1.30.2008

House GOP loses three more members, and Kentucky filing deadline marked by last-minute chaos

It seems blasphemous to cover anything but the presidential races right now given the high drama of both the Democratic and Republican races right now (though the GOP contest will be much less exciting from now on), but it's hard to ignore that still more Republican-held House seats have opend up since Monday.

VA-11: I first reported on rumors of Tom Davis's imminent retirement on Monday, and it is now being confirmed. VA-11 shoots up to the very top of Democratic opportunities, and Leslie Byrne, the Democratic candidate, carried the district handily in her statewide campaign for Lieutenant governship in 2005. Check the analysis of VA-11 I wrote on Monday.

MO-Gov and MO-09: Governor Blunt's unexpected retirement last week prompted Republican confusion, and there has been a lot of jockeying around among the state GOP. With statewide officials already in the race, all eyes were on the state's representatives. Would any of them seek to win the Governor's mansion and leave their seat open? On Monday, Kenny Hulshof from MO-09 announced she was jumping in the gubernatorial race. That gives Republicans a strong candidate to take on Democratic Attorney General Nixon for governor, but it means one more House seat to defend. Fortunately for the GOP, MO-09 leans Republican, so it does not represent a gigantic headache for Republicans; but it is definitely the type of district Democrats had some success in at the last midterms.

Chaos in KY-02: As if Rep. Ron Lewis's retirement was not shocking enough, but the manner in which he did it is just stunning. The filling deadline in Kentucky was expiring yesterday at 4pm, and Ron Lewis had let out no sign that he was planning on retiring. Minutes before the deadline, the wife of his chief of staff Daniel London went to the SOS office to withdraw Lewis's name and file papers for London instead! Lewis's ploy to get his chief of staff nominated failed as state Sen. Brett Guthrie had somehow heard of the possibility of this happening and was also waiting at the SOS's office. Guthrie immediately filed his own candidacy papers, setting up a Guthrie v. London primary. (Read the detailed wrap-up of this ridiculous ploy over at CQPolitics).

In any case, KY-02 is now an open seat. And Democrats have a strong candidate in the race, state Senator David Boswell, who had filed thinking he would compete against Lewis. (Democrats must be very relieved they made sure to file a candidate here). KY-02 is a strongly Republican district. Bush prevailed here with about 65% of the vote, though Lewis only got 55% in 2006 in an under-the-radar race that the underfunded Democrat kept surprisingly close. Republicans are favored, but it is unclear at this point how strong Brett Guthrie might be in the general election, so we will have to keep a close watch on this race.

KY-03: Republicans got some good news in another Kentucky race, as former Rep. Northup jumped in the 3rd district race against John Yarmuth, who defeated her in 2006. This had also been rumored for the past week or two, but Northup's intentions had not been fully confirmed. KY-03 is a good district for Democrats, and Yarmuth will likely keep it for a few cycles if he manages to beat the well-known Northup next year. It is worth noting that Northup lost the GOP's gubernatorial primary last year against incumbent Fletcher, though the moderate credential that did her in in that primary are likely to play well in the KY-03 general election.

KY-Sen: Kentucky's Senate contest was the hottest race this November, where the DSCC was pushing hard to get Treasurer Luallen or AG Stumbo to jump in the race. Both announced they would not run since then, and now that the filing deadline passed the field is set. The Democrats filed attorney Andrew Horne, businessman Greg Fisher and a last-minute addendum is Bruce Lunsford who lost the gubernatorial primary in 2007 to now-Governor Beshear. Lunsford is a centrist Democrat who is distrusted by his party's activists, so it is unclear what the dynamics of this primary will be. There is no question that the field is much weaker than it could have been, and that the DSCC did not do well at recruiting here.

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