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The top 10 battles between Members of Congress in 2012

at 01:44 PM ET, 07/08/2011

Some of the most memorable House campaigns in recent memory have been redistricting-forced contests in which two Members of Congress face off.

Friday Line

While House members typically do everything they can to avoid challenging one another, sometimes the way line-drawers craft the districts in the decennial redistricting process make such showdowns unavoidable.

The aggressive approach both parties have taken to redistricting so far in 2011 — maps in Texas, Illinois and North Carolina all push the limits — means that there will be member-versus-member matchups galore in 2012.

Before we get to that thought, let’s revisit some of the greatest hits of the last set of redistricting-forced tussles.

In 2002 in Pennsylvania, longtime Rep. John Murtha drubbed fellow Democratic Rep. Frank Mascara after Pennsylvania Republicans drew Mascara’s district much more to their liking and he chose to face Murtha instead. Meanwhile, Rep. Tim Holden (D) pulled off a win against Rep. George Gekas (R) despite the clear GOP-lean of the district in which they battled.

In Michigan, longtime Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) soundly defeated Rep. Lynn Rivers in a primary that year, after the two were paired in redistricting.

Two years later, a mid-decade re-redistricting in Texas led to two member-versus-member matchups, including current National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions’s win over former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Martin Frost.

With the 2011 round of redistricting having begun in earnest, it’s pretty clear we’re in for more member-versus-member matchups next year.

Pennsylvania and Michigan Republicans are again set to draw a pair of Democrats together, while California’s new citizens redistricting commission — which drew nearly half the state’s delegation into districts with one another in its initial proposal — could cause a nearly unprecedented number of member-versus-member matchups.

Below, we explore 10 districts where two members could square off, ranked in order of the likelihood of that scenario actually coming to pass.

To the Line!

10. Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) vs. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.): California’s new nonpartisan citizens redistricting commission released a map last month that put these two Republicans in the same coastal Orange County district, with a vacant and conservative inland Orange County district to the east that includes some of Campbell’s current territory. But Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) has put out word that he will go south to run in that seat, so Campbell has a choice: run against either Royce or Rohrabacher. Campbell is reportedly saying he’ll run where he lives, which would pit him against Rohrabacher. Of course, this could all change if the proposal is significantly altered. A second proposal is due out next week. Drama!

9. Two upstate New Yorkers: In the aftermath of Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-N.Y.) Twitter scandal (and ensuing resignation) most smart political observers believe his 9th district seat will be the one that is eliminated in the New York City area. But a split-control state legislature still needs to eliminate another district in upstate New York. (New York is losing two congressional districts due to population growth that lagged the national average.) Where the line-drawers cuts is anyone’s guess, but almost all the members in Upstate seats are relatively new to Congress, and it’s hard to see the state legislature drawing a map where one member is left without at least a decent chance to run against someone else. Keep an eye on Reps. Kathy Hochul (D), Ann Marie Buerkle (R), Tom Reed (R), Chris Gibson (R) and Richard Hanna (R) as potential victims/combatants.

8. Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) vs. someone: Republicans, who control all levers of the redistricting process in Ohio and have to eliminate two seats, will collapse one Democratic district in the Cleveland area. And despite Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s (D) suggestions that it will be him, geographic realities mean the more likely victim is Sutton. The bigger question is whether she will run against a fellow Democrat like Kucinich or Rep. Tim Ryan — or try to win a Republican district by challenging Rep. Jim Renacci (R). Sutton would likely be an underdog in any of those situations as her district looks like it will be split into several pieces.

7. Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) vs. Rep. Mark Critz (D-Pa.): Conventional wisdom has settled around these two Democrats being combined into one western Pennsylvania district. That’s because Republicans control the redistricting process, and they need to nix one seat. Critz’s team appears to be putting out word that he may challenge Rep. Bill Shuster (R) in a more rural southern Pennsylvania district instead — the idea being that Critz did well in many parts of what would be Shuster’s new district. That’s a good strategy for him, because it may force Republicans to draw the combined Critz-Altmire district in Critz’s favor. The matchup is intriguing, because both men are firmly on the conservative end of the Democratic Party.

6. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) vs. Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.): It’s likely to be old versus new in Michigan, where Peters (elected in 2008) is set to face off against Levin (elected in 1982). Both Levin and Peters have slammed the GOP’s proposed map, but it appears to be on its way to passage. Peters is far more road-tested in tough campaigns than Levin, but he will have a hard time overcoming the fact that the new district is more than 75 percent Levin territory. One thing to keep an eye on: Peters could also run against Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), whose district will probably take in some of Peters’s current territory. That’s assuming, of course, that McCotter doesn’t win the Republican presidential nomination (miracles do happen!) and leave his seat.

5. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) vs. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.): This was considered one of the more likely matchups in California, even before the commission released its first proposed map. The two Democrats find themselves in the same district and, because they are surrounded by majority-minority districts, neither has many other appealing alternatives if they want to avoid a member-versus-member battle. Sherman currently represents more than half of the population of the new district, but it’s not clear how much that will matter in southern California, where many people have no idea who represents them in Congress. Sherman also has a cash-on-hand edge; at the end of April he had $3.1 million in the bank, as compared to about $1.1 million for Berman.

4. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) vs. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.): These two freshman Republicans appear likely to run against each other in the new 14th district. Walsh could choose to run for reelection his current district, the 8th, but he’d face a far more Democratic electorate (and Democratic candidates are already flooding the race). More likely, he’ll take on Hultgren in a suburban 14th district that includes the northern parts of Walsh’s district and the parts of Hultgren’s district that are closest to Chicago.Walsh is a relatively unheralded surprise winner from 2010, but he’s been more vocal than just about any other freshman Republican in an attempt to carve out a conservative national profile. Hultgren, meanwhile, upset an establishment pick (former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s son) to win his party’s nomination in 2010.

3. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) vs. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.): If the aggressive new Illinois map holds up in court, Kinzinger will essentially see his 11th district disappear. Local GOP leaders say he’s planning a run against Manzullo in the 16th. And some Republicans seem happy to have Kinzinger, a 33-year-old freshman, take over for Manzullo, a 67-year-old lawmaker in his 10th term. The new 16th district includes pieces of both Manzullo’s Rockford-based district along the northern border and Kinzinger’s Will County district south of Chicago, as well as two other current districts, so it’s not clear that either man starts such a race with a clear advantage.

2. Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.) vs. Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.): Landry is raising his profile – and ruffling some feathers – as he prepares to challenge Boustany next year in the new 3rd district. He skipped a caucus-wide meeting with President Obama and called it “political grandstanding.” Landry has yet to make his plans known, but he’s raising money aggressively. The new district is mostly Boustany territory, but the freshman Landry already pulled a pretty big upset to win the GOP nomination last year, and his tea party support should not be underestimated in a Republican primary.

1. Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) vs. Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa): Iowa lost a seat in the reapportionment process, meaning that a member-versus-member race was almost inevitable. Latham, a close ally of House Speaker John Boehner, chose to challenge Boswell in the new 3rd district rather than take on Rep. Steve King (R) in a Republican primary where he would have been a heavy underdog. The 3rd sweeps from Des Moines in the center of the state all the way to its southwest corner. Because the district includes Boswell’s base in Polk County, it is mostly his territory, but this is a swing district, and it will be a very tight race, with both parties preparing to spend heavily to win it.

Chris Cillizza and Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.

More on redistricting from The Fix

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