Top 10 Vulnerable: Targets on Their Backs

Redistricting Puts Many Members at Risk of Not Seeing 113th

Posted March 16, 2012 at 11:42am

In our November Election Preview, we wrote that we expected several Members on this list wouldn’t make the next one because of retirements. Sure enough, Reps. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and David Dreier (R-Calif.) all decided to call it quits.

Redistricting is still the biggest common denominator for the vulnerable lawmakers who made our cut. But it’s not what put all of them here. New Hampshire is one of just a handful of states that hasn’t completed a redraw. Yet Rep. Charles Bass (R) is among the most imperiled Members regardless of the new lines.

New York’s redistricting process was wrapping up as we went to press. If the court-drawn map stands, Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) deserves a spot here and Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R) isn’t far behind her. We also excluded two Democrats who are in Member-vs.-Member primaries, even though they are highly unlikely to return next year: Reps. Russ Carnahan (Mo.) and Laura Richardson (Calif.).

Honorable mentions go to Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) and Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.).

Roll Call’s Top 10 Vulnerable Members, in alphabetical order:

John Barrow (D-Ga.)

4th term (57 percent) | Cash on Hand (Dec. 31): $904,000

Barrow has been targeted for defeat before, but the GOP finally seems to have the Congressman’s number — via redistricting. Several Republicans have lined up to run, and all indications are that Barrow won’t go down without a fight. But the key for him is the fact that Democratic-leaning portions of Savannah were removed and replaced with very Republican Augusta suburbs. The results: What was a 54 percent Barack Obama district is now a 59 percent John McCain district. Enough said.

Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.)

10th term (61 percent) | Cash on Hand (Dec. 31): $343,000

In all honesty, we didn’t expect Bartlett to seek re-election given his district was redrawn to elect a Democrat. But the 85-year-old lawmaker is running and running hard. That doesn’t change the fundamentals of his new district, which underwent one of the biggest partisan conversions of any seat in the country. It’s possible that all of the ingredients could come together for Bartlett, who faces a primary next month, to pull off a win. But it just doesn’t seem plausible at this point.

Charles Bass (R-N.H.)

1st term (48 percent; previously served six terms) | Cash on Hand (Dec. 31): $600,000

After riding the Democratic wave out of office in 2006 and then riding the GOP wave back in 2010, Bass is no stranger to competitive races. The question is whether the affable lawmaker can stay on his board when the water is flat. Both 2006 and 2010 were midterm elections, and Bass will have the drag of the presidential race in a Democratic district to contend with in November. Democrats have a strong recruit in Ann McLane Kuster — who probably would have won last cycle if not for the wave conditions.

Robert Dold (R-Ill.)

1st term (51 percent) | Cash on Hand (Feb. 29): $1,294,000

Dold is by all accounts one of the strongest members of the freshman class: a good politician and a fundraising rock star. His problem is that the already Democratic-leaning district he was elected to was made even more Democratic in redistricting. Republicans believe that if Democrats nominate 25-year-old Ilya Sheyman in Tuesday’s primary, Dold’s chances of returning to Congress improve. That’s probably true, but it still doesn’t make him more likely to return than not.

Larry Kissell (D-N.C.)

2nd term (53 percent) | Cash on Hand (Dec. 31): $352,000

Two other North Carolina Democrats decided to retire instead of face re-election in more difficult districts. But not Kissell, who appears to need a miracle to hold on. Kissell’s first Congressional win in 2008 was aided by black turnout in Charlotte and Barack Obama at the top of the ticket. But when the president comes to town in August to accept his party’s nomination, he’ll find the Democratic portions of the city are no longer in Kissell’s district. The black population of the redrawn district dropped by 10 percent. It’s hard to see just how Kissell overcomes that.

Jim Matheson (D-Utah)

6th term (51 percent) | Cash on Hand (Dec. 31): $696,000

You can’t blame us for being apprehensive about putting Matheson on this list given that he’s been a regular here for the past decade and has always managed to survive. There is only one Democrat who can win a Republican seat in Utah in a presidential year — and his last name is Matheson. The Congressman is running in the state’s new 4th district, which is demographically the “best” for a Democrat. But that’s not saying much. Combine that with the fact that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is likely to boost turnout significantly in the state, and you see how tough Matheson’s slog will be.

Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.)

8th term (54 percent) | Cash on Hand (Dec. 31): $687,000

McIntyre got a serious scare in 2010, when he held on to win despite the national GOP wave. Republicans in the state redrew the map to make sure the Blue Dog Democrat won’t be able to hold on again if another wave hits. In fact, it won’t even take a wave. The big question mark remains which GOP opponent he will face (there is one who is much stronger than the other). Even if he faces the weaker of the two, it’s a tough fight and McIntyre will have to put all of his retail politicking expertise to use to win.

Gary Miller (R-Calif.)

7th term (62 percent) | Cash on Hand (Dec. 31): $1,074,000

Miller is running in a completely new district — territory that is unfamiliar with him. It would be one thing if it were a GOP-leaning seat, but it’s a district that President Barack Obama would have won with 58 percent. In a presidential year, that makes Miller’s trek very difficult. What’s more, it’s not even certain he’ll make it out of the June “jungle primary” where the top two vote-getters advance to the November ballot. State Sen. Bob Dutton (R), who currently represents parts of the district, is also running. It’s conceivable that Dutton and Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D) will finish ahead of Miller in June.

Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.)

1st term (53 percent) | Cash on Hand (Feb. 29): $659,000

Schilling literally embodies the story of the 2010 GOP wave. A pizza restaurant owner, he was one of the many political outsiders who rode swing district voters’ discontent to victory in the president’s home state. Schilling has to prove his election wasn’t a fluke. That won’t be easy in a district that was made more friendly to Democrats in redistricting. Schilling has proved he can surprise prognosticators, and this will definitely be an interesting contest to watch.

Joe Walsh (R-Ill.)

1st term (49 percent) | Cash on Hand (Feb. 29): $371,000

Walsh was initially going to challenge Rep. Randy Hultgren (R) in the GOP-leaning 14th district. He may have lost that race, too, but he would have had a better chance there than in the new 8th district, where he decided to run. The seat was crafted for a Democrat, and it’s virtually impossible to see how voters there won’t elect one. Walsh pulled off the biggest surprise upset of 2010 when he defeated then-Rep. Melissa Bean. It would be truly remarkable if he could pull off that kind of feat again.