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Dixie’s Competitive Congressional Districts

By Hastings Wyman
Southern Political Report

May 26, 2008 — In any given election, only a fraction of the 435 US House seats on the ballot have a real prospect of changing hands from one party to the other. This year some 21 of the South’s 162 congressional seats are more or less “in play,” 12 of them currently held by Republicans, 9 by Democrats. Due to such factors as a strong tide against the party in power and the ability of probable Democratic nominee Barack Obama to bring out an unusually large turn-out among African Americans and young voters, Democrats stand the better chance of making gains this fall. This was demonstrated in the Democratic victories in recent special elections in Louisiana 6 and Mississippi 1, both districts with strong Republican voting histories, suggesting that earlier assumptions about what constitutes a “safe Republican” seat need to be revised. However, there is also the possibility that Obama will run very poorly in some Southern states, giving the GOP an extra boost in some congressional races. Here are thumb-nail descriptions of the districts that, at this point, are likely to be competitive in November.

12 Republican Seats that Democrats Might Win

Alabama 2 (Dothan, etc.) - Open; US Rep. Terry Everett (R) retiring.

Republicans have a hotly contested, six-candidate primary while the Democrats have a potentially strong nominee in Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright, heavily favored in a three-way primary.

Florida 13 (Sarasota, etc.)

Freshman Vern Buchanan (R) is raking in the cash, but he slipped by with only 50.07% in 2006. Third-time candidate Christine Jennings (D) is handicapped by the entrance of Jan Schneider, Jennings’ 2004 and ’06 primary foe, as an independent.

Florida 21 (Miami-Dade, etc.)

US Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R) is getting a spirited challenge from former mayor of Hialeah Raul Martinez. In the 1980s, Martinez was convicted of federal corruption charges, but won his case on appeal and subsequent trials ended in mistrials. But even some Republicans concede that the feisty Democrat will give Diaz-Balart a fight.

Florida 24 (Orlando, etc.)

US Rep. Tom Feeney (R) has come under fire for his alleged ties to convicted former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. His Democratic opponent, former state Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D), had more cash-on-hand at the end of the 1st Quarter.

Kentucky 2 (Bowling Green, etc.) - Open; US Ron Lewis (R) retiring.

Look for a hard-fought campaign between state Sens. Brett Guthrie (R) and David Boswell (D), an experienced statewide campaigner.

Louisiana 4 (Shreveport, etc.) - Open; US Rep. Jim McCrery (R) retiring.

There are competitive September 6 primaries in both parties and it could go either way in the fall.

North Carolina 3 (Greenville, etc.)

A divisive primary hurt antiwar US Rep. Walter Jones (R), and Democrat Craig Weber has high name ID from his stint as a TV meteorologist; moreover, the Democratic Primary turnout here was high.

North Carolina 8 (Concord, etc.)

US Rep. Robin Hayes (R) squeaked by with 50.2% in ’06; challenger Larry Kissell (D), while still slow on fundraising, has a strong partisan wind at his back.

Texas 10 (Austin, etc.)

US Rep. Mike McCaul (R), with 55% in ’06, faces a well-known Democrat in TV’s “Texas Justice” Larry Joe Doherty (D). Both will be well-financed.

Virginia 2 (Virginia Beach, etc.)

Sophomore Thelma Drake (R) slipped past (51%) a strong challenge last time. Her ’08 foe, former diplomat Glenn Nye (D), is raising respectable money.

Virginia 5 (Charlottesville, etc.)

This one’s a sleeper. US Rep. Virgil Goode’s (R) high-profile conservatism has hurt him with University of Virginia liberals; attorney Tom Perriello (D) has almost matched Goode in the money chase. Bush got 56% here in ’04.

Virginia 11 (Fairfax County, etc.) - Open; US Rep. Tom Davis (R) retiring.

A June 10 primary will decide whether County Commissioner Chairman Gerald Connolly (D) or ex-US Rep. Leslie Byrne (D) will face businessman Keith Fimian (R) in this suburban Washington, DC, district where Bush edged Kerry by 50%-49% in ’04.

Nine Democratic Seats Where the GOP Has a Shot

Alabama 5 (Huntsville, etc.) - Open; US Rep. Bud Cramer (D) retiring.

State Sen. Parker Griffith (D), the likely victor over physicist David Maker in the June 3 Democratic Primary, will face one of six GOPers in the Republican Primary. Bush got 54% here in ’04.

Florida 16 (Hobe Sound, etc.)

Freshman Tim Mahoney (D) won last time (50%) because disgraced ex-US Rep. Mark Foley’s (R) name was still on the ballot. He’ll face one of three GOPers in the August 26 primary, each of whom has some political heft.

Georgia 8 (Macon, etc.)

US Rep. Jim Marshall (D) won with 51% last time; he faces potentially strong retired Air Force Major Gen. Rick Goddard (R) in this military base-laden district.

Kentucky 3 (Louisville)

Former US Rep. Anne Northup (R), who lost her congressional seat in ’06 and a gubernatorial primary in ’07, is trying for a comeback against freshman John Yarmuth (D). The likely McCain-Obama battle could influence the outcome.

Louisiana 6 (Baton Rouge, etc.)

The GOP’s serious setback in the May special election may spur Republicans to unite behind a major effort to unseat just-elected freshman Don Cazayoux (D).

Mississippi 1 (Tupelo, etc.)

After its humiliating loss (46%-54%) in the May special election, the GOP may try to defeat newly-minted freshman Travis Childers (D), but it won’t be easy.

North Carolina 11 (Asheville, etc.)

If the Appalachian Democrats turn to the GOP in reaction to Obama’s candidacy, then Asheville City Councilman Carl Mumpower (R) might have a chance against freshman Heath Shuler (D), who, however, gets good marks -- and money -- for a first termer.

Texas 22 (Sugar Land, etc.)

Tom DeLay’s (R) old district might return to its roots this fall, since first year incumbent Nick Lampson (D) won in 2006 against a write-in opponent by a mere 52%. Lampson is facing ex-US Senate aide Pete Olson, a GOP-establishment favorite.

Texas 23 (San Antonio, etc.)

Freshman Ciro Rodriguez (D) won his special election last year with 54%. If Obama runs poorly among Latino voters, the GOP’s Lyle Larson could give Rodriguez a battle.


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