Mid-Atlantic Region Roundup
Empire State Is New King of Competitive House Races
Gov. Jack Markell (D)
2012 Electoral Votes: 3
2008 Presidential Vote:
Obama 62%/McCain 37%
Incumbent: Tom Carper (D)
2nd term (67 percent) |
Outlook: Safe Democratic
In 2010, the 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 state’s only House seat even though he’s a freshman. Republicans are not targeting this race, and this should be Carney’s seat as long as he wants it.
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 Republicans couldn’t win the gubernatorial race in a good GOP year such as 2010, it’s not plausible they could win statewide in a presidential year. Not to mention the fact that Cardin is popular.
He faces a primary challenge from state Sen. Anthony Muse. On the GOP side, Daniel Bongino, 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 (Utah). But this seat will likely remain Cardin’s.
6th district | Incumbent: Roscoe Bartlett (R)
10th term (61 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic
State Democrats targeted the 85-year-old Bartlett in redistricting, and now his once-safe Republican seat is very much in play.
Despite a lot of jockeying and interest, only two Democrats have emerged as serious candidates. State Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola got in early and has built a formidable organization. There is little question the redrawn district was crafted for him. But he’s not getting a free pass to the nomination. Businessman John Delaney’s candidacy was a bit of a surprise, but he has displayed a willingness to spend his personal fortune.
On the Republican side, Bartlett had a rocky start. But he seems to have course-corrected and is following national party strategists’ guidance. He has fire in his belly, but he must first bypass state Sen. David Brinkley and state Del. Kathy Afzali in the primary.
The race has taken on a nasty tone. The Democratic primary has been an exercise in opposition research and indignant press releases. Bartlett, too, has exhibited combativeness, so it will be a race to watch through the fall.
The demographics of the district do not bode well for any Republican. The consensus is that a Republican can win this seat only given the right conditions. Even if the GOP does prevail in holding it, this district will trend more Democratic over the next decade.
Gov. Chris Christie (R)
2012 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 fielded state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, and 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 this fall.
3rd district | Incumbent: Jon Runyan (R)
1st term (50 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican
Runyan narrowly beat then-Rep. John Adler in 2010. Democrats had high hopes that he might be hurt in redistricting. Instead, the district was drawn to be slightly more favorable to Runyan’s re-election chances.
Adler’s widow, attorney Shelley Adler, announced her candidacy and will have built-in name identification in the district.
John Adler’s 2008 election was a historical anomaly. He was the first Democrat in generations to hold the seat. It will be an uphill battle for Shelley Adler, but Democrats say it is within reach. She recently was put “On the List” by EMILY’s List, which should give her fundraising a boost.
This race is where Democrats place their highest hopes for a pickup in the Garden State. One New Jersey Democrat said that should the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee choose to invest considerable money, it could push the race into the Tossup column.
Republicans say that in the Philadelphia television market, DCCC investment would have to be exponential to make a difference in the race.
Both sides are bullish on their chances.
5th district | Incumbent: Scott Garrett (R)
5th term (65 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican
Garrett’s district gained some Democratic voters in redistricting, and Democrats are aggressively looking to play here. They say Garrett’s brand of conservatism does not fit the redrawn district, and with a moderate Democratic candidate, they could win this seat.
Democrats say they are actively recruiting here. But with two weeks to go before the filing deadline, Teaneck Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen and Marine Corps veteran Jason Castle are the candidates in the race.
Garrett’s $1.7 million war chest, the fact that this district is covered by the expensive New York media market and uncertainty about the Democratic challenger make this a Likely Republican district.
9th district | Member vs. Member: Bill Pascrell (D) and Steven Rothman (D)
8th term (63 percent); 8th term (61 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic
Democratic heartburn isn’t the appropriate term for this race. It’s heartache.
New Jersey lost a seat in redistricting, and a bipartisan commission ended up drawing lines that put Rothman in the 5th district.
But instead of running there against Rep. Scott Garrett (R), he opted to move to the 9th, where a sizable number of his current constituents reside. Early on, Democrats said Rothman had the numbers edge. But Pascrell has come out of the gate fighting with tough press releases and ads.
The district is in the New York City suburbs, and ad rates are sky-high. Pascrell ended the year with $1.5 million in cash on hand, while Rothman had $1.7 million. But there is angst in New Jersey Democratic circles that the two candidates will crucify each other on the airwaves, when the money could have been spent reinforcing the party.
Regardless of who wins this Member-vs.-Member race, Democrats will lose one seat in the delegation.
10th district | Vacancy: Donald Payne (D) died on March 6.
Outlook: Safe Democratic
As of press time, Payne’s son, Newark Council President Donald Payne Jr., was the most widely discussed candidate when it comes to succeeding his father in Congress. Sources and reports conflict over whether he is interested in the seat. Some say he has his eye on running for Newark mayor in 2014 if Mayor Cory Booker opts not to seek re-election.
State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver is also in the mix. There is concern, though, that if she were to leave the state Legislature, a shift in the balance of power between North and South New Jersey would not favor the Newark area.
Newark Councilman Ron Rice was planning on challenging the late Congressman in the primary. While it may be an advantage to have already begun to build a campaign, Rice is viewed as something of a maverick by the party establishment. In New Jersey, the county party machine is crucial to getting elected.
While there is a provision in the state constitution allowing for a special election, New Jersey tradition has dictated that the special election is held in conjunction with the state’s scheduled primary and general elections. A candidate’s name appears twice on the ballot, once for the special election and again in the contest for a full term.
The winner of the primary will almost certainly be elected in November in this heavily Democratic district.
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 of the vote, is all but a lock to win her first full term.
Republicans vying for the nomination to take her on include Rep. Bob Turner, who was drawn out of his Queens and Brooklyn district in redistricting, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos and attorney Wendy Long. But it doesn’t matter who gets the nomination because Gillibrand’s popularity will almost certainly carry her through to her first full term.
As this issue went to press, the Empire State’s Congressional redistricting process remained up in the air, with the potental of both a last-minute Legislative redraw or a court-imposed map possible. But whatever happens, the races likely to be most competitive are rematches of last year’s tight contests.
Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop is likely to face Republican businessman Randy Altschuler in a Tossup rematch in eastern Long Island that the Democratic and Republican national committees are watching closely. Bishop squeaked out a 593-vote victory in 2010.
“It’s going to be tight, no matter what,” a longtime New York Republican operative said. “When push comes to shove, [it] is a district that’s really sliced right down the middle, Republican and Democrat.”
Turnout in a presidential election year — even in a district that might vote for the GOP White House nominee — will probably help the incumbent.
Rep. Bill Owens (D), also in a swing district, appears poised to face off against businessman Matt Doheny (R). Owens beat Doheny and another candidate with only
48 percent of the vote in this upstate New York district, so the race is worth watching closely.
Another race where the voters might have a sense of déjà vu at the ballot box: Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R) running in her first re-election bid against former Rep. Dan Maffei (D). A court’s proposed redistricting map had Buerkle in a Democratic-leaning district, slightly less friendly to a Republican than her current one. The lines were not final as of press time, but it will be an uphill battle for the GOP to hold the seat. Buerkle is probably the most vulnerable Republican in the Empire State delegation.
But, if the court’s map ends up being the 2012 lines, Buerkle’s got nothing on Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) in terms of vulnerability. Hochul would run in the most Republican district in the state, under the judge’s lines. That means Hochul, a special election victor, probably won’t be coming back to Congress.
If the court’s map is used this cycle, freshman Rep. Chris Gibson (R) will have a real race, based on the Democratic lean of his district. Less vulnerable but still worth watching because of how his district was drawn to be more Democratic under the proposed map: Rep. Peter King (R).
In New York City, there are a few races to watch.
Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D) is mounting a serious primary challenge to Rep. Edolphus Towns (D). Rep. Gary Ackerman (D) might end up running in a mostly unfamiliar district, which could raise the threat of a primary fight.
And freshman Rep. Michael Grimm (R), who reportedly faces investigations into alleged financial improprieties, has a Republican-leaning district and a Democratic opponent who is seen as weak. Still, his re-election bid could be a real race.
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
Casey was never high on the Senate GOP target list this cycle, but a divided primary has helped him maintain his strong position heading into the spring.
A varied field of second- and third-tier candidates originally signed on to run for the GOP nod against Casey. That field has winnowed somewhat, but the party remains largely divided between two potential Casey foes.
From the east side of the state, businessman Steve Welch (R) boasts the backing of state party leaders such as Corbett. But he has already had issues with his history as a Democrat. That kind of thing may fly in a suburban Philadelphia House race — like the two seats that he sought and subsequently abandoned last cycle — but it doesn’t play well in a statewide GOP primary.
In the southwestern part of the state, former coal company executive Tom Smith (R) hails from the second-largest population center. Smith is an untested and unknown candidate, but he has deep pockets. He reported $4.5 million in the bank at the end of last year. That’s more than Casey’s
$4.4 million war chest.
A third candidate, former state Rep. Sam Rohrer, could also be formidable if he raises enough money.
Some of Casey’s good fortune is luck. His race remains a third-tier target partly because Pennsylvania is an expensive place in which to run a statewide race. Why would Republicans spend money there when other states provide cheaper pickup opportunities?
But to his credit, Casey is relatively well-liked, too. His approval ratings hover above 40 percent, according to statewide polling from Quinnipiac University. Not shabby for an incumbent these days.
Finally, Casey does a good job of toeing the state’s purple line. This March, for example, Casey was one of only a few Democrats who voted with Republicans to keep alive the Blunt amendment on contraceptive coverage. The anti-abortion movement is alive and well in Pennsylvania, and this plays well with that crowd.
4th district | Open Seat: Rep. Todd Platts (R) is retiring.
Outlook: Safe Republican
Platts is keeping his term-limits promise by stepping down at the end of this Congress.
State Republicans slightly altered his district in their redraw, most notably moving Harrisburg into it. The district is reliably GOP territory, so the winner of the Republican primary is all but assured to be the next Member of Congress.
Several GOP candidates have announced campaigns, but Republican insiders say the primary will likely come down to two contenders: state Rep. Scott Perry and York County Commissioner Chris Reilly.
6th district | Incumbent: Jim Gerlach (R)
5th term (57 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican
Since Gerlach’s first election in 2002, Democrats thought they could defeat him in this competitive, suburban Philadelphia district. They were repeatedly wrong.
Now their already-dimmed chances of knocking off Gerlach have become even more difficult. Republicans redrew Gerlach’s district to make it safer for him.
Gerlach’s 2010 challenger, veteran Manan Trivedi (D), announced he will try to unseat the incumbent again. Trivedi could do well in the current district in a good Democratic year. But the GOP may have finally put this district out of reach for Democrats with its redraw.
7th district | Incumbent: Patrick Meehan (R)
1st term (55 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican
Republican mapmakers did a number on this southeastern Pennsylvania seat. The result is an ugly, highly irregular, amoeba-shaped district that is safer for Meehan.
The cartographers had their reasons: The state line, two other GOP Members and Democratic Philadelphia border his district. They were forced to get creative, and they did exactly that.
They improved Meehan’s district for the GOP by a few points, but he still represents one of the three most competitive districts in the state held by a Republican.
The filing deadline has passed, and attorney George Badey is the only Democrat challenging Meehan. The freshman Republican is on track for a relatively easy re-election race.
8th district | Incumbent: Mike Fitzpatrick (R)
1st term (54 percent; previously served one term) | Outlook: Leans Republican
This seat should be the Democrats’ top target after the GOP redraw of the state’s Congressional map.
Republican mapmakers barely changed Fitzpatrick’s district, and as a result, it’s still competitive. He’s the only GOP Member seeking re-election in a district that has a partisan voting index that favors Democrats.
Democrats settled on attorney Kathy Boockvar as their candidate. She’s untested as a candidate aside from losing a local judicial race in 2011. If she can run a good campaign and produce strong fundraising, Democrats have a good shot here.
12th district | Member vs. Member: Jason Altmire (D) and Mark Critz (D)
3rd term (51 percent); 1st full term (51 percent) | Outlook: Tossup
It didn’t take long for the primary between Critz and Altmire to get negative and nasty.
Critz tried to oust Altmire from the ballot after he filed just 651 more nominating signatures than necessary. A judge ruled Altmire could stay on the ballot, but Critz will probably appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Altmire was once favored to win this primary, but the ballot brouhaha took a toll on his frontrunner status. He’s still favored to win, but it’s now viewed as a much more competitive primary.
The presumptive GOP nominee is attorney Keith Rothfus, who came close to beating Altmire last cycle. Mapmakers moved him out of this district, but he’s running here anyway. Republicans see his candidacy as promising, especially after his performance last cycle with minimal resources and national party support.
17th district | Incumbent: Tim Holden (D)
10th term (56 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic
Ten years ago, Republicans tried to get rid of Holden by throwing him into a strong GOP district against another Member. Holden won that race and has been easily re-elected since.
This cycle, Republicans tried another mapmaking maneuver to get rid of Holden. They moved Holden’s district north and threw in the Democratic cities of Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. Now Holden will run in mostly unfamiliar and Democratic territory and, as a result, is vulnerable to a primary challenge.
Attorney Matt Cartwright is the Democrat challenging Holden. He’s fairly well-known in Lackawanna County politics, but the short primary time frame puts his campaign at a disadvantage. He’s the underdog compared to Holden.
Republicans drew this district as a vote-sink for all the Democratic areas in northwestern Pennsylvania. The winner of the Democratic nod will be the next Member of Congress, and that will likely be Holden.
18th district | Incumbent: Tim Murphy (R)
5th term (67 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican
Conservatives are convinced that Murphy is vulnerable on his right flank. They sought a strong candidate to challenge him in the primary in this southwestern district, which did not see many major changes following redistricting.
Conservatives found Evan Feinberg, a former aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Feinberg’s fundraising is terrible, but he has received a lot of earned media. He also has the backing of both Paul and Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.), two of the most notable conservatives in the Senate.
But endorsements won’t matter much if Feinberg can’t afford to get on Pittsburgh television. He could probably give Murphy a greater challenge if he had more time before the primary, but the Congressman remains the clear frontrunner.
Democrats recruited a decent challenger for the general election in Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi. He’s better than many of the names on the lackluster slate that Democrats recruited in other Pennsylvania House races. But Maggi is still the heavy underdog, even if the Congressman’s primary becomes bloody in its final weeks.
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.
His GOP opponent will be businessman John Raese, a rematch from their hotly contested 2010 race. The end result was a 10-point victory for the former governor in one of the worst years in modern history for Democrats.
Obama’s coattails are short in West Virginia, but Manchin has distanced himself from the president in both his politics and policy. Democrats exude confidence that Manchin will cruise to his first full term in office — at this point there’s little evidence to dispute that scenario.
3rd district | Incumbent: Nick Rahall (D)
18th term (56 percent) | Outlook: Likely Democratic
Republicans are licking their chops over the prospect of taking Rahall’s seat, citing President Barack Obama’s unpopularity. But Democrats point to Rahall’s double-digit victory in 2010 and are confident that the seat will stay in their hands.
His most likely Republican challenger is state Del. Rick Snuffer. It really could come down to a question of whether Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s popularity in the state offsets Obama’s unpopularity. Rahall hopes so.