The 10 Most Vulnerable House Members
Freshmen Republicans who won otherwise Democratic-leaning seats in last year’s GOP wave outnumber Democrats 7 to 3 on Roll Call’s list of the 10 most vulnerable House members a year out from Election Day.
Last cycle, seven of the 10 most vulnerable incumbents did not return to Congress: three retired, two lost primaries and two lost general elections.
One other member, Rep. Scott DesJarlais, nearly made it eight, but he ended up winning his primary by a scant 38 votes — the smallest margin of victory of any race in 2014. DesJarlais faces another competitive primary this cycle, but it’s too soon to tell whether his challenger will be able to mount as strong a challenge.
To be sure, while Republicans outnumber Democrats on this list, Democrats are not predicted to win control of the House — a feat that would require them to pick up 30 seats.
One other member — GOP Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida — easily could have made the list, thanks to an impending redistricting case that could make his currently Safe Republican seat too unfavorable to his party to hold. But we decided to leave him off, at least until a court officially sets the new map in stone.
We’ll revisit the list six months out from Election Day, and again in the weeks leading up to Nov. 8, 2016.
With little data on polling, fundraising and changing district dynamics, it’s too soon to rank the members of this list in order of vulnerability; but we will rank them again once Election Day draws near.
Still, all 10 of the members on this list currently face daunting paths to win the right to return to Capitol Hill when the 115th Congress is sworn in come January 2017.
Here are the most vulnerable House incumbents, in alphabetical order:
Rep. Brad Ashford, D-Neb., 1st term
Ashford defeated gaffe-prone and unpopular Republican Rep. Lee Terry in 2014 — despite the GOP wave and the fact that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried this Omaha-based seat by a 7-point margin in 2012. It made him one of Democrats’ few bright spots on election night.
But in 2016, Ashford isn’t likely to face a GOP opponent as damaged as Terry was. He’ll have to prove that a GOP-leaning electorate voted for him for his policies and ideas — not just because he wasn’t Terry.
Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa., 1st term
Blum’s 2014 victory in this northeastern Iowa district was aided by GOP Sen. Joni Ernst’s commanding victory at the top of the ticket.
But he now faces voters in a presidential year in a district President Barack Obama won by a 14-point margin in 2012.
And simmering tension from his vote against former Speaker John A. Boehner earlier this year could leave Blum on his own financially to defend this seat.
(Rating: Tilts Democratic )
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., 1st term
Curbelo won the Miami-based 26th District by a 3-point margin in 2014 against a Democratic opponent facing a swirling ethics scandal.
But this cycle, Curbelo is likely to face a Democrat in Annette Taddeo, who does not come with the baggage former Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., had last cycle.
What’s more, Curbelo’s Miami-based 26th District in its current form voted for Obama by a 7-point margin in 2012. And with a redistricting case expected to shift district lines, the seat could become even more Democratic-leaning.
(Rating: Tilts Republican )
Rep. Robert J. Dold, R-Ill., 2nd term
Dold, first elected in 2010, has won the suburban Chicago-based 10th district twice — but only in midterm election wave years for his party.
In 2012, he was defeated by now-former Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider — who was aided by Obama’s 16-point margin of victory in the district. Last cycle, Dold defeated Schneider by a slim 2.5 percent.
In 2016, Dold will once again face presidential-year turnout, and what’s looking like a rematch with Schneider.
Sure, Schneider faces a primary. But he’s already raised serious money for the seat, and according to recent polling , he maintains an advantage over both his primary opponent and Dold.
(Rating: Tossup )
Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Fla., 1st term
Graham ousted a gaffe-prone Republican in former Rep. Steve Southerland II in 2014 — even in this GOP-leaning seat.
A natural politician , Graham was able to capitalize on dissatisfaction with Southerland, as well as her family’s political brand (she’s the daughter of former Florida Gov. Bob Graham) to win the seat by a 1-point margin.
But Graham’s district voted for Romney by a 6-point margin in 2012. And a pending redistricting case could make her seat so Republican that no Democrat — no matter how popular — could hold it.
(Rating: Democrat Favored )
Rep. Frank C. Guinta, R-N.H., 2nd term
Guinta faces a double-whammy of vulnerability — both in a primary and general election in a swingy district Obama won by a 2-point margin in 2012.
After winning a second, non-consecutive term in 2014, Guinta agreed to settle an alleged campaign finance violation with the Federal Election Commission, which accused Guinta of accepting an illegal $350,000 loan from his parents in his first congressional campaign in 2010.
Multiple Granite State Republicans have called on Guinta to resign in the wake of the incident, and he’s already drawn a primary opponent in businessman Dan Innis.
If Guinta survives that primary, he will likely face the Democrat he ousted in 2014: former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter. And Shea-Porter would have a bevy of ammunition to use against him in a rematch.
(Rating: Tossup )
Rep. Cresent Hardy, R-Nev., 1st term
Hardy defeated former Rep. Steven A. Horsford by less than a 3-point margin last cycle, when Democrats saw historically low turnout in the Silver State.
But Obama won Hardy’s Las Vegas-area district by an 11-point margin in 2012.
Four Democrats are running for the nomination to face Hardy. And it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Democratic primary contest is the more competitive race in this seat in 2016.
(Rating: Tilts Democratic )
Rep. Michael M. Honda, D-Calif., 8th term
Honda eked out a 3.5 percent margin of victory in 2014 against fellow Democrat Ro Khanna.
The Democrat-on-Democrat race was made possible by California’s top-two primary system, in which the two highest vote recipients, regardless of party, advance to the genral election.
Honda is again likely to face Khanna in November 2016. But this time, Honda faces an ethics investigation into an alleged pay-to-play scheme for donors. And he currently trails Khanna in fundraising to defend his record.
(Rating: Safe Democratic )
Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., 1st term
Katko won New York’s Syracuse-based 24th District with 59 percent of the vote in 2014 in a late-breaking race.
But heading into a presidential election year in his district — which has flipped back and forth between the two parties in the 2010 and 2014 GOP waves — the seat is prime for a flip again this cycle. Obama won here by a 16-point margin in 2012.
Three Democrats have launched their own campaigns for the seat, including Steve Williams, a New York lawyer; Colleen Deacon, a former Syracuse-based aide to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand who has earned her former boss’s support; and Syracuse University Professor Eric Kingson.
(Rating: Tossup )
Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, 1st term
Poliquin won this sprawling, blue-collar district by fewer than 6 points in 2014, and
faces a likely rematch with Democrat Emily Cain
While the freshman, who serves on the Financial Services Committee, has
dominated in fundraising
, his 2nd District has twice voted for Obama by comfortable margins.
Besides presidential-year turnout working in Cain’s favor, Democrats are optimistic that without a gubernatorial race or bear-baiting referendum on the ballot — both of which were credited with turning out conservative voters in 2014 — Cain’s chances look better. (Rating: Tossup )
Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016
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