Southwest Region Roundup
No Shortage of Redistricting Drama in Arizona, Texas
Gov. Jan Brewer (R)
2012 Electoral Votes: 11
2008 Presidential Vote:
McCain 54%/Obama 45%
Open seat: Jon Kyl (R) is retiring.
Outlook: Leans Republican
The consensus is that Rep. Jeff Flake will succeed Kyl.
But real estate investor Wil Cardon is making him work for the GOP nomination, and Democrats are trying to make a serious play for the seat in November.
Yet as Flake is treated as the de facto nominee, there are some rumbles among conservatives about his past votes on cap-and-trade and immigration.
National Democrats have been bullish for months on former Surgeon General Richard Carmona. They say he is a game-changer in the general. There is also the presidential calculus: that having a Hispanic person on the ballot will help President Barack Obama and vice versa.
Carmona has to get through the primary first. Former Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Don Bivens got into the race first and made a splash with his initial fundraising. Carmona has proved to be no slouch as a fundraiser, and it is obvious that national Democrats would wish away Bivens’ candidacy if they could.
Flake is still the favorite to take it all, but because Arizona has such a late August primary, a lot could change before then.
1st district | Open seat: Paul Gosar (R) is running in the 4th district.
Former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) is running hard to recapture her old seat, and the early momentum seems to be with her. Her fundraising and changes to the sprawling eastern Arizona district courtesy of the state’s redistricting commission were enough to scare Gosar into running in the safe Republican 4th district.
But it won’t be a cakewalk. Kirkpatrick lost by 6 points in 2010.
The city of Prescott was removed from the district, which benefits Democrats.
Few Republicans fault Gosar’s decision, but it has not stopped other Republicans from eyeing the seat. Kirkpatrick’s most notable declared GOP opponent is former state Sen. Jonathan Paton. Former state Rep. Bill Konopnicki is also mulling a run.
This early in the cycle, the race is a Tossup, but Kirkpatrick has momentum and the redrawn lines on her side. Depending on what Konopnicki decides and Paton’s ability to garner support and campaign funds, Kirkpatrick could have a decided edge come the fall.
2nd district (currently the 8th district) | Vacancy: Gabrielle Giffords (D) resigned.
Tucson in the post-Giffords era is the Rubik’s cube of Arizona politics.
First, there will be a special election on June 12 to finish Giffords’ term in the current 8th district.
The 8th will change numerals in the fall because of redistricting, and the seat will slightly improve for Democrats.
This means that although the seat is vacant now, there could be an incumbent running for re-election in the fall. Or not.
Former House staffer Ron Barber cleared the Democratic field when he announced his candidacy in the special. Barber does not merely have the support of Giffords, her husband and her political braintrust, but he was one of the victims at the 2011 Safeway shooting rampage that also wounded Giffords.
Barber has not made clear whether he will run for a full term in the fall if he wins the special. If he does not, there is concern among Democrats that their bench is thin.
Democrats are moving ahead as if he is not. Among those looking at running in the fall are state Rep. Matt Heinz and state Sen. Paula Aboud. Both have made their Congressional ambitions known to party insiders for a while now. The most recent declared Democrat is state Rep. Steve Farley, who is personally close to Giffords. Businesswoman Nan Stockholm Walden is also on Democrats’ radar.
Veteran Jesse Kelly is the perceived frontrunner on the GOP side, mainly because he has high name identification in the district from his 2010 run against Giffords. But his 2010 campaign engaged in metaphorical language against her that could haunt him after the Safeway shooting.
In an interview with Roll Call, he expressed an intent to run a campaign focused on issues and not the past. He avoided speaking about Giffords on all matters. Whether this is smart or tone-deaf politics given the intense emotions surrounding the city of Tucson is to be determined.
A fascinating GOP candidate has emerged in Air Force veteran Martha McSally. Regardless of how she fares in this campaign, she is worth watching in the future. State Sen. Frank Antenori and college sports broadcaster Dave Sitton are also running for the GOP nod.
4th district | Incumbent: Paul Gosar (R)
1st term (50 percent) | Outlook: Safe Republican
Gosar made the same decision as many of his colleagues this redistricting cycle: He opted for a tough primary in lieu of a bruising general election race.
Although he keeps some of his constituents, this seat is essentially the new seat Arizona picked up in reapportionment. It sprawls from the California border into the center of the state.
But he has to face two ambitious Republicans first, and there are few certainties in this fluid race.
Early on, despite Gosar’s incumbency, the momentum was with Sheriff Paul Babeu. He was on the national radar thanks to his tough illegal immigration stance and a cameo in Sen. John McCain’s (R) “complete the dang fence” ad. Babeu far outraised his opponents in the fourth quarter and had a higher national profile than Gosar.
Then all hell broke loose in February. A week after he spoke to adoring conservatives at the Conservative Political Action Conference, reports broke about Babeu’s involvement with a male ex-lover. Steamy photos and embarrassing texts surfaced. Babeu quickly announced he was gay, and much uncertainty swirls around his political future and this race.
The refrain among 4th district Republicans is that Babeu’s sexuality is not the issue, but rather his poor judgment leading to the news reports.
State Sen. Ron Gould is also in the GOP race and is positioning himself as the most conservative candidate.
The fallout from the Babeu revelations still hasn’t settled. Still, a Republican is all but certain to be elected in November. There is also time for more candidates to join the GOP field.
5th district | Open seat: Jeff Flake (R) is running for Senate.
Outlook: Safe Republican
According to conventional wisdom, former Rep. Matt Salmon (R) is the favorite candidate in this race.
His primary opponent, former state Speaker Kirk Adams, has lagged behind Salmon in the polls but should not be discounted. Salmon’s post-Congressional career as a lobbyist could prove problematic, and the consensus is that Adams is trying hard to break through. It just has not happened yet. Because Salmon beats Adams in both fundraising and name identification, this is his race to lose.
6th district | Member vs. Member: Ben Quayle (R) and David Schweikert (R)
1st term (52 percent); 1st term (52 percent) | Outlook: Safe Republican
This will be a rough, personal and expensive race between two freshman Republicans. As one GOP strategist put it when asked whether he was consulting on the race, “We’re not. Thank God.”
Schweikert lives in the 6th, Quayle does not — but is about five houses from the district line.
After the new lines were finalized, Quayle faced two options: a bruising primary against Schweikert that would yield a safe seat for years if he won, or being the de facto GOP nominee in the tossup 9th district and battle it out every other November to keep his seat. In an effort to avoid a Member-vs.-Member race, state Republicans tried to persuade Quayle to run in the 9th district.
In January, he opted to run in the 6th against Schweikert.
Schweikert has a reputation for bare-knuckle politics and has already sent out tough news releases hitting Quayle. And even though Quayle has an advantage in that more of his current constituents are in the new district, he is not the most popular Republican within the Arizona GOP circle.
It is widely perceived that he won his 2010 race because of his last name and his father’s arm-twisting on the fundraising front.
But Quayle has built a reputation as a workhorse and team player on the Hill, which could translate into national endorsements and fundraising support.
Schweikert got off to the earliest start, but the late primary gives Quayle plenty of time to catch up.
There is even more than a House seat at stake in this race. Both men are considered rising stars within the Arizona GOP, and the winner of the 6th district race could become the frontrunner for the GOP Senate nomination if Sen. John McCain retires in 2016. Still, that’s a long way off.
Unaligned Republicans are betting on Schweikert pulling it out, but it could go either way.
9th district | New seat
Rep. Ben Quayle’s (R) decision to run in the 6th district is a testament to how highly competitive this district is.
The Democratic field has several young Arizona political stars, including former state Democratic Party Chairman Andrei Cherny, former state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and state Senate Minority Leader David Schapira. Sinema has caught national attention and has EMILY’s List backing but is often described as a polarizing force.
Democratic and Republican strategists agree that the race could shift in either party’s favor depending on the candidate matchup in the general.
On the GOP radar are Paradise Valley Councilman Vernon Parker, Air National Guard Capt. Travis Grantham and former CIA operations officer Leah Schandlbauer.
Gov. Susana Martinez (R)
2012 Electoral Votes: 5
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 57%/McCain 42%
Open seat: Jeff Bingaman (D) is retiring.
Once believed to have two tough primaries, this race looks more likely every day to feature a general election contest between former Rep. Heather Wilson (R) and Rep. Martin Heinrich (D), the past two Representatives in the Albuquerque-based 1st district.
Wilson’s moderate voting record during five full terms ultimately cost her the GOP primary in the 2008 Senate race, which she lost to conservative Rep. Steve Pearce, who lost the general. But she doesn’t have a fellow Member standing in her way this time.
Wilson has already shed one primary opponent who attempted to take her on from the right, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, who dropped out Feb. 9. Wealthy businessman Greg Sowards hasn’t gained much traction either, as Wilson has reached out to conservative groups, raised good money and is seen by national Republicans as the strongest general election candidate. Wilson led Sowards with 81 percent in a poll conducted for her campaign in February.
On the Democratic side, Heinrich faces state Auditor Hector Balderas, a young elected official who hopes to solidify the Latino voter base. The primary isn’t until June 5, but party insiders believe Balderas’ bright future may have to hold off for another election cycle.
Balderas had a strong first few months of fundraising, but Heinrich, with more establishment support, quadrupled Balderas’ fourth-quarter fundraising and had three times as much in cash on hand with $1.4 million.
President Barack 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. But Wilson is running a strong campaign and gives Republicans yet another pickup opportunity.
1st district | Open seat: Martin Heinrich (D) is running for Senate.
Outlook: Likely Democratic
A battleground for more than a decade, this district is in danger of sliding off the radar for national Republicans in 2012.
All eyes in Albuquerque are on a potentially nasty Democratic primary with three well-financed current or former elected officials. Given its recent voting history, a competitive open-seat race could still develop before November, but at this point Republicans view the race to replace Heinrich as a tough climb.
Three candidates will be on each party’s June 5 primary ballots, and the Democratic nominee will likely emerge as the frontrunner heading into November.
Former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez, state Sen. Eric Griego and Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham are vying to keep Heinrich’s seat in Democratic hands. All three reported more than $200,000 each in cash on hand at the end of December. Chavez, a slight frontrunner given his high name identification, is arguing he’s the only Democrat moderate enough to win the district in November.
On the GOP side, Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis, former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones and retired Army Sgt. Gary Smith are hoping to flip the seat back to Republicans. Lewis was sitting on the largest war chest of the three as of the end of the year, with $102,000, leading the National Republican Congressional Committee to place him “On the Radar” in its Young Guns program. His progression there will indicate whether the NRCC views him as a strong candidate.
Gov. Mary Fallin (R)
2012 Electoral Votes: 7
2008 Presidential Vote: McCain 66%/Obama 34%
2nd district | Open seat: Dan Boren (D) is retiring.
Outlook: Leans Republican
This seat appears increasingly out of reach for Democrats to hold following Boren’s retirement.
Known as “Little Dixie,” this area traditionally votes for Democrats on the local level but eschews the national party. But that’s started to change in recent years in this rural, working-class district.
The eventual Democratic nominee — either former Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Wallace or seed company owner Wayne Harriman — will have to contend with an unpopular president at the top of the ticket. Democrats touted Wallace early on as a great candidate, but Harriman has deep pockets, throwing $195,000 of his own money into his campaign by the end of last year.
Here’s the good news for Democrats: Republicans face a divisive primary without a clear frontrunner. State Rep. George Faught, plumbing company owner Markwayne Mullin, former state Rep. Wayne Pettigrew and lawyer Dustin Rowe are the competitive candidates in this race. Mullin had loaned his campaign $200,000 by the end of last year.
The primary is in June, with an August runoff necessary if no candidate gets 50 percent. The GOP may well have to fight it out through a runoff, while Democrats focus on the general election. Still, it’s tough to see the party holding this seat in a presidential year.
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
No one involved in or following Texas politics will say this race is anything but Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s to lose.
The winner of the GOP primary will be the de facto winner of the seat. So the race is to keep Dewhurst under 50 percent in the primary to push it into a runoff.
Former Solicitor General Ted Cruz and former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert are battling it out for second place. Cruz had the early momentum in the fall, as a National Review cover boy and favorite among tea party types. Some of the energy behind Cruz has petered out to the point that a Dewhurst internal poll showed Leppert in second place. Cruz has extensive grass-roots support, but it has not translated into the massive financial windfall needed to compete in Texas. Leppert has done well financially, but he’s done it the old-fashioned way — personal funding.
Regardless, this race has been in perpetual spring training, thanks to a roving primary date. The date was finally set for May 29, and the TV air war is projected to start sometime in April.
Dewhurst has been a statewide candidate since 1998, has high name identification and can sink millions into the race. Leppert has shown a similar commitment, and Cruz has the backing of groups such as the Club for Growth.
In early polling, former ESPN analyst Craig James was mired in the single digits. He has shown a zest on the campaign trail, but he has baggage involving the politics of Texas college football (the one arena Texans take more seriously than electoral politics). Should he gain any traction, those issues will almost certainly surface in television advertising.
National Democrats pinned early hopes on retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. But Sanchez dropped out, dashing their already remote shot at winning this seat. The most serious Democrat in the race is former state Rep. Paul Sadler. Sadler has earned the admiration of state Democrats and Republicans alike, but the hill is just too steep to climb this cycle.
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 very Republican territory of the current 14th. The end result is a likely Republican district that could flip with the right Democratic candidate.
Democratic strategists say they achieved that in former Rep. Nick Lampson, who is looking to return to Congress and is the strongest possible candidate on the Democratic side.
That is not the case on the GOP side.
Republicans do not sound thrilled about the top two candidates because of geography: Only fractions of their constituencies are in the redrawn district. The two top contenders are Pearland City Councilwoman Felicia Harris and state Rep. Randy Weber.
Still, the district was drawn to elect a Republican, and it should do that. As one Republican put it, the GOP “would need a very flawed” candidate and “Lampson would have to run the race of his life.”
20th district | Open seat: Charlie Gonzalez (D) is retiring.
Outlook: Safe Democratic
State Rep. Joaquin Castro (D) is the heir apparent to take Gonzalez’s place in Congress. Castro has an Ivy League education, poise and a golden name in San Antonio politics. The 37-year-old has an unusual home-court advantage: His twin brother, Julián, is mayor of San Antonio.
23rd district | Incumbent: Francisco “Quico” Canseco (R)
1st term (49 percent) | Outlook: Tossup
This is the single most competitive district in the Lone Star State. So competitive that both Republicans and Democratic strategists say they see a slight advantage in their tea leaves.
Because of Voting Rights Act mandates, 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 GOP.
Former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, who was swept into the 23rd during the 2006 Democratic wave and swept out last fall when the GOP won back the House, is looking to reclaim this seat from Canseco. 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 outpaced Rodriguez’s fundraising. One Democratic strategist said that both candidates could beat Canseco in the general but that Gallego is the stronger of the two.
25th district | New seat
Outlook: Safe Republican
The Williams non-family feud is back on.
For four years, former Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams and former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams (no relation) have declared themselves as candidates in races that never materialized, usually because of circumstances out of their control.
But now that the Senate GOP field is finalized and the state redistricting maps are set, both are ready to rumble in this district that stretches from suburban Fort Worth to Republican areas of Austin.
Roger Williams will have both personal wealth and establishment support. Michael Williams, who is an African-American, has grass-roots passion behind him.
No matter the nominee, a Republican will win this seat in the general.
33rd district | New seat
Outlook: Safe Democratic
The dynamics of this Dallas-Fort Worth district have pitted Hispanic and African-American interests against each other and might well pit representatives of the two communities in a Democratic primary.
State Rep. Marc Veasey (D) has emerged as the strongest African-American candidate running for the seat. Several Dallas Hispanics are on the radar as well. They include former state Rep. Domingo Garcia and former Dallas City Councilman Steve Salazar.
34th district | New seat
Outlook: Safe Democratic
This newly drawn district picked up much of the territory now represented by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R), 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. When Ortiz announced he would not run again for the seat, another Democrat, Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, declared he will run.
35th district | Incumbent: Lloyd Doggett (D)
9th term (53 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic
Doggett caught a big break when Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D) announced his retirement and state Rep. Joaquin Castro (D) opted to run for that seat.
Before that development, Republicans were within reach of their long-held wish of redistricting Doggett out of office. Castro and Doggett were headed for a no-holds-barred race in a district that stretched from Doggett’s native Austin to Castro’s San Antonio.
The lines are still not great for Doggett because the district contains more San Antonio than Austin. Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Sylvia Romo has filed and should be cause for concern for Doggett, but not on the same level as a Castro challenge.
36th district | New seat
Outlook: Safe Republican
This new district includes the northeastern Houston suburbs and stretches north deep into rural East Texas.
State Sen. Mike Jackson of La Porte is the current favorite to win the Republican nomination and then go on to win the general. But there is some concern in GOP circles that he does not have the fundraising prowess or fire in his belly to be a Congressman. He also has a geography problem in that most of his current state Senate district is not in the 36th.
That said, he does not have an abundance of organized competitors, and as the race stands, he will probably be the 36th district’s new Congressman.