Democrats get their first competitive House seat to defend

The House retirement picture has rarely been as unbalanced as this year. Republicans from swing districts keep announcing their departure, and, until today, not a single Democrat from a competitive seat had done the same. Only five Democrats had announced their retirement for now (two of which are named Udall), and none of their seat was at all competitive.

Today, the DCCC got its first bad news on the retirement front when Oregon's Rep. Darlene Hooley (OR-05) unexpectedly announced she would not run for re-election next fall. One of the reasons given for this is that the congresswoman -- first elected in 1997 -- had grown tired of weekly trips back and forth between Oregon and DC and was looking forward to living in Oregon.

Oregon's 5th district is one of the competitive in the country. Before Hooley's victory in 1996, the Dems and the GOP regularly swapped this district, often in close elections. In 2004, Bush prevailed 50% to 49%, and all of these factors combined guarantee a very close race in November.

Republicans already had a candidate in the race, Mike Erickson, a wealthy self-funder who was the GOP's candidate in 2006. That year, Erickson got 43% of the vote, an honorable showing in a bad year for Republicans nationally. Erickson was already raising significant amounts of money and donated a few hundreds of thousands of his own money today.

Democrats have a list of candidates of their own, starting with the husband of Hooley's chief of staff, Paul Evans, former mayor of Monmouth and a veteran of the Iraq War. Another name that is being floated by some is current Senate candidate Steve Novick, who is running in a contested primary and could drop down to a House race.

This is all very good news for the NRCC who desperately need to force Democrats to play defense in some of their districts, if only to prevent the DCCC to have that much resources to devote to attacking and testing Republican congressmen. The GOP has a lot of Democratic congressmen that it believes are weak and that it wants to contest, but itis facing increasingly low odds in many of these for lack of credible candidates (NY-19 for example) or just because it has too many open seats of its own to defend to be thinking about offense very coherently.

But OR-05 is such a natural toss-up that it will be hard for Democrats to put it away. And Erickson's willingness to self-fund his campaign will remove some pressure off the NRCC who will not have to dump that much money helping him out here.



  • If you think we should end the culture of super delegates, sign this petition: www.myspace.com/endsuperdelegatesnow

    By Blogger Eze, At 08 February, 2008 11:55  

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