West Region Roundup

After Years of Sleepy Races, Competition Reigns in California

Posted March 16, 2012 at 3:42pm




Gov. Sean Parnell (R)

2012 Electoral Votes: 3
2008 Presidential Vote:
McCain 59%/Obama 38%


At-Large |
Incumbent: Don Young (R)

19th term (69 percent) | Outlook: Safe Republican

Young, 78, filed for re-election Feb. 22 and will likely cruise to a 20th term. He won easily in 2010 after surviving a competitive 2008 contest; he had $473,000 in the bank at the end of the fourth quarter; and so far, he has no credible opponent.


Gov. Jerry Brown (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 55
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 61%/McCain 37%


Incumbent: Dianne Feinstein (D)

3rd term (59 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

Feinstein is strongly favored to win re-election, as Republicans aren’t targeting this race. Only two potential challengers had significant funds through December: businessman Dan Hughes and Elizabeth Emken, an autism activist and former Congressional candidate.

The state’s Republicans were unable to topple any incumbents in a great year for the GOP in 2010, so it’s not likely they can make much of a showing in a presidential election year.


1st district | Open seat: Wally Herger (R) is retiring.

Outlook: Safe Republican

Herger and fellow GOP Rep. Tom McClintock currently represent most of the area that constitutes the new 1st, and they’re backing different candidates in the race to replace Herger.

Herger announced Jan. 10 that he was retiring after 13 terms and immediately endorsed state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, a fourth-generation rice farmer. LaMalfa also picked up Herger’s longtime political consultant, Dave Gilliard.

Then on Feb. 9, former state Sen. Sam Aanestad, an oral surgeon, announced his candidacy and that McClintock is serving as his campaign chairman.

Whoever wins this solidly Republican Northern California district, which includes most of the Oregon border, will likely hold on to it for as long as he wants.

2nd district | Open seat: Lynn Woolsey (D) is retiring.

Outlook: Safe Democratic

A month after winning re-election in 2010, Woolsey hinted this would be her last term. That allowed candidates to begin ramping up their campaigns before she made her retirement official in June.

The district changed substantially in redistricting, with its northern peak — currently Sonoma County’s northern line — becoming the Oregon border. But the home of the beautiful and rocky Pacific coastline did not lose its strong Democratic tilt.

This is a Democratic affair. Assemblyman Jared Huffman picked up on Woolsey’s early hints and opened an exploratory committee at the beginning of the 2011, and a year later he led in cash on hand with $445,000. But former tech executive Stacey Lawson, who was endorsed in February by EMILY’s List, has outraised him the past two quarters and ended December with $356,000. Activist Norman Solomon and Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams have also raised significant funds and are viable to move beyond the top-two primary.

The general will likely be between two Democrats in the state’s first federal election cycle under the new “jungle primary” format, though investment firm owner Dan Roberts (R) could have a path to the general election.

3rd district | Incumbent: John Garamendi (D)

2nd term (59 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic

At this point, Garamendi is favored to win re-election, but several indicators make this a race to watch.

Garamendi stepped on the fundraising gas in the fourth quarter, bringing in $288,000 — about three times as much as the previous fundraising period. He also launched three biographical TV ads Feb. 14 that ran on broadcast and cable, saying in a statement, “We are taking nothing for granted.”

His top GOP opponent is Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann.

Democrats hold a 9-point voter registration advantage here, and President Barack Obama would have won it with 56 percent — 9 points less than the district Garamendi currently represents.

The district’s new metrics and Vann’s candidacy put this race on the map for Republicans. The National Republican Congressional Committee launched a TV ad against Garamendi late last year, tying him to Obama and the controversy over the president’s support for the failed, taxpayer-backed solar company Solyndra.

7th district | Incumbent: Dan Lungren (R)

4th term (50 percent; previously served five terms) | Outlook: Tossup

Lungren is in his second Congressional stint and is coming off two straight victories with 50 percent of the vote or less. If he’s proved anything over the years, it’s that he’s a survivor. But this could be his toughest test yet.

Democrats hoped to oust Lungren last cycle with a recruit who could raise serious money. It didn’t work out that way, but this time it could.

Lungren’s Sacramento-area district will be even more competitive now because of redistricting. Physician Ami Bera is back for another go-round and is again raising good money. Bera raised $264,000 in the fourth quarter, while Lungren raised $179,000 for a second straight quarter. Bera had nearly $400,000 more in cash on hand than Lungren had.

Lungren was outspent by Bera last cycle by more than $900,000 but was running in a district that President Barack Obama won in 2008 by fewer than 600 votes. In the redrawn district, the voter registration numbers are split, but Obama would have carried it by 6 points.

8th district | New seat

Outlook: Safe Republican

Even though he doesn’t live here, two top Republican candidates waited for Rep. Jerry Lewis (R) to announce his retirement before jumping in the race for this new district.

Lewis’ announcement came Jan. 12. Assemblyman Paul Cook and San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt announced their candidacies immediately after. A handful of other Republicans are running but haven’t raised much money. Democrat Jackie Conaway, who lost to Rep. Buck McKeon (R) in 2008 and 2010, is running again.

Carved out of the current territory of McKeon and Lewis, who both live elsewhere, the solidly Republican district includes about two-thirds of the state’s Nevada border.

9th district | Incumbent: Jerry McNerney (D)

3rd term (48 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic

McNerney lives outside the 9th but already represents much of the territory in his current district. This San Joaquin County-based territory is Democratic-leaning, and President Barack Obama would have carried it by 16 points.

But McNerney’s challenger is Ricky Gill, a rising star in the GOP. National Republicans are excited about the 24-year-old law student, who had outraised McNerney for two straight quarters before the final fundraising period of 2011. Gill, who has loaned his campaign $143,000, held a cash-on-hand lead of $838,000 to $780,000 at the end of December.

McNerney was the only Californian in the past decade to defeat an incumbent (he unseated then-Rep. Richard Pombo in 2006), and he’s been a GOP target ever since. That won’t change, even though the district will be a little easier for him to win this time around.

10th district | Incumbent: Jeff Denham (R)

1st term (65 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican

The freshman is among the most vulnerable Republicans in the state after redistricting. He’s now in swing territory and a district with a 5-point Democratic registration edge and in one of a string of competitive races in the Central Valley.

Still, this Stanislaus County-based district leans Republican — President Barack Obama barely carried it and Republicans won it in the 2010 Senatorial and gubernatorial elections. Denham has raised solid money so far and was sitting on an $810,000 war chest at the end of December.

Democrats are raving about Jose Hernandez, a retired astronaut who is one of several Latino recruits statewide challenging incumbent Republicans. He was listed in the first round of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program, which offers financial, communication, grass-roots and strategic support.

The wild card is Chad Condit, the son of former Rep. Gary Condit (D), who jumped into the race March 1 as an Independent. His presence will make the June “jungle primary” a little more interesting, but Denham and Hernandez are still heavily favored to make it to the general.

16th district | Incumbent: Jim Costa (D)

4th term (52 percent) | Outlook: Likely Democratic

Democratic Rep. Dennis Cardoza’s October retirement announcement, which had been expected, officially cleared this district for his good friend Costa to run. This Central Valley district is competitive but gives Costa more of an advantage than he would have had if he ran to the south in the new 21st, which is more swing territory.

Costa is a top target of the National Republican Congressional Committee, but several GOP elected officials in the area have opted not to run. His only challengers now are attorney Brian Whelan, who had $62,000 on hand after the fourth quarter, and farmer Johnny Tacherra, who had less than $2,000.

Costa ended the year with $411,000 on hand.

21st district | New seat

Outlook: Tossup

The complexion of this race was altered dramatically Dec. 27 when state Sen. Michael Rubio, a rising star in the Democratic Party, dropped his bid for family reasons.

Both parties had recruited top-tier young candidates for the race. Rubio and Assemblyman David Valadao (R) were born months apart in 1977, are lifelong Central Valley residents and are both serving their first terms in Sacramento.

Rubio’s decision immediately put one of the most competitive districts in the state in danger for Democrats. Replacements began surfacing a month later, but it’s unclear whether they can make this race as competitive as Rubio would have. John Hernandez (D), CEO of the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, announced his candidacy in late January, and Fresno City Councilman Blong Xiong announced March 9, the filing deadline. Democrats lost out in early March when former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante decided not to run.

The district’s history proves it’s a battleground: It would have been carried by President George W. Bush in 2004, President Barack Obama in 2008 and by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and Senate nominee Carly Fiorina (R) in 2010. Republicans see an opportunity here to help keep their losses in the state to a minimum, and the district is a likely candidate for outside spending.

24th district | Incumbent: Lois Capps (D)

7th term (58 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic

The National Republican Congressional Committee’s California target list starts with Capps, whose infamous “Ribbon of Shame” gerrymandered district that traverses 200 miles along the Pacific Coast now stretches inland to the wine-growing territory made famous in the movie “Sideways.”

It’s now far less Democratic and considered swing territory.

The leading Republican to take her on is former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, an up-and-comer who is one of 14 GOP recruits nationwide to have advanced to the second step of the NRCC’s Young Guns program.

Maldonado has partaken in some crafty fundraising reporting. He loaned his campaign $250,000 before the second-quarter deadline. He repaid himself in full in the third quarter, then loaned his campaign another $250,000 before the third-quarter deadline. He paid himself back the $250,000 again in the fourth quarter and then loaned it to the campaign again before Dec. 31.

Despite the bloated and misleading total-raised figure, and assuming he’ll eventually be willing to spend that money, the self-funding will come in handy because he actually raised just $50,000 from October to December while running against one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the state.

Capps raised $322,000 in the fourth quarter and had more than $1 million in cash on hand at the end of the year. At this point, she is favored to return for an eighth term.

26th district | Open seat: Elton Gallegly (R) is retiring.

Outlook: Tossup

In a district that’s a top pickup opportunity for Democrats, the party was dealt a couple of blows before the March 9 candidate filing deadline.

After raising $241,000 in the fourth quarter, Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett (D) announced at the state party convention on Feb. 11 that he was dropping his bid. Then, Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, a registered Republican, announced she would run instead as an Independent, opening the possibility that a splintered Democratic vote could allow Parks and state Sen. Tony Strickland (R) to advance to the general.

Strickland, who announced his candidacy after Gallegly’s retirement announcement, is a strong candidate in this competitive Ventura County district.

Following Bennett’s exit, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, of Santa Monica, announced her candidacy and was immediately endorsed by Bennett. Others still in the race are former professional tennis player David Cruz Thayne and Oxnard Harbor District Commissioner Jess Herrera.

Brownley, now the favorite among the Democrats, will likely see her residency outside the district made an issue.

29th district | New seat

Outlook: Safe Democratic

Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas (D) will likely be coming to Congress in January 2013. This eastern San Fernando Valley district, carved out of Rep. Howard Berman’s (D) current territory, is a majority-Latino district and strongly Democratic.

Instead of challenging Cardenas in the 29th, Berman opted to run in the western valley’s 30th, where he lives, against fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman. Cardenas’ only opponent is a Republican who’s raised almost no money.

30th district | Member vs. Member: Brad Sherman (D) and Howard Berman (D)

8th term (65 percent); 15th term (70 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

Nowhere is the fallout from the state’s new independent redistricting process more evident than in this western San Fernando Valley district.

Berman’s brother, Democratic consultant Michael Berman, drew the district lines in 2001 that ensured incumbent safety. Now, most of Berman’s current district is in the redrawn 29th, a majority-minority district. And he was drawn into the same district as Sherman, setting off an expensive and intriguing matchup.

The two longtime incumbents have well-established fundraising networks and were sitting on a combined $6.5 million at the end of December. It’s already gotten nasty, including a Sherman mailer that loosely tied Berman to the 2010 pipeline explosion tragedy in San Bruno. That enticed Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) to get off the fence and publicly back Berman, joining Gov. Jerry Brown (D), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) and more than two-thirds of the California Congressional delegation. Sherman has the backing of two fellow California Members, while both Members have been endorsed by major labor unions.

Berman’s fundraising reports read like movie credits, with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg as just two of his many Hollywood donors. He outraised Sherman 8-to-1 in the fourth quarter, $1 million to $127,000. Sherman, who stocked up for a decade in anticipation of this race, still led in cash on hand, $3.7 million to $2.9 million.

Sherman’s 2010 opponent, businessman Mark Reed (R), is also running and could make the June top-two primary interesting. But the intraparty matchup has a good chance of lasting until November.

31st district | Incumbent: Gary Miller (R)

7th term (62 percent) | Outlook: Tossup

Reps. Joe Baca (D) and Jerry Lewis (R) were drawn into this district, but it’s Miller who is actually running here. Lewis is retiring, and Baca is running in the neighboring 35th district, which is solid Democratic territory.

The dynamics of this race did not develop until Lewis’ retirement announcement in mid-January. Miller announced within a couple of hours that he would run here in San Bernardino County instead of against Rep. Ed Royce (R) in the redrawn 39th district, a safe Republican seat in Orange County.

Two other moves made that a momentous day. Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D) announced his candidacy, and San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos (R) announced he would complete his term rather than run for the seat.

Miller’s candidacy and his endorsement from national Republicans may have helped keep Ramos out, but it did not dissuade state Sen. Bob Dutton (R) from entering the race. The new district is almost wholly contained in Dutton’s state Senate district, while Miller does not currently represent any of it.

The 31st favors Democrats, as President Barack Obama would have won here in 2008 with 58 percent. The entrance of Miller and the unproven Democratic field combine to give the GOP a good chance, but this could move to a more favorable rating for Democrats depending on how the June “jungle primary” shakes out. A handful of other Democrats are running, but Aguilar is the party’s early favorite.

36th district | Incumbent: Mary Bono Mack (R)

7th term (52 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican

Bono Mack has been atop Democratic target lists in the state for a few cycles now. Her district remains competitive following redistricting, but she still starts the race with a solid advantage.

This is an uphill climb for Democrats, but the national party is excited about physician Raul Ruiz and believes he’s the right candidate in this Coachella Valley district. His personal story was featured a couple of years ago on CNN — he knocked on doors in his community asking for donations to help him attend UCLA with a promise that he would return one day as a doctor, which he did.

After a little more than three months of fundraising, Ruiz raised just more than $200,000 through the fourth quarter and trailed Bono Mack by $345,000 in cash on hand. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee listed this as an “emerging race” in the first round of its Red to Blue program, meaning Ruiz has some work to do.

41st district | New seat

Outlook: Leans Democratic

This could be Democrats’ highest-priority pickup in the state this cycle. The two leading candidates for this new Inland Empire district are Riverside County Supervisor John Tavaglione (R) and Mark Takano (D), a Riverside Community College board trustee who twice ran against Rep. Ken Calvert (R) in the early 1990s.

Calvert currently represents much of this area but was drawn into the neighboring 42nd district, and Takano finally has a better opportunity to represent Riverside. Although it has just a 6-point Democratic voter registration advantage, President Barack Obama would have won it by 22 points in 2008.

National Democrats like what they see here and included Takano in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s first round of Red to Blue races. Takano ended December with $212,000 on hand, and Tavaglione, thanks in part to a $30,000 personal loan, ended up with $179,000 in the bank.

Takano has received donations from the DCCC, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (S.C.). Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) headlined a fundraiser for him, and he’s receiving financial assistance from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and the Human Rights Campaign.

44th district | Member vs. Member: Janice Hahn (D) and Laura Richardson (D)

1st term (55 percent); 2nd term (68 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

One of two Democratic Member-vs.-Member contests in the Los Angeles area, this race is less competitive than its crosstown cousin in the San Fernando Valley.

Few party insiders see much of a chance for Richardson, plagued by ethics issues, to defeat Hahn, who has won key establishment endorsements, including a long list of elected officials. Hahn’s family dynasty in LA politics and history of representing the area on the LA City Council hasn’t hurt her either.

“Congressmember Hahn has worked very hard and as a result has secured the endorsement of the Democratic Party and the Labor Federation,” LA Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman said. “That means the two strongest on-the-ground teams will be playing by her side, making it much more difficult for Congressmember Richardson to compete.”

This majority-minority district in south Los Angeles has a 49 percent Latino voting-age population and a 28 percent African-American voting age population. The coastal district Hahn won in a July special election was diced up in redistricting, leaving her in a far safer district but one intended to give minorities an opportunity to increase representation in Congress.

Richardson lives in the Long Beach-based 47th district to the east, but her current district was split in two and she opted to run against Hahn in the more Democratic 44th. She may come to regret that.

With no one else running, the June 5 “jungle primary” will act as a dry run for November.

47th district | New seat

Outlook: Leans Democratic

There are three top candidates for this Long Beach-based district, which has no incumbent because Richardson decided to run against Hahn in the neighboring 44th district to the west, which is more favorable to Democrats.

The lone Democrat is state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, a longtime Long Beach elected official. He’s likely to advance past the June 5 “jungle primary” to face one of two Republicans, Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong, who has advanced to the second step of national Republicans’ Young Guns program, or former Rep. Steve Kuykendall, who was elected to one term in 1998.

DeLong has a wide fundraising lead with $367,000 on hand to just $38,000 for Kuykendall, but the two rival each other on endorsements. DeLong boasts the endorsements of former Gov. George Deukmejian and California Reps. Dan Lungren, Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce. Kuykendall has the backing of former Gov. Pete Wilson, Rep. Brian Bilbray and Arizona Sen. John McCain.

President Barack Obama would have carried this district by 22 points in 2008, Gov. Jerry Brown would have carried it by 8 points in 2010, and Democrats hold an 11-point voter registration advantage.

51st district | Open seat: Bob Filner (D) is running for San Diego mayor.

Outlook: Safe Democratic

This San Diego race features an interesting Democratic matchup between state Sen. Juan Vargas and former state Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny, whom Vargas succeeded when he was elected in 2010.

The San Diego Union-Tribune called it a potential “classic political slugfest” between the two Latino legislators running to replace Filner, who’s held this seat since 1993. The race has already gotten a little nasty, and that will likely continue past the June “jungle primary” and into November.

Vargas, described as Filner’s “longtime nemesis,” came up 9 points short when he challenged the Congressman in the 2006 primary. He also lost two prior primary challenges to Filner, in 1992 when it was an open seat and in 1996.

The California Democratic Party endorsed Vargas at its February state convention, meaning his name will be listed on sample ballots the party sends to voters in the district. Ducheny was placed “On the List” with EMILY’s List and was endorsed by Reps. Linda Sánchez and Loretta Sanchez.

52nd district | Incumbent: Brian Bilbray (R)

3rd term (57 percent; previously served three terms) | Outlook: Tossup

Bilbray is one of the top Republican targets in the state, and San Diego Port Commission Chairman Scott Peters and former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña are his top Democratic challengers.

Republican voters make up 36 percent of the district’s electorate, while 33 percent are Democrats and 27 percent of voters “decline to state.” President Barack Obama would have won the district with 56 percent, and the Republican Senate and gubernatorial nominees would have won it in 2010.

Bilbray may have a slight advantage now, but Republicans are admittedly concerned about this one. Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) headlined a Bilbray fundraiser in October and cut him a $5,000 check from his leadership PAC. Bilbray raised $211,000 in the fourth quarter and ended December with $562,000 in the bank. In his first quarter of fundraising, Peters raised $268,000 and had $232,000 on hand at the end of December, while Saldaña, whom EMILY’s List put “On the List” in February, raised $51,000 and had $37,000 on hand.


Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 4
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 72%/McCain 27%


Open seat: Daniel Akaka (D) is retiring.

Outlook: Leans Democratic

This is Hawaii’s first open-seat Senate race since 1976, and Democrats are favored to win it in a year when President Barack Obama, a native son, is on the ticket.

Republicans aren’t delirious. They know former two-term Gov. Linda Lingle (R) would need some 20 percent of the voters who pull the lever for Obama to also vote for her.

That’s no small task, and it’s why this race still leans in favor of the eventual Democratic nominee. But national Republicans recruited the only candidate with any realistic chance to pull it off, and Lingle’s past success and fundraising ability make this race one to watch.

On the Democratic side are two people who have clashed before, Rep. Mazie Hirono and former Rep. Ed Case. These same players took part in the 2002 gubernatorial race — when Hirono topped Case in the primary and then lost to Lingle by 5 points — and they’re engaging in a spirited race once again ahead of the Aug. 11 primary.

Hirono has the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and
EMILY’s List. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D), the most influential political force in the state, is still miffed at Case for challenging Akaka in 2006 and has said he will vote for Hirono in the primary.

The third-term Congresswoman, who succeeded Case in the House, had a decided cash advantage at the end of 2011.

Lingle, who entered the race in October, raised $1.8 million in her first fundraising quarter and had $1.4 million left at the end of December. Democrats have already begun tying her to Republicans in Congress and unpopular elements of the GOP agenda. She is stockpiling cash while Hirono and Case duke it out.


1st district | Incumbent: Colleen Hanabusa (D)

1st term (53 percent) | Outlook: Likely Democratic

In a rematch from 2010, Hanabusa will face former Rep. Charles Djou (R), who won the seat in a May 2010 special election.

With President Barack Obama on the ticket and Hanabusa now the incumbent, this race likely won’t be as close as last time. Djou probably would not have been elected in last cycle’s special if not for Hanabusa and former Rep. Ed Case splitting the Democratic vote in an abnormal three-way election.

Djou, who is close with Lingle and recently returned from a six-month deployment with the Army to Afghanistan, starts the race with more name identification than an average GOP challenger in Hawaii and a strong Republican above him on the ballot. He’ll make the case that Hawaii should balance its Congressional delegation with a Republican.

Hanabusa’s winning margin last year matched Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) from the 2004 presidential cycle, but her numbers should be lifted this time by Obama.

2nd district | Open seat: Mazie Hirono (D) is running for Senate.

Outlook: Safe Democratic

Hirono won her last two races with at least 72 percent, and so far, no Republican has filed for this seat. The action will be in the Democratic primary, with former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Honolulu City Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard as the top contenders.

Hannemann, whose name identification advantage has given him a wide lead in early polling, had $509,000 in the bank at the end of the fourth quarter, while Gabbard had $317,000. The winner will likely hold this seat for as long as he or she chooses.


Gov. Brian Sandoval (R)

2012 Electoral Votes: 6
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 55%/McCain 43%


Incumbent: Dean Heller (R)

1st term (appointed May 2011) | Outlook: Tossup

This is one of a handful of Senate races nationwide that promises to be competitive to the end, and control of the Senate could come down to Republicans’ ability to hold this seat.

Both Heller and Rep. Shelley Berkley (D), who hail from different regions of the state, have their disadvantages here. The outcome will likely depend on how the presidential race shakes out in Nevada, which is crucial to President Barack Obama’s re-election plans.

Heller was appointed to the Senate after scandal-scarred Sen. John Ensign resigned in May 2011. To win a full term, he will need to win Reno’s Washoe County, the second-largest county in the state and one evenly split in Democratic and Republican voter registration. But so will Berkley, who is from Las Vegas in Clark County, which is about 450 miles from Reno — or one-sixth the length of the entire country.

Republicans are skeptical of Berkley’s chances of doing that. Either way, she will also need to rack up big numbers in Clark, where more than two-thirds of the state’s registered voters reside.

Berkley will have help from an Obama ground game that is already ramped up in Nevada, and her fundraising has been very solid so far.

Heller picked up his fundraising pace in the fourth quarter. But thanks in part to the presidential contest and to outside groups that will surely invest in Nevada, it’s unlikely that this race will be decided by a candidate’s lack of funds.


1st district | Open seat: Shelley Berkley (D) is running for Senate.

Outlook: Safe Democratic

This redrawn district is one of two in the state likely to remain Democratic for the next 10 years — and it’s former Rep. Dina Titus’ to lose.

Titus had been set for a competitive primary against state Sen. Ruben Kihuen in the district, which includes the urban core of Las Vegas, has a 37 percent Latino voting-age population and is crucial to the statewide campaigns of Berkley and President Barack Obama. But with a potentially nasty primary forthcoming and his mentor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D) job on the line, Kihuen ended his bid in early February.

Titus, who ran for governor in 2006 and the House in 2008, was ousted in 2010 by now-Rep. Joe Heck (R) after just one term in the 3rd district to the south. Despite losing by only a slim margin, Titus was vocal about not wanting to run against Heck again, especially with her home planted in this far more favorable district.

With no race to speak of now, Titus has already begun helping the Democrat in the 3rd district raise money to take down Heck.

3rd district | Incumbent: Joe Heck (R)

1st term (48 percent) | Outlook: Tossup

Heck defeated former Rep. Dina Titus by just 1 point in a strong year for Republicans nationwide, and his district remains Democratic-leaning after redistricting.

No matter what the environment is like in November, it’s hard to see a better one than what Heck ran in last cycle. And with President Barack Obama’s campaign already on the ground in Nevada, Heck will have a real race on his hands.

He will face state Speaker John Oceguera (D), and both will likely have all the resources they need down the homestretch. There will be plenty of outside spending here as both parties are motivated to win the Senate and presidential races.

The redrawn district lost parts of northern Clark County and now includes only the southern half of the county. It has the lowest number of minorities of the three Las Vegas-area districts and is the most competitive territory, with dead-even partisan voter registration at 39 percent each.

This is the race that will decide whether Democrats hold a majority in the state’s House delegation.

4th district | New seat

Outlook: Safe Democratic

State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford is favored to win this new district, which expands north from North Las Vegas and takes in parts of seven counties. The overwhelming majority of voters are in Clark County, however.

Horsford has built a solid consulting team and has strong ties to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D). As a sign of how they view the district, national Democrats named Horsford one of their first three “Majority Makers” candidates who are called upon to raise money for other candidates around the country.

Democrats hold a 44 percent to 35 percent voter registration advantage, and President Barack Obama would have carried the district with 56 percent in 2008. It has 23 percent Latino and 14 percent African-American voting-age populations.

Still, Republicans are competing here and will have a primary between state Sen. Barbara Cegavske and 2010 Senate candidate Danny Tarkanian, one of whom will at the very least give the party a competent opponent for Horsford.


Gov. John Kitzhaber (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 7
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 57%/McCain 40%


5th district | Incumbent: Kurt Schrader (D)

2nd term (51 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

This is the most competitive district in the state, but it would be a shock for Schrader to lose this after surviving GOP-friendly 2010 with a 5-point victory. This race would be more competitive with the right Republican candidate in a nonpresidential year. But right now, there’s no GOP opponent reporting any substantial money at all, and the contest is not on the national radar.


Gov. Christine Gregoire (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 12
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 58%/McCain 41%


Incumbent: Maria Cantwell (D)

2nd term (57 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

Cantwell should cruise to re-election. She will likely face state Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R) but is not expected to have nearly as close a race as Sen. Patty Murray (D) faced in 2010. Murray won re-election by 5 points in a strong year for Republicans nationwide.

With President Barack Obama at the top of the ticket here, the hill is even steeper for Republicans. The top possible GOP recruit was state Attorney General Rob McKenna, who is running for governor, and state Republicans will likely focus their efforts on that race instead.


1st district | Vacancy: Jay Inslee (D) is resigning.

Outlook: Tossup

Inslee’s early decision to run for governor gave the state’s bipartisan redistricting commission some leeway when crafting district lines and allowed it to draw a pure Tossup district without concern for an incumbent’s safety.

The redraw gave both parties a realistic shot at winning the 1st, which now juts north from Seattle’s eastern suburbs to the Canadian border. Along with north King County, the 1st takes in much of the eastern parts of Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties, areas currently represented by Rep. Rick Larsen (D) in the 2nd district.

It’s easily the most competitive in the state, and it’s one where this year’s winner will likely never face a comfortable
re-election. One Democrat and one Republican are likely to advance beyond the August “jungle primary.”

Snohomish County Councilman John Koster, who lost to Larsen in 2010, is the lone Republican in the race. There are six Democrats running: Rep. Dave Reichert’s last two challengers, Suzan DelBene and Darcy Burner, state Sen. Steve Hobbs, former state Rep. Laura Ruderman, state Rep. Roger Goodman and tech executive Darshan Rauniyar.

No one had as much as $200,000 in the bank by the end of the fourth quarter, but fundraising likely picked up following the completion of redistricting just before the new year. This district is a target for significant outside spending by both parties.

6th district | Open seat: Norm Dicks (D) is retiring.

Outlook: Likely Democratic

Dicks made his surprising retirement announcement earlier this month, and three days later the first Democrat had already entered the race for this Tacoma-based district.

Democratic insiders believe state Sen. Derek Kilmer is the early frontrunner for the seat, though several other Democrats were seriously considering a once-in-a-generation opportunity to run for this district, which President Barack Obama would have carried with 58 percent in 2008. Kilmer will almost certainly have company before the May 18 filing deadline.

On the Republican side, frequent candidate Doug Cloud and business technology consultant Jesse Young, who lost to Cloud and Dicks in the 2010 top-two primary, are both running again.

10th district | New seat

Outlook: Likely Democratic

This new Olympia-based district was drawn as a pickup opportunity for Democrats, while the districts of GOP Reps. Dave Reichert and Jaime Herrera Beutler and Democratic Reps. Adam Smith and Rick Larsen all got safer for the incumbents.

Former state House Majority Leader Denny Heck (D) will have a strong opportunity to hold this seat for the next 10 years. After losing to Herrera Beutler in the open-seat race for the 3rd district in 2010, Heck has no Democratic opponents.

His most likely opponent in the general is Pierce County Councilman Dick Muri (R), who lost to Smith in the 9th district in 2010. Heck had $581,000 in the bank at the end of December, while Muri had just $69,000.