"Haven't I seen these guys somewhere before?"
That's what some voters might be thinking when they see television ads and cast ballots this year in a handful of congressional districts across the country. Several incumbents will be facing the person they unseated or a challenger who tried, but failed, in previous cycles to defeat them. In some instances, a displaced former lawmaker is vying again for their old seat, but in other situations the same challenger is showing up to challenge the incumbent.
The threat of rematches played into the decision of a handful of incumbents who passed on running for reelection this year. Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent, faced a second challenge by Republican Mia Love, who he narrowly defeated in 2012. Ditto Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), who faced Republican David Rouzer once again. And Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) bowed out of contention fearing she'd lose to Democrat Jim Graves, who hinted that he wanted to challenger her again, but then dropped out.
We count at least 10 competitive rematches this year -- or rematches in the making, if certain candidates in primary contests prevail. We've ranked our list below based on which seats are likeliest to flip to the competition, with No. 1 being the ripest.
To the Line!
10. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) vs. Weston Wamp (R). We kick off our countdown with a primary campaign, where Wamp (son of former congressman Zach Wamp) recently announced he would run again. Wamp finished third in the 2012 primary. But Fleischmann won 39 percent of the vote -- hardly a mandate. Still, unseating the incumbent will be an uphill climb.
9. Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) vs. former state representative Mike Obermueller (D). Obermueller announced his plans for a rematch last spring, but unseating Kline won' be easy. The Republican's been in office for more than a decade and won by a fairly comfortable margin against Obermueller last year. If Kline finds himself in trouble here come November, it will spell bad news nationally for the GOP.
8. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) vs. former congressman Bobby Schilling (R). Bustos unseated Schilling in 2012 and he is back to try to return the favor. The fundamentals favor Bustos in this district that leans Democratic, but Schilling shouldn't be counted out, especially if President Obama's numbers don't turn around enough. Limited polling has shown a close race.
7. Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Tex.) vs. former congressman Francisco “Quico” Canseco (R). Call this one a "maybe" race. It's still a big if and the rematch here depends on how Canseco performs in a three-way primary. He'll have to get by physician Robert Lowry and Will Hurd, a former CIA officer who Canseco successfully defeated in a 2012 GOP primary. Canseco will have no help this year from national Republicans, who have made no secret that they're looking for a younger, fresher face to take on Gallego. So on his own, he'll have to explain why he deserves to return to Washington yet again. Gallego is a former Texas House member
speaker and a moderate, who often sides with the GOP on bills related to health-care. But his district also includes the longest stretch of border between the U.S. and Mexico, meaning that immigration reform is a natural issue of concern here.
6. Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) vs. Richard Tisei (R). This is the race that piqued our interest in exploring rematches this week. In very few other districts could a gay, pro-choice moderate Republican attract the support of national GOP leaders. But in 2012, Republicans were pulling hard and donating big bucks to Tisei, who nearly unseated Tierney as the lawmaker face an ethics investigation tied to his wife. Tisei's goal this cycle is much the same as last time: play up his moderate credentials, distance himself from the national GOP apparatus (but accept their support and cash) and try to pin Tierney as an out-of-touch incumbent long past due. Tierney -- who also faces a primary -- can hope that Massachusetts's strong Democratic voter registration edge and the end of a fruitless ethics investigation can keep him from losing his seat.
5. Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.) vs. former congresswoman Nan Hayworth (R). Maloney defeated Hayworth in a competitive 2012 contest and national Republicans are eyeing a reversal. The National Republican Congressional Committee added Hayworth to its "Young Guns" program in November. Meanwhile, Maloney has been stockpiling cash. His campaign announced Friday that he raised $380,000 during the fourth quarter of 2013 and has more than $1 million in the bank.
4. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) vs. former congressman Bob Dold (R). Dold, a moderate Republican, was unseated by Schneider by a very slim margin in 2012. Dold opted for a rematch early in the cycle, allowing him time to raise money and prepare for the campaign ahead. Look for Democrats to try to tie Dold to House Republicans by virtue of his term in Congress. But he stands a very competitive chance of victory here -- especially since he does not have to contend with Obama's coattails this time around in this Democratic-leaning district.
3. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.) vs. former congressman Frank Guinta (R). We're about the witness the third chapter of a competitive trilogy. Guinta unseated Shea-Porter in the 2010 GOP wave election. Two years later, she unseated him. Now he's back for another try. This is a swing district where both of the candidates are well-defined. That makes it one to watch for a sense of which way the winds are blowing nationally.
2. Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) vs. retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally (R). Barber never planned to be in Congress, but won a special election in 2012 to succeed his former boss, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who stepped down after being wounded in a shooting. Barber was also injured in the shooting. He won a full term later in 2012 -- but only by 2,500 votes, defeating, you guessed it, McSally. Democrats privately concede that Barber is in big trouble. That's why they have no concerns with him voting in lock-step with the GOP on most controversial issues, including any legislation designed to tweak the Affordable Care Act. If strong disapproval with the law and Obama continue through November, Barber will be one of the Democrats easily ousted.
1. Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) vs. Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D). Miller is this cycle's most vulnerable House Republican. He owes his 2012 victory in this Democratic-leaning district to California's top-two primary system and a divided Democratic base. A Democratic candidate didn't even advance to the final stage thanks to a vote split in the party. Aguilar finished third in 2012, and he's back with the support of the DCCC. But Aguilar's not the only Democrat running. So is Eloise Gomez Reyes, who is backed by EMILY's List. Former congressman Joe Baca is also in the mix.