April 6, 2015 — Familiarity is already returning to at least three congressional races. Two will be in the form of 2016 re-matches from last November, while a new special election appears to be a walk in the park for a recognizable family member.
Last week, former Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine) announced that he will seek a re-match with freshman Rep. Will Hurd (R-Helotes) next year in the Texas swing congressional district that stretches from San Antonio all the way to El Paso.
After this seat was created in a special redistricting during the 1960s, the six TX-23 incumbents prior to Hurd winning in November were all eventually defeated for re-election. This is quite noteworthy when compared to a nationwide electorate that routinely re-elects almost all of its congressmen. Typically, well over 90 percent of House members who seek re-election win.
Since the 2006 post general election run-off when Democrat Ciro Rodriguez upset seven-term veteran Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-San Antonio), the 23rd has see-sawed between the parties four different times. The last two incumbents, former Rep. Quico Canseco (R-San Antonio) and Gallego, were both unseated after just one term.
As usual in these types of electoral situations, voter turnout is the determining factor. Since the Democrats are winning in presidential years when turnout increases and losing in midterms when the participation rate dips significantly, it is generally their party voters who are more casual and unreliable.
The voter participation rate features wide but consistent swings. In the Republican victory of 2010, 37 percent fewer individuals cast ballots than did in 2008. The 2012 turnout jumped 21.2 percent for the presidential election year, and then dived back down by a 40 percent rate for the last vote.
But, preparing for the 2016 general election might not be the only vote that Hurd and Gallego see on the political horizon. A special three judge federal panel sitting in San Antonio back in late 2013 declared the 23rd as being unconstitutional in relation to its minority population complexion. Now that the US Supreme Court has ruled on the Alabama legislative case, the action judges in states with similar situations to that of Texas had been awaiting, the San Antonio panel may move forward. One option, after new districts have been drawn, is to hold new special elections before the regular election cycle.
If the three-judge panel moves in this direction, we may see what will be a hotly contested Hurd-Gallego battle well before November 2016.
Though it became public early last month that former Rep. Brad Schneider (D) was saying he would seek a re-match with Rep. Bob Dold (R), he made his intentions formal this past Thursday. Schneider, who has said on repeated occasions that he doesn’t find campaigning a pleasant experience, served one term after beating Dold in 2012.
When the Democratic state legislative leadership crafted their congressional redistricting plan in 2011, it was done with the idea of defeating Rep. Dold, who had won the seat 51-49 percent in 2010. The plan worked, at least in the short term, as Dold fell to Schneider by the same percentage. Last November, Dold returned the favor, unseating Schneider by that same 51-49 percent margin.
The third battle between the two will again be fought in a presidential turnout year, which typically helps the Democrats. But Schneider will not be aided by having Illinois favorite son Barack Obama running for president at the top of the statewide ticket. While we can count on another close race here, Schneider’s advantage in 2016 might not be quite as favorable as he enjoyed in 2012. Expect another highly competitive campaign to unfold in these northern Chicago suburbs.
Though the special congressional election in west-central Illinois is not yielding a re-match, we will again see a familiar family name. Republican Ray LaHood represented this seat in the House for 14 years but didn’t seek re-election in 2008 and went on to become President Obama’s Transportation Secretary in early 2009. With the resignation of LaHood’s successor, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Peoria), a new LaHood is primed to return the seat to his family.
State Sen. Darin LaHood (R), so far, is unopposed for the special election that Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) just called. Former Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-IL-17) toyed with jumping into the contest, but ultimately decided not to pursue a new campaign. Several state legislators and businessmen had publicly considered jumping into the race but, to date, LaHood stands alone as an official contender.
Having now raised a reported $210,000 since opening a campaign committee on March 18, the chances of seeing another serious candidate come forward dwindle by the day.