By Hastings Wyman –
The Federal Election Commission reports for the first half of this year are now public and give some clues about what may transpire next year. Florida’s redistricting aside, there are only a few US House seats in the South that are likely to be competitive next year. And in those few, the vulnerable incumbents are doing a good job of raising enough money to help stave off challenges. There are two exceptions. In Arkansas’s 4th District, freshman Bruce Westerman (R) has raised only a modest war chest. And in Tennessee’s 4th District, incumbent Scott DesJarlais (R), who barely survived a primary challenge last year, has not raised the money he will likely need to confront an already announced and well-funded GOP foe. Details:
In Arkansas, two Republican freshmen, each elected with less than 55% of the vote, are gearing up for potential challengers. In the 2nd District (Little Rock), French Hill, who got 52% last year, raised more money, bringing in $383,000 in the first half of this year, with $375,000 cash on hand as of June 30. In the 4th District (Pine Bluff), Bruce Westerman, elected with 54%, raised $134,000 and had $161,000 on hand.
Florida has two categories of potentially close races. The first reflects close elections in 2014 for two freshmen. In the 2nd District (Tallahassee), Gwen Graham (D), who won by a slim 52%, has raised $1,062,000 this year, with $942,000 on hand. In the 26th District (Miami-Dade), Carlos Curbelo (R), also with a slim 52% last year, raised $981,000, with $993,000 on hand.
In addition, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a redrawing of district boundaries for the 26th District and seven others. The legislature will take up this redistricting in a special session to begin on August 10 and to be completed by August 21, following specific guidelines laid down by the court. At this point it is too soon to say which, if any, of these districts will host seriously contested races. Nevertheless, the possibility of markedly different constituencies could provide unexpected challenges.
Florida 5 (Jacksonville): Corinne Brown (D) raised $104,000 in the first half year, with $22,000 on cash-on-hand midyear.
Florida 13 (Tampa): David Jolly (R) is stepping down to run for the US Senate.
Florida 14 (Tampa): Kathy Castor (D) raised $156,000, with $797,000 on hand.
Florida 21 (Boca Raton): Ted Deutch (D) raised $252,000, with $559,000 on hand.
Florida 22 (West Palm Beach): Lois Frankel (D) raised $502,000, with $417,000 on hand.
Florida 27 (Miami): Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) raised $189,000, with $1,974,000 on hand.
There is only one likely competitive district in Georgia next year, the 12th District (Augusta), where freshman Richard Allen (R) won with 55% last years. Allen raised $367,000 in the first half of this year, with $202,000 cash-on-hand.
In North Carolina’s 2nd District (Pinehurst), US Rep. Renee Ellmers (R) defeated primary opponent Frank Roche, conservative radio host, by 58% to 41% last year. Roche is running again. Ellmers has raised $471,000, with $350,000 on hand. Roche, for the second quarter only, raised $13,000, with $3,000 on hand.
In Tennessee’s 4th District (Murfreesboro), US Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R) eked out a narrow 44.9% to 44.8% primary victory last year, then won the General with 58%. At midyear, DesJarlais had raised $197,000, with $163,000 on hand. But he already has another primary foe raising money for next year. Grant Starrett, a lawyer from Murfreesboro with national conservative ties, has raised $507,000, with $653,000 on hand.
In Texas, in the 23rd District (San Antonio), freshman Will Hurd (R) got into Congress last year by a 49.8% to 47.7% victory. He’s done some solid fundraising since then, bringing in $969,000 by midyear, with $686,000 on hand.
And Virginia has two potentially competitive districts in 2016. In the 2nd District (Virginia Beach), US Rep. Scott Rigell (R) was reelected with 58% last year. But he’s a political maverick, which could gain him a credible foe. He’s personally wealthy, but he raised $475,000 in the first half of this year, with $414,000 on hand.
In Virginia’s 10th District (Loudon County), freshman Barbara Comstock (R) won her seat with 57% last year, but her Northern Virginia district could be susceptible to the lure of a Hillary Clinton candidacy, so she’s getting prepared. Comstock raised $962,000, with $876,000 on hand.