Battle for the House 2016: March News, Part 1

With so many presidential primaries in March, it is easy to lose sight of important House races.  As of this writing, ten state filing deadlines have elapsed and we have a clearer picture of the Congressional primaries to be held later.  In fact, there was so much news that it has to be presented in two parts, with part 2 tomorrow along with an updated race ratings chart.

AK-AL:  Republican Don Young has been in the House 43 years and seems likely to stay there.  The Democrats believe they have a possible viable candidate (nothing official…yet) in Steven Lindbeck who just retired as CEO of Alaska Public Media.

AZ-05: state rep Justin Olson announced that he will run in the Republican primary against state senate president Andy Biggs.  Biggs has the blessing of outgoing representative Matt Salmon and other Arizona officials.  Christine Jones, formerly CEO of GoDaddy who finished third in the GOP gubernatorial primary in 2014, is also apparently in the race after deciding against a run in the Ninth District.

CA-07:  It is no secret with organized labor is upset about Democrat Ami Bera’s support of the TPP.  And many unions have failed to endorse the incumbent.  However, two unions have gone further and openly endorsed his likely Republican rival, Scott Jones.

CA-08:  Tim Donnelly, a former state assemblyman who many Democrats hoped would run for Governor in 2014 as the Republican challenger, will mount a primary challenge against incumbent GOP representative Paul Cook.  Democrats view him as an extremist within the GOP.  With the top two advancing to the general election in November, Cook will most likely draw many Democratic votes even if Donnelly advances in this solid Republican district.

CA-29: Fellow Democrat Richard Alarcon launched a primary bid against Tony Cardenas at the last minute before the filing deadline.  Cardenas has been rather low-key other than an FBI investigation into his district director.  Not that Alarcon is any better; he served 51 days under house arrest for voter fraud and perjury before the conviction was thrown out on a technicality.

CA-31:  Ex-Democrat Joe Baca has filed to run in this seat as a Republican to take on Democratic incumbent Pete Aguilar.  Aguilar narrowly won in 2014 and the GOP is touting economics professor Sean Flynn over 2014 GOP nominee Paul Chabot.  Realistically, given his last campaigns and the fact his website still proudly exclaims he supported many Obama policies, the GOP is not too keen on his entry into the race as a Republican.

FL-01: Republican representative Jeff Miller announced his retirement.

FL-05:  Corrine Brown, the Democratic incumbent, announced that she will run for reelection in either the 5th or the 10th pending the outcome of a lawsuit she filed over Florida’s new Congressional district map.  However, things got a little complicated when it was confirmed the House Ethics Committee was investigating her.

FL-18: Randy Perkins is the favorite of national Democrats in this race and he received the endorsement of Rep. Alcee Hastings from a neighboring district.  Outgoing GOP Congressman Tom Rooney has endorsed Rebecca Negron.  After the districts were redrawn, Rooney represented about two-thirds of this district so his endorsement may hold greater weight.

FL-23:  Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is likely going to win her primary and will likely be reelected to the House in November.  But, clearly being head of the DNC has cost her somewhat.  First, there was the debate debacle between Clinton and Sanders.  Tulsi Gabbard’s defection from the DNC leadership was also a high profile feud that made Medusa look bad.  Then there were reports that she denied challengers access to Democratic voter lists insisting they were only for incumbents.  She faces a primary opponent who is pressing her.  Perhaps that is why she reached out (i.e., groveled before) to Obama for an endorsement which he provided.  However, the relationship is strained and she enters her primary somewhat wounded, so this race bears watching if it is close or the unexpected happens- she loses.

FL-26:  Carlos Curbelo, a vulnerable Republican incumbent, recently announced that he would never support nor vote for Donald Trump if he is the GOP Presidential nominee.  Expect vulnerable Republican incumbents to follow suit on a state-by-state basis.  He further clarified that he will not vote for Hillary Clinton either.

GA-09:  Paul Broun vacated the 10th District in 2014 to run for the Senate, but finished a distant fifth in that contest.  There were rumors that he would run in the open, currently GOP-held Third District, but now rumors have surfaced that he may run in the 9th and challenge GOP incumbent Doug Collins.  And sure enough, he announced his bid in the 9th.

GA-11: Freshman Republican Barry Loudermilk drew a primary opponent Daniel Cowan, a Cobb county businessman with connections and deep pockets.  Loudermilk only had $68,000 in the bank at the end of 2015 so this could be a primary upset.

IL-01:  In what may be a case of political retribution, Mike Madigan- the speaker of the state house- endorsed Howard Brookins against former Chicago Black Panther “secretary of defense” and current Congressman Bobby Rush.  Rush’s son previously filed to run for a state office against a strong Madigan ally, but since withdrew from the race.  Apparently, Madigan took it serious enough.

IA-01: Former SNL alumni Gary Kroeger dropped out of the race here on the Democratic side and decided to run for the state house instead.  That leaves either Pat Murphy or Monica Vernon to run against GOP incumbent Rob Blum.  Murphy beat Vernon in the 2014 primary, but national Democrats are now coalescing around Vernon this year.

IA-02:  Meanwhile, Republican state senator Mark Chelgren dropped out of the race here only to be replaced by Chris Peters.

IA-04: State senator Rick Bertrand is challenging incumbent Steve King in the GOP primary this year.  And Bertrand apparently has an important ally in Bruce Rastetter, considered Iowa’s biggest political donor.  Rastetter made a fortune in pork, farm real estate, and ethanol.

LA-03:  This open Republican seat based in Lafayette got another Republican candidate in Brett Geymann who was term-limited in the state house.  He becomes the fifth Republican to enter the fray.  Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle also entered the race and passed on a run for the Senate.  Angelle famously failed to endorse David Vitter in the gubernatorial runoff in 2015 which may have angered some Republicans, although he did not cross party lines like Jay Dardenne.  Charles Boustany and Angelle share the same political base in this district and if Angelle had run for the Senate, it may have cost Boustany some votes in this region.

MD-08:  A poll commissioned by Democrat Kathleen Matthews shows her trailing Jamie Raskin in the Democratic primary by three points.

MI-01: Retired Lt. General Jack Bergman entered the race for the GOP in this open Republican district.  He will face Tom Casperson (who has the support of the retiring Dan Benischek) and Jason Allen in the August Republican primary.  Democrats are enthusiastic about former state party leader Lon Johnson’s chances in this race.

MN-02: Republican Pam Myhra dropped out of the race.  This is an open Republican held seat and will be an important battleground contest in November.  Despite her departure, the GOP field is still rather crowded.  Retiring Congressman endorsed businesswoman Darlene Miller which makes sense since his former political director is Miller’s campaign manager.