House Forecast - 2/15/2010

The House Landscape

Next week filing opens for the 2010 Elections.  Here is my current survey of the House landscape.

The biggest factor right now is the national mood.  Having a Democrat in the White House has re-energized the Republicans. They are leading in national polls, such as the generic congressional ballot. Furthermore events, like the Tea Party rallies and the Massachusetts Senate race, have moved the consensus to expect a strong Republican year.  I have integrated this expectation into my current forecast which calls for net no change in the House next year.

But it is important to note that as the unemployment rate recedes over the next six months, the anti-Democratic sentiment may fade as well.

There are twelve districts below.  These are the races which appear to be most competitive.  They are listed in the order in which I believe they are most vulnerable to switching parties.  Although I am watching some others, I doubt that the other 151 districts which are not listed will change hands.

Competitive Races

HD-100 – South St. Louis County – Rep. Sue Schoemehl (termed) – Schoemehl has said that she’s working on a candidate, but this may be one of the toughest defenses for Democrats. The district leans Republican (52-53%). Right now the only Democratic candidate is Marty Zuniga.  He’s a hard worker, but is universally panned by the establishment as not fitting the district – too young, too liberal.

Republicans have long-time business owner Marsha Haefner.  She had an okay first fundraising quarter and is a soft face with a strong ideological core.

Hard to call until we see the “final” Democratic field, but right now it looks like a GOP Pick-up.

HD-6 – Marion County - Rep. Rachel Bringer (termed). District leans Republican so it’s one to watch now that it’s open again. Candidate recruitment will determine which way this race goes.

Democrats love their candidate Carl Thompson, but Republicans are close to unveiling theirs as well.

It’s a 46-47% Democratic district and in an expected Republican year, that’s probably too far away for the Dems to retain, assuming the Republican recruit comes through.  Right now I’m chalking it up to the Republican column.

HD-48 – Lees Summit – Rep. Will Kraus (running for Senate) – The surprise change in Senate 8 with Brian Yates dropping out and Will Kraus jumping in has created an opening in a solid Democratic district.  This is 54-55% voting index for Dems.  That means that we may very well see a Dem pick-up here.

The candidate recruitment is still fluid, but counting this one for Dems.

HD-121 – Johnson County – Denny Hoskins (freshman) – Hoskins is number one in the incumbent protection program.  He’s been helped to pass legislation to pass and tutored on constituent services.  Although any incumbent is hard to beat, Hoskins still seems vulnerable.  He had a scrap with unpaid taxes a few months ago and Dems hint their opp research will yield more embarrassments in the future. 

Meanwhile the Dem candidate, Courtney Cole, is doing everything right.  She’s outraised Hoskins in the last two quarters.  Can she overcome the Republican lean (51-52% district) in a Republican year?  Be tough, but it’s still a good bet.

HD-17 – St. Charles – Rep. Kenny Biermann – Biermann took this seat in a very close race last cycle.  He won by 73 votes. The incumbent he beat, Vicki Schneider, is vowing a return.  But she hasn’t done much work yet toward that end.

Republicans are sticking with her even though Biermann is a hard working door-knocker.  Their theory is that the environment in 2010 should be significantly better than 2008, and should be worth 37 votes switching direction.

They could be right.

HD-30 – Kansas City – Rep. Jason Brown (termed) – Lexi Norris, the Democratic recruit, is getting high marks. She’s a 6th-generation from the district with strong roots. 

The Republican is Nick Marshall, though he faces a primary.  He had a strong first fundraising quarter, bringing in over $12k.  Norris has been working hard, and now has $20k in the bank.

Dems peg the voting index at 49% so it clearly will be a hard-fought race.  Still, it’s one that the Nixon team has targeted, so Norris should have greater resources available down the stretch.

HD-21 – Mexico – Rep. Steve Hobbs (termed) – Kelly Schultz ran well last cycle, and got good reviews. Dems are eager to try to win back this district, the seat of Joe Maxwell.  But they have to wait.  Republicans took a while to find someone, but ended up with a fellow with good name ID – John Cauthorn, a former state senator.

It’s a Republican district (51-52%).  In a Republican year, this probably stays Republican despite Schultz’ hard work.

HD-55 – Blue Springs – Rep. Bryan Pratt (termed) – This district has a slight tilt to the Republican side (51% voting index).  But like all of these numbers, that may be understated as the two last cycles have been strong Democratic years.

Democrats have Clay Rodgers, a union member, and Republicans are putting up Shiela Solon, a Blue Springs City Councilmember.

In Solon’s favor: Pratt will work hard to pump up the turn-out from his district to help him in his Senate 8 primary.

HD-152 – Eminence – Rep. J C Kuessner (termed) – This is a tight Dem district (51-52%).  But it’s conservative and rural, the kind of make-up that makes Dems nervous and has Republicans thinking they have a shot – especially in this year.

The initial preferred Dem candidate, Logan Merrill, was called into action in the Middle East; so Shane Van Steenis is now their guy.  His family runs a canoe operation in Eminence. 

Republicans have Paul Fitzwater, a former high school basketball coach and referee.  He’s a hard-charging high achiever.  He had an okay first quarter, raising over $7k.  Van Steenis meanwhile raised nothing, but put $14k of his own money into the race.

The guess would be that Dems hold, but it’s definitely in play.

HD-54 – Blue Springs – Rep. Gary Dusenberg (termed) – This is a Republican-leaning district (52% voting index) which I probably wouldn’t put in the competitive list except that Democrats are saying very good things about their candidate John Bullard.  Governor Jay Nixon has come in for a fundraiser for him.  And it shows on his fundraising quarter.  Bullard had $28,857 on-hand in his January report.

I haven’t met either the Republican or Democratic candidate here. The Republican

nominee is Jeanie Lauer, a member of the city council.

HD-22 – Moberly – Rep. Therese Sander (termed) – The Democrat last cycle, Gail Brown, performed right about at the voting index, scoring 48%.  Dems are looking to find someone a little more dynamic this time around, but haven’t landed a candidate yet.  Republicans have a primary.

Randy Asbury is a county commissioner, and Tim Remole is a small business owner.  Either one should be able to hold this district assuming that they don’t get consumed in a nasty primary.

HD-137 – Springfield – Rep. Charlie Norr – Norr should be safe. But the district is a toss-up 50-50 district. And in a Republican year, there might be something to watch.

The Republican, Melissa Leach, has a strong backer who’s donated about $20k to her campaign.  The forecast is for Norr to retain the seat, but it’s worth watching.

Conclusion

A great numbers of variables are undetermined including the final recruiting picture, the 2010 political environment and the extent to which Governor Jay Nixon helps out financially in leveling the playfield which has slanted against Democrats in recent cycles.

But given the above analysis, my current forecast would be for no net change in the make-up of the House.