Mid-Atlantic Region Roundup
Pa. and N.Y. Redraws Leave House Landscape Up in the Air
Gov. Jack Markell (D)
2012 Electoral Votes: 3
2008 Presidential Vote:
Obama 62%/McCain 37%
Incumbent: Tom Carper (D) | 2nd term (70 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic
A year ago, the Delaware Senate race fascinated the political world — and made for “Saturday Night Live” fodder — but the state has returned to its normal non-headline-grabbing status this cycle.
Carper has no substantive opponents in sight and should hold this seat with ease.
At-large | Incumbent: John Carney (D)
1st term (57 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic
Carney has a solid grip on the First State’s only House seat despite the fact that he’s only a freshman.
That said, former Rep. Mike Castle (R) told Delaware’s News Journal that New Castle County Council President Tom Kovach (R) is “viable” against Carney if it’s a “Republican year.”
National Democrats and Republicans, however, are not focusing closely on this race.
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D)
2012 Electoral Votes: 10
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 62%/McCain 36%
Incumbent: Benjamin Cardin (D)
1st term (54 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic
Cardin won an open-seat race in 2006 that garnered some national attention — but that won’t be the case this cycle.
If Maryland Republicans couldn’t win the gubernatorial race in a good GOP year like 2010, it’s not plausible they could win statewide in a presidential year. Not to mention the fact that Cardin is popular.
Daniel Bongino (R), a former Secret Service agent and ex-police officer, has garnered some attention from the tea party and has the endorsement of Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). But this seat is likely Cardin’s for as long as he wants it.
4th district | Incumbent: Donna Edwards (D)
2nd full term (83 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic
Edwards, a prominent House progressive, voiced some of the loudest displeasure with the Maryland redistricting map. Her new district takes suburban Democratic-leaning Montgomery County out of the district and replaces it with more conservative areas in Anne Arundel County.
The redrawn district remains safely Democratic, but it’s not necessarily safe for Edwards. An Edwards primary challenge emerged less than a week after the map passed. Former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey is running against her, and he is seen as a fierce threat to her re-election chances.
Edwards may also have a primary opponent from the new portion of her district. Anne Arundel County Councilman Jamie Benoit is considering running.
If Benoit runs, he could end up being the beneficiary if Edwards and Ivey split the African-American vote in the primary.
6th district | Incumbent: Roscoe Bartlett (R)
10th term (61 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic
The big headline from Maryland’s redistricting was the radical changes to the 6th district. As a result, Bartlett faces significant challenges to winning an 11th term. This district was redrawn to give Democrats an additional seat in the House, and every indication is that it will be accomplished.
Before the new map’s public release, many wondered whether Democrats in the state Legislature would target Bartlett’s seat or Rep. Andy Harris’ 1st district or both. Ultimately, the calculation was made to go after the western Maryland 6th district, which was flipped from a GOP district to a Democratic-leaning seat when parts of Montgomery County were added. Republicans will have a very hard time holding the seat.
Bartlett still faces retirement questions, even though he has said he’s running again. The 85-year-old lawmaker raised just $1,000 in the third quarter.
Several ambitious Montgomery County Democrats are already lining up or considering a run at the nomination. State Sen. Rob Garagiola and former Montgomery County Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg have announced their candidacies. Other prominent Montgomery County politicians could jump into the Democratic race as well, including former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan and former state Del. Mark Shriver, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2002 and has a national fundraising base as a member of the Kennedy political dynasty.
Gov. Chris Christie (R)
Electoral Votes: 14
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 57%/McCain 42%
Incumbent: Bob Menendez (D)
1st full term (53 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic
Menendez does not have the most favorable polling in the Senate, but a lot would have to change for this to be a race to watch.
Republicans have yet to field a strong challenger and have no one on the bench. Menendez might be more threatened if New Jersey were not such an expensive media market.
Surprises do happen, but right now it’s not likely that we’ll see one in the Garden State next year.
There are few states with more redistricting unknowns than New Jersey. A bipartisan redistricting commission has yet to produce a map and does not have a deadline until Jan. 17.
Beyond the usual how-could-new-lines-help-or-hurt-candidates speculation, incumbents are uneasy because New Jersey lost a seat in reapportionment. Operatives and journalists have spent the past year batting around various Member-vs.-Member scenarios.
But until a map is issued, it simply cannot be known which incumbent or party will be losing a seat in Congress. It would make things a lot easier if a member of the delegation announced retirement (see Massachusetts), but so far no one has said he is headed for the exit.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D)
2012 Electoral Votes: 29
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 63%/McCain 36%
Incumbent: Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
1st term (63 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic
This has all the markings of the most staid kind of election.
Gillibrand, who won last year’s special election with 63 percent, is all but a lock to win her first full term. She had $7.2 million in the bank at the end of September and had a 50 percent approval/24 percent disapproval split among registered voters in a recent poll.
“Sen. Gillibrand … will continue to raise the resources to run an aggressive campaign based on her record,” campaign spokesman Glen Caplin said.
The only announced candidate on the Republican side is Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, who has said he is willing to spend $5 million of his own money on the campaign. But even that won’t be enough to unseat the incumbent.
The full redistricting picture in the Empire State remains mostly opaque. “It’s a giant f—ing question mark,” one plugged-in Empire State Democratic consultant said. The root of the problem: It’s not even clear in what venue the final lines will be hashed out.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has pledged to veto any new map not drawn by an independent commission. If the governor and Legislature get stuck at an impasse, the lines could be drawn by the courts.
But if Cuomo backs down, he will probably end up negotiating the lines with Republican state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Democratic state Speaker Sheldon Silver.
However the lines are drawn, New York politicians note that the longer the redistricting process takes, the better it is for vulnerable incumbents. A few more months gives them time to stockpile cash and scare away potential challengers, who might decide to wait for a less tumultuous cycle.
New York lost two seats in reapportionment, so at least two Members are going to have their districts dismantled. Over the past decade, the population loss has been greatest in the western part of the state, so it’s likely whoever draws the lines will be eyeing consolidating districts there. That could mean Democratic Members who represent that part of the state — such as Reps. Kathy Hochul, Brian Higgins or Louise Slaughter — might end up facing another Member.
Empire State politicians say the conventional wisdom in Albany remains that a split Legislature will eliminate one Democratic district and one Republican district. Rep. Bob Turner (R), who scored an upset victory in a September special election in the Queens- and Brooklyn-based 9th district, may be the most vulnerable Republican in the redistricting process. One scenario involves the merging of the 9th with Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman’s neighboring 5th district.
Democrats are pushing to have the Turner district, which has been held by a Democrat for decades, considered as the Democratic district slated for elimination. They hope it will be coupled with the elimination of a GOP-held district upstate.
Beyond redistricting, there are a number of vulnerable Members in New York. The two New York Democrats facing the most serious challenges a year out are Reps. Tim Bishop and Bill Owens. National Republicans consider them top targets. State Democrats consider them most vulnerable — for good reason.
The numbers alone make it a tough slog for Bishop, who won by only 593 votes in 2010. He is a liberal Congressman in a district that’s not. He votes with Democrats nearly 100 percent of the time. But his eastern Long Island district went for President Barack Obama in 2008 by only 3 points, the lowest margin of any incumbent Democrat’s district in the state besides Hochul.
Bishop is likely to face his 2010 opponent, businessman Randy Altschuler — who must first get through a primary with attorney George Demos. If the president remains as unpopular with New York independents as he is now, the Republican has a good shot at picking up the seat.
In the northern reaches of upstate New York, Owens also faces a rematch. Owens beat businessman Matt Doheny (R) and Doug Hoffman, who ran on the Conservative Party line, by taking only 48 percent last year. The bent of the district makes Owens perhaps the most vulnerable New York Member on either side of the aisle. In an interview with Roll Call, Doheny said he expected redistricting to add Republicans to the district and make his task a bit easier. Still, Owens has proved he can win in this district twice, so it would be folly to believe he’s already toast.
Depending on the outcome of redistricting, Republicans will also target Hochul, who won an upset victory in the special election earlier this year.
National Democrats see the opportunity to pick up a handful of seats in New York. Chief among their targets are Turner and freshman GOP Reps. Michael Grimm, Nan Hayworth and Ann Marie Buerkle.
Though he is affable and has a certain grandfatherly charisma, Turner probably doesn’t have the correct political views to win re-election if his district shifts into a more Democratic part of the city. Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D) is eyeing a bid for Turner’s seat, depending on the lines.
While national Democrats are keen to knock off Grimm, it’s tough to see how his Staten Island-anchored district gets worse for him. The current Democrat in the field, pizza shop owner Alex Borgognone, had an unimpressive launch and is seen as not serious by local Democrats. But former Rep. Michael McMahon (D) may yet get in the race, and that would make it quite competitive.
Democrats’ best shots at picking off seats likely lie north of New York City. National strategists are excited about Dr. Rich Becker, a town councilman who they think has a good shot of beating Hayworth. While she is definitely vulnerable, Hayworth’s fundraising has been strong, so Becker will have to up his money game. The doctor pulled in $114,000 in his first quarter as a candidate, which included a $50,000 personal loan.
The most vulnerable Republican in the state is Buerkle. She pulled in just $89,000 in the third quarter. Adding to her political woes, she’ll go up against former Rep. Dan Maffei (D), a proven candidate whom she just barely unseated in 2010.
Democrats will also target Rep. Chris Gibson (R) in the 7,000-square-mile 20th district. Given how dramatically the lines could shift, however, it’s too early to say just what kind of risk he faces.
Back in New York City, Rep. Edolphus Towns (D) faces a serious and credible primary challenge from Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, but the incumbent has the edge.
Gov. Tom Corbett (R)
2012 Electoral Votes: 20
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 55%/McCain 44%
Incumbent: Bob Casey (D)
1st term (59 percent) | Outlook: Likely Democratic
Five years after defeating Sen. Rick Santorum (R), Casey is running for re-election while Santorum is running for president. Casey has a much better chance of holding office in 2013.
Even though Republicans took over a Senate seat in the Keystone State just a year ago, Casey doesn’t look particularly vulnerable one year out.
His $3.7 million in cash on hand as of Sept. 30 isn’t overwhelming for an incumbent, but the lack of top-tier challengers is a bigger hurdle for Republicans.
There are more than a half-dozen second- or lower-tier candidates in the race, but GOP strategists believe the nomination will come down to retired coal mining company owner Tom Smith, biotech corporation CEO Steven Welch or biotech executive Tim Burns. Burns lost a competitive House special election in 2010 in western Pennsylvania. Burns, Welch and Smith all have significant personal money to invest in the race.
Republicans believe that Casey’s support is shallow and that he has enough connections to President Barack Obama to make him vulnerable, but it won’t be easy to overcome Casey’s moderate image.
Overall, the GOP case against Casey is more environmental than personal. Even though Obama won Pennsylvania in 2008, the state has never been fertile territory for him, and an Obama victory in 2012 is not a given.
A year out from the election, Casey isn’t in imminent danger of losing. But he won’t have the same wind at his back as he did in 2006 and won’t face an opponent as polarizing as Santorum. Republicans don’t have to defeat Casey to take back the Senate majority. But if this race is really in play come next fall, it is likely that other races across the country are trending toward Republicans.
After sweeping all of the competitive races in the state in 2010, Republicans control the redistricting process. Legislators still don’t have a map, but it’s likely to be finalized in the coming weeks.
Pennsylvania lost a seat because of population loss, so Republicans will carve up a Democratic seat and do their best to shore up a 12-6 seat advantage in the delegation.
It’s most likely that Republicans will force Rep. Jason Altmire (D) to make a difficult decision in western Pennsylvania. Republicans may force him to choose between a primary against fellow Democratic Rep. Mark Critz or a general election fight against a neighboring Republican in a much less favorable district for Altmire.
Republicans will also do what they can to shore up Rep. Mike Kelly’s Erie-based seat in the northwestern corner of the state by shifting Republicans over from Rep. Glenn Thompson’s (R) district.
In eastern Pennsylvania, Republican mapmakers have a much more difficult task.
Ten years ago, Republicans tried to defeat Democratic Rep. Tim Holden by drawing him into a district with then-Rep. George Gekas (R). Holden won that fight and avoided a serious race for the rest of the decade.
This time, instead of trying to defeat Holden, Republicans will likely pack Democrats into his district and use his current GOP voters to shore up neighboring Republican freshmen, such as Reps. Lou Barletta and Tom Marino. Depending on the new boundaries, former Rep. Christopher Carney (D) could challenge Barletta instead of Marino, who defeated him in 2010.
Farther south into the Philadelphia area, Republicans are trying to solidify four incumbents: Reps. Charlie Dent, Jim Gerlach, Mike Fitzpatrick and Patrick Meehan.
The districts are currently squeezed between Philadelphia and the New Jersey and Delaware state lines, and Republicans will have to shift them north and west to improve them. The natural place to go to find Republican voters is Rep. Joe Pitts’ GOP-heavy district. But Lancaster County Republicans are resistant to being represented by a suburban Member, and Pitts is reluctant to give up even more of his Chester County base. (He gave up a chunk of the county 10 years ago to help Republicans maximize gains in the suburbs.)
It’s virtually impossible for Republicans to make any of their suburban Members totally safe, but they will likely improve each district’s GOP performance.
Democrats believe that the competitive nature of the state does not justify Republicans holding twice as many seats in the Congressional delegation, particularly in a presidential year. They also believe that, like 10 years ago, Republicans could overreach with their map-drawing. Republicans maximized their seat gains in the 2002 elections but stretched themselves so thin that when a Democratic wave hit in 2006, they lost a lot of territory. Then Republicans gained it all back in 2010.
Gerlach, Meehan and Fitzpatrick are almost guaranteed to be targets once again (2010 Democratic nominee Manan Trivedi has already announced against Gerlach), but Democrats may have trouble expanding their target list significantly beyond that.
Democrats believe Obama will be most helpful in suburban districts and would love to have six to eight opportunities in Pennsylvania, but Republicans are hoping to limit their vulnerability to less than a handful of seats.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D)
2012 Electoral Votes: 5
2008 Presidential Vote: McCain 56%/Obama 43%
Incumbent: Joe Manchin (D)
1st term (53 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic
Manchin won the race to succeed the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D) in 2010 after an effort to distance himself from President Barack Obama. The formula worked, and Manchin has revisited that strategy throughout his early days as a Senator.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ran in the recent gubernatorial special election campaign tying himself to the Manchin brand. It worked.
After failing to recruit a top-tier candidate, national Republicans are no longer looking at this race seriously. Meanwhile, Democrats exude confidence that Manchin will cruise to his first full term in office.
1st district | Incumbent: David McKinley (R)
1st term (50 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican
The Mountain State will be the site of one of several 2010 rematches.
Former state Sen. Mike Oliverio (D), who lost to McKinley in 2010 by less than 1 point, is running again.
Oliverio will have to contend with an unpopular president at the top of the Democratic ticket. President Barack Obama is not well-liked in West Virginia: He received only 42 percent of the 1st district vote in 2008 and is likely to garner even less this cycle. Democrats remain bullish, partly in hopes that Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D) brand will offset some of the negatives of having the president at the top of the ballot.
Given that the district remains unchanged, it could be a close race similar to 2010.