Saturday, March 11, 2006



A sitting congressman getting caught red-handed taking millions of dollars in bribes-- so red-handed that initial indignant, self-righteous and aggressive denials soon turn into a tear-soaked admission and groveling (snitching) plea for clemency-- doesn't happen every day. Most days they don't get caught. But, luckily for the folks in North San Diego's 50th congressional district, the far right/not bright loon they kept re-electing to represent them in Washington did get caught, etc. And now he's in prison. And what an opportunity for a Democrat! Luckily for the Democrats, the DCCC's anti-progressive/anti-grassroots boss, Rahm Emanuel, was unable to scare/bully Francine Busby out of the race. She's got tremendous name recognition, having done well in her first campaign against Cunningham in 2004 (and never having stopped running since). Her chances of taking a fairly solid red district are very good. Normally, though, the kinds of circumstances that have combined to make her a favorite are very rare (although, if luck and good timing work in their favor Jerry McNerney could wind up representing CA-11 and Jan Schneider could be doing the same thing in FL-13-- and both for very similar reasons. (I've already started talking about Jerry's race and I'm getting ready to start writing about Jan's.)

Today, however, I want to write about the other kind of race challengers can win, the ones not dependent on the incumbent getting caught with his or her hands in the cookie jar. Conventional wisdom says that if an incumbent won the last election by less than 6 points, they are potentially vulnerable. There are 27 GOP-held seats that fit that criterion. All should be DCCC priorities for November.

There's only one Republican incumbent that fits that description in my own state of California, David Dreier, who just squeaked by in 2004. After a lively but under-financed challenge from a virtually unknown, and DCCC-unsupported, lesbian, Dreier managed to limp back to Washington with a 53.7% victory. This time he'll be facing a far more formidable challenge from successful Rancho Cucamonga entrepreneur, Russ Warner. One gets the impression that the DCCC is committed to helping Warner take this increasingly moderate Los Angeles County district from a congressman whose views are too far to the right for his constituents. Progressives may find Jerry McNerney's race against Richard "Let's Sell The National Parks" Pombo in CA-11 more compelling and Democratic partisans may be more eager to go after extreme right wing fringe loon and likely bribe indictee John Doolittle (CA-4), but it really is Dreier, short of a pre-November indictment for any of the scandal-ridden California GOP caucus (Doolittle, Hunter, Lewis, Pombo, possibly Issa or Calvert), who is the most vulnerable, at least by the numbers.

I'm going to try to deal with each of these races over the next several months. But right now I just want to list the vulnerable Republican incumbents, the ones who won their last race by less than 6%. Nationally, the Republican who had the closest call of all was Mike Sodrel (IN-09) who will face either grassroots, anti-war progressive Gretchen Clearwater or former Congressman, DCCC-backed "moderate" Baron Hill. (How do I know she's a grassroots, anti-war progressive and he's a DCCC clone? Just look at their websites (above links); hers is filled with passion and idealism and her positions on issues. His tells you where to send money; and not a peep about how he stands on much of anything-- just the way the DCCC's Boss Tweed Emanuel likes it.

Back to the list. The next lowest win in the country was for freshman Republican far right extremist Randy Kuhl (NY-29), someone whose voting record has been almost identical to Tom DeLay's. Last time out Kuhl scraped by with 50.4% of the vote. This time he will have a much tougher race from Eric Massa, a distinguished war veteran and former aide to General Wes Clark, who will be campaigning vigorously for him (as will Senator Hillary Clinton, whose popularity in the far west of New York state has grown immensely since she first came to office. Next lowest is Jim "flip-floppin'" Gerlach (PA-06) who edged out Lois Murphy by the skin of his teeth (51%-49%). The next lowest, Marilyn Musgrave (CO-04), is a special case, because she is also considered to be one of the most corrupt congresscritters in Washington, quite a feat considering the competition. She's also considered a religionist fanatic and way too right-wing for a moderate district. State Representative Angie Paccione is likely to send her off to retirement in November. The next most endangered Republican is freshman Dave Reichert (WA-08), a straight-down-the-line Tom DeLay puppet who managed 51.5% of the vote in 2004 and will be facing Darcy Burner.

OK, now I'll just list the others with the percentage they won by in '04 + the current Democratic challengers. In coming days I want to look a little deeper into the Indiana races, the Connecticut races and the races in Florida and North Carolina.

Chris Shays (CT-04)- 52.4% (Diane Farrell)
John Hostettler (IN-08)- 53.4% (Brad Ellsworth)
Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01)- 54.0% (Maxine Moul)
Mark Kennedy (MN-06)- 54.0% (open seat/ Elwyn Tinklenberg and Patty Wetterling)
Chris Chocola (IN-02)- 54.2% (the DCCC's Joe Donnelly and progressive Steve Francis)
Rob Simmons (CT-02)- 54.2% (Joe Courtney)
Pete Sessions (TX-32)- 54.3% (Will Pryor)
Geoff Davis (KY-04)- 54.4% (Ken Lucas)
Jon Porter (NV-03)- 54.5% (Tessa Hafen)
Bob Beauprez (CO-07)- 54.7% (open seat- Peggy Lamm, Ed Perlmutter, and anti-Iraq war challenger Herb Rubenstein)
Heather Wilson (NM-01)- 54.7% (New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid)
Charles Taylor (NC-11)- 54.9% (Heath Shuler)
Charles Boustany (LA-05)- 55.0% (DCCC hasn't found a challenger yet)
Thelma Drake (VA-02)- 55.1% (Phil Kellam)
Tom DeLay (TX-22)- 55.2% (Nick Lampson)
Jim Nussle (IA-01)- 55.2% (open seat- Bruce Braley, Rick Dickinson, and Bill Gluba)
Katherine Harris (FL-13)- 55.3% (open seat- progressive grassroots candidate Jan Schneider, DCCC-bot Christine Jennings and Mike LaFevers)
Barbara Cubin (WY-AL)- 55.3% (Gary Trauner and possibly Ted Ladd, the guy who came close in 2004; the DCCC claims he's running but I can't find any confirmation of that and his website connects to a business url)
Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08)- 55.3% (Patrick Murphy and Andy Warren)
Robin Hayes (NC-08)- 55.5% (Tim Dunn and Larry Kissell)
Ted Poe (TX-02)- 55.5% (Gary Binderim)


At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, there's a rumour that the GOP wants to play some dirty trick on Chris Shays, reminiscent of what was done to Lowell Weicker in the Senate race. And Chris Shays isn't even as independant as Weicker was! & of course, Ann Coulter is only a party shill when she spoke violently against Shays.

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But it's the attacks on Murphy against Nancy Johnson (so-called Republican Rep of CT), that really angers me. She is a creature of the pharmaceutical/health industry, and I sense the GOP is getting its hands very dirty in the CT races, and that angers me. I am really tired of carpetbagging Republicans.

At 3:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meant attacks on Murphy by Nancy Johnson&CO anger me.

At 6:39 PM, Blogger Eric said...

Thanks for your comments about Gretchen Clearwater (IN-09)-- it's an uphill (no pun intended) battle, with the Party establishment arrayed against us (refusing to even list Gretchen on the party's website, as discussed on my campaign blog), but we're finding support in unexpected places. The idea that only a conservative Dem can win in places like southern Indiana is just not true-- and if we're not willing to stand up for our true beliefs, why not just be Republicans?

We can use all the help we can get-- netroots types, please consider donating. Please do check us out.

At 7:03 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Terrific post, Howie. Why, this is the sort of thinking you'd think might be coming from some kind of Democratic committee whose mission is to elect Democrats to Congress. Maybe it would be a good idea if we had such a thing?

Like Eric says above: "The idea that only a conservative Dem can win in places like southern Indiana is just not true-- and if we're not willing to stand up for our true beliefs, why not just be Republicans?"

Why not indeed?


At 8:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, and it's why I'd like Lamont & Weicker to wipe Lieberman's ass all over the state. If we could send a message to both parties that they don't control our state and that their national strategy stinks . . . It's also why I think the Shays/Farrell/Lieberman mutual endorsements needs closer examination. Fool me once, don't get fooled again.

At 8:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just visited Gretchen's site. It really bugs me that there are progressives like Gretchen & others that are cold shouldered by the DCCC. I am not from her state, but I wish there was some way to help promote her & others by getting blogsites listed etc. I don't know.


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