In a surprise upset, Ciro Rodriguez (D) beat incumbent Henry Bonilla (R) in the runoff
yesterday in TX-23, one of the districts Tom DeLay gerrymandered. The district is on the Mexican
border and probably half the population consists of Mexican Americans.
The runoff was cleverly scheduled on a Mexican holiday, presumably in an
attempt to discourage Mexican Americans from voting, but they voted in
large numbers anyway.
As a result of this election, the Democrats now have 233 seats in the House,
more than the Republicans had in 1994; in fact, it is more than the Republicans
have had at any time since the President Eisenhower's landslide in 1952.
One seat, FL-13, is still open. As you may recall, this is the district where
car dealer Vern Buchanan (R) beat banker Christine Jennings (D) by about 350 votes.
The problem is that in Sarasota County, where electronic voting machines were used,
18,000 people voted for other offices but not for Congress. Looks fishy. If the
courts don't decide this before the 110th Congress is seated, it will be up to
the House to decide what to do here. The options are (1) seat Buchanan and tell
Jennings she lost, (2) declare the seat empty and force a special election, or (3) seat
Buchanan then immediately expel him and force a special election. Options (2) and (3)
have slightly different legal characteristics. Buchanan is the certified winner, so
the House may defer to the Florida Secretary of State and formally seat him, but the
House unambiguously has the power to expel members by simple majority vote, something
it has done in the past.
With the House almost seated, it is time to look forward to 2008.
Many House races were close this year and the Democratic wave carried some
Democrats to victory in normally Republican districts. You can bet all these
will be closely fought in 2008. Nevertheless, incumbents are hard to beat,
so a Republican trying to oust a Democrat in a Republican district in 2008
will have to work hard to do it.
Below is a list of House races likely to be top priority in 2008.
The basic list was made by adding any race that met either of these criteria:
The incumbent won by 2% or less in 2006.
The incumbent is in the other party's territory and did not win convincingly.
The first criterion is clear but the second one needs some explanation.
Political analyst Charlie Cook has invented a political index called the Partisan Voting Index (PVI),
which measures how a district leans. It is computed by averaging the Democratic vote minus
the Republican vote for the last two presidential elections, and then subtracting from
this the national average. A rating of D+3 means that the district voted 3% more Democratic
than the country as a whole and a rating of R+4 means that it voted 4% more Republican than
the country as a whole. Our list includes those districts in which a Democrat occupies a seat
in a district with a Republican PVI or vice versa, except that any incumbent who won by 10% or
more is considered safe and is not listed.
For example, Democrat Chet Edwards (President Bush's own congressman) occupies the House seat in TX-17,
which has a PVI of R+18, but Edwards won in 2006 by an 18% margin, so he is considered safe.
On the other hand, Democrat Harry Mitchell won by only 5% in AZ-05, which is R+4, so he is considered at risk.
McNerny is a newbie to politics and won because the incumbent, Richard Pombo,
was the biggest recipient in Congress of money from Jack Abramoff. The
district leans Republican and the GOP will fight hard to take it back in 2008..
Christopher Shays is the only Republican representative in all of New England and he
hung on by the skin of his teeth. Count on the Democrats to try to take back
the last Republican seat in New England, and in Democratic Connecticut, they
may well succeed.
FL-16 is Mark "Pedophile" Foley's district. It leans Republican but
Mahoney won it because Foley's name was still on the ballot. It won't be
in 2008. On the other hand, Mahoney is a conservative Christian and may
be able to hold it under his own steam.
Brad Ellsworth is a blue-dog Democrat, probably the most conservative of
the three Democratic pickups in Indiana. He has a good chance of hanging
on, but the Republicans will certainly mount a serious challenge given that
the district has a PVI of R+9.
This upset by Democrat Nancy Boyda (D) was completely under the radar. Nobody saw it
coming in this R+7 district. But the Democratic wave was just too strong for
incumbent Jim Ryun. But the Republicans will surely fight hard to get it back in 2008.
Jon Porter (R) withstood a challenge from Tessa Hafen, winning by about 4000 votes out of
200,000 cast in this relatively evenly split Clark County district (D+1). But the Democrats
are likely to go after him seriously again in 2008.
Carol Shea-Porter (D) ran as an antiwar candidate against the Democratic party's choice
and won the primary. Then she surprised absolutely everyone by winning the general
election. This upset was probably the biggest surprise of the entire election (by 6%).
New Hampshire swung wildly into the Democratic column, with John Lynch (D) being relected
governor by the widest margin in state history, the Democrats winning both House seats
and both houses of the state legislature (for the first time since 1874). The district
is fairly closely split, so the power of incumbency might be enough for Shea-Porter to hang on in 2008.
This was an extraordinarily close race in a swing state. State Attorney
General Patricia Madrid (D) lost by only 1000 votes. She may try again in 2008.
The district has a PVI of D+2, but Heather Wilson (R) has managed to hang in there
time after time.
Challenger John Hall (D) wasn't expected to win in this Hudson Valley district, but a hugely
successful grass roots effort put him over the top by about 2%. The district is R+1, so
as an incumbent, he has a good chance of being reelected in 2008.
Kirsten Gillibrand pulled of a surprise win in this slightly Republican part of the
upper Hudson Valley. Her win was partly due to her opponent, John Sweeney,
beating his wife and having her call 911. She won't be able to count on
such good luck next time. But next time she will be the incumbent and the
power of incumbency may be enough to offset the slight partisan edge (R+3)
the Republicans have.
This was an open seat in a neutral district. The Republicans shot themselves
in the foot by producing an ad accusing Mike Arcuri of calling a sex line
and charging it to the taxpayers. While the charge was technically true, it
was perfectly clear that he misdialed the number, hung up within 10 seconds,
and dialed the number he meant to, which was off by one digit. Arcuri
refuted the charge by producing the phone bill showing the two numbers
called a few seconds apart. It will be difficult for the Republicans to get
this one back, but they will surely try.
This district is heavily Republican (R+7), but Heath Shuler is a famous football
star, which is why he won in the first place. Add to this the power of
incumbency, and it will be tough to dislodge him.
Although this is one of the most Republican districts in Ohio (R+13), freshman Jean Schmidt
defeated physician Victoria Wulsin by fewer than 3000 votes out of 225,000 votes cast.
Despite the Republican tilt of the district, with Schmidt doing so badly, the Democrats
are likely to go after her again in 2008.
The Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy (D) came close to knocking off the 4 person in the Republican
leadership, Deborah Pryce (R). Pryce won by only 3500 votes out of 200,000 in this even split
district (R+1). The Democrats will go after Pryce again in 2008.
OH-18 is a decidedly (R+6) Republican district. The seat was formerly occupied by
Bob Ney, who resigned in disgrace, but not before managing to get his
favorite candidate to replace him. She was tainted from the start.
Next time the Republicans will look for a taint-free candidate.
Jason Altmire is another surprise winner, as nobody was paying much attention
to this district before the election despite is relatively even balance (R+3).
In 2008, everyone will be paying attention to it.
PA-10 is the district whose congressman, Don Sherwood, had a long-running
affair with a young Peruvian immigrant 35 years his junior. Then he
choked her and she called 911. End of Sherwood. But given the Republican
tilt of the district (R+8), the Republicans will try hard to get it back.
This is Tom DeLay's district. Nick Lampson won, in part, because his
opponent had to run a write-in campaign as a result of a court decision
that did not allow DeLay to change his residence to Virginia and get
off the ballot. Next time Lampson will face a serious challenge in this
heavily Republican district.
Incumbent Dave Reichert (R) beat back a fierce challenge from Microsoft
manager Darcy Burner, ultimately winning by 7300 votes out of 250,000 cast.
The district, in the eastern Seattle suburbs, leans slightly Democratic (D+2),
but that wasn't quite enough to overcome the power of incumbency.
Six-term veteran Barbara Cubin (R) was expected to win a seventh term easily,
but she made some offensive remarks during a debate and barely pulled it off,
ultimately winning by 0.5%. The Democrats will surely give her a serious
challenge in 2008, especially after Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) got 70% of the
vote in his reelection bid.
Projected New House: 233 Democrats 201 Republicans 1 Tie
See the details of the
House races with photos, maps, links, polls, etc.
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