Democratic Raid on House Seats May Not Be Over
The special-election victory by Democrat Travis Childers last week sent a signal to all political junkies that the House playing field may be far wider than most assumed even a few weeks ago. Childers's win in a northern Mississippi district that President Bush carried with 62 percent of the vote in 2004 came less than two weeks after a Democrat won a Louisiana special election in a district where Bush had taken 59 percent in his reelection bid.
With the winds of change blowing directly into Republicans' faces, here is a look at a handful of GOP-controlled seats that could feel the effects. Bush's 2004 vote percentage is in parentheses.
· Alabama's 2nd (67 percent): On paper, Democrats have absolutely no business competing in this southeastern Alabama district that Bush won by 34 percentage points in 2004. But Democrats scored a major recruiting coup when they persuaded Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright to run. Bright is extremely well-known in the district and is a social conservative -- making him tough to tie to the national Democratic Party. Bright's meager fundraising take -- $54,000 through March 31 -- is of some concern, however.
· Louisiana's 4th (59 percent): The retirement of Rep. Jim McCrery (R) from this western Louisiana seat caused little initial concern for Republicans, but the emergence of well-regarded Caddo Parish District Attorney Paul Carmouche as the Democratic candidate has made the race much more interesting. Republicans have several candidates running, but none of them carries the name identification or political chops of Carmouche.
· Maryland's 1st (62 percent): Once state Sen. Andrew Harris upset longtime Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in the Republican primary, it appeared as though Harris would coast into Congress in the fall. But Democrats recruited a solid candidate in Queen Anne County Attorney Frank Kratovil, and Harris must still find a way to deal with lingering bitterness from Gilchrest backers.
· Missouri's 9th (59 percent): Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R), who has been forever mentioned as a statewide candidate, finally took the plunge and left his northeastern Missouri seat to run for governor. Both parties have crowded primaries. Missouri Democrats -- led by Sen. Claire McCaskill -- have more effectively courted rural voters in recent elections. This seat will serve as a test of how far they have come.
· New Mexico's 2nd (58 percent): This southern New Mexico district runs the length of the state, making communicating with voters a huge challenge. The last time the district seat came open was in 2002, when Rep. Steve Pearce (R), who is running for the Senate, won a crowded primary and beat a lackluster Democratic nominee. Republicans are currently tearing each other apart in advance of the June 3 primary, raising the possibility that the eventual nominee might be battered enough to provide Democrats an opening.