million this cycle and had banked $977,000. Lungren had raised $976,000 and had $650,000 left to spend.

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

In a big Republican year, McNerney could be in danger. He won a fluky election in 2006 and represents a swing district that takes in part of the East Bay and some conservative areas of the Central Valley. But he’s done a lot to solidify his position — including banking $994,000 as of March 31 — and Republicans are sifting through a crowded primary with no obvious favorite.

The leading GOP contenders appear to be Tony Amador, a former U.S. marshal; Elizabeth Emken, the director of a nonprofit group; Brad Goehring, a wine grape grower; and David Harmer, an attorney who was the Republican nominee in a special election in the nearby 10th district last year.

19th district
Open seat: George Radanovich (R) is retiring
Outlook: Safe Republican

Radanovich’s retirement has set up a fascinating Republican primary that features former 11th district Rep. Richard Pombo, who was environmentalists’ public enemy No. 1 when he was House Resources chairman, state Sen. Jeff Denham (Radanovich’s endorsed choice), ex-Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson and Fresno attorney Larry Westerlund. However ugly it gets between now and primary day — and it could get very ugly — the Republican nominee will be the heavy favorite in the fall.

33rd district
Open seat: Diane Watson (D) is retiring
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Karen Bass (D), the highly respected former state Assembly Speaker, is the overwhelming favorite to replace Watson in her Los Angeles-area district — and chances are she’ll have a long and successful career in Congress.

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

Calvert may be the one who got away for Democrats.

A Democratic nobody, local school board official and union activist Bill Hedrick, with almost zero support from party leaders, came close to ousting Calvert in 2008. Hedrick is trying again and national Democrats are paying attention, but in a year in which they will be playing defense almost everywhere, it amounts to too little, too late. Relator Chris Riggs is challenging Calvert in the Republican primary.

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

If this were a good cycle for Democrats, party leaders would have every reason to be optimistic that this is the year they can finally oust Bono Mack, whose Palm Springs-area district has been in their sights for a while. Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet (D) is a top recruit, and he had banked $618,000 as of March 31. And the one-time conservative stronghold is changing demographically — the district gave Barack Obama 52 percent of the vote in the 2008 White House election.

But it’s a bad cycle for Democrats, and Bono Mack, with more than $1 million on hand, is once again looking strong. Perhaps Democrats will need to figure out a creative way of redrawing her district before they can truly put her in jeopardy.

47th district
Incumbent: Loretta Sanchez (D)
7th term (69 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Every so often, Republican leaders, citing results in other Orange County races, demographic trends and Sanchez’s own foibles, insist that they can take her out. And they got a pretty good recruit this time in state Assemblyman Van Tran. But it’s still hard to believe that Sanchez is in much trouble at this point.

Hawaii


Filing deadline: July 20 | Primary: Sept. 18

Senate

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

Not a single person has announced they will challenge Inouye for re-election. As the most senior and powerful Democrat in the state, it’s unlikely he’ll get a primary challenge. The only Republican who could give him a run for his money is outgoing Gov. Linda Lingle (R), who has already indicated she will not challenge him.

Inouye will easily be re-elected to another term.

House

1st district
Vacancy: Neil Abercrombie (D) resigned
Outlook: Leans Republican

With just days to go until one of the most unique special elections in the history of the state, Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou (R) has the edge. Even though this district traditionally votes for Democrats, the presence of two well-known Democratic candidates — state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and former Rep. Ed Case — in the winner-take-all contest ruined the party’s chances of holding the seat after Abercrombie resigned to run for governor.

However, the question remains whether Djou will own the seat or merely rent it. In the November election, Democrats will again have the upper hand in a district that voted for President Barack Obama with 70 percent. It will be a significant challenge for Djou to hold the seat in November.

Much of Djou’s chances could depend on the Democratic primary in late September. Both Case and Hanabusa have indicated that they plan to run for the nomination for a full term, which only extends the intraparty fight until six weeks before Election Day. It won’t matter too much at that point who wins the nomination because both will have high negative marks from voters.

Nevada


Filing deadline: Passed | Primary: June 8

Senate

Incumbent: Harry Reid (D)
4th term (61 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

The only thing that remains consistent in this race is Reid’s lousy poll numbers.

Reid’s re-elect numbers this spring continued to be mired in the 30s despite his spending well over $5 million on his campaign by March 31.

The Senate Majority Leader is undoubtably in serious trouble, even though Republicans couldn’t clear their primary field or even find a particularly well-known recruit.

There are a dozen Republicans fighting to take on Reid, and the leading candidate appears to be former Nevada GOP Chairwoman Sue Lowden.

Lowden has begun to earn support from the national party, but she has also proved to be somewhat gaffe-prone. Recently she earned criticism from Democrats for suggesting that people might be able to barter for their health care.

“Before we all started having health care, in the olden days our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor,” Lowden said.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee quickly started a “chickens for checkups” ad campaign.

Despite the uproar over that statement, Lowden continues to outperform Reid in head-to-head matchups.

In the primary, lawyer Danny Tarkanian, son of legendary former University of Nevada-Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, could be Lowden’s biggest competition. But it wouldn’t be fair to count out two other Republican candidates: conservative former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle and John Chachas, a New York investment banker with Nevada roots who seeded his campaign with $1 million.

Whoever emerges from the primary fight will have to work hard to raise enough money to compete with Reid and his massive war chest.

But the GOP nominee will certainly receive heavy fundraising support from the national party, which has made Reid a top target, and be able to tap into a national network of donors who see Reid’s scalp as the biggest possible prize this cycle.

One thing that may hurt the eventual GOP nominee is the emergence this spring of tea party candidate Scott Ashjian, who will be on the ballot in the general election.

House

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

After narrowly ousting three-term Rep. Jon Porter (R) in this battleground district in 2008, Titus has found herself at the top of GOP target lists this cycle.

Titus has several economic and political dynamics working against her, including the stubbornly high job losses and foreclosure rates in her suburban Las Vegas district and a 2010 political environment that is looking increasingly inhospitable for Democrats.

Republicans claim that Titus has not offered credible solutions to the economic issues facing her constituents and that she has joined with the Democratic leadership in making matters worse with a “big government” agenda.

Surgeon Joe Heck, a former state Senator who is the presumed GOP nominee, has made Titus’ support for the controversial health care bill that passed the House in March a major issue in the campaign.

Democrats are seeking to paint Heck as a political opportunist who used to espouse more moderate positions before jumping into the race.

At the end of March, Titus held a more than 3-1 lead in the money chase. Keeping tha cash lead will be important if she hopes to return to Congress for a second term.

Oregon


Filing deadline: Passed | Primary: Tuesday

Senate

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

Although many Republicans have filed to run against Wyden, not one of them could give him a serious race in November.

Wyden won’t even have to break a sweat to win a fourth term.

House

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

Republicans have their eye on the freshman Schrader, who won this district when it was an open seat. After a long wooing process, the GOP finally got its preferred candidate in the race: state Rep. Scott Bruun.

Bruun, however, has a primary with local businessman Fred Thompson. Although Bruun is favored to win his party’s nod, he has been forced to run television ads — and spend some of the precious $109,000 he had in the bank — because he is not well-known in the district and his opponent’s famous GOP name could be problematic.

Nonetheless, if Bruun’s fundraising picks up after the primary, he should be able to give Schrader a competitive challenge for the seat. It’s a tough year for Democrats, and Schrader is not an exception.

This district very well could become a tossup by fall, but Schrader has the upper hand until Bruun proves his worth.

Washington


Filing deadline: June 11 | Primary: Aug. 17

Senate

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

Murray could be in for a real race if former GOP gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi jumps in. Public polls show a potentially competitive race between the two.

Although several Republicans have announced they are running, Rossi is viewed as the only one who could make this a real race. He has high name identification and is still popular despite losing two gubernatorial bids in the past eight years.

Rossi has told reporters that he is still mulling the race — much to the chagrin of national Republicans who would like him to make a decision sooner rather than later since the filing deadline is less than a month away.

If he does run, he will likely have a well-funded campaign. Just how strong of a candidate would he be? Democrats are already targeting him and researching his business interests in an effort to tarnish his candidacy before he gets into the race — or perhaps in their minds, scare him away from running.

Of the GOP candidates already in the race, the best-known of the bunch is state Sen. Don Benton, who got in in early February. Former TV anchorwoman Susan Hutchinson has also been talked about as a possible candidate, but in a phone interview earlier this year she expressed minimal interest in pulling the trigger. Businessman Chris Widener and former professional football player Clint Didier have also announced bids for the GOP nomination, but if Rossi does not run, Murray will be the hands-down favorite to win re-election.

House

3rd district
Open seat: Brian Baird (D) is retiring
Outlook: Tossup

Both parties have primaries in this open-seat race, although there’s no doubt that Baird’s retirement makes this seat a competitive pickup opportunity for Republicans.

After Baird’s announcement, national Republicans appeared to be most excited about state Rep. Jaime Herrera, although now it appears there will be a competitive race for the GOP nomination. Former Bush administration official David Castillo got into the race before Baird said he was leaving, and he appears to have a great deal of support from conservative activists in the area. Accountant David Hedrick is also running, but he is not expected to win the primary.

For Democrats, former state Rep. Denny Heck appears to be the favorite over state Sen. Craig Pridemore. Not only does Heck have personal funds to put into the race, but he’s also got the backing of much of the local party establishment — including Gov. Christine Gregoire (D).

It’s also important to note that Washington state has a unique primary where the top two candidates regardless of party go on to the general election. It’s unlikely that this will influence the final result in a competitive district like this one, but it could influence other races across the state.

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

If Democrats could not defeat Reichert in 2006 or 2008, it’s less likely that they can do so with the national mood not in their favor in 2010.

Businesswoman Suzan DelBene is arguably a stronger candidate than Democrats’ 2006 and 2008 nominee. What’s more, she’s already shown she is willing to put in her own money: She has loaned her campaign at least $534,000.

However, the national political winds just don’t help DelBene — and Reichert has proved that he can run a strong race. In fact, House Republicans tapped him this year to talk to other vulnerable Members about how to put together an effective re-election campaign.

Although he’s had tough races in the past, the favorable GOP tide could make this Reichert’s easiest re-election bid to date.