HERE WERE THE SOUTH’S 12 HOTTEST U.S. HOUSE RACES:
- Arkansas 2
- Arkansas 4
- Florida 2
- Florida 18
- Florida 26
- Georgia 12
- North Carolina 7
- Texas 23
- Virginia 2
- Virginia 10
- West Virginia 2
- West Virginia 3
This seat opened up when Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin opted to leave Congress and run for lieutenant governor. Prior to Griffin’s win in 2010, the 2nd District had been in Democratic hands for 20 years, and the largest county in the district, Pulaski, which contains Little Rock, went for Barack Obama in 2012 with 55 percent of the vote. It also has the largest black population of any district in Arkansas, at 19 percent. The Democratic nominee, Pat Hayes, served 24 years as the mayor of North Little Rock, the second largest city in the district. He is facing French Hill, a Little Rock banker who made a strong showing in the GOP primary. This seat may be the best shot Democrats have to break into the state’s House delegation, but Hill has raised nearly $1.3 million, giving him a substantial financial advantage. Hayes will also have to overcome Obama’s anemic approval ratings in the Natural State.
Former FEMA Director James Lee Witt (D) vs. State Rep. Bruce Westerman (R)
RESULT: WESTERMAN WINS
Location: Western and southern Arkansas
Major cities: Texarkana, Hot Springs, Pine Bluff
2012 Presidential Result: Romney, 62 percent
This seat opened up when Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton opted to run for the U.S. Senate. The district is mostly rural, running through the southern and western parts of the state. Democrats managed to recruit a strong candidate in James Lee Witt, who served as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the Clinton administration. However, he will have to overcome Barack Obama’s unpopularity in a district Mitt Romney carried by more than 25 points. State House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs won a contested Republican primary, although he is so far lagging behind Witt in fundraising. Still, most political handicappers are giving Westerman the edge in what’s shaping up to be a Republican year.
Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Graham, is making her first try at public office by taking on Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland. who is seeking a third term. National Democrats have put this race at the top of their target list, viewing Southerland – who carried just 53 percent of the vote in 2012 – as vulnerable. This is a swing district that Mitt Romney barely carried in 2012 and includes Democratic-leaning Tallahassee. Graham has also made a strong fundraising showing, raking in more than $2.3 million for is what will no doubt be an expensive and hard-fought race. Political handicappers are calling this race a tossup.
Florida 18: Democratic
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) vs. State Rep. Carl Domino (R)
RESULT: MURPHY WINS
Location: St. Lucie, Martin and northern Palm Beach counties
Major cities: Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie, Jupiter
2012 Presidential Result: Romney, 52 percent
Two years ago, as Mitt Romney was carrying this district along the state’s Treasure Coast, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy defeated Tea Party-darling Allen West by a scant 2,400 votes. This year, Murphy is at the top of the Republicans’ target list. But his chances of keeping the seat were bolstered when West decided against a rematch. The Republican nominee is State Rep. Carl Domino of Jupiter, a wealthy investment manager who poured more than $400,000 into his campaign to win an eight-way primary. But Murphy has built an impressive $3.5 million war chest for what’s likely to be one of the most expensive House races in Florida during this cycle.
Florida 26: Democratic
U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia (D) vs. Carlos Curbelo (R)
RESULT: CURBELO WINS
Location: Monroe and southwest Miami-Dade counties
Major cities: Key West, Homestead
2012 Presidential Result: Obama, 53 percent
This is a majority Latino district that starts in southwest Miami-Dade County and sprawls across the Everglades and down to Key West. The incumbent is Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, who ousted Republican David Rivera in 2012 amid questions about Rivera’s alleged involvement in fundraising improprieties by Garcia’s Democratic opponent. Rivera tried to mount a comeback in 2014, but the GOP establishment lined up behind Carlos Curbelo, a member of the Miami-Dade school board, who easily won a five-way primary. But taking down Garcia won’t be easy. He has raised more than $2.7 million and is getting support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
U.S. Rep. John Barrow (D) vs. Rick Allen (R)
RESULT: ALLEN WINS
Location: Metro Augusta and rural areas to the south and west
Major cities: Augusta, Statesboro, Dublin
2012 Presidential Result: Romney, 55 percent
For the sixth time, Republicans in Georgia are trying to unseat the seemingly unsinkable U.S. Rep. John Barrow, who is one of the very few white Southern Democrats left in the House and the only one from Georgia. Barrow has somehow managed to hang on to an east-central Georgia seat that, on paper, should be in GOP hands. He faces Republican Rick Allen, a construction company owner from Augusta. Allen is making his second try for the seat after losing a GOP primary runoff in 2012. This time around, with backing from the National Republican Congressional Committee, he won the primary easily. The Democratic Congressional Campaign committee is including Barrow in its “frontline” program to protect vulnerable incumbents.
Former State Senator David Rouzer (R) vs. New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield (D)
RESULT: ROUZER WINS
Location: Raleigh’s southern suburbs south to Wilmington
Major cities: Wilmington, Jacksonville, Lumberton
2012 Presidential Result: Romney, 59 percent
Of all of the open seats across the South, this district is the most likely to flip. It opened up when Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre decided to retire rather than face what was likely to be a long, hard slog to keep his seat against Republican David Rouzer, whom he beat by less than 700 votes in 2012. Rouzer is a former state senator and one-time aide to the late U.S. Senator Jesse Helms. Democrats nominated New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, a Realtor and church pastor from Wilmington. But as a black Democrat running in a conservative district that is 75 percent white, Barfield faces an uphill climb. He has also raised very little money, compared to a war chest of nearly $1 million for Rouzer.
U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego (D) vs. Will Hurd (R)
RESULT: TOO CLOSE TO CALL
Location: Southwest Texas from the San Antonio suburbs to the El Paso suburbs
Major cities: Pecos, Del Rio, Alpine
2012 Presidential Result: Romney, 51 percent
This highly competitive district, which has a 70 percent Latino population, sprawls across more than 500 miles of sparsely populated rural Texas from the suburbs of San Antonio to the suburbs of El Paso. It is one of five districts in the South held by a Democrat that Mitt Romney carried in 2012, though just barely, and has switched parties three times since 2006. The incumbent, U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, won a narrow victory in 2012. He is facing Republican Will Hurd, a former CIA agent making his second try for the seat. Hurd had an impressive performance in the primary, beating former U.S. Rep. Francisco Conseco, who was trying to reclaim the seat he lost to Gallego in 2012. Hurd, uniquely, is a black candidate running as a Republican in a Latino-majority district. But Gallego has opened up a big fundraising advantage in his quest to hold on to the seat.
U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell (R) vs. Suzanne Patrick (D)
RESULT: RIGELL WINS
Location: Hampton Roads area and southern Del-Mar-Va peninsula
Major cities: Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Newport News
2012 Presidential Result: Obama, 50 percent
This is only one of three districts in the South that are represented by a Republican but went for Barack Obama in 2012. The incumbent, U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, seeking a third term, took just 54 percent of the vote in 2012. That theoretically puts this seat within Democratic reach, particularly given the fact that 22 percent of the population is black. The Democratic nominee, Suzanne Patrick, is a retired Navy commander and deputy defense secretary in the George W. Bush administration – a useful resume in a district with a large military presence. But Rigell is benefiting from a nearly 3-to-1 fundraising advantage.
State Delegate Barbara Comstock (R) vs. Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust (D)
RESULT: COMSTOCK WINS
Location: Western Washington D.C. suburbs west to West Virginia
Major cities: McLean, Herndon, Winchester
2012 Presidential Result: Romney, 50 percent
This swing district in the Washington, D.C. suburbs opened up with incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf decided to retire. The race features a high-octane battle between GOP State Delegate Barbara Comstock and Democratic Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust. Comstock shot to fame during the Clinton administration as an investigator for a House committee that was looking into the Whitewater land deal and later went on to become an opposition researcher for the Republican National Committee. Democrats have been using her partisan resume to build support for Foust, who ran for county supervisor three times before finally winning in 2010. Both candidates have raised more than $1.3 million for what is likely to be one of the country’s most expensive House races during this cycle.
Former Maryland State Senator Alex Mooney (R) vs. Nick Casey (D)
RESULT: MOONEY WINS
Location: Central West Virginia from Charleston east to Virginia and Maryland
Major cities: Charleston, Martinsburg, Elkins
2012 Presidential Result: Romney, 60 percent
This seat opened up when Republican U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito opted to run for the Senate. The narrow, east-west district snakes across the central part of the state from Charleston to the eastern panhandle. The Republican nominee, Alex Mooney, was a state senator in neighboring Maryland before moving across the Potomac River and parachuting into this House race. He won the GOP primary over six challengers, despite being called a carpetbagger by his opponents. The Democratic nominee, Nick Casey, is a former chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party. While Democrats hold a registration advantage in the Mountaineer State, this district has been in Republican hands for 14 years, and Mitt Romney buried Barack Obama here in 2012. Both campaigns have raised in excess of $1 million, a substantial amount in a district with relatively inexpensive advertising.
West Virginia 3: Democratic
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D) vs. State Senator Evan Jenkins (R)
RESULT: JENKINS WINS
Location: Southern third of West Virginia
Major cities: Huntington, Bluefield, Beckley
2012 Presidential Result: Romney, 65 percent
Veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall is one of the Republicans’ top targets in 2012 in this district anchored in West Virginia’s coal country, where the Obama administration’s proposed restrictions on coal-fired power plants are monstrously unpopular. Rahall, first elected in 1976, has broken with the administration on that policy, but he did support Obamacare. His Republican opponent, State Senator Evan Jenkins from Huntington, has called for repealing the president’s healthcare plan. Obama ran poorly here in 2012, buoying GOP hopes of finally defeating Rahall. But the incumbent has deep roots in the district, running 20 points ahead of the president just two years ago, and West Virginia is union country that traditionally favors Democrats. Rahall also has a fundraising advantage, although Jenkins has raised more than $1 million, enough to keep him competitive.