House Upset Updates

Money is flying in House races right now, and the respective party and outside organization spending is indicative about how the races are unfolding. Republicans are on the offensive in some obscure districts; Democrats, with the exception of their operations against Reps. Lee Terry (R-NE-2), Steve Southerland (R-FL-2), and Michael Grimm (R-NY-11), are generally retreating to protect endangered incumbents.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) just reported adding money to some existing media buys. They are increasing their presence for Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL-10), Bill Enyart (D-IL-12), Rick Nolan (D-MN-8), Dan Maffei (D-NY-24), and Nick Rahall (D-WV-3). This clearly suggests Republican challengers in each of those districts are legitimate upset contenders.

The following is a list of the latest action in what can be described as emerging races. All of the predictions in these campaigns originally favored the incumbent or the incumbent party in an open seat situation.

• AR-4: Rep. Tom Cotton’s (R) open seat is now yielding a competitive contest between Republican state Rep. Bruce Westerman and Democrat former Federal Emergency Management Agency director James Lee Witt. Westerman had the early lead, but a new Hendrix College Talk Business poll (Oct. 15-16; 410 likely AR-4 voters) shows the Republican advantage dwindling to 44-42 percent.

• CA-17: Silicon Valley attorney and former Obama Administration official Ro Khanna is challenging Rep. Mike Honda, which pairs two Democrats in the general election. Honda has been out-spent ($4.1 million to $2.7 million), but viewed as a decided favorite. A new Survey USA poll (released Oct. 21; 650 registered CA-17 voters) finds the Congressman’s lead dropping to only two points, 37-35%. With only the two of them on the ballot, it is rather surprising to see such a high undecided/won’t answer figure (28%) so close to the election. This could signal a questionable poll.

• CA-21: At 55 percent Obama in the 2012 presidential election, this district is the second-strongest Democratic seat in the country to elect a Republican congressman. Therefore, at some point it was clear that challenger Amanda Renteria (D) would begin gaining on freshman Rep. David Valadao (R). A new Survey USA poll (10/15-20; 554 likely CA-21 voters) gives the congressman a 47-42 percent edge.

• CA-31: This is a race the Republicans seem to have conceded, though they already hold the seat in the person of retiring Rep. Gary Miller (R). A new poll, however, still shows GOP candidate Paul Chabot, a retired Navy officer, to be in range of local Democratic mayor, Pete Aguilar. A new American Viewpoint survey (released Oct. 21; 400 likely CA-13 voters) gives Aguilar only a 42-38 percent edge.

• HI-1: In early 2010, then-Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou (R) won a special congressional campaign, but then lost the general election for a full term to then-state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D). In 2014, Djou is again competitive, tying state Rep. Mark Takai (D) 47-47 percent in a new Ward Research poll (released Oct. 23; 354 likely HI-1 voters). The DCCC countered with their own Global Strategy Group survey (Oct. 20-21; 400 likely HI-1 voters) that gives Takai a 49-42 percent advantage. American Action Network is investing $300,000 in ads to assist Djou. VoteVets registered a $185,000 expenditure for Takai. Working Families of Hawaii also dropped $114,000 in expenditures to support the Democrat’s candidacy. Based upon party voting history, Takai remains the favorite.

• IL-10: Early, data was suggesting former Rep. Bob Dold (R) was faring well in his quest to regain the seat he lost in 2012. In the last couple of weeks, however, freshman Rep. Brad Schneider (D) rebounded and led in all polling. Now, Dold is resurgent again. A new We Ask America poll (released Oct. 22; sample size not available) finds the Republican leading Rep. Schneider 47-45 percent.

• IA-1&2: The two eastern Iowa seats should be safely in the Democratic column, but polling and spending patterns are yielding more competitive than expected campaigns. Businessman Rod Blum (R) was actually one point ahead of state Rep. Pat Murphy (D) in the state’s northeast district (Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) running for Senate), while the DCCC pounds the Republican on the airwaves. The American Action Network is countering with a huge $500,000 buy in the district. The DCCC is also on the air in the southeast district, shoring up incumbent David Loebsack (D) against Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks who is challenging the incumbent for the third time.

• MA-6: Most believed that once Iraq War veteran Seth Moulton (D) defeated Rep. John Tierney (D) in the Democratic primary, his ride in the general election would be smooth. Such is not proving true. Sensing an upset possibility, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Congressional Leadership Fund is dropping big money into the district during the final two weeks of the campaign. The CLF buy, for example, will exceed $500,000.

• MN-7: Rep. Collin Peterson (D), stung by attacks linking him to President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in conservative northwestern Minnesota, launched his own ad defending his record and establishing himself as an independent voice.

• NV-4:
Every election cycle, a late race breaks that threatens an incumbent, only to see the office holder rebound and score a comfortable victory. This will likely be the pattern in Nevada’s 4th CD, as freshman Rep. Steven Horsford (D) is attracting outside attention from conservative organizations. Crossroads GPS is now dropping six figures into the Las Vegas-anchored CD. The DCCC is preparing to counter. So far, Democratic early voting turnout is well below normal, thus attracting Republican and right-of-center political attention. The Republican nominee is state Assemblyman Cresent Hardy.

• NY-1: Sensing that Rep. Tim Bishop (D) is foundering, the American Action Network has just launched a stunning $1.5 million expenditure on behalf of Republican state Sen. Lee Zeldin, in what has been an under-the-radar challenge effort to this point. The eastern Long Island electorate has a penchant for defeating veteran incumbents, adding to Rep. Bishop’s angst.

• NY-24: Democrats continue to be concerned with Rep. Dan Maffei’s re-election prospects, even though the Syracuse seat is relatively Democratic. The National Republican Congressional Committee is coming in with a new television buy, and the DCCC just increased their media reservations by another $233,000. Former District Attorney John Katko is the Republican nominee.

• TX-23: The Congressional Leadership Fund is dropping a massive $1.6 million buy into the expansive 23rd District race to better position former CIA agent Will Hurd (R) against freshman Rep. Pete Gallego (D). The district stretches from San Antonio to El Paso and is the one true swing district in the state.

• WI-6: Democrat Mark Harris, the Winnebago County Executive, appears to be attracting attention in is uphill battle against state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R). Harris is taking advantage of previous Grothman comments and sponsored legislation such as the latter’s call to eliminate weekends, and retiring Rep. Tom Petri’s (R) refusal to endorse the Republican congressional nominee. Prior to the congressman’s decision to rebuff Grothman, the candidate said he would consider himself a failure if, after one term in office, people compared him favorably to Petri.

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