Next year's incumbent versus incumbent election battles are starting to take shape as proposed redistricting maps in three states moved forward late this week, potentially forcing four different sets of Congress members against one another in 2012.
Those members are already fighting back.
Missouri Democratic Reps. Russ Carnahan and Lacy Clay released a joint statement, slamming as "overly partisan" a proposed map that would force their two districts together in 2012.
Even though Iowa is losing just a single congressional district, a map proposed Thursday could possibly put two sets of incumbents into conflicts next year. Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack has indicated that he could relocate and run in another district, rather than face a primary with fellow Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley. Republican Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham could be forced into competition.
All four potential match-ups set up what could emerge as messy intra-party primary contests, with two sets of Republicans and two sets of Democrats drawn together.
Here's a rundown of four of the contests that could happen in 2012:
Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) vs. Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.): Of the four potential match-ups on this list, a Carnahan-Clay showdown appears the closest to reality. Observers expect the proposed map to be voted on by state lawmakers next week, when it could be approved. The map would eliminate Carnahan's 3rd District and shift his home territory into Clay's 1st, sparking anger from the two Democrats.
"We are extremely disappointed that the Missouri House Special Committee on Congressional Redistricting has produced a map that emphasizes partisanship over fairness," the Democrats said in a joint statement. "The current proposal is unfair and it ignores the best interests of the people of Missouri and the entire St. Louis region."
The two were seen huddled on the House floor late Thursday, but weren't eager to talk about the proposal or the next steps in the redistricting process. Asked to comment on the map, Clay responded, "Hell no!"
There's plenty for both Democrats to be angry about. The new district would take in the entirety of St. Louis, including some GOP territory that's currently in Carnahan's district. Among the options for Carnahan, say Democrats, is a run in Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) district, which would include some of Carnahan's current territory, but it would be an uphill battle. The Democrat has also been rumored to be eyeing a run for lieutenant governor in 2012.
Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) vs. Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.): Landry has been fighting what appears to be an uphill battle against the senior members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation in recent weeks, most of whom want to see him lumped into a district with Boustany. That arrangement would favor the four-term incumbent.
State lawmakers are in a special session to hammer out new district lines on both the state and congressional levels, with one insider describing the last 72 hours as "complete chaos."
This past week, a state House committee moved forward with three different maps, all of which would put Landry and Boustany together ahead of 2012, but infighting is rampant among lawmakers with regional objections to the various plans. The state Senate, meanwhile, is battling over its own maps with no consensus yet from either end of the state capitol.
Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) vs. Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa): The proposed redraw throws Braley and Loebsack into the same congressional district and would make Loebsack's current 2nd District an open seat contest. That empty spot could pave the way for a run by Christie Vilsack, the state's former first lady who has hinted at a campaign for Congress next year.
But Loebsack responded quickly to the new map, telling the Quad City Times that even if it’s approved, he'll opt for a run in the new 2nd District rather than take on Braley. It remains unclear whether the map will be drawn into existence, but Loebsack's plans would likely impact Vilsack’s. An open seat race in a newly drawn 2nd District would offer Vilsack a much better shot in 2012.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) vs. Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa): Should this race emerge as reality, Iowa Republicans agree it would be one hard fought contest, but it's not yet clear whether the proposed map can make it through the state legislature.
King was cautious in discussing the possibilities after the map emerged toward the end of the week, insisting that he's not coming up with any 2012 contingencies unless it becomes clear that state lawmakers are lining up behind the plan. King described Latham as a friend, adding, "If I comment on what I might do, I'm commenting on a hypothetical that can only cause trouble."
King's take on the early process comes from experience. A decade ago, he chaired the legislative committee that dealt with the redistricting bill, and state lawmakers rejected the initial map that was put forward. While it's possible that could happen again, state legislators will be weighing their own fate, as well. The fear is that a second map could be even worse for those on the state level.
If lawmakers reject the initial proposal, the state's redistricting commission has a little over a month to come up with an alternate plan. Republican Gov. Terry Branstad also wields veto power over any final map.