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2012 redistricting: Top 10 matchups between incumbents

at 03:30 PM ET, 01/13/2012

Incumbents will do just about anything to avoid facing off with other incumbents after the decennial redistricting process. Running against someone you know — and might even be friendly with — is an unsavory prospect for most politicians.

It’s not surprising then that in recent weeks we’ve seen several expected incumbent-versus-incumbent matchups fizzle thanks to retirements and other developments.

In Ohio, Rep. Steve Austria (R) announced he would retire rather than face Rep. Mike Turner (R) in a primary, and in California, Rep. Jerry Lewis’s (R) retirement cleared the way for Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) to run in the Lewis district rather than against Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.).
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) announced two weeks ago that he will challenge Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) in a primary after their districts were merged in redistricting. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

We also saw an incumbent-versus-incumbent matchup in Illinois go by the wayside, when tea party favorite Rep. Joe Walsh (R) announced he would stay in his current 8th district rather than challenge Rep. Randy Hultgren (R) in a primary.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of quality incumbent-versus-incumbent matchups left. Recently passed redistricting maps in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio and Arizona have given us some of the most anticipated matchups between incumbents in the country.

So, as we have done twice before, we took a look at the top ten matchups between House incumbents. They are listed, for lack of a better metric, by how much they interest, well, us.

To the Line!

10. Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) vs. Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.): Richardson got some good news recently when the other African-American candidate in this race – state Assemblyman Isadore Hall – bowed out. The name of the game for her now is wooing the Hispanic community (49 percent of the district) along with her natural constituency in the black community (28 percent) in this heavily minority district. But as of now, a poll conducted for Hahn’s campaign shows Hall’s supporters going to Hahn, who has a 47 percent-to-26 percent lead and is winning Hispanics by a three-to-one margin. And remember, California’s new top-two primary system means that these two will likely be facing off in a general election race where even the district’s few Republicans can vote. (Previous ranking: 9)

9. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) vs. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.): Manzullo has a longer and more tried-and-true conservative record, but it’s also been ages since he has had to run a real campaign. Kinzinger, meanwhile, just defeated a Democratic incumbent in 2010 and is seen as a young, rising star in the GOP. This district includes a lot of new territory for both men, so it’s tough to see who has the territorial advantage. They key then is how hard Manzullo campaigns and how much money he raises. (Previous ranking: 7)

8. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) vs. Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio): This district was drawn by Republicans, so you have to give Renacci at least a slight edge. Only about one-fifth of the district is Sutton’s current territory (her district was carved into several pieces), and the new seat would have gone 51 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential race. But a poll conducted for Sutton’s campaign in October showed her tied with Renacci at 45 percent. (Previous ranking: N/A)

7. Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.) vs. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.): Peters is trying to become the rare white politician to win a majority-black district, and he’s got a decent shot. That shot would get significantly better if Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, who, like Clarke, is African-American, runs. Lawrence told Roll Call last month that she would file for the seat this month, but so far, she hasn’t made it official. If she splits the black vote with Clarke, that opens the door to Peters, who should have a significant edge when it comes to both money and campaigning know-how. (Previous ranking: 5)

6. Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) vs. Rep. Mark Critz (D-Pa.): What’s worse than being drawn into a primary matchup with a fellow incumbent? Knowing that you will face a very tough general election even if you win. That’s the reality for Altmire and Critz in western Pennsylvania, where the winner of their primary will have to defend a district that went 54 percent for the last two GOP presidential nominees. As for the primary, give the slight edge to Altmire, who has won some tough races in a swing district before and is known as a good campaigner. (Previous ranking: N/A)

5. Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) vs. Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.): This district includes much more of Quayle’s current territory but neither congressman has longstanding ties to their district. (They’re both freshmen). Schweikert has more of a record getting elected to other offices in the area, which likely negates Quayle’s territorial edge. At the same time, expect Quayle to win the fundraising battle. This isn’t an official matchup yet — the GOP is still fighting the redistricting map, and Quayle may run in the more swingy 9th district — but if they do face off, this may be the best … primary … in history. (Previous ranking: N/A)

4. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) vs. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio): Kucinich made it official recently, announcing that he would run against Kaptur in this new Toledo-to-Cleveland district crafted by the GOP. Expect Kucinich to focus on his career as a liberal crusader, while Kaptur will talk about her seniority and close ties to the district. It’s tough to call this anything but a jumpball. (Previous ranking: 2)

3. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) vs. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.): This should easily be one of the most contentious incumbent-versus-incumbent matchups in the country, and indeed, it’s already headed down that path. At a debate last week, Sherman attacked Berman for voting for the Iraq war and the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Berman, meanwhile, has three – count ‘em, three! – super PACs working on his behalf. Not to mention Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is raising money for him next week. Berman certainly has the edge when it comes to establishment support. (Previous ranking: 1)

2. Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) vs. Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa): This district may be the one so-called “fair fight” matchup – i.e. a district where each side should have an equal chance – between two incumbents of opposite parties. The district is mostly Boswell’s territory, but the GOP likes its makeup, and Latham outpaced Boswell in fundraising so far this cycle. (Previous ranking: 4)

1. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) vs. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.): What could be more fun than a primary between two New Jersey Democrats? These two were drawn together by the state’s redistricting commission last month in a surprising victory for the GOP. (Rothman was technically drawn into GOP Rep. Scott Garrett’s district, but running against Pascrell was the clear choice for him.) The district they’re running in is actually more of Rothman’s current territory, but not by much. Expect Pascrell to get more institutional and labor support than Rothman, who isn’t as closely connected to the Democratic machine in New Jersey. In the end, this race will be a contrast of styles more than anything. (Previous ranking: N/A)

 
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