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House 2008: Open Seat Watch (April)

by: James L.

Mon Apr 02, 2007 at 1:39 AM EDT

Another month, another opportunity to pause and take stock of all the potential retirements by some of the sun-ravaged mummy husks currently occupying the House of Representatives. Like last time, I've put together two charts: one tracking definite retirements and the other potential retirements, listing each district by its incumbent, PVI, and the representative's age on election day in 2008. With a fresh batch of House retirement speculation straight from Karl "MC" Rove himself, the potential open seat playing field has expanded considerably.

Definite House Retirements

District Incumbent Party PVI Age Notes
CA-52 Hunter R R+9.3 60 Running for President
CO-02 Udall D D+8.1 58 Running for Senate
IL-04 Gutierrez D D+30.7 54 Retiring

Since last time, there's been only one addition to the definite list of retirements (Hunter), and one subtraction: an astute reader sent us this Roll Call link from last December, which indicates that Elton Gallegly is intending to run again in 2008. Still, he was marked by Rove as a potential retirement in the GSA Powerpoint, so he won't be going from our other watchlist anytime soon:

Potential House Retirements

District Incumbent Party PVI Age Notes
AK-AL Young R R+14.3 75 Speculation*
AL-02 Everett R R+13.2 72 Speculation/Rumors
CA-24 Gallegly R R+4.8 64 Botched a retirement attempt in 2006*
CA-25 McKeon R R+7.1 70 Speculation*
CA-41 Lewis R R+9.0 74 Speculation*
DE-AL Castle R D+6.5 69 Health issues*
FL-10 Young R D+1.1 78 Age issues/Speculation*
IL-14 Hastert R R+4.8 67 Hastert issues*
IN-07 Carson D D+8.7 70 Health issues
IA-03 Boswell D D+1.4 74 Health issues
IA-04 Latham R D+0.4 60 Possible Senate run
IA-05 King R R+8.4 59 Possible Senate run
LA-01 Jindal R R+18.5 37 Running for Governor*
LA-06 Baker R R+6.5 60 Possible Senate run
MD-06 Bartlett R R+12.8 82 Age issues*
ME-01 Allen D D+6.2 63 Likely Senate run
MI-03 Ehlers R R+9.0 74 Speculation*
MI-09 Knollenberg R R+0.1 75 Speculation*
MT-AL Rehberg R R+10.8 53 Possible Senate run
NC-09 Myrick R R+12.2 67 Speculation*
NE-02 Terry R R+9.0 46 Possible Senate run
OH-16 Regula R R+3.6 84 Age issues/Speculation*
TX-04 Hall R R+17.1 85 Age issues
VA-11 Davis R R+0.6 59 Possible Senate run*
WY-AL Cubin R R+19.4 61 Speculation*

All districts marked with an asterisk* were identified as possible open seats in the Rove-generated GSA presentation.

On the face of it, there could potentially be a fair bit of open red turf to play in next year. One district I have my eye on is Richard Baker's LA-06. While Kerry won only 40% of the vote there in 2004 (and Gore 43% in 2000), the game could potentially be quite different in 2008. Baton Rouge, the population center of this district, absorbed between 50,000 to 100,000 Hurricane Katrina and Rita refugees from New Orleans since 2005. You can bet that Sen. Mary Landrieu will be mining all of the displaced (and presumably Democratic) voters she can in her re-election bid next year; a strong Democratic House challenger would be well-placed to ride on those coattails. Throw an open seat into the mix, and things could get very, very interesting.

James L. :: House 2008: Open Seat Watch (April)
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you already know I agree with you about LA-06.  East Baton Rouge Parish will be a battleground parish in 2008, and Landrieu will have to intall a turnout operation in that parish's Democratic precinct if she desires to win.  And if local politicians in East Baton Rouge cooperate, that parish can be won, giving anyone running in LA-06 enough votes to neutralize Republican margins from Ascension and Livingston Parishes.  Turnout operations will also have to be created in St. Helena, East Feliciana, West Feliciana and especially Iberville Parish.  Although Pointe Coupee Parish is a Democratic Parish, the gerrymander after the 2000 census removed Democratic precincts in LA-06 and placed them in Alexander's district.  The precincts remaining in LA-06 are collectively split, thereby requiring a turnout operation in certain portions of Pointe Coupee Parish. 

Anyone running in LA-06 will have to energize the African-American vote by highlighting Baker's opposition to the Voting Rights Act.  Commercials discussing his opposition to hurricane funding for Louisiana in the Supplementary Appropriations will also have to be invoked, but I suggest doing that in the last week when he has no chance to respond.  There is a bench in this district, and I hope some of the potential candidates I have in mind announce.  Baker almost lost in 1998 as a result of his opposition to a popular President.  Now that the President he supports is unpopular, I imagine a similar dynamic can be created.

These are some of my thoughts.  But if we want Baker's seat, we will have to run strong candidates in two other Louisiana seats.  Think Emanuel's Kentucky strategy in 2006: contest 3, gain (at least) 1, the most urban one.

Learn more about Bobby Jindal.

You forgot MA-05
The seat that Marty Meehan is vacating.  It has a PVI of D+12 but Republican Main Street chairman and former Congressman Charlie Bass thinks the Republicans actually have a chance there. 

Ill tell you right now that the Democrats probably have a better chance of picking up GA-10(Norwood's seat and R+13) than Republicans do of picking up D+12, especially with Dubya and the GOP escalating the war.

I didn't forget it.
But neither Meehan's seat nor Norwood's seat will be open during the 2008 elections.

[ Parent ]
I would also consider the 1996 Clinton numbers
in these districts.  1996 was the last time that the Democrats had a good Presidential election and it is interesting to see how these districts vote at the top of the ticket in a decent year.

Clinton won the following Republican held of these in 1996:


Those are seven that should be very much in play if open.

I also note that in 1996, Clinton carried every one of our 2006 pickups with exception of TX-22 and PA-10.  This means that we should be able to hold all of our incumbents with the exception of TX-22 and PA-10 as long as they can use the advantages of incumbency and hold on to the Clinton majority vote.

was the year LA-06 was seriously contested with a result of 51/49.

Learn more about Bobby Jindal.

[ Parent ]
Districts are a lot different now
Population, boundaries, etc. have changed a lot since then with the 2000 census and redistricting.

[ Parent ]
Tom Tancredo, CO-6
Tancredo announced today that he is running for president.  Whether he bows out in time to run for his seat in CO-6 remains to be seen.  But I think he at least deserves to be on the potential retirement list. 

An open seat in Colorado, and Tancredo saying offensive things during GOP debates?  Please oh please oh please let it happen.

Good call.
But at a PVI of R+10, that will be a seriously tough district for us regardless.  The right candidate could make it interesting, though.

[ Parent ]
GOP is doing its best to fuck away the '08 races

[ Parent ]
Ditto Ron Paul
in TX-14 (R+14?). Just like with Tancredo, I'm wondering if he's enough of a true believer that he rides his Presidential bomb all the way down to the ground, or if he pulls the cord on his safety chute at some point before his House filing deadline and goes back to the safety of his day job.

[ Parent ]
Ron Paul, should he leave
This is where I have to say something about what happens if Texas 14 becoems open.

1) I dunno who the Dems can/could field
2) I dunno who all is interested in the Republican nod.
3) I do know I read this in a Galveston County gossip journal

An interested person the republican grass groups like is Friendswood City COuncilman Chris Pedin. THis guy is straight from Wingnut land. Paul, I don't like due to his libertarian nature, but I'd take him over Pedin any day. Since Pedin got on city council last spring there are 3 big things I can identify he has done.

1) Tried to abolish Friendswood's tree ordinance (my parents, citizens, fought him tooth and nail on it and won, somehow)
2) Did get rid of the Water conservation lecture that is given to grade schoolers, claiming it wastes tax dollars.
3) Just tried to pass an English only law in the town. Failed 5-2 despite the fact that there are 4 crazies on the council.

We need to keep our eyes on this if it becomes open. This could be a club for growth endorsement. Pedin has had Norquist connections.

26, Male, Democrat, TX-26

[ Parent ]
Who's the odds on player for CO-2?
Literally...any info on the players in that district? Is there a serious favorite or will it be a really open free for all...with everyone on a more or less even playing field?

CO-2 has two main opponents and a handful of wishful thinkers.
There is no viable Republican going for the seat, so the primary will most likely be the race.

Colorado has been swinging from Red to Blue the past few cycles, and a big part of the funding has come from a small handful of super-donors pushing back against the Republican's traditional big ticket givers.

One of these donors has been Jared Polis, an internet entrepreneur who has been very generous with a bank account that puts him between Tiger Woods and Shaq on the Forbes list of richest under 40. Jared has been sitting on the State Board of Ed., and has announced he wants to move into the open seat in CO-2. It would normally be very hard for the Dems to back away from this candidate for fear that he would take his ball and go home, but he has a significant challenger.

Joan Fitz-Gerald is the very popular Colorado Senate President who has built coalitions and paid dues for long enough that term limits are pushing her on. She has a lot of experience and has the support in this district to win this one. There is also a high female registration percentage, and the area has a huge reputation for electing women to office.

Jared will have to overcome Joan's reputation, homophobic bias against him, and the way Sen. Fitz-Gerald has been using her office to make the unintended consequences of a Polis sponsored ballot initiative as painful as possible. Joan has been holding up the implementing legislation on an "anti-gift-from-lobbists" referendum long enough so that scholarships to the children of city employees, and Nobel Prizes to State university professors might be construed as falling under the law. If nothing else she has managed to create the impression that 'Jared's Law' was poorly written and associate the ill will with him personally.

Polis has the resources to pull it all together, and he is a convincing and charismatic candidate. Joan will have a fight on her hands when he starts to push back, and depending how expensive he wants to make this, it could go either way.

With MONEY vs. MACHINE in the game, all reasonable others are staying away, but some are nibbling around the edges in case something happens to change the game between here and November.

We will be covering the race as it progresses over at my home blog...

[ Parent ]
Great reply....and I don't know
why I didn't post the question there as I have an account. Duh.

Great job.

[ Parent ]
You know, despite having read ColoradoPols for a year,
I didn't know Jared Polis was gay.

I had to google it to find out.  It's not even in Wikipedia.  I thought you were confused with Tim Gill.


Anyway, I'd been casually backing Fitzgerald as a non-amateur, but Polis would be the first gay guy to be elected as a non-incumbent.  That is, Frank, Studds, Kolbe, and Foley were already in Congress when they came out, and Baldwin is a woman.  Polis would be the first gay guy.  Guess I have a new horse to back in CO-02.  Not that my support matters.  But still.

28, gay guy, Democrat, CA-08

[ Parent ]
correcting PVI
Since the PVI was established the partisan affiliation has shifted away from the GOP and toward the Democrats.

How much of a correction factor should be applied to the PVI to reflect the current partisan affiliation of the district?

It seems like it's worth taking stock of this shift when evaluating which raises may be competitive.

I've been thinking about this for a few weeks.
PVI is based on national Bush totals in the 49-51 range; the number tells you how much more, or less, Republican a district is based on that baseline. It means that a district that's "R+6" should be giving Bush totals three points above that baseline - in the 55-57 range.

What does it mean, though, if the de facto current baseline is well below that?

Take Zack Space's R+6 district. If Bush were up for election now, with a national baseline of, say, 33%, wouldn't the internal logic of PVI suggest that he'd be lucky to break 40 in OH-18? What would that mean if Space were running at the same time?

That's one of the reasons PVI is kind of a weird measure. It's useful in some ways, flawed in others.

It'll be interesting to re-calculate all these charts when there's a completely new set of PVI data, too. Heath Shuler's district is R+7, but that's because George Bush netted in the high 50's while Kerry came out in the low 40's. How would this district be different in, say, an Edwards-Giuliani race? How would Joe Courtney's D+8 district fare during the same matchup?

No particular answers, just several interesting questions.

[ Parent ]
What it means
The 2004 election, besides being a referendum on Bush, was a classic battle between a liberal Democrat and a conservative Republican. Bush's approval ratings will definitely be a drag on the Republicans running. I'd definitely agree that it should warrent a reexamination of districts with PVIs of R+10 or lower, but we should be careful of reading too much into it, especially considering we definitely have to worry about defending some of the seats we picked up (ie, Boyda and Shea-Porter) and some of the weak incumbents who were barely able to win reelection in a strong Democratic year (Georgia [sorry, I can't remember their names right off the bat]).

Politics and Other Random Topics

24, Male, Democrat, NM-01, Chairman of the Atheist Caucus, and Majority Leader of the "Going to Hell" caucus!

[ Parent ]
a trend analysis I did before the 2004 elections
Was to rank the states and DC from 1 to 51 from strongest Dem (always DC) to weakest (always Utah).

This showed the movement of states.

I don't have the analysis on this computer and I haven't included the 2004 results, but...

Arizona and Florida were trending Dem. West Virginia and Minnesota were trending GOP.

South Carolina and VA were trending Dem too.

So, in addition to factoring the general trend of the country one should also factor the state and regional trends.

[ Parent ]
Glaring Ommission VA-1
Rep. Jo Ann Davis VA-1 is currently fighting a reoccurrence of breast cancer and she absolutely should be on the possible retirements list.

"My name's Dr. Multimillionaire and I kicked your ass." -- Rep. Steve Kagen D-WI to Karl Rove

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