Five member-vs.-member races to watch

Several House members were forced to run against fellow lawmakers this year and, while most primaries have been decided, five more member-vs.-member races have yet to be determined.

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In the primary season, eight lawmakers lost their bids against fellow members and 10 more are fighting for their political lives come Election Day.

These contests, in Ohio, Iowa, Louisiana and California, are a mix of Democrat-vs.-Republican, Republican-vs.-Republican and Democrat-vs.-Democrat.

Here’s how each race breaks down:

Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) vs. Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio):

Sutton’s district was eliminated in a Republican gerrymander and she decided to challenge Renacci, a freshman, in a GOP-leaning district President Obama would have won with 47 percent of the vote four years ago.

Observers at first expected Renacci to have a slight edge in the race because he’s represented more of the district, but both Democrats and Republicans now describe the race as a toss-up and are treating it accordingly: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved $2.2 million in airtime in the Cleveland media market, while the National Republican Congressional Committee has reserved $1.5 million there.

Renacci lost a fight this past week to force the DCCC to take down an ad that said he’d voted “against critical funding for life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings” after the Ohio Election Commission rejected his claim that the ad was false. He also faced some bad press over questionable political donations he’d at first refused to return, but both he and Sutton have proven to be strong candidates.

The wealthy businessman will have the spending edge against Sutton: He’s able to self-fund, and as of the end of the last fundraising quarter had $1.5 million in the bank to her $900,000. But the two will have to fight hard to get voters to hear them as the presidential election is being hard-fought in Ohio and an expensive Senate race has also eaten into available airtime. The race will be close, and will be greatly affected by how well President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney do in the district.

Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) vs. Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa):

Iowa lost a congressional seat due to slow population growth, forcing a tough race between the two political survivors.

Boswell has a history of poor fundraising but strong campaigning and has eked out victories time and again: He’s won all eight of his elections to Congress, but in seven of them was held to 57 percent of the vote or less.

Latham has long represented a more conservative district, but is a strong campaigner and has raised a ton of money for the race, helped in part by his close friendship with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

The district stretches from Democratic-leaning Des Moines into more Republican farm areas in the southwest of the state, and covers about equal portions of each of their old districts. President Obama would have won 52 percent there in 2008. As in Ohio, how the presidential candidates fare here could determine which congressman still has a seat after this election.

Latham has a huge cash advantage, with $2.1 million in the bank to Boswell’s half-million dollars as of the end of the last fundraising quarter. The NRCC has reserved $500,000 in Des Moines for the race, while the DCCC has reserved $375,000 in Omaha, whose TV market covers the western portion of the district, and another $1.1 million in Des Moines, although part or all of that money may be used to target Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

Republicans have already attacked Boswell for his support of the stimulus package and Democrats’ healthcare overhaul, while Democrats have sought to tie Latham to House Republican leadership. One sleeper issue: While Latham has been fighting hard to get the House to vote on a farm-bill extension, Democrats plan to tie him to Boehner, who has blocked a vote on the bill. This could have big ramifications in the agriculture-heavy district.

Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) vs. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.):

The two longtime lawmakers were thrown into the same district by the state’s new bipartisan redistricting commission, and while Berman has lined up the support of nearly every major Democratic figure in the state (and a few Republicans), Sherman holds the clear edge in this race.

Sherman has represented more than half the district, while Berman has only represented about a quarter of its territory, and in the first round of voting, which took place in June due to California’s new all-party primary, Sherman led Berman by 10 points.

Sherman also has a 6-to-1 cash advantage, a major asset in the expensive Los Angeles district.

An independent poll released Thursday shows Sherman leading Berman by 45 to 32 percent.

Berman has the endorsements of California Gov. Jerry Brown, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D), a number of Hollywood heavy-hitters including Steven Spielberg, and most of the state’s congressional delegation. Earlier this month, he sought to broaden his appeal to independents and Republicans by touting endorsements from Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). But unless he can make major progress in cutting into Sherman’s geographic base, it’s hard to see how the House Foreign Affairs Committee's ranking member can pull off a win.

Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) vs. Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.):

Richardson’s ongoing ethics issues are likely to sink her reelection efforts. In July the House Ethics Committee issued a blistering report finding her guilty of improperly pressuring her official staff to campaign for her, destroying evidence and tampering with witness testimony. That was only the latest in a string of scandals for her dating back to questions while she was in the California State Assembly about her personal finances and three separate defaults on home mortgages.

The ethics questions have already hurt Richardson: She trailed Hahn, who has deep ties to the city’s Democratic establishment, by 20 percentage points in the first round of voting. Both candidates were nearly out of money after the first round of voting and, while the Congressional Black Caucus has helped Richardson with fundraising, it’s unlikely either candidate will have a major money advantage.

There’s a chance that heavy minority turnout driven by Obama’s reelection could help the African-American congresswoman, though there are many more Latino than African-American voters in the new district. But Hahn is the heavy favorite heading into the fall.

Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.) vs. Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.):

Louisiana lost a congressional district because of slow population growth, and Boustany’s allies in the statehouse made sure that he would be well-protected against a Landry challenge when they drew the new congressional map, splitting the freshman Tea Party favorite’s base into multiple districts and keeping together nearly all of Boustany’s political base.

Boustany, another close ally of Boehner, has a big cash advantage, with $1.9 million in the bank to Landry’s $900,000 as of the end of July.

But Landry shocked many in the state with his upset primary win two years ago, and once again has the support of many Tea Party groups in the region.

The race has already turned nasty: Boustany is running an ad claiming Landry’s companies didn’t pay their property taxes on time, a charge the local tax offices disputed. Landry’s campaign has called for him to pull down the ad. Boustany has the edge in the race, but don’t count Landry out.