Next Year’s Model: 2010 Races, Florida through Kansas

In the second instalment of our look at coming 2010 races, we look at potentially hot races in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Kansas.

Florida

The Sunshine State ought to have one of the most exciting, highest-profile, and most expensive U.S. Senate races in the nation in 2010, when freshman Republican Mel Martinez is expected to seek reelection.

Martinez is considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans on the 2010 slate. He won election just 51% to 49% in 2004 over Democrat Betty Castor, and his approvals and reelects are in the toilet:

Public Policy Polling did three surveys over the summer looking at Mel Martinez’s job approval rating and how some potential opponents would fare against him.

In June his approval rating was 23%, in July it was 24%, and in September it was 23%.

We found that in hypothetical 2010 matchups Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink would lead Martinez 37-31, Congressman Robert Wexler would be tied with him 31-31, former Senator Bill Graham would lead him 51-31, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz would lead him 38-37, Congressman Allen Boyd would lead him 37-33, and Congressman Ron Klein would lead him 37-33. Martinez is probably the most endangered incumbent in the country for 2010 and given his lack of popularity even with Republicans is ripe for a strong primary challenge.

“Bill Graham”, I assume, refers to Bob Graham. He’s not running, but it’s very possible that any of the others – Reps. Wexler, Klein, Boyd and Debbie Wasserman Schultz – might give it a go, and so might Rep. Kathy Castor, Betty Castor’s daughter and a rising star in the state party.

Sink is the biggest name in current state Democratic politics and the best equipped for a statewide run. As the polling numbers indicate, she’d start the race in the best position against Martinez, but whether she runs will depend somewhat on whether she decides to run for Governor, either now or in the future.

Martinez is the big target for 2010, but there’s also a Governor’s race to be held. Unfortunately, Republican Governor Charlie Crist enjoys exceptionally high approval ratings, and is likely not to draw a particularly strong opponent. Alex Sink and State Sen. Dan Gelber (who gets a free shot at the race, as his term expires in 2012) are the only ones rumored for the race, and it certainly seems that Sink would be best served either running against Martinez, or waiting until 2014 to run for Governor.

In the House, there are three races which look especially promising for next cycle (because of Florida’s ridiculous gerrymandering, there’s always a race that can be won somewhere, if only because Democrats start from such a position of disadvantage.


FL-10
is home to ancient Republican Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young. C.W. Bill has been around for several generations, having been first elected in 1970, and he’ll turn 80 years old in 2010. He’s bound to retire some day, and he holds a district which leans slightly Democratic at the presidential level (with a PVI of D+1.1).

Democrats have a built-in candidate just waiting for Young to hang up his spikes – State Senator Charlie Justice (and if ever there was a great name for a politician, it is “Charlie Justice”). He’d have to resign his Senate seat to run for Congress, but that should be a fairly easy call given the opportunity.

FL-16: Sex scandals have flipped this R+2 district twice in the past two cycles – once from Republican Mark Foley to Democrat Tim Mahoney, and once from Mahoney to Republican Tom Rooney. (Foley, Mahoney, Rooney…apparently being Irish is a prerequisite to holding this seat).

Rooney should get a fairly strong challenge his first time out of the gate, before he gets too entrenched, and there’s one especially strong Democrat to take him on. That would be State Senator Dave Aronberg of Greenacres. Aronberg lives just outside the district, in the 19th Congressional District, but his Senate district overlaps considerably with the 16th.

Aronberg is young (37), considered fairly moderate, has a base of support in his Senate district, and is exceptionally intelligent. The DCCC would do well to try and recruit Aronberg into the race, although he is not, in fact, Irish.

FL-25: Orange to Blue candidate Joe Garcia came exceptionally close to knocking off incumbent Republican Mario Diaz-Balart in 2008, losing just 53% to 47%.

With a seemingly strong base of support in Miami-Dade County, Garcia seems fairly well positioned to take another crack at the race. Garcia is only 40, and has a bright future in electoral politics if he wants to stay in the game. It doesn’t look as though redistricting will help much (the Republicans will control it), so 2010 seems as good a time as any.

Georgia

Democrats caught a nice break here when incumbent Sen. Johnny Isakson decided against a run for Governor in 2010, choosing instead to run for reelection.

Had Isakson run, he would very likely have won, and certainly would have been favored. With redistricting around the corner, and the Republicans in control of the Georgia legislature, the Governorship is a big prize for Democrats, perhaps bigger than the Senate seat.

And a Senate vacancy may not have been that appetizing even if Isakson did leave his seat, as term-limited Gov. Sonny Perdue would have been positioned to run for Isakson’s seat.

Instead, while the battle against Isakson in the Senate will be somewhat tough, the Governor’s race is wide open. For the Republicans, the front-runners are Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Karen Handel, and perhaps a Congressman or two like Lynn Westmoreland.

On the Democratic side, Gen. David Poythress (the former Secretary of State, Labor Commissioner, and Adjutant General) is already running. Potentially in the mix are Attorney General Thurbert Baker (one of the most prominent potential candidates), Congressman Jim Marshall (who also might run for Senate), and Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond.

Any of these folks could run, as could a few more – it’s a wide open field. The biggest name of all is former Governor Roy Barnes, who has been polled (and does fairly well) against Oxendine and Cagle.

The Senate race (against Isakson) ought to have more or less the same cast of characters, with the addition of Jim Martin (should he lose his current race against Saxby Chambliss), and wealthy Atlanta attorney Jim Butler. It’s likely the open-seat Gov race will draw better Democratic talent, although both Baker and Jim Marshall have been competitive in polling.

Marshall is one of the most conservative Democrats in the House (though he’s pretty decent on labor). His seat is perennially endangered, and should be the most hotly contested House seat in Georgia in 2010. Should Marshall run for Senate or for Governor, expect to lose the seat.

His partner in conservative-Dem land, Rep. John Barrow, also may be hunted, though his district is a lot more Dem-friendly than Marshall’s – Kerry won it.

Hawai’i

There are two big questions here:

  1. Will venerated Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye retire, enabling Republican Gov. Linda Lingle to run for the Seat?
  1. What Democrat will attempt to succeed the term-limited Lingle as Governor?

The hot Democratic names for the Gov race are those of Representatives Neil Abercrombie and Mazie Hirono (the former Lieutenant Governor), Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, and State Senator Colleen Hanabusa. If Abercrombie or Hirono runs, you could see an interesting race for their Congressional seats (both of them safe for Democrats).

For the Republicans, Lieutenant Governor James Aiona will presumably run, but the Democrat will be favored.

If Inouye retires (indications are he won’t, but you never know), expect the same cast of characters, plus former Rep. Ed Case (who is, suffice it to say, not exactly a progressive).

Whoever is the nominee will have a crazy pitched battle against Lingle if she decides to run for Senate. She might run even if Inouye sticks around, but I suspect there’s no beating the legendary Inouye in Hawaii.

The Congressional races will depend on whether Hirono or Abercrombie runs for higher office. They’re both all set if they stay put.

Idaho

Democratic freshman Rep.-elect Walt Minnick will be one of the most hunted Dems in the country after knocking off Bill Sali in an R+19 district this year. No Democrat holds a more Republican district than Minnick.

Chances are good that senior Sen. Mike Crapo (it’s pronounced “Cray-po”, get your minds out of the gutter) will be perfectly safe, as will Governor Butch Otter. Idaho Democrats will likely focus exclusively on keeping Minnick in office, and for good reason.

Illinois

Ugh. No one knows what to expect here, because no one has any idea what Governor Rod Blagojevich will do to replace former Senator and now President-elect Barack Obama.

The list of possible names is a mile long: Reps. Jesse Jackson, Jan Schakowsky, Danny Davis and Luis Gutierrez, VA Secretary Tammy Duckworth, Congressional candidate Dan Seals, Comptroller Dan Hynes, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, Senate President Emil Jones, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Blagojevich being Blagojevich, he could also appoint a trained dolphin, and it would surprise no one.

He also seems to think he has a shot at being reelected. Personally I don’t think that’s true, but he’s going to try, anyway. Hynes, Madigan, and State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias are expected to take a crack at him in the primary.

So who runs on the other side? Reps. Mark Kirk and Peter Roskam seem to be fairly well positioned for runs for Governor or Senate, Kirk especially.

Uh, the rest of the Republican bench in Illinois is kind of thin. You never know when a previously little-known state senator proves to be a great candidate for statewide office – Kay Hagan was such a one in 2008 for the Democrats – but it sure looks like Kirk or bust for the Illinois GOP.

At the House level, the GOP may take a crack at freshman Debbie Halvorson (IL-11) or third-termer Melissa Bean (IL-08). Meanwhile, the Democrats will jump all over the open seat in IL-10 (Mark Kirk) if Kirk does run for higher office.

Indiana

If Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh runs for a third term – and as yet, there’s no indication he won’t – he’s a virtual lock to be reelected. Even if he didn’t (suppose he got some appointment in the Obama administration), Dems would have a decent chance of keeping the seat with someone like Rep. Baron Hill.

Speaking of Hill, the Republicans may just put up former Rep. Mike Sodrel again to run against him (for their fifth matchup). He doesn’t seem to have much else to do.

Republican Mark Souder has had two tough challenges in a row, putting up 54% in 2006 and 55% in 2008. He’d be out of a job if his district weren’t so overwhelmingly Republican.

All the other Republicans should be favored to win reelection. Barring a retirement, don’t expect much action in Indiana at the House level.

Iowa

It’s possible that incumbent Republican Sen. Charles Grassley could get his first serious opposition in years. He had been considered pretty safe, but following a big win in Iowa, Democrats smell blood.

Former Governor Tom Vilsack could take him on, as could second-term Rep. Bruce Braley or Lt. Gov. Patty Judge.

Alternatively, Grassley might retire, a scenario which could lead Republican Rep. Tom Latham – who holds a slightly Democratic-leaning district – to run for the seat.

Democratic Governor Chet Culver appears well positioned for reelection, though that will depend largely on the quality of his opposition.

Kansas

Incumbent Republican Sen. Sam Brownback is retiring, and Rep. Jerry Moran is already running to replace him. He’ll likely be joined by Rep. Todd Tiahrt.

Term-limited Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, should she be available and inclined, would be the strongest Democrat in the field by far if she decided to run. There’s a huge dropoff after that. Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson is likely to run to replace her as Governor, while former Rep. Nancy Boyda would be best served running for her old seat.

Suffice it to say that we don’t have a great bench in Kansas.

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