Although the member-vs.-member contests won’t be decisive in determining control of the House, they disrupt friendships and fracture alliances. And by forcing voters to choose between compromisers and flame-throwers, old-timers and newcomers, they help determine the future direction of both parties.
Thirteen House races this year pit incumbents against one another — the most in at least two decades. Of those contests, 11 include members of the same party fighting for their party nominations and the chance to return to Washington.
In the coming weeks, no fewer than four primary battles will be waged between incumbents facing off in expensive and divisive races that have exposed deeper rifts in the parties.
In Arizona, for example, Republicans are taking sides in an Aug. 28 contest between two freshmen who took office in 2010 promising to cut spending and curb government reach and now argue over who has done a better job of keeping the pledge.
After a redistricting commission adopted a map that favored Democrats, GOP Rep. Ben Quayle, 35, faced a choice: remain in his dramatically altered and politically balanced district and face a tough reelection battle every two years, or switch districts to challenge fellow Republican freshman Rep. David Schweikert, 50, in a reliably Republican district.
Quayle put his house up for sale and rented another (owned by his parents, Schweikert is quick to point out) in Schweikert’s district.
Schweikert, a former treasurer of Maricopa County, insists that he’s more deeply rooted in the community.
“I had things in my refrigerator for longer than he had lived in the state” when he first ran, said Schweikert, who has received support from some tea party groups for his abrasive criticism of spending in Washington.
Quayle has been endorsed by Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, and noted that he represents two-thirds of the voters in the new district.
“I’ve been battling for and fighting for conservative values and for changing the culture within Washington,” he said.
The tough fight is an “unfortunate situation,” he said. Schweikert called it “a disastrous waste of resources.”
Already this year, Dennis J. Kucinich’s congressional career was ended in Ohio at the hands of fellow Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R) ousted longtime congressman Don Manzullo (R) in Illinois.
In New Jersey, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D) vanquished Rep. Steven R. Rothman (D), a longtime friend, and in Pennsylvania, Rep. Mark S. Critz knocked off Rep. Jason Altmire, a fellow conservative Democrat.