Total Pageviews

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

10 House Races to Watch

Weary of the race for the White House? You're not alone! So, how about dialing into some of the most exciting House races of 2012?

Thanks to the powerful force of gerrymandering, the vast majority of the hundreds of races around the country are anti-climactic, with the party registration numbers in each Congressional district dictating the outcome. Republicans appear poised to hold their majority in the House, but Democrats are likely to pick up at least a few seats. Many races, though, mirror the fight for the presidency - tight, exciting and riddled with tough advertisements. While there are more than 10 competitive races, some of them even closer than the ones we have listed list here, these House races are 10 worth watching.

California's 15th District
History and tradition suggest that Representative Pete Stark, who has served nearly four decades, should cruise to re-election, and maybe indeed he will. But this race is on the radar screen because Mr. Stark, who has not faced a serious challenge in years, has been knocked off his game many times by competition - a situation illustrated by his announcement at California newspaper editorial board meeting, absent any proof, that some of its members had donated to his primary opponent. No Republican qualified in the California primary for this race, so Mr. Stark, 81, will have to beat back a Dublin City Council member, Eric Swalwell, a perky 31-year-old prosecutor with the stomach for a fight.

California's 36th District
For eight terms, Representative Mary Bono Mack, the Republican incumbent, has won in this largely blue state, and redistricting seemed to favor another good outcome for her. But she found herself in a scrappy fight against the Democrat, Dr. Raul Ruiz, an emergency room physician. Latinos make up nearly a third of the district's voters, and Ms. Bono Mack, one of the most moderate Republicans in the House may have boo-booed when she said on the campa ign trail that she would reach out to Latinos “after the election.” Twist: If she loses, and her husband, Representative Connie Mack of Florida, fails in his Senate bid, they will be a married Congressional couple out of work.

Colorado's 6th District
As goes this district, so likely goes the presidential candidate in this western bellwether state. Representative Mike Coffman, a favorite of the Tea Party movement, is known for his colorful statements, including calling into question President Obama's American-ness, and his path to a third term narrowed after political mapmakers redrew his overwhelmingly Republican district to include near-equal amounts of registered Republican, Democratic and independent voters. His Democratic rival, Joe Miklosi, a state lawmaker, has struggled to raise money for his own campaign and has had to rely on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to keep afloat. (Colorado Race Turns Fierce Aft er Republican's Anti-Obama Remark, Oct. 30)

Florida's 18th District
Representative Allen B. West is one of the few nationally known freshmen Republicans, a former Army officer who in 2010 became one of only two black Republicans to be elected to the House since Reconstruction. A Tea Party favorite who works the talk-show circuit and is a fund-raising powerhouse, he is in a too-close-to-call contest with a wealthy construction executive, Patrick Murphy, and Democrats would love to see Mr. West go. This race has also featured some of the nastiest ads, in a year with a high bar for that.

Illinois's 17th District
Among the many lawmakers who came to Washington with no political experience, Representative Bobby Schilling was among the most unlikely. The affable pizzeria-owning father of 10 won in a district near the Iowa border that had not elected a Republican in nearly 30 years, and Illinois Democrats drew him into an even tougher district this year, mak ing him one of the most vulnerable incumbents. But his opponent Cheri Bustos, a former East Moline alderwoman and close ally of Senator Richard J. Durbin, has had to work hard to fight Mr. Schilling, who has tried to charm the working-class voters in this district. The race has remained a nail-biter, though Democrats think this one is in the bag. (Ex-Outsiders, Running on Record in Congress, Oct. 28)

Iowa's 3rd District
This race was the war of the nice guys. Iowa lost a seat after the 2010 census, and two veteran incumbents - Representatives Leonard L. Boswell, a Democrat, and Tom Latham, a Republican - found themselves facing off in a new district made up of a nearly equal number of Republican, Democratic and independent voters. The cash advantage went to Mr. Latham, who got a ton of fund-raising help from his B.F.F., House speaker, John A. Boehner. But more of the district is currently held by Mr. Boswell, and Mr. Obama enjoys a narrow edge in the state.

Georgia's 12th District
The last white Democrat laboring in the deep South, Representative John Barrow has hung on through every attack that Republicans have launched over the course of four terms. This year, he is forced to compete in an even more Republican district, and has worked to emphasize his Blue Dog status and his “I vote my district not with the president” cred. His opponent is Lee Anderson, a state representative who nabbed the Republican nomination by a mere 159 votes in a primary runoff, and Mr. Barrow has given as hard as he has gotten in this close race.

Massachusetts's 6th District
So, an openly gay Republican member of the House from Massachusetts? Get ready, as it could happen. Representative John F. Tierney, an eight-term Democrat, should have cruised to re-elected, but he has been dogged with nagging questions about his in-laws' illegal offshore gambling enterprise. His opponent is the former state senator Richard Tisei, an openly gay Republican who supports abortion rights, and polling shows Mr. Tisei heading into the last month of his campaign with a strong lead.

New York's 27th District
There are many close races in New York, and a few involving freshmen, but the first-term incumbent, Representative Kathy Hochul, is considered among the most vulnerable Democrats in the country. Ms. Hochul, a former county clerk, won her seat in a closely watched special election in a conservative district in the Buffalo area last year in a race that was viewed nationally as a referendum on a Republican proposal in Washington to overhaul Medicare. This year, redistricting has given her an even more Republican district than the one she had and her well-known Republican opponent, Chris Collins, the former Erie County executive, has gotten a lot of help from his party.

Utah's 4th District
Representative Jim Matheson, one of the last remaining Blue Dogs, is used to winning in a district and stat e where the Republican nominee for president always prevails. But this time, Mr. Matheson is in a battle against Mayor Mia Love of Saratoga Springs, who is looking to become the first African-American woman ever to join the House of Representatives as a Republican. Ms. Love is sure to have big coattails from Mitt Romney to ride, and her party is giving her strong support, but incumbency is not without its benefits, even in this district. (Utah Mayor Hopes Star Turn, and Romney's Star Power, Lift Her to the House, Oct. 31)

- All New York Times House Race Ratings