Dems target House committee chairmen

A handful of House Republican chairmen are facing tough reelection battles in 2012, with a few of them seeking to fend off formidable primary challengers.

House Republicans last cycle defeated three Democratic committee chairmen: Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (Mo.), Budget Chairman John Spratt (S.C.) and Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Jim Oberstar (Minn.) At least several other veteran Democrats, including former Appropriations Chairman David Obey (Wis.) and former Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (Tenn.) opted against running for reelection.

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House Democrats want to return the favor this cycle.

House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) is high on their list of targets, while Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) has yet to receive a serious challenger in a more-Democratic-friendly redrawn district. Democrats have indicated that Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is a target, but he is not considered vulnerable at this point in the cycle. Ryan crafted a controversial Medicare reform plan last year that played a large role in Democrats winning a 2011 special election in a conservative-leaning district in New York.

Meanwhile, House Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) is anticipated to soon announce his retirement after his district was carved up into pieces more favorable to Democrats.

Chairmen are also facing challenges from within their own party. Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (Ala.), Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (Fla.) and Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (Mich.) all have intra-party challenges.

The following is a rundown of the House GOP chairmen who face challenging reelection races this year.


Primary Battles

Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.)

• Cash on Hand — $1,080,999

• Main opponent — Alabama GOP state Sen. Scott Beason

• With a pending probe into whether Bachus broke insider-trading laws, the 10-term Alabama lawmaker has plenty of critics. His main primary opponent, Alabama state Sen. Scott Beason, announced his candidacy in early January for the primary that will take place March 13. Though Beason hasn’t had time to raise a war chest to compete with Bachus’s million-dollar cash on hand advantage, a Texas-based super-PAC has targeted Bachus. The Campaign for Primary Accountability explained that it is focused on Bachus’s race, partly because of the ethics investigation. Outspoken conservative activist Andrew Breitbart has called for Bachus’s resignation. 

Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) 

• Cash on hand — $1,709,245

• Opponent — Jack Hoogendyk

• The Energy and Commerce chairman, criticized by some conservative interest groups as being too centrist, will face a rematch with former Michigan state legislator Jack Hoogendyk. Hoogendyk garnered 43 percent of the vote in the 2010 primary but told the Kalamazoo Gazette that he “expects to receive national funding” this go-around. Hoogendyk has met with conservative leaders of the Club for Growth, which has run TV ads against Upton in recent weeks for his “liberal voting record.” 

Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.)

• Cash on hand — $860,147

• Opponent — Rep. Sandy Adams (R-Fla.): $312,626 cash on hand

• Mica stirred up the political pot several weeks ago when he opted to run in his home-based district instead of a neighboring district, which was carved up during redistricting. Mica is expected to take on freshman Rep. Sandy Adams (R). Mica, who is desperately trying to pass his transportation bill, has strongly denied speculation that he will not seek reelection.

House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.)

• Cash On Hand — $729,577

• Opponent — unclear

• Dreier has not announced his intention to run, opting to wait for a court challenge to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission map. But the veteran Golden State lawmaker has not actively raised money in recent months, as would be expected if he intended to launch a reelection effort in one of the six possible districts that he currently represents.


General Election Battles

House Administration Committee Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.)

• Cash on hand — $521,206

• Opponent — Democrat Ami Bera: $918,874 cash on hand

• Political handicapper Charlie Cook rates Lungren’s reelection bid in the “GOP Toss Up” column as he did in the 2010 election cycle. Lungren faces a rematch with well-funded Ami Bera. The optician already has nearly $1 million cash on hand. If Democrats are going to win back the House, they are going to have to defeat Lungren.

House Education and Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.)

• Cash on hand — $873,000 on hand

• Political Prognostication — Charlie Cook lists this race as “Likely Republican.”

• At this point, Kline appears to have little competition. But with the recent Minnesota redistricting lines, Democrats are interested in making this race a serious contest, according to local reports.