House race assessments

by: Mike Lux

Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 12:00

On Friday, I went through all the Senate races I thought were competitive, or at least potentially so. Below are the House races I think are highest priority right now.

As with the Senate, there are an extraordinary number of competitive House races this year. A lot of the Democrats elected the last couple of cycles are in danger, other Democrats usually safe are looking nervously over their shoulder at a really tough year, there are quite a few competitive open seats, and some Republican seats are up for grabs too in this wild year. Estimates on the number of seats in play range into the 70s or even 80s.

Given that, I am not going to list every competitive seat- between the DCCC, Cook, Rothenberg, and many good election-oriented blogs, there are plenty of places you can get the full list and some background. Instead, I will only list the general election races I think matter the most to progressives:

1. VA-5. Tom Perriello vs. Robert Hurt. I put this at the top because I think it is symbolically the most important race of the year: can a Democrat who voted with progressives on virtually every major issue from this kind of southern conservative working-class district win in a year like this? The odds are long, and Tom is behind right now, but if anyone can do it, he can. Perriello is a great campaigner who has raised a ton of money, and his appeal to values-based economic populism is compelling. Because Tom has raised so much money, other candidates probably need your contributions more, although as tough as this race is, he can still use help. But if there is anything else you can do, including recruiting volunteers and signing up to make calls, please do so.

2. WI-7. Open seat formerly held by Obey. Julie Lassa is the Democratic candidate, who is a progressive populist in the Obey mold, except unlike Obey she is also pro-choice. This is a challenging working-class district, though, and she needs a lot of financial help quickly to compete. It would be a real shame to have progressive populist Dave Obey's seat go to a right-wing Republican.

3. NH-1. Carol Shea-Porter. Shea-Porter is the strong progressive who upset the party establishment favorite in the primary in 2006, then went on to upset the heavily favored Republican in the general election without a dime from the DCCC. Her district is the more conservative of the two New Hampshire districts, and she has a serious challenge this year. Since she rejects all money from lobbyists and corporate PACs, she will really need our help.

4. OH-15. Mary Jo Kilroy. This is one of the most competitive districts and races in the country. Kilroy has been a strong supporter of progressive reform legislation, and is opposed by a bank lobbyist and Boehner protégé. Given that Kilroy was a key player in making the financial reform bill more progressive, the bankers are gunning for her with big money.

5. IL-10. Dan Seals. This is Kirk's old seat. Seals almost took Kirk out in 2008, and is running a strong race to win the open seat. It's a suburban Chicago district, less populist than some, but I'm impressed with the campaign dan is running. However, it is the Chicago media market, and he needs to raise a lot of money.

6. FL-25. Joe Garcia. Joe is a friend of progressive groups in Florida, and has been a leader in working to bring the Cuban-American community out of the right-wing Republican politics of the past. Joe came so close to beating the incumbent Mario Diaz-Balart in 2008 that Diaz-Balart switched to a safer district.

7. NY-19. John Hall. Hall was a professional musician before running for Congress, and has been a strong populist reformer in spite of a very marginal district. He is facing a very strong, very wealthy self-funding opponent, and really needs to raise some money.

8. OH-16. John Boccieri. Boccieri came through for us on health care reform when many people with districts not as tough as his chickened out. He is also facing a self-funding right-wing candidate in a tough, working-class district alienated from Obama.

9. OH-13. Betty Sutton. Another candidate from a tough working-class district. Also facing a self-funding right winger (yes, there are some trends here). This is Sherrod Brown's old district, and Betty is a protégé of his. Enough said, as far as I am concerned.

10. DE At-Large. John Carney. This is the Castle open seat. Delaware is a pretty Democratic state, and Carney seems like a quality guy. His Republican opponent will probably be another self-funder out of the banking industry.

11. PA-07. Bryan Lentz. This is Sestak's open seat. It is one of the most competitive swing districts in the country, and Lentz is as solid progressive candidate.

12. PA-06. Manan Trivedi. Republican incumbent Jim Gerlach has survived a series of close challenges, but the district leans Dem and Manan is a strong progressive running a good campaign. Gerlach is another candidate we need to finally beat.

13. CA-45. Steve Pougnet. This is a district carried by Obama in 2008, and Steve (the Palm Springs Mayor) is running a solid race. He would be the first openly gay dad in Congress, as well as the first legally married gay man elected to Congress. Mary Bono Mack has always had some vulnerabilities, and it's time to take her out.

14. CA-44. Bill Hedrick. This is a district carried by Obama, and Hedrick is a solid candidate, and John Campbell is awful- a classic corporate conservative.

15. FL-08. Alan Grayson. Progressives need to be there for our most gutsy and outspoken progressive champion. His district is very competitive, and while he has raised a lot of money, he still needs support.

16. KS-3. Stephanie Moore. This is an open seat formerly held by Dennis Moore. Stephanie Moore is the Democratic candidate. This suburban Kansas City district is very competitive. I have talked to Moore and her campaign team. They are solidly committed to progressive reform causes, and seem to be running a strong race. I think we can keep this seat, but it will take a quick infusion of cash as she is being battered by the Republican attack machine.

Mike Lux :: House race assessments

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I'm not sure Dan Seals is viable (0.00 / 0)
That's the next district to mine.  This will be his third attempt.  With the height of the "audacity of hope" going for him in 2008 he was not able to eke out a win.  The district is loaded with well-to-do Republicans of the sort that probably voted for Obama but are now going to revert to form.  I see this in the bike rides I take through the district - the predominance of Republican campaign signs is noticeable compared to 2008, reflecting the enthusiasm gap.

Also I would place a higher priority on Tarryl Clark simply because of her opponent, Michele Bachmann.

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

Bill Hedrick is running against KEN CALVERT (4.00 / 1)
Bill came awfully close to taking him out too last time, and it's time we give him that extra push to help him win.  It is one of the three targeted House races for the PCCC.

He's not running against John Campbell (he's running against Ken Calvert), but John Campbell is also an awful right-wing Republican Congressman from a district that Obama carried. And his Democratic challenger, Beth Krom, was just elected a DFA all-star!!  She needs our support too ...

Strongly agree on #1 (0.00 / 0)
Re-electing Tom Perriello should be progressives' top priority in November.

Read more at and follow me on Twitter

Great job, Mike (4.00 / 2)
and thanks for putting Tom Perriello #1. Here's an example of why I like Tom so much - he clearly "gets it" on clean energy, the economy, and national security. Needless to say, his opponent does not!

Tom Perriello voted for Stupak Pitts (4.00 / 1)
I know lots of progressives love him, but it's hard to love someone who votes to take women's reproductive rights away from them.  And I have a feeling that progressive, prochoice women could be habing a great deal of ambivalence about helping someone who, if he's reelelcted,  will vote with John Boehner and Chris Smith to turn the Hyde amendment from something that needs a yearly vote into a permanent shackle for women.

Indeed I would contend that at this moment Tom Perriello may be the perfect example why if you say you're progressive,  you better be progressive on women's reproductive rights.  It's a contradiction that may just make your candidacy fall apart.

I don't know whether he voted for Stupak Pitts our of conviction, which would be awful, or whether he thought he had to go right on something so he went right on women's rights, which is equally awful.

"Incrementalism isn't a different path to the same place, it could be a different path to a different place"

Omg, where is David Segal? (0.00 / 0)
No offense to the candidates you promoted, who are all great, but Segal is probably worth any three or four of them.

Also, where did you get that Julie Lassa is an Obey-type progressive populist? (0.00 / 0)
When I first read what you wrote about her, I excitedly headed over to her website, only to find some pretty standard stuff.


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