KS: Complete Kansas State Legislative Race Ratings 2010, Districts 1-40

One of the things I like best about SSP is finding out about interesting downballot races that would otherwise escape my notice. So in that spirit, I’ve put together a massively comprehensive guide to the state races in Kansas in 2010.

Where art thou, Sean Tevis?Wherefore art thou, Sean Tevis, oh star of the 2008 KS State House races?

While Kansas isn’t exactly high on anyone’s radar for this election cycle, there are plenty of competitive races (KS-03 & KS-04, plus nearly all the statewide offices this year) throughout the state. Join me, won’t you, for a look at what’s happening downballot in the Kansas state Legislature?

But before we get into an analysis of the various districts in play this cycle, there are a few things to keep in mind…one is that this diary wasn’t meant to be published so soon. It was also way too long, so I was going to publish it in parts, but I hadn’t decided on what those parts were. Apparently, I’ll be doing it in thirds, since I just did seats 1-40, the competitive ones, at any rate.

In 2010, only Kansas House of Representatives seats are up, with the exception of …


KS-StSen-07: Moderate state Sen. David Wysong resigned, leading Republicans to choose state Rep. Terrie Huntington as his replacement. With a fairly moderate profile, she must now fend off challenges from the left and right in the only Senate seat being contested this cycle (the full Senate, including this seat, is up in 2012). Republican David Harvey is coming at her from the right, but she survived (barely) with 54% in the primary. Democrat Wayne E. Hodges awaits in the general. Possessing a master’s in public administration, Hodges is an adjunct professor at Park University and a sometime writer/reporter. We could do a lot worse, although Hodges starts at a distinct disadvantage over a battle-tested moderate Republican. Hodges bio

In 2004, Wysong won with 56% of the vote, and was re-elected with 54% in 2008. So it’s not a totally unwinnable district. If Hodges can’t win it in 2010, I’m betting state Rep. Mike Slattery (KS-HR-24) might try to move up in 2012. Of course, even if Hodges wins, Republicans will still dominate the upper chamber 30-10. Rating: Likely Republican

With that little appetizer out of the way, let’s get to the main course of this feast of local political analysis…

Stephene MooreDemocratic nominee Stephene Moore wields the power of delicious baked goods in her quest for KS-03.


Current composition: 76 Republicans, 49 Democrats (or about 61%-39%)


KS-HR-# <—this is the district’s number

43.5R/27D/28.6U   <—this is the voter affiliation breakdown, R is Republican, D is for Democrat, and U is unaffiliated voters. Statewide, as of June 2010, the state’s registration numbers were 43.5% Republican, 27.2% Democrat, and 28.6% Unaffiliated.  Out of the roughly 1.7 million registered voters, there are also about 10,000 registered Libertarians, along with 1,169 members of the Reform Party. Also, unless the tenth of a percent is a 4, 5 or 6, I rounded to the nearest full percentage point in most cases.

District Map    <—-this is the official map from the Legislature’s website KSLegislature.org.


Candidate Guide + District PVIs from Capitol Strategies LLC [pdf]

Guide to every KS House seat’s past voting from OurCampaigns.com

Candidate Fundraising from Ethics.ks.gov

Before we start, I’d meant to put something in about how off-year elections are actually the better ones for KS Democrats. A smaller electorate is generally a more moderate and better-informed one in Kansas. Sure, the teabaggers may be out in force, but that’s nothing new in Kansas. And Democrats, as you’ll see, have a lot of competitive candidates up and down the ballot, not only Stephene Moore & Raj Goyle for Congress, not only the best statewide slate we’ve had in a long while (Holland, Kultala, Six, McKinney & Biggs), but even in many state legislative races, Democrats are now fielding pretty solid candidates who can compete and possibly win. So below, find the first chunk of contested districts, all the ones I’ve ranked as competitive that number between 1 & 40.

Among these, there are some that are either totally safe (thanks to PVI heavily favoring one party) or uncontested completely. In districts 1-40, those seats are:

Uncontested Democrats: 05, 08, 32, 33, 34, 37

Safe Dem:  01, 02, 03, 31, 35, 36

Uncontested or intraparty-only Republicans: 06, 07, 09, 11, 13 26, 27, 30

Safe Republican:  12, 21

Geographically, seats 1-40 are centered on the eastern edge of the state, hence the seemingly high quantity of competitive seats. (generally speaking, KS gets more conservative as you go West). Most of the competitive ones below are in suburban Johnson County, which has been going from rosy red to quite purple rather quickly. The exceptions in competitive seats in 1-40 are the rural, Fort Scott-based 4th, the 10th, which takes in the suburban/exurban/rural areas south of Lawrence, and the Fort Leavenworth-based 40th. The two Fort districts border Missouri, and Lawrence is just one county over from the state line (via Johnson or Wyandotte, aka-the Dot) from the state line.  


State Rep. Shirley PalmerKS-HR-04: 46R/27.4D/26U : District Map : (D) Shirley Palmer (good name, good pic at left) defeated incumbent Lynne Oharah (a man, surprisingly) in 2006 in this Fort Scott-centric district with 51.3% of the vote and won again in 2008 with 53% in a rematch. This year, she’ll face a new opponent in Caryn Tyson, whose father-in-law was a local state Senator and a woman with deep local ties. Tyson’s website, at least, is a careful balance–conservative but not too conservative. She’ll be a tough opponent, but Palmer’s been a solid representative, has excellent education credentials and her local ties are just as strong.  Rating: Lean Democrat

KS-HR-10: 37R/29D/33U : District Map : (D) Tony Brown –  Brown will face off against Terri Lois Gregory, who’s coming off a strong primary victory. Frankly, Gregory is a rather creepy lady staffer for state Rep. Mike Kiegerl (KS-HR-43) and a fairly hardcore conservative. Brown was elected in 2008 with just 49% of the vote (a Libertarian took 5% and the Republican got 45%). Interestingly, this is Dem gubernatorial nominee Tom Holland’s old legislative district, which I would expect to yield a big enough boost for Brown that he’ll pass the 50% mark this time, in addition to the sophomore swing and going up against a hardcore right-winger.  Rating: Lean Democrat

KS-HR-14: 43R/25D/31U : District Map : (R) Incumbent Lance Kinzer faces off against Elliott Lahn, a city planner for nearby Merriam. Kinzer’s gotten around 60% in his previous races, but Lahn’s got a good website, raised some money, and has snagged a few endorsements. Kinzer doesn’t have quite the conservative stink of other members of the JoCo delegation, but he also hasn’t faced very many competitive opponents. Rating: Lean Republican

Arlen Siegfreid, Dressed in Silver & FlamingKS-HR-15: 43R/24D/32U : District Map  : (R) Arlen Siegfreid – Archconservative Siegfreid, now Speaker Pro Tem (2nd in command of KS House Republicans), has essentially become too conservative for this district, which was once staunchly conservative. In 2002, Siegfried won the newly-formed seat with 60% of the vote, but it has blued rapidly, with Siegfried’s vote share declining steadily to a narrow 52-48% victory over Sean Tevis in 2008 (McCain got 60% here). If Sean Tevis were running here again, I’d rate it a Tossup, but I’m doubting the website-less and rather invisible Wright will do as well as Tevis. Look for Siegfried to use his influence to draw himself a redder seat after redistricting, or perhaps one in the state Senate. Rating: Likely Republican

KS-HR-16: 46R/25D/28U : District Map  : (D) Gene Rardin – Elected in 2006 by a hair after the moderate Republican incumbent went down in the primary, Rardin has survived two very close calls with less than 51% of the vote. This cycle, Rardin again faces a very conservative opponent in teabagger Amanda Grosserode, which should allow him to squeak to another term, despite representing one of the most heavily Republican districts in the county.  Rating: Tossup

State Rep. Jill Quigley, Republocrat?KS-HR-17: 46.5R/24D/28.5U : District Map  : (Open/R) Jill Quigley – The moderate Quigley faced a primary against teabagger Kelly Meigs as she tried to win her second full term after being appointed in 2007, but Meigs won 53-47 amid a decent turnout (for a primary). A moderate Republican can easily hold this seat–Quigley nabbed about 62% in her first try against modest opposition–but an anti-school teabagger would be considered a prime target. Waiting to swoop in and pick up the seat is Democrat Bryan Cox….now here’s where it gets interesting. Conservative blogs KansasProgress.com (intentional irony alert!) and KawandBorder.net are reporting that Cox is considering stepping aside and letting Quigley have his place on the ballot. She’d switch parties, of course, and run as a Democrat. Also, the $16k left in her campaign account would become useable again, an upgrade on Cox’s $200 haul. Why would Cox step aside? Well, he might if he’s the Bryan Cox that’s a high-level Democratic Party operative who’s now running Lisa Johnston’s Senate campaign and was recently (still?) the Riley County Field Coordinator. Once Cox bails, the 8 local precinct committee(wo)men choose a replacement–perhaps now-Democrat Jill Quigley? Stay tuned folks, because if Quigley switches sides, this will instantly become one of the hottest races around and a great pickup opportunity.

Rating: Tossup, for the sheer insanity of it all…. it’s Lean D with Quigley as a D, Lean or Likely Republican if it’s Meigs Vs. Cox

KS-HR-18: 44.6R/27D/27.8U : District Map : (D) Cindy Neighbor – Interesting career. First elected in 2002 to this seat as a moderate Republican, she lost the Republican primary in 2004, then returned to win the seat as a Democrat in 2006 with less than 50% of the vote, and got re-elected in 2008 with 52.5% of the vote against Republican John Rubin, an Army JAG officer who is back again in 2010. Rating: Lean Democrat

KS-HR-19: 43.6R/25.3D/30.5U : District Map : (D) Dolores Furtado – A former Johnson County Commissioner, she won this seat in 2008 with 51% of the vote, and faces a strong challenge from Jim Denning, the CEO of Discover Vision Centers, who won his primary with a convincing 77%. But Furtado’s a tough old bird and she’s not going down without a fight. Rating: Tossup

Rob Bruchman, Yoder Odor?KS-HR-20: 49R/24D/27U : District Map : (Open/R/Kevin Yoder) – The district where I was raised for 15 years. A swingier-than-it-looks surburban Overland Park seat whose Republicans are heavily moderate, being vacated by former moderate Kevin Yoder. Yoder protege Rob Bruchman won a stunning 70% victory in the primary against Stephanie Sawyer Clayton, who, despite Yoder’s supposed moderate reputation, ran to Bruchman’s left, favoring opening up liquor sales, keeping abortion legal, and not hating immigrants. With Bruchman squarely in the conservative camp, Dems do have a chance, especially because the candidate for the Ds is Rob McKnight, apparently (I couldn’t confirm this) a former GOP consultant turned Democrat and longtime local resident. He’s been a good fundraiser (including some notable local moderate Republican names) and scoring good endorsements, as well. McKnight is actively campaigning and has a website that, smartly, appeals to a sense of neighborliness against the carpetbagging Bruchman: Kansas20.org. Rating: Lean Republican

KS-HR-22: 34.6R/32D/32.5U : District Map : (D) Lisa Benlon –   Another former Republican state representative, Benlon returned to politics in 2008 as a Democrat, winning 53% to succeed Democrat Sue Storm, who rose to a seat on the state Board of Education. Benlon did draw a fairly strong opponent in Greg Smith, the father of the late Kelsey Smith. Still, the district’s blue tint, and Smith’s super-conservative profile, should be enough to save Benlon. Rating: Lean Democrat

KS-HR-23: 33.5R/32.2D/33.5U : District Map : (D) Milack Talia – After running twice before (once for a different state rep seat, the 29th), Talia captured 56% of the vote in his 2008 race. Helpfully for his electoral chances, he’ll defend the seat against “Conservative Constitutionalist”/teabagger Michael Foltz. Rating: Likely Democrat

KS-HR-24: 36R/32D/31.5U : District Map : (D) Mike Slattery – The scion of the apparent Slattery Democratic dynasty-in-the-making, Slattery scored a narrow Democratic primary victory in 2008 for one of the most Dem-leaning seats in the county, then went on to win the general fairly handily. Since only Talia’s and Benlon’s districts are more Democratic in Johnson County, Slattery stands a good chance of being re-elected. Rating: Likely Democrat

KS-HR-25: 45.5R/27D/26.6U : District Map : (R) Open/Barbara Bollier – Appointed to fill Terrie Huntington’s seat by local Republicans, this will be retired anathesiologist Barbara Bollier’s first race. Huntington got 57% in 2002 to win the seat, 56.5% in 2004, just 54.5% in 2006, and rebounded to 61% against a weak opponent in 2008. Bollier will face off against Shana Althouse, who is actively campaigning, quotes Gov. Sebelius, and is all about education–a good profile for this district.  Her website is good, too: www.shanaalthouse.com   Rating: Lean Republican

KS-HR-28: 57R/18D/24.5U : District Map : (R) Pat Colloton, generally identified as a moderate, is used to cruising to re-election, having no opponents in ’04 and ’06 and taking 75% against a token opponent in 2008. She’ll face the somewhat stronger Elise Chapline in 2010, who has self-funded $7k thus far, but I doubt Colloton’s sweating it much in her dark red seat. Rating: Likely Republican

KS-HR-29: 48.6R/21D/29.5U : District Map : (R) Sheryl Spalding – Two-term incumbent Spalding survived a right-flank primary challenge by 29 votes from the teabaggy Richard Downing and will face Democrat Doug Dowell (good name) in the general. Having survived her primary, the moderate Spalding will probably survive with solid numbers.  Rating: Likely Republican

State Rep. Arlen SiegfreidThe shadow of Siegfreid looms large across Olathe.

KS-HR-38: 45R/23.4D/31U : District Map : (R) Anthony Brown was elected in 2004 after wining the Republican primary (no Democrat filed that year). In 2006, he took 56% of the vote and in ’08 nabbed 57%. Brown is now fully identified with the conservative faction in the legislature, and faces off against JCCC professor and psychologist Roberta Eveslage, This fast-growing district contains the northwesternmost edges of Johnson County along with Eudora & the fringes of Lawrence in Douglas County. While Brown is from conservative Eudora, Eveslage is from moderate Lenexa. The battleground is booming DeSoto, where well-to-do parents are concerned about school funding battles because they need to expand their schools pretty rapidly to handle the population influx. Eveslage’s laser-like focus on the issue is smart, her website is decent (http://robertaforkansas.com/) and she’s actively campaigning. Rating: Lean Republican

KS-HR-39: 42R/26D/31.4U : District Map : (R) Owen Donohoe – Elected in 2006, Donohoe has proven to be a staunch conservative, not a great fit for this moderate district, as evinced by his weak victories, 52.3% in ’06 and 51.3% in ’08. Donohoe’s up against retired school principal Joe Novak, who ran in ’08 and nearly won. Now that he’s so clearly identified with conservatives, Donohoe is going to bleed moderate Republicans, probably enough to let Novak eke out a victory this time around. He’s also BFFs with Kansas’ worst legislator, Connie O’Brien, so he obviously sucks.  Rating: Tossup

KS-HR-40: 32R/35D/31.6U : District Map : (D) Melanie Meier – Our candidate here is awesome and profile-wise, fits her Fort Leavenworth-based district like a glove. Raised in a military family that eventually settled in Leavenworth, Melanie Meier was elected in 2008 (with 56%) but resigned her post to serve in Iraq. When she returned, KS Dems reappointed her to the seat she’d won. Active in her community, her husband’s also in the military, and she’s a Catholic, so it’s tough to imagine a better candidate for this district. She’d be an excellent candidate for higher office, too, perhaps the state Senate or even Congress against Lynn Jenkins. Rating: Likely Democrat

Next up, seats 40-80, including central and eastern Kansas (basically everything from Lawrence to Salina along I-70), some suburban Wichita seats, still a few more Johnson County seats, plus the Chet Edwards(es) of Kansas. Click here to read about the next 40 seats.

Photo credit for potentially the best photo ever of Arlen Siegfreid: the Olathe Republican Party.

Comparing ways of rating congresspeople

There are a variety of ways to rate congresspeople, and I will cover several, but I’ll spend most of my time on the method I think best.  It’s seriously geeky, but I give a nongeeky summary, and then I give links to the geeky parts.

Many organizations rank congresspeople.  In the Almanac of American Politics, they include ranks from mny.  Each of these organizations looks at votes on their particular issues, and sees how each congress person votes (for their position or against it).  I am not going to talk more about these individual organizations.  

I will discuss three ways of ranking or rating congresspeople, they are used by a) National Journal  b) Progressive Punch  and c) Keith Poole and his associates.  I think the last is the best.

National Journal ratings does the following for the House, and similar for the Senate:

House members are assigned separate scores for their roll-call votes on key economic, social and foreign-policy issues during 2008. The members are rated in each of the three issue categories on both liberal and conservative scales, with the scores on each scale given as percentiles. An economic score of 78 on the liberal scale, for example, means that the member was more liberal than 78 percent of his or her House colleagues on the key votes in that issue area during 2008. A blank in any cell in the table below means that the member missed more than half the rated votes in an issue area. Composite scores are an average of the six issue-based scores. Members with the same composite scores are tied in rank. (C) indicates a conservative score; (L) indicates a liberal score.

If you sort on “composite”, you’ll see one issue: There are a lot of ties.  The top 12 representatives are all tied.  In the senate there are fewer ties.  But how does Bernie Sanders rank as tied for 13th most liberal, and with almost the same rating as Clinton?

The details of how they rated the congresspeople are for subscribers only, but they do have this snippet:

A panel of National Journal editors and reporters initially compiled a list of 167 key congressional roll-call votes for 2008 — 79 votes for the Senate and 88 for the House — and classified them as relating to economic, …

So it seems like they averaged a bunch of votes.

Progressive Punch rates people on the percentage of correct votes, and it offers ranks based on all voeertes, crucial votes, and votes on particular issues.  It is kept up to date, which is a major plus.  This has some advantages and disadvantages.  According to their methods, the three most progressive senators are: Roland Burris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Edward Kaufman.  Huh?  Well, all 3 have 100% ratings.  Even for Senators that have been in for a while, there are anomalies: Is Sherrod Brown really as liberal as Bernie Sanders?  One problem is revealed when we see that Ted Kennedy has a very low rating for 2009-10: They don’t deal properly with missed votes.  If we look at “Crucial Votes” for “lifetime” Jack Reed is rated as the most progressive senator among those who have been in the Senate for at least one full session.  

The way they came up with scores is summarized here. Briefly, they first identified a few “hardcore progressives” in the Senate and the House.  The ‘overall’ ratings are based on votes in which a majority of those progressives voted against a majority of the Republicans.  The problem here is that all votes are weighted equally, and this isn’t right (see below).  

The crucial votes are a subset of those, specifically:

The votes used to calculate the scores in the “Crucial Votes ’09-’10” column are a subset of the overall votes that qualify according to the Progressive Punch algorithm described above. They show the impact that even a small number of Democrats have when they defect from the progressive position. These are votes where EITHER progressives lost OR where the progressive victory was narrow and could have been changed by a small group of Democrats voting differently.

 This is better, but it’s not as good as more sophisticated methods.

Why not? Well, the good people at Progressive Punch recognize the problem: Not all votes are equal, even among those that are ideological.  Some are easy wins, some are lost by a lot.  But they dichotomize this into “crucial” and “noncrucial” when there is really a continuum.

The site is great for looking into past votes of congresspeople, and it’s great that they keep it up to date, but there is one better method.

That is the method used by the people at voteview.  The software and methods are the best, but it’s not the most user friendly site in the world.  They describe two methods of rating congresspeople: NOMINATE and Optical Classification.  Both are based on using every vote and attempting to place legislators in a way that maximizes the ability to predict how they will vote.  Both work really well: Optimal classification works a bit better, but takes more computer time; NOMINATE (if I understand it correctly) allows placement of issues as well as politicians.  With a single number for each congressperson, you can predict, with 95% accuracy, how they will vote on any bill.

One question is whether a single dimension (liberal to conservative) is enough to accurately classify people.  For most periods in American history, it is.  In the 1960s, a second dimension (racial attitudes) added a lot to the accuracy, but, right now, one dimension does very well.  You can see how OC works in one dimension.  It predicts 95% of the vote correctly.  Note that the things that look like fancy script L (or the old sign for pound) are supposed to be less than or equal to signs.

I am not going to duplicate the example in that link, but I’ll try to explain it a bit more (you might want to open it in another window).  The diamonds are legislators, the spades are ‘cutting points’ for nine votes, each with a different number of “ayes” and “nays”.  The Ace of Spades is a vote with only one “aye”, the two of spades has two “ayes” and so on.  Now, we attempt (first iteration) to place legislators correctly per the votes.  That gives the diagram listed after 2.  Then we re-order the cutpoints, as shown in step 3, and repeat the process.  

(end geekiness)

How do these methods compare?  I am not going to compare all the senators and reps, simply because I can’t figure out an easy way to copy the data into a spreadsheet.  But let’s take 5 well-known Senators from the 110th Senate:  Feingold, Schumer, Bayh, Specter and Coburn.

             OC rank                PP lifetime    NJ 2008 comp.      

Feingold -     most liberal           20th           37th

Schumer -      16th most liberal      16th            7th

Bayh  -        51st most liberal      45th           51st

Specter -      56th most liberal      59th           53rd

Coburn -       101st most liberal     71st           92nd

(there are 102 ranks in OC because of senators getting replaced …e.g. WY has Enzi, Barasso and Thomas).  I couldn’t find Progressive Punch for the 110th, so I gave lifetime ratings.

Which do you think is most accurate?

By what margin will Bob Shamansky win?

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House rankings: How many more Republican retirements?

Just when the GOP is starting to catch some small breaks in the Senate, the situation in the House is rapidly deteriorating. As many had predicted, a growing number of Republican representatives do not find the prospect of life in the minority appealing and are calling it quits. Unfortunately for Republicans, a large majority of them represent competitive districts. The latest retirement were particularly shocking because they were completely unexpected — especially Rep. Ferguson’s in NJ-07. Democrats have golden opportunities to pick-up all of these seats, especially if the environment continues to favor them. But this also means Republicans will be forced to play defense and will not be able to contest that many Democratic-held seats, no matter how vulnerable they might be.

The situation is made much worse for Republicans by the awful financial situation they are in. As of the end of October, the NRCC is still a million in debt, while the DCCC has 27 million dollars. That’s nearly a 30 million dollar gap, which will have a significant impact on next year’s results. The RNC will have to concentrate on the presidential elections and will have a limited ability to help the NRCC out. This means that the DCCC has the ability to play offense in many seats, expand the map, and protect its own seats — while the Republicans will probably end up having to concede some of their open seat and choose which select Democratic seats they are going after.

As a result, many of the freshmen Democrats who looked very vulnerable last year are likely to survive, though the GOP will no doubt be able to claim some of its very conservative seats back, starting with FL-16 and TX-22; they also got some good news this month when the Democratic challenger in MT-AL withdrew, as unpopular Rep. Cubin retired in Wyoming, and as they made Indiana’s 7th district much more competitive. But six of the seven race that are rated more vulnerable this month are Republican, underscoring the steady stream of bad news for the GOP.

I have only written full descriptions of seats that have made news over the past month. For detailed descriptions of the other races, check last month’s rankings. Only a few seats saw their rating change in the past month. I indicated upgraded or downgraded next to them to indicate whether they became more vulnerable or less vulnerable for the incumbent party. Here is the quick run-down:

  • Less vulnerable: CT-2, NY-19, WY-AL
  • More vulnerable: AK-AL, IL-06, IL-11, IN-07, KY-02, NJ-07, OH-05

Outlook: Democrats pick-up 7-12 seats.

The October ratings are available here.

Republican seats, Lean take-over (5)

  • AZ-1 (Open)
  • CA-4 (Rep. Doolittle): Republicans might finally be getting what they want here, as some rumors are starting to circulate that ethically (very) challenged Doolittle might be finally ready to announce his retirement. If he does, this race will significantly drop down the rankings; but if Doolittle stays in the race, this is a sure a pick-up for the Democrats’ Brown.
  • IL-11 (Open, upgraded): The filing deadline has already passed in Illinois (it’s the first in the country), and Republicans did not manage to recruit a top-tier candidate. They are fielding the Mayor of New Lenox and an ex-Bush White House official; both could be good candidates and make the race competitive, but Democrats have to be considered slightly favored since they convinced a reluctant Debbie Halvorson, the State Majority Leader, to run.
  • NM-1 (Open): 2006 nominee Patricia Madrid announced she would not run again, making Albuquerque councilman Heinrich the likely Democratic nominee. Republicans are confident that their nominee, sheriff White, is strong and will run much stronger than other Republicans would. If that is confirmed by independent indicators and polls, the race will be downgraded, but the fact that the district is naturally competitive (it narrowly went for Kerry in 2004) combined with the sour national environment for Republicans makes Heinrich the early favorite.
  • OH-15 (Open): The GOP finally got some much needed good news in this race. Democrats had united behind their 2006 nominee Mary Jo Kilroy, but all Republicans who might have made this race competitive declined to run one after another, making this the top pick-up opportunity in the country for Democrats. But the GOP finally convinced a strong candidate who had initially passed on the race to get in: state Senator Steve Strivers. They ensured that the race remains competitive; but given that OH-15 is very tight in the first place, that the environment is toxic for the GOP and that Kilroy came within a few thousand votes of unsitting an entranced incumbent in 2006, Democrats are still favored.

Democratic seats, Lean take-over (1)

  • FL-16 (Rep. Mahoney)

Republican seats, Toss-up (14)

  • AK-AL (Rep. Young, upgraded): A new poll shows just how disastrous Young’s approval rating has become as he is involved in a corruption probe that has claimed many other Republican congressmen. Democrats have a few candidates, and an October poll showed former state Senator Ethan Berkowitz leading Young.
  • CO-4 (Rep. Musgrave)
  • CT-4 (Rep. Shays)
  • IL-10 (Rep. Kirk): A recent primary poll has Dan Seals crushing Footlik in the Democratic primary for the right to take on Republican Kirk, who sits on a  very competitive district. Seals got 47% in 2006 with the national party paying little attention, but he will receive lots of help from the DCCC this time.
  • MN-03 (Open):
  • NC-8 (Rep. Hayes)
  • NJ-03 (open): In the first New Jersey surprise, Rep. Saxton announced he would not run for re-election in early November giving a major opening to Democrats in a district that Bush won by only 3% in 2004. Democrats were already excited about this race before Saxton’s retirement, and they believe that state Senator John Adler is a very strong candidate who will carry the district. Republicans do have a solid bench here though, and are looking to get state Senator Diane Allen in.
  • NJ-07 (open): Rep. Ferguson’s retirement was perhaps the biggest surprise of this year’s House cycle. He opens up a very competitive district that Bush won with 49% in 2000 and 53% in 2004. Democrats appear united behind state Assemblywoman Linda Stender who came within a point of beating Ferguson in 2006. The GOP is having a harder time at recruitment, as its three top choices (especially Tom Kean Jr.) announced they would not run within a few days of Ferguson’s retirement. Republicans better find a good candidate fast, or they will be looking at a certain Democratic pick-up.
  • OH-1 (Rep. Chabot)
  • OH-16 (Open):
  • NY-25 (Rep. Walsh)
  • PA-6 (Rep. Gerlach)
  • VA-11 (Rep. Davis): Whether or not Tom Davis retires, this race is sure to be very competitive. Davis’s wife Jeannemarie massively lost a re-election race to the state Senate last month in a contest that cost millions of dollars, proving that Davis will have a very tough fight on his hand next year if he runs again in a region that has been rapidly trending their way. If Davis retires (and he was supposed to run for Senate and leave the seat open until about a month ago), this will automatically jump up to the top of the Democratic pick-up list. Does his wife’s loss make him more or less likely to run again?
  • WA-8 (Rep. Reichert): Democrats are clearly confident they can take Reichert down in a rematch of the 2006 race against Demcorat Burner. They recently filed an FEC complaint over Reichert’s fundraising, hoping to get the incumbent in ethical trouble. They did not manage to tie him quite enough with the GOP brand in 2006.

Democratic seats, Toss-up (11)

  • CA-11 (Rep. McNerney)
  • GA-8 (Rep. Marshall)
  • IL-8 (Rep. Bean)
  • IN-7 (Rep. Carson, upgraded): This is a very Democratic district, that Kerry carried with 58%. But Rep. Carson has had health problems and has rarely been in the House in the past few years — nor has she campaigned very actively. Her 2006 re-election was surprisingly narrow, and Republicans have recruited state Rep. Jon Elrod, who they believe will be the ideal candidate to take down Carson. This race could be an unlikely pick-up for the GOP if Carson runs for re-election; if she retires, it could be easier for Democrats to hold.
  • IN-09 (Rep. Hill): Rep. Hill and Republican Sodrel are running against each other for the fourth straight time. Voters know both of them at this point, and there is little they can do this early to change the dynamics.
  • KS-2 (Rep. Boyda)
  • NH-1 (Rep. Shea-Porter): Republicans are preparing for a primary between ousted 2006 congressman Bradley and the former HHS commissioner; but if Shea-Porter won last year with no money and no national attention, how vulnerable could she be now as an incumbent.
  • OH-18 (Rep. Space)
  • PA-4 (Rep. Altmire)
  • PA-10 (Rep. Carney)
  • TX-22 (Rep. Lampson): This race is deemed by many the most vulnerable seat held by a Democrat. But the strongest Republicans passed on the race, giving at least some pause to those who have long predicted Lampson is a one-timer. They might very well be right, but we shall wait until the GOP field yields its nominee to reassess the situation.

The race of the rankings, including all the “lean retention” and “potentially competitive” rated seats, is available here, at Campaign Diaries.