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House Members Have Mixed Record on Higher Office

Thirteen House members and the delegate from Puerto Rico made bids for bigger things

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., had more than a 10-point lead over incumbent Mark Kirk in a race considered key to the Democrats' bid to gain control of the Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., had more than a 10-point lead over incumbent Mark Kirk in a race considered key to the Democrats' bid to gain control of the Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Thirteen House members — and one non-voting delegate from Puerto Rico — gave up their posts to run for statewide office this year, with varying success.

Three of those races, the Maryland, Indiana and Louisiana Senate campaigns, pitted colleagues in the House against each other. While the majority were vying for Senate seats, Democrats John Carney, of Delaware and Pedro Pierluisi, or Puerto Rico, made bids for governor. Here is a round-up of their positions as polls opened on Tuesday.

Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, a seven-term House member, is almost certain to win the race to replace retiring Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski in heavily Democratic Maryland. The seat is rated Safe Democrat by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call. Van Hollen has a clear advantage in the polls, with projecting he has a 99.8 percent chance of beating Republican Kathy Szeliga. Van Hollen is a lawyer and former congressional aide who served in the Maryland Statehouse from 1991 to 1995 and the state Senate from 1995 to 2003.

Donna Edwards, D-Maryland, lost a heated primary to Van Hollen in April. An African-American single mother with an activist background, she gave up her safe House seat for the rare opportunity to replace a 30-year incumbent. Edwards won 39 percent of the vote to 53 percent for Van Hollen.

Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, had more than a 10-point lead over incumbent Joe Heck in recent polls in a race considered key to the Democrats’ bid to gain control of the Senate. Duckworth is a veterans’ advocate and a rising Democratic star who lost both legs after a rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter she was co-piloting in Iraq in 2004.

Patrick Murphy, D-Florida, has waged one of the hardest-fought and most-expensive Senate campaigns of 2016, but forecasts predict he will lose against Republican incumbent Marco Rubio. The race is rated Leans Republican by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call. And a analysis of recent Florida polls gave Murphy a 10.1 percent chance of winning. Murphy ran a subsidiary of his father’s company called Coastal Environmental Services, one of the largest in the state.

Loretta Sanchez, D-California, was almost certain to lose her Senate bid to Democratic state Attorney General Kamala Harris, according to The Web site’s analysis of 32 recent California polls gave Sanchez a 2.6 percent chance of winning, compared to Harris’ 97.4 percent. The two Democrats are fighting to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, also a Democrat, thanks to the state’s “top two” primary system. The general ballot features the top vote-getters from the June 7 primary between candidates of all parties. Sanchez is a 20-year House incumbent whose Senate campaign stressed her Latina heritage.

Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Arizona, has faced an uphill battle to unseat veteran Sen. John McCain, and recent polls suggest a victory would be a long shot. The race is rated Republican Favored by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call. A analysis of 33 recent state polls predicted she had a 2.3 percent chance of winning. Kirkpatrick is a lawyer and former county prosecutor who was born on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.

Alan Grayson D-Florida, a progressive with a dramatic flair, lost his Aug. 30 primary battle against fellow House member Patrick Murphy. Grayson’s campaign was hobbled by an April report by the House Ethics Committee that concluded his activities as a hedge fund manager may violated federal law and the rules of the House and news stories that his ex-wife accused him of abuse. He won only 18 percent of the vote to Murphy’s 59 percent.

Marlin Stutzman, R-Indiana, lost to fellow House member Todd Young in the May 3 primary, in which he got just over a third of the vote. Stutzman is a farmer and commercial truck company owner. A member of the House Freedom Caucus, he was the more conservative of the two Republicans in the matchup.

Joe Heck, R-Nevada, has waged one of the most closely watched campaigns of 2016 in his bid to claim retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid‘s seat for the Republicans. Heck’s race against Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto was rated a tossup by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call. The analysis of 55 recent statewide polls gave him a 39.8 percent chance of winning, to Cortez Masto’s 60.2 percent. Heck is a former emergency room doctor with a record as a moderate in the House. He is serving his third term.

Todd Young, R-Indiana, will be another candidate to watch in the battle to determine who will control the Senate. Young and rival Evan Bayh — and outside groups supporting the two — spent more than $30 million  on the campaign to replace retiring Republican Dan Coats. Both sides got the support of political heavyweights like former President George W. Bush and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is likely to be majority leader if the Democrats win control of the Senate.   The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call recently changed its rating of the race from Tilts Democrat to Tossup. A analysis of 17 state polls gave Young a 68.8 percent chance of winning.

John Fleming, R-Louisiana, is one of two House Republican’s vying for retiring Republican David Vitter’s seat. The state is holding its primary between candidates of all parties on Tuesday, with a runoff scheduled for Dec. 10 if no one candidate wins a majority of the vote. A recent poll showed that Fleming, a doctor, had little chance of making it to the runoff. His 9 percent among likely voters put him in fifth place. The poll, by Southern Media & Opinion Research, found Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy leading the race with 22 percent among likely voters, followed by Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell with 16 percent. The seat is rated Safe Republican by The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.

Charles Boustany Jr., R-Louisiana, a heart surgeon serving his sixth House term, fell to third place from a statistical tie as a frontrunner in the Louisiana Senate race, according to Southern Media & Opinion Research. Boustany’s position, with 14 percent among likely voters, diminished the odds that he would appear in a December runoff. The same poll in September found Boustany running a close second to Kennedy, 15 percent to 17 percent.

Boustany at first made the case for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord. But with many Republican voters cheering the anti-free trade rhetoric of presidential candidate Donald Trump, Boustany changed course on the trade deal in August.

Running for governor

John Carney, D-Delaware, is considered a favorite in his state’s gubernatorial match against Republican Colin Bonini. The Washington Post’s Fix Blog and Real Clear Politics both rated the race Safe Democrat. Carney, who has a reputation as a fiscally minded moderate, served as the state’s lieutenant governor before he was elected to the House in 2010.

Pedro Pierluisi, D-Puerto Rico, in his second four-year term as a nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives, lost his June primary against an opponent of the House plan for fixing his country’s debt crisis. Pierluisi supported the PROMESA bill, drafted by Republicans, because he said not taking action would be worse for Puerto Rico. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, his opponent in the bitter and negative primary, promised to push for Congressional action declaring statehood for Puerto Rico.

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