02 November 2008

Political Post II

Every seat in the House is up for election, all 435 of them. Maybe 67 or so are actually in question. The GOP will hold 125 of their seats for sure, and the Dems will hold 200 of theirs. Another 26 GOP seats and 17 Dem seats should be safe (151-217, if you're keeping track; 218 is a majority). I won't list all 67 races that are of interest here. Instead I'll point to about a dozen interesting ones and a handful of potential bellwethers.
The one current Democrat incumbent who seems certain to be unseated is Tim Mahoney of Florida, who you may recall won in 2006 because Mark Foley liked to flirt with little boys. Mahoney's district leans Republican anyway, and then last month it came out that he had been having an affair with a secretary or something. We can assume he's toast; even a very strong Democratic wave shouldn't be enough to re-elect him. His opponent is Tom Rooney (yes, that's the name of the principal in Ferris Bueller's Day Off).
Don Young, Alaska's only House member and a 17-term incumbent (that means he's been in the House longer than Smitty has been alive), looks likely to be forced into retirement at last. Young has long been critical of the existence of ethics regulations and is known as a scrapper (if you like him) or an arrogant jerk who can't work well with even his own party (if you don't like him). Young is involved in a mysterious scandal in Alaska with an oilfield services company and it seems like the folks up there are finally tired of dealing with him. His opponent is former state representative Ethan Berkowitz.
New York 13, which is basically Staten Island, is another interesting case. Long a Republican sure-thing, incumbent Vito Fossella was caught out in an affair and then got a DUI conviction all within a few weeks. He wisely offered to step aside, but the local GOP couldn't settle on a candidate, and when they finally did, he died. Meanwhile New York City Councilman Mike McMahon has been the Dem candidate since last year. The current GOP candidate, Bob Stranriere, isn't a Staten Islander, having just moved in earlier this year to contest the seat. The county GOP committee tried to throw him off the ballot last month, and Staten Islanders care more about being represented by a Staten Islander than about the party label. McMahon should have an easy victory but it's certainly been an interesting race.
Pennsylvania 12 incumbent John Murtha, a Democrat and former Marine, should have been a sure thing, until last week when he went on record as saying that, "No question, western Pennsylvania is a racist area." Whether he's right or not will have no impact on the race, but no one who calls his own constituents racists is likely to do well in voting. His opponent, Bill Russell, has plenty of cash on hand and has been replaying Murtha's statement in television and radio ads. Murtha may still hang on—he's been there for years and is generally well thought of—but he's been at the center of a number of controversies over his career and this direct insult to the people who are supposed to vote for him may be the last straw. I haven't seen any polling but the CW has Russell turning the race around. This is one to watch, though it may not imply a good night for the GOP if Russell manages to oust Murtha.
In a similar vein, Minnesota 6 incumbent Republican Michelle Bachmann, in her first term, has become sort of a GOP version of Cynthia McKinney. In addition to calling several of her colleagues un-American, she has asserted publicly that Barack Obama holds "anti-American views" and has thrown out the notion that supporters of Obama may indeed be anti-American themselves; she even suggested opening a Congressional inquest in the anti-American views of other members of Congress… which makes her, to use a tired phrase, Joe McCarthy with lipstick. Minnesota is strongly in the Obama camp, and even in Bachman's GOP-leaning district those are not the sort of comments that endear you to your voters. Democratic challenger Elwyn Tinklenberg has pulled into the lead in some polls on the race and may very well be able to get past both the GOP lean of the district and his funny name to send Bachmann back home to face her not-so-anti-American constituents. Any sizable wave may carry Tinklenberg along, and as with Cynthia McKinney this is one incumbent members of both parties can look forward to being rid of.
New Jersey 5 is probably not that competitive, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has continued spending money here so it could be one to watch (if Sen. Frank Lautenberg were more popular he might be able to drag this district along, but it won't happen). The Democratic candidate here is Dennis Shulman, a psychologist, a rabbi, and blind; he'd be the first rabbi in Congress and only the second blind Congressman ever (the first served in the 1920s). It would be neat-o for that reason if he won, but the odds don't favor it; still, if Shulman manages a victory, it's probably going to be a big night for the Democrats.
In New Mexico 1, the Democratic candidate is Martin Heinrich, currently an Albuquerque city councilman. He should win by five to ten points. The interesting thing to note is that Heinrich was voted the Hottest Man in U.S. Politics in 2006. Note that another former Hottest Politician is going to be at the top of the ballot this year on a GOP line; keep an eye on Heinrich. Pretty people sometimes get plucked from obscurity (and they aren't all idiots.
Pennsylvania 3 is currently held by the GOP, but recent polling has shown the incumbent rather far behind his challenger, Kathy Dahlkemper. What's interesting about this race? Dahlkemper is the director of the Lake Erie Arboretum. She'd be the first arborist to serve in Congress. As a tree guy myself I appreciate that. Incidentally, if you ever find yourself in the Erie area, the Arboretum is worth a visit. The first tree at the arboretum was planted in 1998 (with more planted every year thereafter), so if you go now, you'll see a lot of little trees. And then if you go again thirty years from now… well, that'd be pretty neat.
Also watch for Indiana 3 and Illinois 18. These are the only two House candidates this year younger than Smitty. The Republican candidate in Illinois 18, Aaron Schock, is 27. It's an open seat but should be an easy GOP win. The Democratic candidate in Indiana 3 is Mike Montagano, who is 26. This race is said to be a tie, but it will take a good Democratic wave for a 26-year-old attorney to oust an incumbent.
Another big one would be South Carolina 1. What? Am I serious? South Carolina? Yep. Because we always assume SC will go Republican the state doesn't get polled much, and there's been talk that Obama could surprise—although the surprise would be in the form of losing by less than expected. But if there a huge surge in black turnout, he might be able to drag SC-1 into the democratic column even while losing. The incumbent, Henry Brown, is not unpopular, but the district is more competitive than most in this state. The really intriguing bit is that his opponent, Linda Ketner, is openly gay. That she might win a seat in Congress from South Carolina indicates that we may have the state pegged wrong. Let's hope.


rick i said...

The name of the assistant principal in Ferris Bueller is Ed Rooney not Tom. Otherwise good to go.. How are things on the home front?

Smitty said...

Oh, damn, you're right! Ed Rooney.

Things on the home front are okay. Some possibility that I may have found a job, at least temporarily.