Roll Call’s 10 Most Vulnerable House Members Revealed
The midterm elections are one year away, but it’s already clear that days are numbered for some endangered House members.
The reasons vary, from scandal to primary problems, strong opponents or the changing politics of individual districts.
Reps. Dan Benishek, R-Mich., and John F. Tierney, D-Mass., are making repeat appearances on the list from last cycle’s final edition. Another name from last cycle, Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., didn’t make the cut this time thanks to an unproven opponent.
Honorable mentions for this cycle go to Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif.; Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.; Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla.; and Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y.
A revised list will be published in six months, and then again in the final weeks before Election Day 2014. But for now, here are Roll Call’s 10 most vulnerable House members of 2014 in alphabetical order, with their 2012 vote shares in parentheses:
Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz.
1st full term (50 percent)
Barber’s re-election in 2012 was surprisingly close, and the former congressional aide will once again face retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally next year. Democrats privately worry about Barber’s ability to win without presidential-year turnout — or lots of national dollars — behind him. But Barber inherited former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ political team, a group that repeatedly proves they can get the vote out in Tucson.
McSally promises to run a fierce campaign against Barber — if she avoids a primary. Republicans regret not giving McSally enough support last cycle, when she lost by just 2,500 votes. The national GOP plans to invest heavily in her race this time around.
Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich.
2nd term (48 percent)
Benishek narrowly avoided defeat last cycle when he faced a former state lawmaker for a second time. But Democrats will target this Upper Peninsula district again next year with a top new recruit: retired Army Maj. Gen. Jerry Cannon.
Privately, Republicans are worried about Benishek’s ability to run a strong campaign. He under-performed Mitt Romney in this district by 6 points. The good news for Benishek? Overall, this district increasingly votes for Republicans.
Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich.
1st term (51 percent)
Talk about an accidental congressman. Last cycle, Bentivolio got the GOP’s nod after Republican Rep. Thaddeus McCotter suddenly resigned following allegations of election petition fraud. The former reindeer rancher and veteran has been targeted ever since. Bentivolio’s meager fundraising — less than $60,000 last quarter — failed to scare away competition.
Bentivolio now faces a primary opponent, attorney David Trott, with deep pockets. At least one Democrat, former State Department senior adviser Bobby McKenzie, is already in the race, although the national party is wooing Wayne State University Law School Interim Dean Jocelyn Benson to run.
Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo.
3rd term (48 percent)
The biggest loser in Colorado’s redistricting last cycle, Coffman went from representing a conservative district to a Tossup. He got lucky last cycle when he faced a weak challenger.
But this time around, Democrats landed a top recruit and fundraiser: former state Speaker Andrew Romanoff. Coffman won’t get much help from the top of the ballot either, thanks to the state GOP’s struggle to field strong statewide candidates. But Republicans note Coffman is savvy and has been voting more in line with his new district since the redraw.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.
2nd term (56 percent)
If there was a No. 1 on this list, it would be DesJarlais. Bombshell revelations about his personal life are all but sure to sink him next year. His widely reported 2001 divorce proceedings show the self-described anti-abortion-rights conservative encouraged his former wife and former mistress to have multiple abortions.
DesJarlais now faces a top GOP primary opponent, state Sen. Jim Tracy, who is decimating the congressman in fundraising. Tracy currently has a 5-to-1 cash advantage in this conservative district where the GOP nominee will likely become the next congressman.
Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah
7th term (49 percent)
He’s back. Matheson has appeared on — and defied — this list many times before. But the nature of his conservative district, his top competitor and a slim margin of victory last year make him vulnerable again in 2014.
Mitt Romney carried this district with 67 percent last year; meanwhile, Matheson eked out a 768-vote victory. Matheson will be helped by not having Romney on top of the Utah ballot. But his returning opponent, Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, has vowed to run a more efficient campaign the second time around.
Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.
9th term (50 percent)
McIntyre won this district by less than 700 votes last year, defying Republicans — and his previous appearances on this list — yet again. Next year, McIntyre faces a rematch with David Rouzer in this district that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried by 19 points last cycle.
Republicans say that off-year turnout, which normally favors the party not in the White House, will be enough to knock out the longtime Democrat. But McIntyre could get a boost from Sen. Kay Hagan’s re-election effort. In any case, McIntyre is on track for another rough re-election race.
Rep. Gary G. Miller, R-Calif.
8th term (55 percent)
Miller represents the strongest Democratic district occupied by a House Republican. In 2012 , he got lucky when four Democratic candidates chopped up the primary vote to allow Miller and another Republican to emerge from the top-two primary, ensuring a GOP victory.
Four Democrats are again vying for this district that Obama carried with 57 percent last cycle. Miller is currently the only GOP candidate in this race so far, making it impossible for him to replicate his 2012 luck. Provided a strong Democrat emerges for November 2014, Miller’s re-election will be much more difficult than last cycle.
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.
3rd term (50 percent)
Perhaps more so than any other House member in the country, Shea-Porter is at the mercy of the national political mood. The Granite State is notoriously volatile, switching out its two House members in three of the past four cycles. What’s more, the liberal congresswoman represents the more GOP-friendly district in New Hampshire.
National Republican operatives chalk up Shea-Porter’s return to President Barack Obama outperforming expectations in the 1st District. Local Republicans blame a libertarian spoiler for her return. Regardless, she’s even more vulnerable without those factors on the ballot in 2014.
Rep. John F. Tierney, D-Mass.
9th term (48 percent)
The Democrat cheated near-electoral death last cycle against a top GOP recruit, former state Sen. Richard Tisei. And with an ethics investigation into his personal finances behind him, some Democrats argue Tierney is in better shape going in 2014. Yet Tierney faces new challenges this cycle: two primary opponents who are all but assured to attack him on his past ethical dustups — including his wife’s ties to an illegal gambling ring run by her brother.
If Tierney survives the primary, he is likely to face another tough election against Tisei. The Republican came within 1 point of ousting Tierney even as Obama carried the district by an 11-point margin. And without Obama on the ticket, Tierney won’t have much help to pull him over the finish line.