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Running for Congress? Try, Try Again

Running for Congress? The second time might be the charm.

Just ask recent victors such as Reps.-elect Garland “Andy” Barr IV, R-Ky., Ami Bera, D-Calif., and Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H. They defeated their respective opponents on the second try.

There will be an entirely new landscape in 2014, and some November losers believe they might have a better shot in two years. If history is precedent, the midterm elections will provide more opportunities for the party not occupying the White House: Republicans.

What’s more, in two years, many Democrats won’t be able to count on the boost of the president’s effective turnout operation. Accordingly, more GOP losers than Democratic candidates are already mulling comeback bids for certain seats.

But there are opportunities for Democrats in 2014 as well. Republicans controlled redistricting in most key states during the decennial mapmaking process. The GOP didn’t release maps until late in the cycle, forcing last-minute campaigns for otherwise competitive seats.

So who might be looking for a second chance to win? Here’s our list of potential two-timers:


Martha E. McSally | Arizona’s 2nd District

McSally might run again in 2014, according to a source familiar with her thinking. If she does, Republicans would welcome her back.

McSally earned plaudits for her profile as the first female pilot in the Air Force to fly in combat. What’s more, she came closer to defeating Democratic Rep. Ron Barber than many operatives anticipated — within less than half of a point.

Mia Love | Utah’s 4th District

Love’s loss to Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson marked one of the House GOP’s greatest disappointments of 2012. She would have been the first black GOP congresswoman.

Initially, Republicans believed a strong Mitt Romney turnout in Utah would give Love her best shot at the seat. But a recent Salt Lake Tribune report showed Utah’s turnout was stagnant compared with 2008.

Love could not be reached for comment.

Richard Tisei | Massachusetts’ 6th District

Tisei is considering a rematch, according to a source close to the former state senator. Tisei lost to embattled Rep. John F. Tierney — even surprising some Democrats who believed the congressman was a goner due to the ethics problems saddling his family.

The source noted Tisei might have a better shot without the Democratic Party’s turnout operation churning for Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren on top of his ticket. House GOP operatives would welcome a second try from Tisei, who would be the first openly gay Republican elected to the House.

Allen B. West | Florida’s 18th District

Never shy, West already has left the door open to running again. He told local WPTV he hasn’t made a decision yet: “That’s between my wife and I and God as far as where we’re going to go.”

West would kick off a comeback with $500,000 in the bank, according to a campaign aide. But the Florida House districts might look different by 2014: Courts are considering a legal challenge to the congressional map that could force a redraw of the boundaries next year.

Frank Guinta | New Hampshire’s 1st District

Guinta confirmed that he’s thinking about running again in 2014 but said it’s too early to pick between House, Senate or governor. “I’m certainly going to take some time in 2013 to assess and make a determination at some point if I would run,” he said in a phone interview with CQ Roll Call.

It’s a good bet for Guinta to try again in New Hampshire. The state votes whichever way the wind blows, rejecting both House members in three of the past four cycles according to the national political mood.

Robert Dold | Illinois’ 10th District

Dold lost by less than 1 point in this heavily Democratic district north of Chicago. It was a smaller margin than most of his Illinois GOP colleagues in competitive races — all of whom ran in less Democratic districts.

Dold said he wasn’t ruling out anything when briefly questioned a few weeks ago about his future at the Capitol. Republicans believe he’ll have a better chance in the president’s home state in a midterm cycle.

Bobby Schilling | Illinois’ 17th District

In a speech to supporters on election night, Schilling said he’s keeping his options open, according to someone who was there. He lost to Rep.-elect Cheri Bustos, a Democrat, by 6 points.

Like Dold, Schilling might fare better in Illinois without Obama on top of the ticket. State operatives anticipate a competitive gubernatorial race to lead the ballot in 2014.


Val B. Demings | Florida’s 10th District

Demings is thinking about running again, according to a Democrat close to the situation. The former Orlando Police Department chief was on vacation and could not be reached for comment, according to her aide.

A favorite of House Democrats, Demings lost by 4 points to Rep. Daniel Webster in this GOP district. But the district could be different by 2014 if the courts force officials to redraw the congressional map following a pending lawsuit.

Brendan Mullen | Indiana’s 2nd District

Mullen is thinking about running again, according to two Democratic sources. He lost by less than 2 points to the Republican, Rep.-elect Jackie Walorski.

The good news for Mullen, an Iraq War veteran, is that the president won’t be on the ballot in 2014. (Obama lost Indiana by 10 points.) The bad news? Neither will Sen.-elect Joe Donnelly. The outgoing 2nd district congressman’s performance boosted his 7-point victory — and Mullen’s prospects — in this northern Indiana district.

Christie Vilsack | Iowa’s 4th District

Beloved by Iowa Democrats, the Hawkeye State’s former first lady has politics in her blood. Local operatives quipped they will be surprised if Vilsack doesn’t run again for something, but her former aide reports not having heard anything yet.

Vilsack could run in an open seat if her former opponent, Rep. Steve King, campaigns for Senate in 2014. (He’s indicated interest.) Republicans have encouraged Rep. Tom Latham to run for Senate, but publicly he’s expressed no interest. Still, a Latham departure from the Democratic Des Moines-based district would create a great open-seat opportunity for Vilsack.

Mark Critz | Pennsylvania’s 12th District

Critz has not ruled out running for this seat again, according to a source close to the congressman. He will fare better without Obama on the ticket: The president lost by more than 16 points in this southwestern Pennsylvania district. Rep.-elect Keith Rothfus defeated Critz by 3.5 points.

More good news for Critz: His former colleague and primary opponent, Rep. Jason Altmire, announced this week that he’s accepted a private sector gig — in Florida. That means Critz would likely have a clear shot at his party’s nod in 2014.

Jose M. Hernandez | California’s 10th District

Hernandez confirmed he’s looking into a rematch against Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., in either 2014 or 2016. In a phone interview, he told CQ Roll Call he’s concerned about lower Democratic turnout in midterm elections. “Is it more winnable in two years or four years?” he asked.

Hernandez, a former astronaut, lost by 5 points. House Democrats would love to see him try again next cycle. But first, Hernandez will chat with a few of his Golden State friends who won in November — including Bera, who defeated Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., on his second attempt. “I’ll be picking his brain as well,” Hernandez added.

Pete Aguilar | California’s 31st District

Aguilar didn’t even make it to the November ballot. He placed third in the state’s new jungle primary, where only the top two candidates proceed to the general election.

Democrats want Aguilar, the Redlands mayor, to try again in this Democratic-leaning district. They believe he can defeat Rep. Gary G. Miller, R-Calif., on the November ballot. But like Hernandez, Aguilar won’t have the benefit of a strong turnout for the president in the Golden State in 2014.

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