Competitive House Primaries

By Jim Ellis

March 31, 2016 — The anti-Washington political sentiment is more than just a factor in the presidential race. The feeling is permeating the early congressional nomination campaigns, particularly among Republicans, and House incumbents are taking serious notice.

So far six states have held their congressional primaries: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio and Texas, and though no incumbent has lost many have deflected competitive intra-party challenges, while several others loom on the horizon. In the six states that have nominated their 2016 congressional candidates, including four with run-off systems, none has even been cast into a secondary election. The closest two results came in Texas and Illinois, where veteran representatives Kevin Brady (R-TX-8) and John Shimkus (R-IL-15) won respective 53 and 60 percent re-nomination victories.

The most serious current primary campaigns are occurring in North Carolina, now scheduled for June 7 after a court-mandated major redistricting plan forced the state to move its congressional primaries from March 15.

We’ve already covered the Republican pairing between representatives Renee Ellmers and George Holding in the new 2nd District, and that representatives Walter Jones (R-NC-3), Bob Pittenger (R-NC-9), and Alma Adams (D-NC-12) have serious nomination contests, but two-term Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC-8), who faces a 60 percent new constituency covered by the state’s two most expensive media markets (Charlotte and Raleigh), also faces significant GOP competition.

Tim D’Annunzio, a previously unsuccessful congressional and statewide candidate, is personally wealthy and entered the race against Hudson just as candidate filing closed. He immediately purchased $200,000 in early television with much more to follow, so the 8th District campaign is another to watch. Rep. Hudson, an Energy & Commerce Committee member, is a strong campaigner and is quickly adding to his $600,000 campaign war chest. It’s already clear that he will need to spend more than $1 million to lock this race down.

The next two state primaries come on April 26 in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The Keystone State campaigns are attracting the most attention. Indicted Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA-2) is in clear danger of losing his Philadelphia-anchored seat. Veteran state Rep. Dwight Evans (D) is mounting an aggressive campaign and could well topple the embattled incumbent. Two other local Philadelphia Democrats are also on the ballot.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA-9) again faces retired Coast Guard officer Art Halvorson, but the congressman is spending heavily to insulate himself in this head-to-head contest. Halvorson and one other candidate held Shuster to a 53 percent re-nomination win in 2014.

In Maryland, six incumbents are seeking re-election. The state’s lone Republican congressman, Rep.n Andy Harris (R-MD-1), has drawn the most attention but will easily deflect three GOP opponents. Representatives John Sarbanes (D-MD-3), Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5), John Delaney (D-MD-6), and Elijah Cummings (D-MD-7) all face minor primary opposition. Open Districts 4 and 8 feature major Democratic primaries as incumbents Donna Edwards (D-Prince Georges County) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Montgomery County) are locked in a tight battle for the state’s open US Senate Democratic nomination.

Other incumbents facing significant primary races later in the year will occur in Virginia where redistricting has forced Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA-4) into the open Virginia Beach-anchored 2nd District; in Georgia, as former Rep. Paul Broun (R) has announced a comeback bid against 9th District Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville); and, New Hampshire where embattled v (R-NH-1) faces at least two strong GOP opponents. Many California incumbents also have intra-party opposition, but their top-two political system that allows members of the same party to advance to the general election will decide all of those races in November rather than June.

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