Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 26, 2014

The 10 Most Vulnerable House Members

The 10 Most Vulnerable House Members

In the 2014 elections, Southerland is one of the House's most vulnerable members. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Two House members have already lost their re-election in primaries this cycle — and it’s unlikely they will be the last with ruined plans to return to Congress.

Since the last edition of this ongoing feature, Rep. Ralph M. Hall, R-Texas, lost re-nomination, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was upset in his Virginia primary and Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., survived his primary by a small margin.

Roll Call’s latest edition of the “Top 10 Most Vulnerable House Members” shows several more incumbents in peril. Some of them face top-notch opponents, others are running in unfavorable districts; a couple members just don’t run good campaigns.

With the end of primary season in sight, two of the 10 members on the list must overcome intraparty adversary to win another term. The remaining eight face general election challenges.

We’ll revise this list during the first week of each month through Election Day. For now, here are the 10 most vulnerable House members in alphabetical order:

Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz.

Barber faces a double whammy: He represents a tough district and is running against one of the GOP’s top recruits, retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally. It is a rematch of 2012 race, which Barber narrowly won.

Many Capitol Hill sources wrote off Barber off months ago, but his political team — inherited from his former boss, ex-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — has a proven record of pulling victories in the Tucson-based 2nd District.

Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call Race Rating: Tossup

Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich.

Elected in the wake of ballot chaos in 2012, the freshman quickly received the dubious title of “accidental congressman.” Since then, he’s run a messy primary campaign against Republican attorney David Trott.

Bentivolio’s only hope is to skate by on name recognition. But Trott has put millions of television ad spending into his effort, and Mitt Romney endorsed the campaign.

Rating: Republican Favored

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.

Scandal surrounding this physician’s personal life all but dried up DesJarlais’ campaign cash flow. On Thursday, he’ll face a top primary opponent in the strongly Republican 4th District: State Sen. Jim Tracy, who has raised big bucks for the race.

Nearly two years since his scandal erupted, DesJarlais is faring better than expected. But his cash disadvantage, especially in the district’s population center of Rutherford County, could still spell doom for him in the primary.

Rating: Safe Republican

Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y.

Grimm’s April indictment prompted more than just bad headlines; It paralyzed his fundraising. But New York’s 11th District is no stranger to corruption, and he could well survive.

The Democratic nominee, former New York City Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr. is not from the population center of Staten Island. Still, Democrats boasted before Grimm’s bad-news barrage the Brooklyn-based Recchia was one of their top recruits of the cycle.

So Staten Island voters are faced with an unsavory question: a Congressman dealing with criminal charges, or a Democrat from Brooklyn?

Rating: Leans Democratic

Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn.

After a three-decade hiatus from the House, Nolan defeated a one-term member last cycle and came back to Congress. This November, Nolan faces a well-financed foe in businessman Stewart Mills, who is capable of self-funding. Mills is well-known among the district’s residents because of his family’s chain of popular farm and sporting goods equipment stores.

Democratic operatives add that while the district favors Democrats, it has grown more competitive over the years. What’s more, Nolan’s distaste for fundraising could put him at a disadvantage in the fall.

Rating: Leans Democratic

Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif.

Peters got a spot on the last edition of this list because he faces a top GOP candidate in a competitive district that will likely see Democratic turnout drop off this year. San Diego Councilmember Carl DeMaio is his opponent.

Not much has changed since then — and that’s not good for Peters. Polling shows this to be a near neck-in-neck race with three months to go.

This race is gearing up to be one of the most expensive House races on the map. More than $3 million has already been reserved on the airwaves here for the fall — including money from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and House Majority PAC.

Rating: Tossup

Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, D-W.Va.

Republicans pounded Rahall on television early in the cycle, after which even Democrats conceded his polling was in the tank by March. Democrats are more optimistic about Rahall these days, describing his campaign as “in gear” and “invigorated” — even declaring ”Nicky Joe” will return for a 20th term.

But the Mountain State reviles Obama, and GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is expected to boost Republicans statewide with her Senate campaign. A Rahall victory would test how willing West Virginians will be to split their tickets.

Rating: Tossup

Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill.
An unpopular Democratic governor topping the Land of Lincoln’s ticket could put a severe drag on Democratic turnout in the 10th District north of Chicagoland. That could hurt Schneider’s re-election, where he faces the Republican he defeated in 2012 by a single point: former Rep. Robert Dold.

As of June 30, Dold trailed Schneider in cash on hand, reporting $1.65 million in the bank to Schneider’s $1.9 million. But the DCCC’s $800,000 fall television ad reservation signals the party is gearing up for a tough race here in November.

Rating: Tossup

Rep. Steve Southerland II, R-Fla.

Democrats privately point to their recruit in Florida’s 2nd District, attorney Gwen Graham, as their best offensive opportunity in a less than desirable national climate for the party. Graham is the daughter of former Sen. Bob Graham, and he’s been joined at her hip on the trail.

But Southerland says he is ready for the fight and argues that any candidate sharing a party label with President Barack Obama will have a difficult time in his district.

Rating: Tilts Republican

Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb.

National Republicans were increasingly alarmed by Terry’s prospects earlier this year, when he nearly lost his May primary thanks in part to the weak state of his own campaign operation.

Terry shook up his team, but polls still show him in a tough race with Democrat Brad Ashford. National Democrats say the Cornhusker State’s governor’s mansion is in play, which only compounds Terry’s problems.

Rating: Tilts Republican

Honorable Mentions

If there was an eleventh spot on this list, Rep. Mike Coffmann, R-Colo., would have it. He missed inclusion thanks to his fundraising skills, a climate that is starting to favor the GOP and his more vulnerable colleagues.

Similarly, in a post-primary edition, Rep. Timothy H. Bishop of New York will likely occupy a spot among his vulnerable colleagues.

Three more Democrats — Reps. Ami Bera of California, Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona and John Barrow of Georgia — earned honorable mentions this time. Rep. John F. Tierney of Massachusetts also remains vulnerable — in his primary, but more so in his general election.

For Republicans, it’s easy to see how Reps. Dan Benishek of Michigan and Rodney Davis in Illinois also make their way onto the list in future editions.

Rep. Michael M. Honda, D-Calif. is no longer on the list. His opponent, Democratic attorney Ro Khanna, underperformed in the primary and now lags Honda in cash for the final months of the race.

 

Related Stories:

Shooting in the Rear View, Ron Barber Drives His Own Way

With DesJarlais Up 35 Votes, What’s Next in Tennessee Primary?

Bentivolio Defeated

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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