By the Numbers-- The Most Vulnerable GOP Congressmen

A sitting congressman getting caught red-handed taking millions of dollars in bribes-- so red-handed that initial indignant, self-righteous and aggressive denials soon turn into a tear-soaked admission and groveling (snitching) plea for clemency-- doesn't happen every day. Most days they don't get caught. But, luckily for the folks in North San Diego's 50th congressional district, the far right/not bright loon they kept re-electing to represent them in Washington did get caught, etc. And now he's in prison. And what an opportunity for a Democrat! Luckily for the Democrats, the DCCC's anti-progressive/anti-grassroots boss, Rahm Emanuel, was unable to scare/bully Francine Busby out of the race. She's got tremendous name recognition, having done well in her first campaign against Cunningham in 2004 (and never having stopped running since). Her chances of taking a fairly solid red district are very good. Normally, though, the kinds of circumstances that have combined to make her a favorite are very rare (although, if luck and good timing work in their favor Jerry McNerney could wind up representing CA-11 and Jan Schneider could be doing the same thing in FL-13-- and both for very similar reasons. (I've already started talking about Jerry's race and I'm getting ready to start writing about Jan's.)

Today, however, I want to write about the other kind of race challengers can win, the ones not dependent on the incumbent getting caught with his or her hands in the cookie jar. Conventional wisdom says that if an incumbent won the last election by less than 6 points, they are potentially vulnerable. There are 27 GOP-held seats that fit that criterion. All should be DCCC priorities for November.

There's only one Republican incumbent that fits that description in my own state of California, David Dreier, who just squeaked by in 2004. After a lively but under-financed challenge from a virtually unknown, and DCCC-unsupported, lesbian, Dreier managed to limp back to Washington with a 53.7% victory. This time he'll be facing a far more formidable challenge from successful Rancho Cucamonga entrepreneur, Russ Warner. One gets the impression that the DCCC is committed to helping Warner take this increasingly moderate Los Angeles County district from a congressman whose views are too far to the right for his constituents. Progressives may find Jerry McNerney's race against Richard "Let's Sell The National Parks" Pombo in CA-11 more compelling and Democratic partisans may be more eager to go after extreme right wing fringe loon and likely bribe indictee John Doolittle (CA-4), but it really is Dreier, short of a pre-November indictment for any of the scandal-ridden California GOP caucus (Doolittle, Hunter, Lewis, Pombo, possibly Issa or Calvert), who is the most vulnerable, at least by the numbers.

I'm going to try to deal with each of these races over the next several months. But right now I just want to list the vulnerable Republican incumbents, the ones who won their last race by less than 6%. Nationally, the Republican who had the closest call of all was Mike Sodrel (IN-09) who will face either grassroots, anti-war progressive Gretchen Clearwater or former Congressman, DCCC-backed "moderate"Baron Hill. (How do I know she's a grassroots, anti-war progressive and he's a DCCC clone? Just look at their websites (above links); hers is filled with passion and idealism and her positions on issues. His tells you where to send money; and not a peep about how he stands on much of anything-- just the way the DCCC's Boss TweedEmanuel likes it.

Back to the list. The next lowest win in the country was for freshman Republican far right extremist Randy Kuhl (NY-29), someone whose voting record has been almost identical to Tom DeLay's. Last time out Kuhl scraped by with 50.4% of the vote. This time he will have a much tougher race from Eric Massa, a distinguished war veteran and former aide to General Wes Clark, who will be campaigning vigorously for him (as will Senator Hillary Clinton, whose popularity in the far west of New York state has grown immensely since she first came to office. Next lowest is Jim "flip-floppin'" Gerlach (PA-06) who edged out Lois Murphy by the skin of his teeth (51%-49%). The next lowest, Marilyn Musgrave (CO-04), is a special case, because she is also considered to be one of the most corrupt congresscritters in Washington, quite a feat considering the competition. She's also considered a religionist fanatic and way too right-wing for a moderate district. State Representative Angie Paccione is likely to send her off to retirement in November. The next most endangered Republican is freshman Dave Reichert (WA-08), a straight-down-the-line Tom DeLay puppet who managed 51.5% of the vote in 2004 and will be facing Darcy Burner.

OK, now I'll just list the others with the percentage they won by in '04 + the current Democratic challengers. In coming days I want to look a little deeper into the Indiana races, the Connecticut races and the races in Florida and North Carolina.

Chris Shays (CT-04)- 52.4% (Diane Farrell)
John Hostettler (IN-08)- 53.4% (Brad Ellsworth)
Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01)- 54.0% (Maxine Moul)
Mark Kennedy (MN-06)- 54.0% (open seat/ Elwyn Tinklenberg and Patty Wetterling)
Chris Chocola (IN-02)- 54.2% (the DCCC's Joe Donnelly and progressive Steve Francis)
Rob Simmons (CT-02)- 54.2% (Joe Courtney)
Pete Sessions (TX-32)- 54.3% (Will Pryor)
Geoff Davis (KY-04)- 54.4% (Ken Lucas)
Jon Porter (NV-03)- 54.5% (Tessa Hafen)
Bob Beauprez (CO-07)- 54.7% (open seat- Peggy Lamm, Ed Perlmutter, and anti-Iraq war challenger Herb Rubenstein)
Heather Wilson (NM-01)- 54.7% (New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid)
Charles Taylor (NC-11)- 54.9% (Heath Shuler)
Charles Boustany (LA-05)- 55.0% (DCCC hasn't found a challenger yet)
Thelma Drake (VA-02)- 55.1% (Phil Kellam)
Tom DeLay (TX-22)- 55.2% (Nick Lampson)
Jim Nussle (IA-01)- 55.2% (open seat- Bruce Braley, Rick Dickinson, and Bill Gluba)
Katherine Harris (FL-13)- 55.3% (open seat- progressive grassroots candidate Jan Schneider, DCCC-bot Christine Jennings and Mike LaFevers)
Barbara Cubin (WY-AL)- 55.3% (Gary Trauner and possibly Ted Ladd, the guy who came close in 2004; the DCCC claims he's running but I can't find any confirmation of that and his website connects to a business url)
Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08)- 55.3% (Patrick Murphy and Andy Warren)
Robin Hayes (NC-08)- 55.5% (Tim Dunn and Larry Kissell)
Ted Poe (TX-02)- 55.5% (Gary Binderim)

Tags: David Dreier, Francine Busby, Jan Schneider, Lois Murphy, Mike Sodrel, rahm emanuel, Randy Kuhl, Russ Wagner (all tags)



Re: By the Numbers-- The Most Vulnerable GOP Congr

kuhl didnt scrape by. you say 51 percent like the dem got 49, but barend only got 42, with a right wing libertarian getting 7 percent.

by yomoma2424 2006-03-11 01:07PM | 0 recs
Re: By the Numbers-- The Most Vulnerable GOP Congr

and you pump up someone like jan schneider - she lost twice to unpopular Katherine Harris, who does worse than token republican.  She doesn't stand a chance to win. And neither would Clearwater or any of the other non-factors that you pump up. Those races can only be won by moderates.

by yomoma2424 2006-03-11 01:10PM | 0 recs
Re: By the Numbers-- The Most Vulnerable GOP Congr

I posted this on DailyKos, but I'll do it here, too.  I'll rattle off a few races where I think we could win.

Very Competitive

AZ-05: Well, very competitive only if Harry Mitchell jumps in, as many expect.
AZ-08: Open seat that barely went to Bush in 2004.
CA-11: Pombo is going to be synonymous with corruption.
CA-50: Busby's running a great campaign.
CO-07: OPEN seat; Perlmutter is a very strong candidate.
CT-02, CT-04, CT-05: Our candidates need a bigger financial boost, but these seats will end up in the Dem column eventually, and we could flip one, two, or all of them in 2006.
FL-22: Ron Klein has raised a ton of cash, and Clay Shaw is in for a scare.
IL-06: Open seat... both Duckworth or Cegelis could do well.
IN-08: Ellsworth is a handsome sheriff, Hostettler is a creep who voted against Katrina relief (while just a short time later, his district was hit by a tornado... Sheriff Ellsworth handled the emergency operations very well).  This is a historically volatile district.
IN-09: Baron Hill is gunning for his seat back.  It wouldn't be a surprise for him to get it.
KY-04: Same case here, with former Rep. Lucas vying to get his old seat back, which he gave up because of self-imposed term limits.
NM-01: Patsy Madrid is a huge name--the current NM AG, and she could very well knock off Heather Wilson this year.
NC-11: Shuler is outraising the incumbent by huge margins.
OH-18: Only because Ney is so flamboyantly corrupt.
PA-06: Lois Murphy came very close in '04... she may be able to seal the deal this time.
PA-08: Pat Murphy is bringing in the bucks and getting institutional support from the DCCC and John Kerry, but also big time grassroots support.  A definite possibility.
TX-22: Tom DeLay.  'Nuff said.

2nd Tier/Potentially Competitive

CO-04: (Musgrave)
CA-26: (Drier)
CA-24: OPEN... with very strange circumstances
FL-13: OPEN; Harris' old seat
IN-02: Chocola has never been terribly popular.
MN-06: OPEN (Tinklenberg/Wetterling primary)
MT-AL: (fallout from the Senate race could ruboff on Rehburg; Lindeen's a sharp candidate, too)
NH-01 & NH-02
NY-19, NY-20, NY-29: (the 29th in particular, with Eric Massa, could be our best chance in squeezing out another seat in NY)
NC-08: Hayes sold out on CAFTA... but Dunn's fundraising is weak.
OH-01: surprisingly tight polling
OH-15: Mary Jo Kilroy is going to make this a good race
PA-10: Chris Carney's an excellent candidate; Sherwood's a wife-beater
TX-21: Courage has lots of grassroots support
VA-02: Kellam looks strong
VA-05: Goode's MZM ties could severely weaken him
WA-08: A squeaker in 04
WV-02: Capito might be vulnerable, but Callaghan has to pick up the fundraising pace
WI-08 (OPEN): Kagen's poured in a ton of money into his campaign.

by HellofaSandwich 2006-03-11 03:05PM | 0 recs

Despite your self-righteous attitude Gretchen Clearwater is too "progressive" for the 9th district. I think Baron Hill is more in line with its views. You can't force "San Francisco Democrats" on red districts like IN-9. Although IN-9 is historically a Democratic district, it is not liberal. Frankly Clearwater is a guaranteed loser.

As for CO-4 I think you are overestimating Paccione's chances. While Paccione will fare well in the urban parts of the district, she will fare miserably in its rural areas. Whatever advantages that she gets out of Loveland, Fort Collins, Longmont, Greeley, and Fort Morgan, she will lose when precincts from the rural counties report. They will wipe out her lead easily.

The rural counties of Colorado's plains vote more like Western Kansas and Nebraska. They are some of the MOST Republican counties in Colorado, if not the country. Bush received some of his best totals in the state within CO-4. Counties like Kit Carson, Baca, Prowers, Yuma, Washington, Sedgwick, Kiowa, Crowley, Cheyenne, Otero, Logan, Phillips, and Bent provided Bush with margins of more than 70% in some places. Bush even topped 80% in some of those countries.  If Musgrave can manage to receive similiar vote percentages from the rural precincts in the district, she will be able to wipe out any advantage Paccione will have in the urban areas.

Paccione better find a way to keep Musgrave from winning the Eastern Plains by such large margins. If she cannot keep her margins in the rural parts of the district to maybe 55-60% of the vote, she will lose.

by jiacinto 2006-03-11 05:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Well

FYI, Gretchen Clearwater is a lifelong Hoosier, and she's lived in the 9th CD all of her adult life (and for her entire life except her childhood in Nigeria as a child of missionaries).  "San Francisco" she ain't.

I'll admit that I too was apprehensive about the kind of reception she'd get out in the district (a sprawling, 20-county area).  But as we've traveled around for the last few months, I've been pleasantly surprised-- people are really fed up with the Bush Administration and with Democrats who won't stand up for what they believe.

I think it's important for progressives to get out there and talk to people, get the message out, and change people's minds.  If we don't believe that we can win in places like the Indiana 9th, we might as well give up on ever turning things around in this country.

That's why I'm volunteering as much time as I can to Gretchen's campaign.  

by mtullius 2006-03-12 07:02AM | 0 recs
Re: By the Numbers-- The Most Vulnerable GOP Congr

 As someone who knows the Indiana's 2nd district fairly well, I agree with the previous assessment of Indiana politics; in many districts, a "progressive" or liberal simply cannot win.  There are pockets of support in various communities for liberal viewpoints, but the reality is that many areas in Indiana are still rural, conservative areas that do not take to politicians who come across as too "radical".  It took the Republican party twenty to thirty years to make the inroads that they have made in Indiana and many parts of the U.S.  It will take the Democratic party a few years (at least) to bring voters around and adapt them to our way of thinking.  

 One more thing.  I support Joe Donnelly in IN-2 and we have been hit with the "I'm more progressive than you" argument.  I belong to Indiana Progressives, one of our state's leading coalitions to bring about change in not only politics in general but the Democratic party.  Indiana Progressives definition of a progressive is this, "We define a progressive just as John F. Kennedy defined a liberal.  Someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people."  That definition includes, rather than excludes, many candidates.  We all know Democrats who do not fit that description.  They are mainly part of the "old boys" network and they are being replaced slowly but surely.  Many of our new candidates are forward thinkers and good people who fit the district they are running to represent.  The entire district, not certain parts of it.

 I also agree that Chocola is going down in November.  

by aguila del norte 2006-03-11 08:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Vulnerable GOP Congressvarmints - Indiana

We owe thanks to the original diarist and to the shrewd commentary by other participants in this thread. It's important to consult one another as we strategize where to press for leverage on the unwieldy balance of power.

We need to tip it. And we need to be smart, when we pick where to push.

The Indiana races that have been mentioned are interesting. A couple of them are critical, and winnable.

I only recently moved away from Bloomington, which is sliced and diced between the 8th and 9th districts in an effort to partition the voters in the only really liberal district in the whole state. So I've been 'represented' by 8th and by 9th-district Congresscriters, depending on what neighborhood I moved into.

Sheriff Ellsworth can win in the 8th. Barring the unforeseen, I actually think he will. He's a better fit for the district, with his law 'n order credentials and his political base in Evansviile, the district's population center, than anyone who's run in a decade as a Democrat.
He has raised 10 times as much money as the incumbent. Ten times. A staggering advantage. His opponent, John Hostetler, is an ideologue, not a politician. He ran to further an extremist agenda. He voted against aid to Katrina victims, for god's sake. That doesn't have anything to do with the values of the 8th district. Neither does the fumbling attack on Ellworth's family that was the Hostetler team's first salvo in campaign '06.
Hostetler can be beaten, and Ellsworth is the candidate who can do it.

The 9th should also be winnable, but it will be tough. The power of incumbency is a great weapon, and Baron Hill lost it in 2004, though only by a margin so narrow that the recount went on after the start of the term.

However, there are factors pointing toward victory. Sodrel has raised a lot of money, and will be given a lot more. A factor I don't know how to assess is that his campaign is carrying more than $1.2 million in debt. Hill is debt-free. Hill has cash on hand (as of 12/05) of $564,000

Gretchen Clearwater has a campaign warchest of $563. Dollars.

It would be great to think that Chocola is vulnerable this time. I hope the national party will spend appropriate dollars to beat him.
In the 4th, I wish our candidate well. He's a fine candidate. And even if he doesn't win, if he mounts a credible and effective campaign, at the very least he will keep Mike Pence occupied defending his own seat and not out on the road campaigning for for members of his extremist RSC caucus.

by Christopher Walker 2006-03-12 07:36AM | 0 recs


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