Southwest Region Roundup
Arizona, Texas Redistricting Turmoil Leaves House Races in Flux
Gov. Jan Brewer (R)
2012 Electoral Votes: 11
2008 Presidential Vote:
McCain 54%/Obama 45%
Open Seat: Jon Kyl (R) is retiring
Outlook: Likely Republican
The favored candidate to win the Republican nomination and, likely, the general election is six-term Rep. Jeff Flake. But it’s not a free and clear path to get there.
Flake faces business investor Wil Cardon in the GOP primary. Cardon raised $1.2 million in the third quarter compared with Flake’s $500,000 haul, but Cardon’s total includes an $800,000 personal loan to the campaign. Flake had $2.3 million in cash on hand, compared with Cardon’s $1.1 million.
On the Democratic side, former state party Chairman Don Bivens got an adrenaline shot of fundraising, raising more than $300,000 in the last six weeks of the third quarter. But national Democrats see George W. Bush-era Surgeon General Richard Carmona as the candidate more likely to make the seat competitive. President Barack Obama reportedly placed a call to Carmona, a registered Independent, soliciting him to run for the seat. Team Obama has Arizona on its wish list of long-shot states it can turn into battlegrounds, and a close Senate contest would attract more money and voters.
But until Democrats have a solid, top-tier candidate who can demonstrate an ability to move the needle, this race looks like the GOP’s for the taking.
Flake has the name identification, conservative credentials and the money to withstand the primary challenge. And given that Gov. Jan Brewer and Sen. John McCain beat their Democratic rivals by generous margins in 2010, he could cruise to winning the seat. Flake already has unique appeal to the state’s sizable Mormon population, and his faith could be an extra boost should fellow Mormon Mitt Romney earn the GOP presidential nod and appear at the top of the ticket.
The Arizona redistricting process has become one of the nastiest of the cycle. An independent commission produced a map that presented the likelihood of Democratic gains in a GOP-controlled state. Republicans, led by Gov. Jan Brewer, are fighting the map and the commission. Earlier this month Brewer had the independent chairwoman of the commission impeached — throwing a huge monkey wrench into the process.
With the new lines very much still in flux, many candidates have yet to decide or are wavering on the districts they will run in. But others are fully engaged in campaigns.
Former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) is running for her old seat in the 1st. It’s unclear whether she’ll face the Republican who unseated her in 2010, now-Rep. Paul Gosar. Gosar has not decided whether he will run in the tossup 1st against a well-funded Kirkpatrick or in the likely safe Republican 4th district.
It is an open question as to whether Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) will seek re-election, but her district was drawn to be slightly more Democratic-friendly — if the draft map stands. While it is still considered a tossup, there is little stomach among Republicans to challenge the Congresswoman given the January assassination attempt that severely wounded her and killed several others.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D) had a tough 2010 re-election, but the draft map shored up Democrats and made his seat safe Democratic.
Rep. Ben Quayle’s (R) camp has indicated he will probably run in the 6th, which is Republican-leaning. That means a Member-vs.-Member primary against fellow freshman Rep. David Schweikert.
The state gained one seat in reapportionment. The new 9th district based in the Phoenix area is a tossup, but hopefuls on both sides are holding off on an announcement until a map is finalized.
Democrats discuss lawyer Jon Hulburd, who gave Quayle a closer-than-expected race in 2010, state Democratic Party Chairman Andrei Cherny and state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema as serious contenders. There are also reports that state Sen. Adam Driggs, Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio and Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman are interested in seeking the Republican nomination.
All of this could change, of course, until the process is resolved and a new map is final.
Gov. Susana Martinez (R)
2012 Electoral Votes: 5
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 57% / McCain 42%
Open seat: Jeff Bingaman (D) is retiring
This will be a competitive general election, but both parties are waiting to see how the primaries shake out.
Both primaries travel through the state’s 1st district. Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R) represented the Albuquerque-based 1st district seat for a decade until leaving to run for Senate in 2008. Her moderate voting record cost her the GOP primary, which she lost to conservative Rep. Steve Pearce, who lost in the general election. Wilson is trying again but is facing similar problems as Lt. Gov. John Sanchez and wealthy businessman Greg Sowards are trying to position themselves as conservative alternatives. This time around, Wilson has been doing outreach to conservative groups and is raising the most money, and she is seen by national Republicans as the strongest general election candidate.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Martin Heinrich (D), who now represents the 1st district, faces state Auditor Hector Balderas, a young statewide elected official hoping to solidify the Latino voter base.
Balderas had a strong first few months of fundraising, but Heinrich, with more establishment support, stepped up his pace in the third quarter to raise $654,000 compared with Balderas’ $252,000.
Latinos, who make up 46 percent of the total population, have an opportunity to significantly influence both primaries as well as the general.
Obama’s 2008 campaign had dozens of offices across New Mexico, helping him register new voters and bank a landslide win in the state despite closer margins in the previous two presidential elections.
The state’s redistricting process is tied up in court, but there is a good chance the Albuquerque-based 1st district will be competitive no matter what.
The redistricting battle centered on the 1st, a traditionally Republican district that is trending Democratic. Heinrich was elected to the 1st in 2008 when Wilson left to run for Senate, and he was the first Democrat to hold the seat since it was created nearly 40 years earlier.
Democrats attempted to shore up the 1st, but with a Republican governor that plan never had a bright future. Since Heinrich is running for Senate, the open-seat race for the 1st is expected to be the only House race to watch in the state.
Democrats have a few candidates running for the seat, including former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chávez, state Sen. Eric Griego and Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham, who finished third in the 1st district Democratic primary in 2008.
Chávez and Griego, who has the support of some outside liberal groups, faced off before in 2005 when Griego, then a city councilor, tried to unseat the mayor.
Chavez leads the money race, taking in $238,000 in the third quarter, followed by Griego with $170,000 and Grisham with $161,000.
Republican candidates include Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis and former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, but neither raised much money last quarter. Republicans are still awaiting word from Jon Barela, who lost to Heinrich by 4 points last year and would be the frontrunner for the nomination should he run. The New Mexico Politics blog reported that Army veteran Gary Smith (R) is also expected to run.
Gov. Mary Fallin (R)
2012 Electoral Votes: 7
2008 Presidential Vote: McCain 66%/Obama 34%
2nd district | Open seat: Dan Boren (D) is retiring
Boren’s unexpected announcement that he would not seek another term creates a prime pickup opportunity for Republicans, who have long lusted after this eastern Oklahoma district but failed to find a good candidate in recent cycles.
On the national level, this district has been good to Republicans. In 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won the 2nd with 66 percent of the vote, and President George W. Bush won re-election there with 59 percent of the vote — big margins rarely seen in a competitive seat, let alone one held by a Democrat.
But the area known as “Little Dixie” has a long history of voting for Democrats on the local level. In 2010, a terrible year for Democrats, Boren was re-elected with a respectable 57 percent and several Democratic state lawmakers won re-election.
But Boren’s retirement drastically changes the race. Boren had not faced a top challenger here in several cycles, which is partly thanks to his friendship with Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), a former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman. But now that it’s an open-seat race, much will depend on Republican recruitment efforts.
The GOP contenders are state Rep. George Faught, plumbing company owner Markwayne Mullin, former state Rep. Wayne Pettigrew, retired Marine Lt. Col Dakota Wood and lawyer Dustin Rowe. Faught, Mullin and Pettigrew proved themselves to be the most serious fundraisers in the third quarter.
While former assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Wallace is considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, seed company owner Wayne Herriman is also making a bid.
The minimal alterations to the 2nd do not change the competitiveness of the district, which is known for its rural, working-class population.
Gov. Rick Perry (R)
2012 Electoral Votes: 38
2008 Presidential Vote: McCain 56%/Obama 44%
Open seat: Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) is retiring
Outlook: Safe Republican
A litany of ambitious Republicans patiently waited for Hutchison to retire, but when the race finally became a reality, many shied away. The end result is a field with only one candidate who has high statewide name identification, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
Dewhurst has run statewide four times and sits on a vast personal fortune made by running an energy company. In a state where it costs a lot to put ads on TV, those assets cannot be ignored.
But former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz is counting on a fierce grass-roots effort from both within and outside of the state. Prominent national conservatives like Redstate.com’s Erick Erickson and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) have endorsed him, along with organizations such as the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks.
GOP operatives in Austin say there is a reluctance to cross a sitting lieutenant governor, but Cruz has stirred many Republican hearts.
The strategy for Republicans in the anyone-but-Dewhurst camp is to force the frontrunner into a May runoff. Many say Cruz is the man to do it if it can be done, but former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert (R) could make a strong push for that position as well. He has healthy fundraising numbers and a base in the Dallas-Fort Worth media market.
This race will likely be settled during the Republican primary. Despite aggressive talk earlier in the cycle from Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.), the Democrats vying for the nod are looking anything but formidable. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Ric Sanchez is the most prominent name in the field, but his campaign had just $119,000 in cash on hand as of Sept. 30, and it lacks infrastructure.
A federal court ruling last week paved the way for a lengthy trial over the new Texas map to determine whether it provides sufficient representation for minority voters. In the meantime, a separate federal court in San Antonio will draw a temporary map that will be used for the March primaries.
It’s anybody’s guess what the temporary map will look like, but the three-judge panel likely won’t redraw the entire 36-seat plan. With that in mind, we are highlighting some of the most competitive primaries and general elections in the state under the passed map. But keep in mind these lines are subject to change.
14th district | Open seat: Ron Paul (R) is retiring
Outlook: Likely Republican
Redistricting has made this once-solid Republican district somewhat more competitive. Part of that was strategic. The GOP sought to neutralize Democratic Beaumont by incorporating it into the safe Republican 14th. The end result is a likely Republican district that could flip if Democrats could find the right candidate.
Former Rep. Nick Lampson is considering the idea. Democrats view Lampson as a strong contender, but they are throwing around the names of state Rep. Craig Eiland and Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworksi.
The early Republican favorite is state Rep. Randy Weber. Other announced serious candidates are Pearland Councilwoman Felicia Harris and lawyer Michael Truncale.
23rd district | Incumbent: Francisco “Quico” Canseco (R)
1st term (49 percent) | Outlook: Tossup
The 23rd is the focal point of the redistricting litigation. As a result, it could be subject to a number of changes.
It was a predominantly Hispanic district before the redraw, and the new boundaries have kept it that way.
What did change was that high-turnout Hispanic populations in south San Antonio were swapped for more rural, low-turnout Hispanic populations near the Mexico border. The intent was to help the freshman Canseco hold the seat for the party.
Former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, swept into the 23rd during the 2006 Democratic wave and swept out last fall when the GOP won back House control, is looking to reclaim his seat. But he must first get past state Rep. Pete Gallego in the Democratic primary.
National Democrats had previously tried to recruit Gallego to run for Congress. Now that he’s jumped in, he has proved to be formidable and greatly outpaced Rodriguez’s anemic third-quarter fundraising.
25th district | New seat
Outlook: Safe Republican
The new 25th follows a tract of land that parallels Interstate 35 to the west. It starts in the wealthy areas west of Austin and stretches north to the outer Fort Worth suburbs.
The favorite candidate to fill this seat is former Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams (R). Williams has bounced around races since late 2009. First, he announced he was running for retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat. Then he threw his hat in the ring for the House in the new 33rd district. Williams finally landed in this district after it became apparent that a primary in the 33rd against former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams would be nasty and expensive.
Williams will draw opponents in the Republican primary, but for now he is viewed as a clear favorite to win that race and the general.
27th district | Incumbent: Blake Farenthold (R)
1st term (48 percent) | Outlook: Safe Republican
The district number may be the same, but redistricting has radically changed the 27th.
Democrats and Republicans were stunned by Farenthold’s narrow victory. Even Republicans will admit that his win over former Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D) could only happen in a year like 2010.
Most of the 27th’s territory was moved to the new 34th to give the freshman Farenthold much more breathing room. Farenthold has no serious primary threat on the horizon, but at least one state Republican strategist said Farenthold potentially has a target on his back as ambitious state legislators consider bids.
33rd district | New seat
Outlook: Safe Republican
Roger Williams, the former secretary of state, has the personal and donor money to win both the primary and general elections.
The new district incorporates the suburban areas in the southwestern reaches of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Williams is a lifelong resident of the area and has high local name identification, thanks to the car dealership he inherited from his father.
The only foreseeable hitch could be the uncertainty over the map. Democrats have grumbled about the 33rd because throughout the redistricting process, they had high hopes that the Dallas-Fort Worth area might have picked up another minority Democratic seat.
34th district | New seat
Outlook: Safe Democratic
This newly drawn district picked up much of the territory now represented by Farenthold, prompting strategists to describe it as “the old Solomon Ortiz” seat.
Local and national Democrats have persistently attempted to draft state Rep. Eddie Lucio III to run for this seat. Lucio is young and has potential, but he has shown zero inclination toward a bid. Another Democrat, Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, is on the radar. He has created an exploratory committee to fundraise to run for a TBD district. So far, no Republican candidates are getting attention.
35th district | Incumbent: Lloyd Doggett (D)
9th term (53 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic
The Democratic primary could prove to be the most exciting and brutal race for Congress in the Lone Star State. After their failed attempt in 2003, Republicans might finally succeed at redistricting Doggett out of office.
The Austinite Doggett is leaving the 25th district and running in the 35th, and he will face one of his most formidable primary opponents ever in 37-year-old state Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio.
The layout of the district reflects the Austin vs. San Antonio candidate dynamic — it takes the southeastern part of Travis County, hugs Interstate 35 and then reaches into urban eastern San Antonio.
But one Democrat described it as “the past vs. the future” because the two cities are light years apart in culture. They have different media markets, industries and demographics.
It is conventional wisdom in Texas that this district was drawn to take down Doggett in favor of getting a new Hispanic Democratic Member of Congress. Although Doggett is widely associated with Austin, he has only represented a fraction of the city since the last round of redistricting, and that will continue to be the case in this round.
The 35th does not include the city’s white liberal bastions, Doggett’s native west Austin or the University of Texas, where he is treated as a rock star. Instead, it will largely be the Hispanic Southeast side of town.
With an almost 10-to-1 cash-on-hand advantage, Doggett will be able to start a TV air war to introduce himself to San Antonio voters.
But Castro will run hard in his native San Antonio, and he has an unusual home-court advantage: His twin brother, Julian, is mayor.
Both candidates are expected to run tough campaigns, and the rhetoric has been hot.
36th district | New seat
Outlook: Safe Republican
This new district includes the northeastern Houston suburbs and stretches north deep into rural East Texas.
La Porte state Sen. Mike Jackson is the current favorite to win the Republican nomination and then go on to win the general.
Still, he could face a serious primary opponent in former Pasadena Mayor John Manlove, who is currently deliberating a run. Republicans also say East Texas dentist Brian Babin is a possible contender. He has made previous runs for Congress and has the resources to self-finance.