House races

The Hill’s 50 races to watch

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Arizona Senate

Richard Carmona (D) vs. Jeff Flake (R)

What was once considered a sure win for Republicans is now a solid toss-up as Democrat Richard Carmona posts a strong challenge to Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

{mosads}Although Flake’s main attack has focused on tying Carmona to President Obama, who has lagged behind Mitt Romney in the state, Carmona has outperformed the president, keeping Flake’s lead to single digits and, in the most recent survey, jumping slightly ahead. 

That’s led Flake and Republicans to shift gears, recently launching attacks focused on Carmona’s investments in tobacco companies and his time as CEO of Pima County’s healthcare system — a position from which he resigned after the system continued to incur millions of dollars of debt under his watch. Flake also released a hard-hitting ad last week featuring Carmona’s former boss talking about Carmona’s temperament toward women.

Carmona, a former U.S. surgeon general under George W. Bush and a Vietnam War vet, has targeted Flake’s record on women’s and veterans’s issues, and frequently charges that Flake’s policies will do away with Medicare. 

Both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have jumped into the fray, investing more than $1.5 million and $550,000, respectively, into the race.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Connecticut Senate

Chris Murphy (D) vs Linda McMahon (R)

Linda McMahon, the former professional wrestling mogul, is back for her second try at a Senate seat in Connecticut after losing to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D) in 2010. 

{mosads}She has tried to soften her image this time around, and after trouncing former Rep. Chris Shays (R) in the GOP primary, she is running much closer to the Democratic nominee, Rep. Chris Murphy. The two are competing to replace retiring Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I), who has not made an endorsement in the race. 

McMahon has used her personal fortune to outspend Murphy vastly, and the Democrat has also had to answer reports that he was sued for missed payments on two separate properties that he owned. 

A Quinnipiac University poll in early October gave McMahon a 1-point lead, while Democrats are hoping that a strong finish for President Obama and late help from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee can put Murphy over the top in a seat the party thought it would hold easily. 

The Hill rates this race as leaning Democratic.


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Hawaii Senate

Mazie Hirono (D) vs Linda Lingle (R)

Democrats hope Rep. Mazie Hirono (D) can fill the seat being vacated by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D), who’s retiring after 22 years in the upper chamber — but former GOP Gov. Linda Lingle has different ideas.

{mosads}Lingle is a rare thing in true-blue Hawaii: a popular Republican who’s also rallied the backing of some heavy-hitting interest groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She also has a solid track record against Hirono, having defeated the Democrat 52 to 47 percent in Hawaii’s 2002 governor’s race to become the first woman to fill that seat in the state’s history — and the first Republican since 1962. 

Still, Lingle has a steep climb, as state polls have shown Hirono consistently ahead, and the Democrats think they have a trump card at the top of the ticket in President Obama, a native son of Hawaii whose 45-point win there in the 2008 race represented his largest margin of victory nationwide.

The Hill rates this race as leaning Democratic.


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Indiana Senate

Joe Donnelly (D) vs. Richard Mourdock (R)

A tough Democratic challenger and flawed Tea Party Republican nominee are making Indiana’s Senate race surprisingly close.

Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) is running a strong campaign in the Republican-leaning state — and he’s been helped by some early missteps by Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R), who shortly after his primary win over Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) proclaimed on TV that “bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.”

{mosads}Donnelly has jumped on those and other comments in ads attacking the Tea Party favorite as a “my way or the highway” candidate, and has framed himself as a centrist dealmaker, touting votes he took against his party in the House and blasting Mourdock for his lawsuit against the auto bailout.

Mourdock has sought to tie Donnelly to President Obama and ripped him for supporting Democrats’ healthcare reform law, but he’s been mostly on the defensive, and his campaign has recently limited access to the once-chatty candidate — a sign it’s seeking to limit exposure to avoid any more gaffes.

Polls show a tight race, and both sides have seen a recent ramp-up in spending from outside groups as well as both party committees.

The Hill rates the race as a toss-up.


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Maine Senate

Angus King (I) vs Cynthia Dill (D) vs Charles Summers (R)

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) stunned Washington in February when she announced her retirement.

But her decision was seen as good news for the Democrats, who believed they had a strong chance of picking up the seat in the blue-leaning state.

{mosads}Throwing a wrench into Democratic plans, however, was former Gov. Angus King, who decided to run for the seat as an independent. While King is predicted to caucus with the Democrats if he wins (and he’s currently favored for victory), he’s said he would consider going with Republicans if they win control of the upper chamber.

The dynamics of the race have kept the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) quiet about the party’s own nominee, Cynthia Dill, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has hammered the party on its silence.

But when polls showed King dropping 

5 to 10 points in late September, the DSCC dropped $410,000 into the race to run attack ads against Republican Charles Summers. Meanwhile, Republicans have dropped almost $2 million into the contest to boost their nominee.

The Hill rates this race as leaning Democrat on the premise King will caucus with that party if elected. 


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Massachusetts Senate

Elizabeth Warren (D) vs Scott Brown (R)

This seat, once held by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D), has been a priority for both parties since Sen. Scott Brown (R) won it in a 2010 special election.

It was a rare Republican victory in the deep-blue Massachusetts, and Democrats want it back, pining their hopes on consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren. 

{mosads}Early polls showed the race as neck and neck, but Warren has had a slight lead in most recent surveys on the race.

But Brown retains a likeability advantage, and in a race as close as this, the deciding factor could be personality rather than policy. With this in mind, Brown’s attempted to raise questions about Warren’s integrity, highlighting the confusion surrounding her claims of Native American heritage and charging her with hypocrisy for practicing law for large corporate clients while she fashions herself as a fighter for the middle class against big business. 

Brown’s greatest weakness could be his party, and Warren has made every effort to tie his reelection to Republican control of the Senate and far-right policies, a narrative that, if it sticks, could be toxic to Brown’s chances.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Missouri Senate

Claire McCaskill vs Todd Akin

What once looked like a likely win for Republicans now leans Democratic, following the implosion of Republican Rep. Todd Akin’s candidacy. 

{mosads}Controversial comments he made about rape and pregnancy in August caused the national GOP and outside groups to abandon their candidate financially, with Mitt Romney eventually calling for his withdrawal from the race. But Akin persisted, picking up the endorsements of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and other prominent Republicans after the deadline passed for him to exit the race. They’re now helping him fundraise, and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint’s PAC, the Senate Conservatives Fund, invested nearly $300,000 in the race — cash he’ll need to combat the $5.8 million Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) raised in the third quarter alone. 

Despite her cash and organizational advantage, Republicans hope that McCaskill’s party affiliation will be reason enough for Republicans to hold their noses and vote Akin come November.

The Hill rates this race as leaning Democratic.


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Nebraska Senate

Bob Kerrey (D) vs Deb Fischer (R)

Bob Kerrey served three terms in the Senate from Nebraska, but he is a significant underdog in his bid to return to Washington after a 12-year absence.

{mosads}Kerrey has lived in New York for much of that time as president of The New School, and Republicans have used his Big Apple hiatus against him from the moment he began eyeing the race. The Republican is Deb Fischer, a state legislator who won an upset victory in a three-way GOP primary over heavily-favored state Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg. 

Fischer and Kerrey are running to replace the retiring centrist Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in a state that has moved further to the right since Kerrey last lived there. The most recent poll for the Omaha World-Herald gave Fischer a 16-point lead, and the race is considered the GOP’s most sure-fire opportunity to gain a seat in the Senate.

The Hill rates this race as likely Republican.


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Nevada Senate

Shelley Berkley (D) vs Dean Heller (R)

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) is in a tough fight to win a full term to the Senate — but his biggest threats are the state’s shifting demographics and Democrats’ ground game advantage.

{mosads}Heller will likely run a few points ahead of Mitt Romney on the ballot, but how far he can pull ahead — and how close the presidential race remains in a swing state with a fast-growing Hispanic population — will likely decide the Senate race.

Heller, who was appointed to fill the seat after Sen. John Ensign (R) resigned in scandal, has led Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) in nearly every poll, but never by more than a few points. Nevada Republicans believe Heller has a slight edge, while the state’s Democrats consider the race a toss-up.

He’s shown he’s worried Romney might drag him down, becoming the first purple-state senator to denounce the GOP nominee’s now-infamous “47 percent” remark and recently running ads touting his independence. 

Democrats privately admit Berkley, with her baggage from an ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation, is not their ideal candidate. But they believe President Obama’s coattails, and their superior ground game in the state, organized by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), could be enough for her to win. 

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Montana Senate

Jon Tester (D) vs Denny Rehberg (R)

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) won his seat by less than a 1 percent margin in 2006, and his campaign is heading toward another photo finish this year.  He and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) have sought to paint each other as corrupt Beltway politicians in the Republican-leaning but populist anti-Washington state.

{mosads}Rehberg has slammed Tester for being a leading recipient of lobbyist donations and tied him to President Obama. But Tester has been able to keep some distance from Obama by running positive ads highlighting his roots in the state, and has sought to turn the tables on Rehberg’s “Washington insider” attacks with ads featuring a recording of Rehberg telling lobbyists their industry is an “honorable profession.” But Rehberg’s vote against GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s budget plan has helped insulate him against attacks on entitlements. Outside groups have also been running ads for months, driving both candidates’ unfavorable ratings up.

Nearly every poll of the race has had the two in a head heat, though Rehberg has led more often than Tester. The senator is the most endangered Democratic incumbent this cycle — but it’s likely this race will come down to the wire. 

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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North Dakota Senate

Heidi Heitkamp (D) vs Rick Berg (R)

Democrats hope to retain this seat with candidate Heidi Heitkamp, who has posted a strong showing against Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.) despite President Obama’s double-digit deficit in the state. 

The former state attorney general has remained within striking distance of Berg in every poll, and posted a slight lead on the Republican in the last survey. 

{mosads}Heitkamp has worked to tie Berg to congressional inaction on the farm bill, despite Berg’s outspoken opposition to House leadership’s stall, while Berg has framed Heitkamp as a staunch supporter of Obama and his policies. 

But small, personal issues could sway the race: Berg’s connection to a family of real estate companies, one of which mismanaged properties, has come under scrutiny, and Heitkamp has been targeted by Republicans for taking funds from what they say is an anti-fracking law firm, despite her avowed support for the drilling technique.

National Democratic and Republican groups have each poured more than $1 million into the race.

The Hill rates this race a toss-up.


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New Mexico Senate

Martin Heinrich (D) vs Heather Wilson (R)

With five-term Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) calling it quits after this year, Republicans have smacked their lips at the chance to steal the traditionally safe Democratic seat.

{mosads}Their candidate, former Rep. Heather Wilson, is certainly no stranger to the sport. A 10-year House veteran, Wilson retired to run for Senate in 2008, but lost the GOP primary to Rep. Steve Pearce, who was walloped in the general election by former Rep. Tom Udall (D).

Democrats are hoping history repeats itself for Rep. Martin Heinrich, a two-term lawmaker who’s won endorsements on the left for his strong environmentalist streak and support on the right for his opposition to new gun controls. 

Wilson has hoped criticism of President Obama’s economic record would give her a boost, but New Mexico’s unemployment rate of 6.5 percent is well below the national average, mitigating the effects on Heinrich, who is well ahead in the polls.

The Hill rates this race as leaning Democratic.


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Wisconsin Senate

Tammy Baldwin (D) vs Tommy Thompson (R)

When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) pulled out a close primary win in mid-August, it seemed he would have the upper hand against Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) for the open seat in the slightly Democratic-leaning state. But heading into the closing weeks of the campaign, Baldwin has the edge.

{mosads}Thompson, who’d spent 14 years as governor, was well-known and fairly well-liked statewide at the beginning of the campaign, and Republicans believed Baldwin’s very liberal record would allow them to paint her as “too extreme for Wisconsin,” as recent Thompson ads have described her.

But the former governor finished his primary campaign bloodied, broke and “exhausted,” as he admitted to the National Review in late September. Baldwin and Democratic outside groups pounced, airing a barrage of ads attacking him for his work in recent years for Washington, D.C., lobbying firms, and GOP outside groups were inexplicably slow to respond to the attacks.

Polls quickly flipped, and Baldwin has had the narrow edge heading into the final weeks of the election. Thompson is still within striking distance, but he needs to shake off the rust and show some fight if he’s to win this race.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Virginia Senate

Tim Kaine (D) vs George Allen (R)

Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) and former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) are two of the best-known non-incumbents in the country, and for the better part of the year they were running neck and neck in the polls. 

But in recent weeks Kaine has jumped into the lead, consolidating minority voters who had previously been undecided and edging Allen with independent voters.

{mosads}Kaine has sought to paint himself as a centrist dealmaker running against an uncompromising conservative, while for most of the year Allen’s campaign revolved around tying Kaine to President Obama. Allen has also hit Kaine hard on sequestration — upcoming cuts to defense spending that, if they go through unchanged, will cost Virginia thousands of jobs.

But Kaine has been able to get enough separation to run a few points ahead of Obama, a close friend of his whom he worked for as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. 

The Hill rates the race as a toss-up.


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Ohio 16th District

Betty Sutton (D) vs Jim Renacci (R)

This shoot-out between two incumbents in the redrawn district of a vital battleground state makes it a bellwether contest that’s being closely tracked — and highly funded — on both sides of the aisle. 

{mosads}State Republicans controlled the redistricting process, so the early advantage was thought to go to freshman GOP Rep. Jim Renacci. But three-term Rep. Betty Sutton (D) has held her own, running neck and neck in the polls despite the fact that she currently represents only about a fifth of the new district.  

The contrast couldn’t be more stark. Sutton is a liberal with a background in labor law who supported President Obama’s healthcare reforms, the Democrats’ economic stimulus efforts and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Renacci is a conservative businessman — one of the wealthiest on Capitol Hill — who wants to slash taxes and spending and supports a smaller federal role in everything from the economy to civil rights. 

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Iowa 4th District

Christie Vilsack (D) vs Steve King (R)

For Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a five-term conservative firebrand and Tea Party favorite, reelection season is usually a cakewalk. 

Not this year.

{mosads}Democrats recruited Christie Vilsack, the wife of Tom Vilsack, Iowa’s former governor and now President Obama’s Agriculture secretary, who is giving King the fight of his political life.

King has built his name opposing practically every bill Obama and the Democrats proposed over the last four years. But the president won Iowa in 2008 with 54 percent of the vote, and Vilsack has gained traction by linking King to the Republicans’ refusal to take up a farm bill — an issue with obvious appeal in the state.

Polls show King with a slight edge, but if there was ever any doubt that Democrats think they have a chance to pull an upset, Bill Clinton’s October visit to stump for Vilsack should have put it to rest.

The Hill rates this race as leaning Republican.


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Texas 23rd District

Pete Gallego (D) vs Francisco ‘Quico’ Canseco (R)

In 2010, the third time was the charm for Francisco “Quico” Canseco, who finally won the seat he sought in the previous two election cycles.

Now Democrats want the seat back in a contest considered one of the closest House races in the nation.

{mosads}Canseco beat then-Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D) in 2010, and Rodriquez was eager for a rematch. But he lost in the July primary to Pete Gallego, a Hispanic with heavy ties to that voting bloc.

Gallego was the party’s preferred candidate, and they see him as their best hope to beat Canseco, who has close ties to the Tea Party.

The redistricting process made the San Antonio-based 23rd the most competitive swing district in Texas. The newly redrawn district, which runs along the border with Mexico, is a minority-majority district, with 66 percent of its constituents Hispanics. The two candidates held one of their debates in Spanish.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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North Carolina 7th District

Mike McIntyre (D) vs David Rouzer (R)

Like his colleague Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.), Rep. Mike McIntyre is a top target of Republicans who used the redistricting process to try to pick up Democratic seats. 

{mosads}But Democrats believe McIntyre is in stronger shape, despite the fact that his Republican-leaning district became even more red in 2012. He is facing David Rouzer, a state senator and small-business owner who previously served as an adviser to former North Carolina Sens. Jesse Helms and Elizabeth Dole. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running ads targeting Rouzer’s past as a lobbyist for a Japanese corporation. McIntyre has distanced himself from the national party, but unlike Kissell, he made an appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., in September. 

Republicans have tried to tie McIntyre to President Obama, whom the congressman has yet to endorse. They have argued his conservative message does not match what they say is a liberal voting record.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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California 7th District

Ami Bera (D) vs Dan Lungren (R)

The district is new but the candidates are not: Rep. Dan Lungren (R) and Democrat Ami Bera faced off in 2010, with Lungren beating his rival 51 percent to 43 percent.

{mosads}California’s complicated redistricting process drew the new lines for the 7th district, which contains much of Sacramento area. 

Lungren found himself taken from his GOP-leaning seat and put into this Dem-leaning district, with much of his rural Republican base gone.

Bera, a doctor and political neophyte, stunned observers two years ago with his excellent fundraising skills and strong challenge to the longtime, well-known lawmaker. 

Lungren wasn’t originally considered a target in 2010, but Bera’s campaign grabbed the attention of both parties and made the contest surprisingly competitive.

Democrats got behind Bera early for the 2012 cycle — and aggressively — with Lungren getting just as much support from his party.

This race has seen more outside funds than any other House race — $4.3 million as of early October — according to the Center for Public Integrity. 

Labor unions, super-PACs and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are all heavily involved.

A sign of how this race has changed from 2010: that year, the Sacramento Bee endorsed Lungren. This year, the newspaper endorsed Bera.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up. 


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California 36th District

Raul Ruiz (D) vs Mary Bono Mack (R)

Democrats believe they have a shot at unseating seven-term Rep. Mary Bono Mack in California, even though her district is more Republican now than it was before Democrats redrew the congressional lines after the 2010 Census. 

{mosads}The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running ads attacking her for supporting the House Republican budget, which would overhaul Medicare. They are also using Mitt Romney’s running mate selection of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), author of the GOP budget, as a cudgel against Bono Mack. 

Bono Mack’s opponent is Raul Ruiz, a Harvard-educated physician who has never held elected office.

 The race has turned increasingly negative, with Bono Mack’s campaign attacking Ruiz over his arrest in 1997, while he was in college, at a Thanksgiving protest of the treatment of Native Americans.The Hill rates this race as leaning Republican.


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New Hampshire 2nd District

Ann Kuster (D) vs Charlie Bass (R)

Rep. Charlie Bass (R) and Democrat Ann Kuster are childhood friends, and while that means the race for New Hampshire’s 2nd district may be more civil than some, it’s no less contentious. 

{mosads}Bass eked out a win over Kuster in 2010, a year that saw Republicans trounce Democrats by large margins, so he’s been vulnerable from the start — and his votes for Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget and to repeal President Obama’s healthcare law may do more harm than good. 

Democrats are trying to turn them into political poison, airing ads that attack him for voting the party line, and Kuster recently launched an attack ad charging that Bass is corrupt, citing a government watchdog group report. 

She’s raised — and also spent — considerably more than Bass, but the National Republican Congressional Committee is backing him with ads that tie Kuster to Obama’s policies and portray her as extreme. 

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Iowa 3rd District

Leonard Boswell (D) and Tom Latham (R)

Reps. Leonard Boswell (D) and Tom Latham (R) are facing off in the reconfigured third district of Iowa after the state lost a seat in redistricting. 

{mosads}Both men have served in the House since the mid-1990s, and while the new district went for President Obama in 2008, Latham has the Speaker of the House in his corner. A close friend of Latham’s, John Boehner (R) has made multiple trips to the district and considers the race a top priority. Boehner’s support has helped give Latham a significant fund-raising edge, despite the fact that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is also aiding Boswell. 

Latham and Boswell have fought over taxes, healthcare and spending in their debates, and Boswell has runs ads criticizing Latham over a bank owned by his family that received federal bailout funds.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Florida 18th District

Patrick Murphy (D) vs Allen West (R)

Rep. Allen West’s (R-Fla.) decision to run in Florida’s 18th district rather than his current 22nd district improved his chances at a win in November.

But a strong campaign from Democrat Patrick Murphy and outside money from Democratic groups may end up costing the freshman his seat anyway.  

{mosads}The campaigns and groups supporting them spent $1.5 million on ads in the final three weeks of September alone, with millions more planned for the final three weeks of the cycle. And all that money’s been put to vicious use — West and Murphy have both aired ads attacking the others’ character, with West using Murphy’s mugshot from a 2003 underage drinking arrest in one ad and Murphy hitting back with an attack on West’s military record in response. 

No reliable independent polls have yet been released, but dueling internals put each candidate ahead, indicating the race is more likely neck-and-neck. 

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Michigan 1st District

Gary McDowell (D) vs Dan Benishek (R)

Rep. Dan Benishek (R) defeated Gary McDowell to win the sprawling, rural northern Michigan district by a double-digit margin in 2010, but Democrats believe they have the edge this time around. 

McDowell, a pro-gun, anti-abortion rights farmer and former state representative, is a good fit for a seat that was until recently held by socially conservative Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.). 

{mosads}While Republicans made the district about a point more Republican in redistricting, it still went narrowly for President Obama in 2008 — and the fact that Mitt Romney isn’t heavily contesting the state this year won’t help Benishek’s chances.

McDowell and Democrats have been slamming Benishek, a Tea Party favorite, for supporting Republicans’ plans to cut government spending and overhaul Medicare, a huge issue in a senior-heavy district, and recent polling shows McDowell with a slight edge.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Utah 4th District

Jim Matheson (D) vs Mia Love (R)

Rep. Jim Matheson (D), a leader of the centrist Blue Dog Democrats, has long been targeted by the GOP and survived — but this year may prove his undoing.

{mosads}Republicans drastically redrew the state’s congressional map to fracture his base during redistricting. Matheson, whose father served as governor, has high name identification statewide. And he’s running in a district that is slightly more Democratic now: Support for Obama increased by about a percentage point.

But his opponent, Sarasota Springs Mayor Mia Love (R), is a highly touted GOP recruit. Love would be the first African-American female Republican elected to Congress. She had a prominent speaking role at the Republican National Convention. A recent public poll has her leading Matheson, but both sides are spending heavily and expect this race to come down to the wire. 

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Connecticut 5th District

Elizabeth Esty (D) vs Andrew Roraback (R)

Two state legislators are facing off for a House seat in western Connecticut being vacated by Rep. Chris Murphy (D), who is running for the Senate. 

Democrat Elizabeth Esty served a single term in the state Assembly before narrowly losing in 2010 to the Republican she defeated two years earlier. 

Republican Andrew Roraback is a veteran of 18 years in the state legislature — the first six in the Assembly and the last 12 in the Senate. 

They each won crowded primaries and earned support from party leaders in the state. Roraback has tried to close a fundraising gap with Esty, including getting help from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who plans an October trip to the state.

The candidates are fighting aggressively for votes of seniors. In her first TV ad of the general election, Esty accused Roraback of backing cuts to Social Security benefits. Roraback is running an ad using footage from an Esty event in front of seniors, where she appears to defend an increase in property taxes by suggesting people who can’t afford them could move to another town.

The Hill rates this race as leaning Democratic.


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Wisconsin 7th District

Pat Kreitlow (D) vs Sean Duffy (R)

In a battle of TV personalities, freshman Rep. Sean Duffy (R), a former star of MTV’s popular “Real World” series, is fighting to keep the seat he took in 2010, when former-Rep. David Obey (D) called it quits after 21 terms. 

{mosads}Democratic challenger Pat Kreitlow, a former state senator and onetime news anchor, is hoping to foil that plan, but his road to Washington was made tougher by redistricting, which favors the GOP incumbent.

The contest has revolved around the familiar themes of jobs, deficits and government spending, with Duffy — a Tea Party favorite — hammering President Obama’s economic record and touting his own support for the austere budget proposals of fellow Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee. 

Kreitlow, meanwhile, is following the Democrats’ playbook of pushing new investments in education, research and healthcare, while attacking Duffy over the farm bill, which House Republicans have refused to bring to the floor.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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North Carolina 8th District

Larry Kissell (D) vs Richard Hudson (R)

North Carolina Republicans used the redistricting process to try to capture up to four Democrats House seats in the state, and Rep. Larry Kissell (D) is perhaps their prime target. 

{mosads}His district went from one that favored President Obama in 2008 to one that is heavily Republican in 2012. National Democrats have already pulled scheduled advertising dollars out of the race, and privately they say Kissell is likely to lose. 

He is facing Richard Hudson, a consultant and former Republican congressional staffer who won a competitive primary. Kissell has spent most of the current term trying to put distance between himself and the national party, to the point where he skipped the party’s convention in Charlotte, N.C., just a short drive from his district. In July, he voted with Republicans to repeal the 2010 healthcare law after voting against repeal 18 months earlier.

The Hill rates this race as likely Republican.


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California 26th District

Julia Brownley (D) vs Tony Strickland (R)

Redistricting drove two veteran Republicans — 16-term Rep. David Dreier and 13-term Rep. Elton Gallegly — into retirement and created a pickup opportunity for the Democrats in the redrawn 26th, which President Obama easily won four years ago. 

Polls give Julia Brownley, a Democratic assemblywoman, a slight edge, but her Republican opponent, state Sen. Tony Strickland, has plenty of cash on hand, setting the stage for what one local paper called “a free-spending final sprint” to the polls in November.

On most issues, the candidates disagree. Brownley is a liberal environmentalist who backs gay marriage, the Democrats’ healthcare law and more education and infrastructure spending. Strickland is a small-government conservative who’s signed Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, opposes gay marriage and wants to slash federal spending — except for defense.

Those positions will attract each party’s faithful, but the district is also home to a large number of Independents, who will likely decide the race.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Massachusetts 26th District

John Tierney (D) vs Richard Tisei (R)

Democratic Rep. John Tierney is in his eighth term in the House and has not faced a serious challenge in more than a decade. But he is now in the fight of his political life after his wife, Patrice, pleaded guilty in 2010 to aiding and abetting the falsifying of tax returns in connection with an illegal Internet gambling operation her brothers were running. 

{mosads}The issue has dogged Tierney throughout the last two years. This election cycle, he is facing Republican Richard Tisei, a former minority leader of the state Senate whose victory would make him the first openly gay Republican to be elected to Congress.  

Republicans want to win here, seeing their chance to snag a House seat in deep-blue Massachusetts. Republicans haven’t held a seat in the state for the past 15 years. GOP leadership is supporting Tisei and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has fundraised for him.

Democrats are privately worried Tierney could lose the district, and a Boston Globe poll in early October showed Tisei with a 6-point lead.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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California 44th District

Janice Hahn (D) vs Laura Richardson (D)

Rep. Janice Hahn won the first round of this race, besting fellow Democratic Rep. Laura Richardson by more than 20 points in the June primary. But California’s new “jungle” voting system puts the top two primary finishers on the general-election ballot — regardless of party — setting the stage for a November rematch in this overwhelmingly Democratic district. 

{mosads}Without any real GOP challenge, the contest has focused less on policy differences than on issues of ethics and race. 

Richardson has been dogged by allegations of ethical lapses in recent years, and in August was fined $10,000 for violating House campaign rules. And Hahn, who is white, stirred plenty of resentment from minorities when she opted to run against Richardson, who is black, in a district where more than three-quarters of the population is black or Latino.

Complicating the debate, Democratic leaders are backing Hahn, while the Congressional Black Caucus has endorsed Richardson.


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Louisiana 3rd District

Jeff Landry (R) vs Charles Boustany (R)

This race pits Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), an establishment Republican with a close relationship with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), against Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.), a freshman Tea Party favorite.

{mosads}After Louisiana lost a House seat in redistricting, Boustany’s statehouse allies made sure to fracture Landry’s political base into multiple districts. But Landry, a hard-campaigner, is making things interesting. He has run hard against Boustany’s more moderate voting record, including his support for the bipartisan debt ceiling compromise, calling him “the liberal Charles Boustany” in ads. He’s also locked down the support of a number of local and national Tea Party groups, including FreedomWorks. Boustany has fired back with attacks of his own on Landry’s tax record and for missing votes in Washington.

The biggest wildcard in the race is Louisiana’s unusual all-party election system. The two will face off against three other candidates including a Democrat on Nov. 6, and if no one wins 50 percent of the vote they’ll go to a December runoff. Boustany is aiming to win outright, while Landry is hoping to survive until December, when a low-turnout runoff dominated by base voters would likely benefit him.


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New York 11th District

Mark Murphy (D) vs Michael Grimm (R)

Republican Rep. Michael Grimm is bidding for a second term representing Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn after narrowly knocking off Democratic Rep. Michael McMahon in 2010. 

The former FBI agent and Gulf War veteran has been dealing with political and legal headaches almost from the moment he arrived in Washington. The New Yorker reported last year that he had been the subject of an internal investigation at the FBI, and he was suspected of accepting illegal campaign donations. The Office of Congressional Ethics cleared him of possible violations in July. 

Grimm is facing Democrat Mark Murphy, a Staten Island businessman who has worked as a staffer in Congress but has never held elected office. Murphy has hammered Grimm on ethics, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has made the Republican a top target in November.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Arizona 9th District

Kyrsten Sinema (D) vs Vernon Parker (R)

Democrats see Arizona’s new district as a top pick-up opportunity, with nominee Kyrsten Sinema running a strong campaign against Republican Vernon Parker. 

Sinema led Parker by 4 points in the only poll of the race, released in September by Democratic groups backing Sinema. And she raised nearly $800,000 in the third quarter — more than $300,000 more than Parker. 

But Republicans believe Sinema is too liberal for the district — she would be the first openly bisexual candidate elected to Congress if she wins.

The National Republican Congressional Committee launched an ad in September targeting Sinema for past issues, including her controversial statements on stay-at-home women and the fact that her name appeared in the Arizona Communist Party newspaper. 

But outside Democratic groups House Majority PAC and Emily’s List are spending on the race as well in hopes that the new district, which would’ve voted for President Obama by a 4-point margin in 2008, will turn out blue.

The Hill rates this race as leaning Democratic.


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Colorado 6th District

Joe Miklosi (D) and Mike Coffman (R) 

The battle between two-term incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman (R) and Democratic challenger Joe Miklosi is likely to heat up in the coming weeks, with Republicans already spending more than a million dollars in the district and a Democratic political action committee recently launching a new buy that will tip Dem spending there by more than a million. 

Redistricting turned the 6th district from safe GOP win to one that would’ve voted for Obama by a 9-point margin, fueling Democratic hopes that Miklosi can pull through. 

The race is marked by fierce attacks, with Coffman airing an ad charging that Miklosi was soft on child predators during his time as a state legislator, while Miklosi and Democrats are targeting Coffman’s positions against abortion and stem cell research. 

The only poll of the race, a September internal conducted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, put Miklosi only 3 points behind Coffman — but 71 percent of voters hadn’t heard of Miklosi, indicating Coffman could still define the candidate before he’s able to himself. 

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Florida 26th District

Joe Garcia (D) vs David Rivera (R)

Rep. David Rivera (R) was favored to keep his seat this cycle, again facing Democrat Joe Garcia, whom he defeated by nine points in 2010. 

{mosads}But recent reports surrounding a federal investigation into a shadow campaign he allegedly ran for Garcia’s rival during the Democratic primary, and ongoing investigations into Rivera’s potential tax violations, have marred the candidate to the point where local Republicans are reportedly looking for possible contenders for a 2014 run. 

Rivera’s been conspicuously absent from Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) campaign swings through the battleground state, and two partisan polls from both parties recently put Garcia in the lead. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently canceled two weeks of airtime in the race, indicating they feel confident enough about their candidate’s chances that they no longer feel a need to support him — and the National Republican Congressional Committee isn’t spending there. 

The Hill rates this race as leaning Democratic.


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New York 19th District

Julian Schreibman (D) vs Chris Gibson (R)

Rep. Chris Gibson (R) is one of four GOP freshman Democrats are targeting in New York this cycle. 

{mosads}Public polls have him in the lead but neither side is taking anything for granted.  The national parties — along with outside groups like Crossroads GPS and major unions like AFSCME — have invested almost $2 million in this race, according to the New York Times. 

Democrat Julian Schreibman has hit Gibson hard on his ties to the Tea Party and his support for Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget proposal and its controversial cuts to Medicare. 

Gibson, meanwhile, has touted his bipartisan credentials, vowed to work across the aisle to fix Medicare and emphasized his working class roots.

The redistricting process made this district slightly more Democratic-leaning.  New York lost two House seats after the 2010 census and the newly redrawn 19th is made up of parts of the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson Valley.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Arizona 1st District

Ann Kirkpatrick (D) vs Jonathan Paton (R)

Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick is locked in a bitter race with Republican Jonathan Paton to regain her seat in Arizona’s 1st District, which she lost in 2010 to Rep. Paul Gosar largely due to her vote for President Obama’s healthcare law. 

{mosads}But redistricting has improved her chances considerably this time around, as she won her 2010 race by 11 points in the portion of the 1st District that remains in the new district. (Gosar is running in the 4th District this cycle because of redistricting).

Kirkpatrick and Democrats have attacked Paton for his time as a lobbyist for the payday lending industry and for his involvement in Tucson’s Rio Nuevo redevelopment effort, a project that’s under federal and state investigation, although Paton wasn’t involved during the period being scrutinized.

Meanwhile, Paton and Republicans have tied Kirkpatrick to the federal stimulus and Obama’s healthcare law, and also targeted payments and bonuses received by her staff as evidence of her wasteful spending. 

The Hill rates this race as leaning Democratic.


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Illinois 10th District

Brad Schneider (D) vs Robert Dold (R)

Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the 2010 GOP wave election, when he narrowly won the heavily Democratic seat after then-Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) ran for the Senate. 

But Democrats made his district even more liberal in redistricting and removed ticket-splitting precincts that had backed both Kirk and President Obama in order to cut down on his name identification and crossover appeal. He now represents the most Democratic district of any House Republican: It would have given Obama 63 percent of the vote.

Democrats also got the type of recruit they’ve long looked for in Brad Schneider, a businessman with close ties to Israel and AIPAC, the main American Jewish lobby. Kirk and Dold won the district by winning crossover Jewish voters, and while Obama’s standing with Jewish voters isn’t quite where it was four years ago, Schneider’s appeal on the issue is helping him undercut one of Dold’s biggest strengths.   

Dold is running a strong race and has touted his social centrism, but Democrats are hitting him for votes to defund Planned Parenthood. Schneider is a slight favorite in the district.

The Hill rates this race as leaning Democratic.


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California 10th District 

Jose Hernandez (D) vs Jeff Denham (R)

Rep. Jeff Denham (R) is a hard-working freshman, but he may have met his match in former astronaut Jose Hernandez (D), a highly touted Democratic recruit.

{mosads}The congressman won a series of tough campaigns for the state assembly before scratching out a win in a three-way primary two years ago, and Republicans have touted his retail campaign skills. But Hernandez, a son of migrant workers who worked his way through college and into NASA, has shown the same type of resolve.

The Central Valley California district is a pure tossup — President Obama would have won 53 percent of the vote there in 2008. The area is also heavily Hispanic and approximately one fifth of voters will be Latino, a drag on Denham because of the GOP’s image problem with Hispanics.

Both sides have been spending heavily there to influence the race’s outcome: Republicans have hit Hernandez for living in Texas for the last decade and sought to tie him to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), while Democrats have gone after Denham for his support of Republicans’ plans to overhaul Medicare.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Minnesota 8th District

Rick Nolan (D) vs Chip Cravaack (R)

Rep. Chip Cravaack won this seat in 2010 in a surprise upset against longtime Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Democrats want the district back.

{mosads}They’ve pinned their hopes on Rick Nolan, a former member of the House who decided to return to politics. Nolan served three terms in the 6th Congressional district in the late ’70s, opting not to run for reelection in 1980.

The race between the two men has been bitter and outside groups — particularly former Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R-Minn.) American Action Network — have spent more than $1 million on the race. Both parties are spending heavily there, too.

Nolan was boosted by an endorsement from the United Steelworkers Union. Mining is one of the main industries in the area. Cravaack’s campaign points out that the freshman lawmaker was endorsed by one of the local mining unions: the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49.

Cravaack is also supported by several local Democrats who were unhappy Nolan won the heavily-contested August primary. As for the district itself, its lines remained mostly unchanged in the redistricting process.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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California 30th District

Brad Sherman (D) vs Howard Berman (D)

The redrawn 30th district in Southern California pits two veteran House Democrats against each other in one of the most closely watched member-vs.-member battles of 2012.

Rep. Howard Berman is the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and has won the backing of most establishment Democrats in both California and Washington. But Rep. Brad Sherman has the edge, because two-thirds of the new district is made up of his current constituency. He’s also known for his constant presence in his district, while Berman has forged tighter friendships on Capitol Hill and among the Hollywood donor community.

The November election is a rematch of sorts. Because of California’s new nonpartisan primary rules, Sherman and Berman each advanced to the general election in the heavily Democratic district after finishing first and second, respectively, in the primary. Sherman topped Berman in the June match-up, 42 percent to 32 percent, making him the clear early favorite. 

While the two liberals have few substantive policy differences, Berman has made a bid for the district’s Republican vote by touting the endorsements of Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

The hard-fought race took a sharp turn in October when, during a heated exchange at a debate, Sherman grabbed Berman around the shoulder and said, “Do you want to get into this?” As the two shouted at each other, with their faces almost touching, police intervened. Sherman said the next day he regretted touching Berman.


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New York 24th District

Dan Maffei (D) vs Ann Marie Buerkle (R)

Freshman Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R) takes on former Rep. Dan Maffei (D) in this much-watched rematch of their 2010 contest. 

The race was so close last time that it wasn’t called until a few weeks after the election, with Buerkle winning by less than 600 votes. The testy race this year has featured a fight for female voters, with Maffei portraying Buerkle as an “extreme” conservative who would “redefine” rape, and Buerkle lashing back that Maffei is “desperate” and “pathetic” for making those claims. 

Healthcare will also play a big factor in this race. Buerkle, a former nurse, is a Tea-Party favorite who’s built a name hammering President Obama’s reform law as a government intrusion on the private sector. That formula worked well in 2010, but it remains to be seen whether the same will hold this year, with the economy improved and some of the law’s benefits already in effect.

Redistricting favors Maffei — and the Democrats consider this contest one of their best chances to steal a GOP seat — but Buerkle has defied expectations before.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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New Hampshire 1st District

Carol Shea-Porter (D) vs Frank Guinta (R)

In a rematch of their battle two years ago, freshman Rep. Frank Guinta (R) is fighting to keep his seat against Democratic challenger Carol Shea-Porter, who represented the district for two terms before being swept away in the Tea Party wave of 2010.

{mosads}Then, Guinta found success hammering Shea-Porter over President Obama’s healthcare law and economic stimulus bill — both of which she supported — and he’s hoping those attacks resonate again this year with government-wary Granite State voters. 

Shea-Porter, meanwhile, has fiercely defended those votes, saying the stimulus has boosted the job market and the Affordable Care Act has improved the nation’s healthcare system. Playing a factor in the contest is the state’s unemployment rate, which at 5.7 percent is well below the national average.

Polls tracking the race have been all over the place. A University of New Hampshire survey released Friday found Guinta ahead by 10 — just two weeks after the school found Shea-Porter up by 11. 

The Hill rates this race as leaning Democratic.


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Pennsylvania 24th District

Mark Critz (D) vs Keith Rothfus (R)

Rep. Mark Critz (D) faced two tough contests this cycle: his Democratic primary, where he beat fellow lawmaker Jason Altmire and now his general election contest with Republican Keith Rothfus.

{mosads}But Critz is used to having to fight for this congressional seat. He first won it in a 2010 special election to replace the late-Rep. John Murtha (D). Republicans made a serious play for the district, but with an outpouring of help from the national party and organized labor, Critz prevailed.

And 2012 didn’t get any easier. The primary with Altmire was brutal, and Critz won a thin victory with 51 percent of the vote. 

Rothfus, a former attorney with the Department of Homeland Security, first ran for office in 2010, barely losing to Altmire in the 4th district, which was folded into the 12th last year during the redistricting process. That move also made the 12th district much more Republican-leaning.

As a sign of how important this race is to both parties, they’ve each sent in the heavyweights: Former President Clinton has campaigned for Critz, and the House GOP leadership is helping Rothfus.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Illinois 8th District

Tammy Duckworth (D) vs Joe Walsh

Freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R), one of the most surprising victors of 2010 and an outspoken supporter of the Tea Party, is also one of the incumbents most likely to lose his reelection bid.

{mosads}Democrats who controlled redistricting in Illinois drastically redrew his district, turning it from one where Obama won 56 percent of the vote in 2008 to one where he would have won 62 percent, and recruited as their candidate Tammy Duckworth (D), an Iraq War veteran with close ties to Obama, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). She has raised boatloads of money and carved out a centrist profile in the district.

Walsh has hurt himself by spending months embroiled in a nasty fight with an ex-wife over unpaid child support and pooh-poohing his opponent’s service in Iraq (she lost both of her legs when her helicopter was shot down in 2003). Republicans have recently started spending on his behalf in the expensive suburban Chicago district, but Duckworth is favored to win this race.

The Hill rates this race likely Democratic.


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Nevada 3rd District

John Oceguera (D) vs Joe Heck (R)

This tight contest to represent Nevada’s southernmost tip features freshman Rep. Joe Heck (R) and challenger John Oceguera, the Democratic Speaker of the state assembly.

{mosads}The district, which includes parts of Las Vegas, was crushed by the recession and still suffers from some of the worst jobless and foreclosure rates in the country — issues that have loomed large in the race.

Heck, a physician, has voted to repeal President Obama’s signature healthcare reform law and is campaigning on that issue. Oceguera says the law is imperfect but represents “a good start” and shouldn’t be dismantled. 

Although Heck was swept into office as part of the Tea Party wavae, he fell out of favor with some in that group when he voted to raise the debt ceiling. Still, Oceguera has tried to portray his opponent as an extremist conservative, pouncing on Heck’s 2011 characterization of Social Security as a “pyramid scheme.”

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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Georgia 12th District

John Barrow (D) vs Lee Anderson (R)

As a Blue Dog Democrat who survived the 2010 Republican wave, Rep. John Barrow (Ga.) is one of a rare species. And, like two years ago, keeping his seat in 2012 will mean distancing himself from President Obama, who lost this district handily in 2008. 

{mosads}Republican challenger Lee Anderson, a state representative, has other ideas. His campaign is trying to link Barrow to Obama at every turn, even refusing a public debate until Barrow explains his support for the president — something the four-term Democrat says he’d do during a debate, but not before.

Much of the contest has focused on deficits and government spending, with Anderson characterizing Barrow as a “tax-and-spend” Washington insider. Barrow counters that his voting record — including opposition to the Wall Street bailout and Obama’s healthcare law — proves otherwise.

Redistricting has hurt Barrow, who has to convince unfamiliar voters that the “D” behind his name is not scarlet. 

The Hill rates this race as leaning Republican.


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California 52nd District

Scott Peters (d) vs Brian Bilbray (R)

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R), like many California incumbents, has been forced to run in a district that is largely unfamiliar to him due to the state’s new bipartisan redistricting map. 

{mosads}The new district also became significantly more Democratic, taking in large chunks of downtown San Diego.

Democrats got the candidate they wanted in former San Diego City Council President Scott Peters (D), a polished campaigner who won a tough primary against a more liberal opponent. Peters’ name identification in the district is nearly as high in the area as Bilbray’s since he’d previously represented more suburban territory, and Democrats believe he’s already leading in the race.

Both sides are pouring in money, with Republicans blaming Peters for the city’s ongoing pension crisis and Democrats slamming Bilbray as a Tea Party Republican. Peters likely has a narrow edge in this race.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


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New York 27th District

Kathy Hochul (D) vs Chris Collins (R)

Republicans want to regain this seat, which Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) won in a special election after Rep. Chris Lee (R) resigned.

{mosads}It was a GOP-leaning district when Hochul won it, and the redistricting process has made it even more conservative. Hochul won the May 2011 special election by running against the Republican budget plan — specifically its Medicare provisions — written by now-vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

She’s campaigning on that subject again while her GOP opponent, Chris Collins, has pushed a message focused on jobs.

Both parties have brought in the money and the big names: Former Vice President Gore and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) fundraised for Hochul, while House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) came to the district to campaign for Collins.

To show her independence to her constituents, Hochul has bucked her party on several votes during her tenure.

Meanwhile, Collins, a former county executive, has had some past controversies come up in this contest. One that got a lot of national attention was his comparison of the Jewish speaker of the New York State Assembly to Adolf Hitler, which led to a public apology in 2009.

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.

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