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Conservative Southern U.S. House members go down

Republicans make a net gain of four seats across the region

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

southern states smELECTION CENTRAL (CFP) — Four embattled Democratic incumbents who represent conservative U.S. House districts lost their seats in the November 4 midterm election, while the GOP lost a  seat in the Florida Panhandle.

The four Democrats — Nick Rahall in West Virginia, John Barrow in Georgia, Joe Garcia in Florida and Pete Gallego in Texas — all represented districts that Mitt Romney carried in 2012. The GOP also took an open Democrat-held seat in North Carolina where Romney also won.

With those wins, the GOP will hold a 112-39 advantage in Southern U.S. House seats come January.

U.S. House nominee Gwen Graham

U.S. House nominee Gwen Graham

The Democrats’ only good news came in Florida’s Tallahassee-centered 2nd District, where Gwen Graham, the daughter of former U.S. Senator Bob Graham, narrowly defeated Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland by a margin of 50 percent to 49 percent.

Democrats had also targeted five open seats in Arkansas, Virginia and West Virginia. Republicans held all five.

Barrow, who represents Georgia’s 12th District, had survived four previous attempts by Republicans to push him from Congress, which included having his district gerrymandered twice by the state legislature. But the fifth time proved the charm as he lost to Republican Rick Allen by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall

Despite 19 terms representing West Virginia in Congress, Rahall could not overcome President Obama’s marked unpopularity in the Mountaineer State, losing to State Senator Evan Jenkins in the 3rd District, by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent. .

In Florida’s 26th District, Garcia lost to Republican Carlos Curbelo by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent. This Latino-majority district, which stretches from southwest Miami-Dade County to Key West, has now switched hands in the three straight elections.

The GOP also won in Texas’s 23rd District, a vast district that sprawls across more than 500 miles of southwest Texas, from the suburbs of San Antonio to the suburbs of El Paso.

Will Hurd, a former CIA agent who, uniquely, was a black candidate running in a majority Latino district, defeated Gallego by a margin of 50 percent to 48 percent. This closely divided district has now switched hands three times since 2006.

Republicans also picked up a seat in North Carolina’s 7th District, which opened up when Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre decided to retire. Former State Senator David Rouzer easily defeated New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield.

Democratic North Carolina U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre will retire in 2014

McIntyre’s decision to step aside will give Republicans a prime opportunity to pick up a House seat

north-carolina mugWILMINGTON, North Carolina (CFP) — Saying it is time for a “new chapter,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre has announced he will not battle to keep a seat he won by just 650 votes in 2012.

U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre

U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre

“I am grateful to all of the Democrats, Republicans and independents with whom we have successfully worked through nine elections over 18 years,” McIntyre said in a statement announcing his retirement. “My family and I are ready for a new chapter and excited about new opportunities to continue helping North Carolina.”

McIntyre’s 7th district, which takes in the southeastern corner of the state including areas around Wilminton and Fayettevile, was one of five Democrat-held seats in the South that Mitt Romney carried in 2012.

As Romney was clobbering President Obama by 19 percentage points, McIntyre, a member of the House’s moderate Blue Dog Coalition, barely escaped with a victory over Republican State Senator David Rouser.

Rouser is running again in 2014. McIntyre was also facing a potentially competitive Democratic primary against New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, who has criticized McIntyre for not beng sufficiently supportive of the president.

McIntyre is white; Barfield is black. Overall, the district is 30 percent black, which means the black vote could tread close to a majority in a Democratic primary.

Of the five Democrat-held Southern districts that Romney carried, McIntyre is so far the only retirement.

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