Five House races to watch in 2014

Another election year is at hand, bringing a pitched battle for control of Congress.

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While Republicans are widely expected to keep control of the House in 2014, Democrats think they can pick up some of the seats they lost in the 2010 wave elections.

Here are five House races to watch in 2014.
 
Florida’s 13th District: Open seat
 
Longtime Rep. Bill Young’s (R-Fla.) death in October has set up a hard-fought special election in the Tampa Bay-based swing district.
 
The mid-March election will be the first test of how much of a drag the rollout of ObamaCare is on Democratic candidates, as President Obama narrowly won the district twice. It also will come on the heels of another battle over the debt ceiling.
 
But Republicans are divided on whom their candidate should be.

Former Young staffer and lobbyist David Jolly (R) is locked in an increasingly nasty primary battle with state Sen. Kathleen Peters (R) that’s split Young’s family — his widow is backing Jolly, while his son is backing Peters. Some national Republicans privately hope Peters can win the primary and give them a female candidate without the baggage of being a lobbyist.
 
Democrats, meanwhile, have rallied around former Florida chief financial officer and gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink (D) after convincing another candidate to drop out of the race.
 
Special elections are always closely watched for hints of how the upcoming cycle will play out, and serve as a testing ground for both national party committees to refine their messaging.
 
California’s 52nd District: Incumbent Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.).
 
Peters is facing a tough reelection battle after narrowly winning a San Diego-based swing district in 2012. His most likely opponent is former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio (R), one of the GOP’s two openly gay candidates in 2014.
 
DeMaio, who nearly won a mayoral race in 2012, has a libertarian streak: While he hews closely to GOP orthodoxy on fiscal matters, he supports gay rights and legalized abortion.
 
The race is likely to be one of the most expensive in the country. Peters, former Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) and outside groups spent almost $15 million combined in 2012.
 
DeMaio has accused Peters of being a do-nothing congressman. Democrats, in turn, are promising to hit DeMaio for the pension reforms he pushed while on the city council, and reprise attacks from the 2012 race that he voted to end death benefits for the families of policemen and firemen who died in the line of duty.
 
Virginia’s 10th District: Open seat
 
Longtime Rep. Frank Wolf’s (R-Va.) decision to retire has created an opening for House Democrats in a Northern Virginia district Mitt Romney carried by just one percentage point in 2012.
 
The race will test whether Virginia Republicans can get back on track after a rough stretch of losses. The party GOP lost the presidential battle and a Senate race in 2012, and then lost a gubernatorial race and all down-ticket statewide battles in 2013 after a state party convention nominated a slate of hard-right candidates.
 
Local Republican officials will soon meet to decide whether to nominate their candidate by party convention or an open primary — and national Republicans are pushing hard for an open primary, hoping it will produce the most viable nominee.
 
Potential GOP candidates include Virginia Delegate Barbara Comstock (R), Virginia Delegate Tim Hugo (R), and Virginia state Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R).
 
On the Democratic side, Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust (D) has already announced a bid for the seat, though it's likely others will jump in as well.
 
West Virginia’s 3rd District: Incumbent Rep. Nick Rahall (D)
 
Rahall is facing his toughest race in decades against Democrat-turned-Republican state Sen. Evan Jenkins.
 
The longtime congressman is one of the few Appalachian Democrats who have managed to remain in office despite what’s known in the region as President Obama’s “war on coal.”
 
Republicans are already airing ads attacking hitting Rahall for his support of ObamaCare, but say energy issues will dominate. “Eighty percent of the race is going to be coal — the rest is ObamaCare,” said one national strategist.
 
If he survives, Rahall will likely represent the most Republican district of any Democrat in 2014 — Mitt Romney won 65 percent of the vote there in 2012
 
Idaho’s 2nd District: Incumbent Rep. Mike Simpson (R)
 
Simpson, a close friend and ally of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), faces a well-funded Tea Party challenger in Attorney Bryan Smith (R).
 
The race is setting up as a proxy war between powerful groups in Washington.
 
The Club for Growth endorsed Smith early and is already airing ads on his behalf, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has come out firing for Simpson, making him an early benefactor of the business lobby’s desire to push back against right-wing groups following last fall’s government shutdown.
 
Simpson has defeated lightly funded primary challenges in years past, but could face a tough battle this time around. The Club has been slamming him as a “pro-bailout, pro-Obama stimulus spending” centrist, while Simpson’s campaign plans to make a campaign issue out of Smith’s work as a personal injury lawyer and debt collector.