The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released the first of their “Frontline” incumbents, those that will get the most attention from the party as they build for re-election. All are either freshmen from competitive districts, won a tough open seat, or defeated a Republican incumbent in 2012.
Rep. Ron Barber (AZ-02) – Barber, who won a special election to replace resigned Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), had a closer than expected general election against former Air Force pilot Martha McSally (R) winning just 50.4 to 49.6 percent. McSally is likely to return in 2014, and with a more favorable turnout model could conceivably score an upset. The fact that Mitt Romney won the seat 50-48 percent bodes well for the challenger, but it didn’t pull her through last November.
Rep. John Barrow (GA-12) – Rep. Barrow drew a second-tier opponent in what should have been a first-tier GOP conversion opportunity. With a projected lower African-American turnout for 2014, this seat could be in play, but tough re-election races are nothing new for Barrow. The big question is whether he will run for the Senate. Obviously, an open seat would increase Republican prospects.
Rep. Ami Bera (CA-07) – Freshman Bera knocked out veteran Rep. Dan Lungren (R) in 2012, after losing to him in a close race two years earlier. The district could elect a Republican, but the party will have to recruit a top prospect. Lungren is not likely to run again.
Rep. Tim Bishop (NY-01) – After surviving the second closest race of 2010, Bishop rebounded to score a 49-44 percent win over the same opponent. The 2014 turnout should improve Republican prospects, but candidate selection will be key to again making this race competitive.
Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26) – Despite an impressive 53 percent win over state Sen. Tony Strickland, far and away one of the Republicans’ best California candidates and possibly nationally, too, the GOP cannot write off this seat. The district was drawn as a 50/50 competitive seat, and has performed as such. If Republicans rebound in 2014, this seat could go their way. Strickland is a possible repeat candidate.
Rep. Cheri Bustos (IL-17) – Unless former Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) seeks a re-match, and he may, this Democratic seat should be Bustos’ to lose. Schilling ran a good race, but losing as an incumbent makes it more difficult to return two years later. It can be done, but rate Bustos as the clear favorite, at least in the early going.
Rep. Lois Capps (CA-24) – State Sen. Abel Maldonado’s poor standing within the Republican base allowed Rep. Capps to score a 10-point win in a district that should be much closer. A different Republican candidate might fare better, especially with a lower turnout. Capps has to be considered the favorite, but Republicans should not stray far from this district. Like California District 26, this Santa Barbara/San Luis Obispo seat is drawn to be competitive.
Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA-01) – Freshman DelBene’s toughest race is likely behind her. It is improbable that the Republicans will field a strong candidate here, so DelBene is likely to be removed from this target list as we turn the corner toward the election year.
Rep. Bill Enyart (IL-12) – Enyart has also probably endured his toughest race. Though the seat has the potential of becoming close, the new incumbent appears to fit the district well and will likely see a much easier campaign ahead of him than the one he just left behind.
Rep. Elizabeth Esty (CT-05) – Connecticut becomes more Democratic in every election year. Esty won this open seat 51-49 percent, but should score a much greater margin of victory in 2014.
Rep. Pete Gallego (TX-23) – Gallego put 50 percent on the board against freshman incumbent Quico Canseco, even though Mitt Romney carried the seat. If redistricting doesn’t change TX-23, a competitive race could again be in store here. Candidate recruitment will be key here, but Rep. Gallego is a capable politician and chances are this race is headed to the second tier.
Rep. Joe Garcia (FL-26) – Garcia handily defeated one-term Rep. David Rivera (R), who was tarred with scandal. The national Republicans gave up toward the end of the last cycle and allowed Garcia to coast to his victory in the final campaign days on his third attempt to win election here. Romney also carried this seat, so a strong candidate, and there are many considering the race, could match up well with Rep. Garcia. FL-26 will be a key Republican target.
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01) – Another district that Romney carried that elected a Democrat, former Rep. Kirkpatrick re-claimed her seat after losing in 2010. Scoring under 50 percent (49 percent), again suggests continued vulnerability however. In another wave Republican year, Kirkpatrick could again be swept from office.
Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02) – The 2nd District is much more Democratic than the Granite State’s 1st District, giving Kuster the better chance to be victorious in re-election. Many people suggest that this western state district is becoming more like Vermont than New Hampshire. If so, Rep. Kuster will return.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) – Mahoney defeated first-term Rep. Nan Hayworth (R) in an upset. This district remains competitive. Candidate recruitment will tell the tale. Therefore, it is too early to know if this will be a legitimate Republican target or not.
Rep. Dan Maffei (NY-24) – Rep. Maffei has now won two and lost two congressional races. Though he did unseat the woman who beat him in 2010, Ann Marie Buerkle, Maffei still garnered less than 50 percent support. A strong challenger can certainly give him another run for his money.
Rep. Jim Matheson (UT-04) – If veteran Congressman Matheson didn’t lose in 2012 with Mitt Romney leading the top of the ticket in one of his home states, it’s hard to see a scenario that defeats him next year. The 2012 result was razor thin, so next time might be the charm for Republicans. Chances are, though, Matheson wins again.
Rep. Mike McIntyre (NC-07) – Winning by only 654 votes in the closest of all 2012 races, McIntyre’s time in Congress may be reaching its limit. A slightly more Republican turnout model sends McIntyre to the political showers. This is likely the number one GOP target in the nation.
Rep. Patrick Murphy (FL-18) – Should the Voting Rights Act case before the Supreme Court actually lead to overturning parts of Section 4 and 5, the entire Florida political situation will be stood on its ear, and an electoral free-for-all will result. Barring a new map, Murphy, who ousted controversial Rep. Allen West (R) after one term in office, will be on the political hot seat. Mitt Romney also carried this district, even though it was simultaneously defeating a Republican congressional incumbent. A strong challenger candidate is a must. West has already said he will not run again in 2014.
Rep. Bill Owens (NY-21) – Republican Matt Doheny has had his two shots at Rep. Bill Owens, and 2012 was likely his last chance to win. He obviously did not, but Owens’ win percentage was held to just 47 percent when the minor party candidates and blank votes are added to the total. Though Owens continues to survive, the Republicans will eventually find the right formula to unseat him.
Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) – Peters scored an upset win over Rep. Brian Bilbray, who loses as an incumbent for the second time. Like some of the other CA seats, Republicans cannot fail to mount a challenge in what will continue to be a competitive San Diego-anchored district.
Rep. Raul Ruiz (CA-36) – Then-Rep. Mary Bono Mack lost her seat to newcomer Raul Ruiz after it appeared she was in the driver’s seat. The GOP will fight hard here next year, in a district that is certainly winnable for a Republican candidate.
Rep. Brad Schneider (IL-10) – Illinois redistricting cast the die against many of the state’s Republican incumbents in 2012, especially with favorite son Barack Obama running on the same ballot. As strong an effort as Rep. Bob Dold (R) projected, he couldn’t overcome the Democratic tide. It will be a major upset to defeat freshman Rep. Schneider within the confines of these heavily slanted district boundaries.
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) – Another Democratic incumbent who lost her seat in 2010 returned in 2012, even in this more conservative of New Hampshire’s two districts. Former Rep. Frank Guinta (R) may be back for a re-match, or could challenge Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) for re-election. Republicans will have a strong candidate here, and this seat promises to be close all the way to Election Day. Considering New Hampshire’s severe political swings in the last three election cycles, any outcome is possible.
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09) – Winning a close race (49-45 percent) over Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker (R), Sinema is likely to face him again in 2014. The district is likely to get more Democratic as the decade progresses, so the new incumbent has to be rated the clear favorite as the election cycle begins.
Rep. John Tierney (MA-06) – If Rep. Tierney didn’t lose in 2012 when it appeared that both he and the Democratic Party had conceded the seat to the Republican nominee (Richard Tisei), then it is unlikely he will lose while getting politically stronger. His wife’s conviction for tax fraud was his major impediment to re-election and he will be in better re-election position in 2014 as more and more time elapses.