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Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (VA-10)
When Rep. Comstock came to Capitol Hill in January 2015 after winning the election to succeed retiring Main Street Rep. Frank Wolf, she was on familiar turf; Comstock had been a senior aide to Wolf and is a longtime government veteran. She also worked for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, participated in the 2000 Bush presidential campaign, and served as director of public affairs in the Justice Department. She served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2010 to 2014. In Congress, she has quickly become a leader on technology issues, which she calls an area “where we’re going to break through a lot of the sort of left-right divide.” She is chair of the Research and Technology Subcommittee and has launched a program that will invite women who hold leadership roles or who have built successful careers in government, business, and the professions to share their insights and advice with young women in middle school and high school.
Rep. Comstock’s Northern Virginia district has been competitive territory in recent elections. Mitt Romney carried it by a narrow 1-point margin in 2012, but Barack Obama won it by 3 points in 2008. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has put Rep. Comstock on its target list of “One-Term Wonders” and “Red to Blue” races, while the Republican National Committee (RNC) has countered by placing her in its Patriot Program.
Congressman Ryan Costello (PA-06)
Freshman Rep. Costello has already come to the attention of veteran Congress-watchers as a capable and committed representative who wants to make what he calls “an outsize role relative to being a freshman member.” He got his start in politics by winning election as East Vincent township supervisor, then in 2008 was elected recorder of deeds in Chester County. In 2010, he was elected to the county Board of Commissioners. As chairman, he balanced budgets, cut spending, and reduced the size of county government, while making significant investments to preserve farmland and open space. He was elected to Congress in 2014, and serves on the Veterans’ Affairs and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees. His articulate defense of transportation and infrastructure investment became the subject of intense national media attention in May 2015 when Amtrak’s Northeast Regional Train 188 derailed not far from his district.
Rep. Costello’s suburban Philadelphia district voted for Mitt Romney by a 2-point margin in 2012, but Barack Obama had carried it by a 7-point margin in 2008. Like Rep. Comstock, Rep. Costello has been singled out by the DCCC as a “One-Term Wonder,” while the RNC has come to his defense by naming him to the Patriot Program.
Congressman Carlos Curbelo (FL-26)
In his first term in Congress, Rep. Curbelo has made national headlines as a young, dynamic politician at the forefront of the Republican Party’s outreach efforts to Hispanic voters. The GOP leadership recognized his star potential when it named him to deliver the party’s Spanish-language response to President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address.
However, Rep. Curbelo represents a part of Miami-Dade County in Florida that has been the most competitive Hispanic-majority district in the entire country. In 2014, Curbelo defeated incumbent Joe Garcia by 3 points, but in 2012 Garcia had won election by nearly 11 points while President Obama carried the district by 7 points. Rep. Curbelo faces a general election challenge from Democrat Annette Taddeo, whose statewide profile was elevated when she ran as the candidate for Florida’s lieutenant governor in 2014; the DCCC has named her one of its “Red to Blue” candidates. Political analyst Charlie Cook has projected that Rep. Curbelo will face one of the toughest reelection challenges for any Republican in 2016, while the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report rates his election as a pure toss-up. He is a member of the RNCC’s Patriot Program.
Congressman Jeff Denham (CA-10)
Rep. Denham was first elected to the House in 2010, and won again in 2012 and 2014 when he was redistricted into the newly drawn 10th congressional district in California’s northern San Joaquin Valley. He has compiled a distinguished record as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, on which he serves as chairman of the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee. He has become a nationally known advocate for passenger and freight rail safety, deficit reduction, and immigration reform.
However, Rep. Denham’s district is 40 percent Hispanic, and President Obama won there by 4 points in 2012 and an even larger margin in 2008. Democrats are counting on a large Hispanic turnout in the 2016 presidential year as the key to unseating Denham, despite his sponsorship of proposals including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants through service in the U.S. armed forces. The DCCC has named this one of their “Emerging Races,” while the RNC has enrolled Rep. Denham in its Patriot Program.
Congressman David Joyce (OH-14)
Rep. David Joyce is a two-term legislator and active Main Street member. He represents Ohio’s 14th Congressional District, where his predecessor was former Rep. Steve LaTourette, who now serves as Main Street’s Chairman. Rep. Joyce was formerly the Prosecutor of Geauga County, Ohio. He serves on the House Committee on Appropriations.
In 2016, for the second election in a row, Rep. Joyce had to fend off a primary challenge from former state legislator and radio host Matt Lynch, a far-right favorite. The DCCC exulted in Lynch’s candidacy, issuing a press release proclaiming “David Joyce Headed for Another Million-Dollar Primary.” A DCCC spokeswoman rejoiced that “Congressman Joyce is in for a major and costly fight to defend his seat in a competitive district while also trying to fend off attacks from his own party.” While Rep. Joyce was victorious in the primary, he now faces a challenging reelection campaign.
Congressman John Katko (NY-24)
Many members of Congress go years without having a bill they’ve sponsored make it out of committee. First-term Rep. John Katko has already had nine bills he’s authored pass the House, and two of them have been signed into law. It’s a particularly impressive performance for a freshman legislator. Rep. Katko is one of the few first-year House members to chair a subcommittee: the Transportation Security Subcommittee in the Homeland Security Committee. He also serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Rep. Katko has made it his mission to cut through partisan gridlock and deliver needed legislation. But this has not prevented him from being one of the Democratic Party’s top targets. Rep. Katko represents one of the most Democratic-leaning districts held by any Republican. President Obama won the district with 56 percent of the vote in 2008 and 57 percent in 2012. This is a top-tier takeover target and a must-win for Democrats, who have put Rep. Katko on their hit-list of “One-Term Wonders” and “Red to Blue” districts. The National Republican Congressional Committee has enrolled Rep. Katko in its Patriot Program. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report has rated the race a pure toss-up.
Congressman Tom MacArthur (NJ-03)
First-term Rep. Tom MacArthur quickly emerged as a leader on justice for victims of Hurricane Sandy and congressional opposition to new military base closures. A self-described “practical Republican,” Rep. MacArthur has a proven record of being willing to work across the aisle, particularly in his service on the House Armed Services and Natural Resources Committees. He has said that he believes Americans don’t want their representatives to fight over symbolic issues “but to do things that improve the lives of people.”
Nonetheless, Rep. MacArthur represents a district in which registered Democratic voters outnumber registered Republicans, and the Democrats are desperate to retake it. Just five months into his term, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — which spent $1.6 million against MacArthur in the 2014 election — launched an online campaign ad and mailing against him. The DCCC has also placed him on their list of “One-Term Wonders.” Rep. MacArthur has told reporters that he hasn’t been surprised by the Democratic onslaught. “They want the seat, period,” he said. “Nobody had to warn me. This is a swing district. The DCCC thinks they can get it back so they’re going to come after me, after me, after me.”
Congresswoman Martha McSally (AZ-02)
“I’ve been fighting stereotypes my whole life,” Rep. Martha McSally says. She’s an honors graduate from the Air Force Academy, the first female pilot to fly in combat, and the first to command a squadron in combat. When she was stationed in Saudi Arabia, she successfully challenged the requirement that U.S. servicewomen wear Muslim garb off-base. Rep. McSally sits on the Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security Committee, where she chairs the Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications Subcommittee. Rep. McSally has already authored five bills that passed the House, one of which has been signed into law.
Rep. McSally’s 2014 election was the closest in the nation, as she won by only 167 votes. The Democrats can be counted upon to make ferocious efforts to retake her seat. The DCCC has named her one of their “One-Term Wonders” and EMILY’s List has placed her “on notice” for the next election cycle. The NRCC has countered by placing her in the Patriot Program. Charlie Cook has counted Rep. McSally among the two dozen most endangered House Republicans for 2016.
Congressman Dan Newhouse (WA-04)
Rep. Dan Newhouse is a third-generation farmer as well as a former state legislator, so it’s no surprise that he’s become a leading voice for agriculture even in his first year in Congress. He is a member of three committees: Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Science, Space, and Technology, on which he is vice-chairman of the Energy Subcommittee.
Rep. Newhouse faces an unusual reelection situation because he actually lost the Republican primary in 2014, to far-right former football player Clint Didier. However, Washington is one of only three states in which all candidates, regardless of party, appear on the same primary ballot and two members of the same party can advance to the general election if they finish in first and second place. Newhouse, who received the second most votes in the primary, advanced to the general election and defeated Didier. The unpredictable dynamics of the “top-two primary” system mean that Rep. Newhouse must be prepared for both a rematch from the extreme right and a challenge from the Democrats.
Congressman Bruce Poliquin (ME-02)
Rep. Bruce Poliquin worked for many years in the investment business before becoming state Treasurer of the Maine Republican Party and winning election to the House in 2014. His financial expertise is part of the reason that, unusually for a freshman, he was named to the prestigious House Financial Services Committee. In that role, Rep. Poliquin has been an outspoken opponent of intrusive business regulation and excessive government spending. But his financial expertise also came into play when he introduced a bill, passed by the House in October 2015, that would allow states to immediately freeze the assets of deadbeat parents who seek to hide assets in order to avoid paying child support. Rep. Poliquin estimates that there is $1 billion in uncollected child support nationally.
Rep. Poliquin is the first Republican to represent Maine’s 2nd District in 20 years. President Obama won the district in 2012 with 54 percent of the vote, so Democrats are keen to retake it. They calculate that the electoral dynamic will be less favorable for Poliquin in 2016 compared to 2014 because this time he won’t benefit from the presence of Republican Gov. Paul R. LePage atop the ticket. They also believe he is vulnerable because the presence of a third-party candidate in 2014 meant that Poliquin won the seat with less than a majority of the vote. The DCCC have named him to their “One-Term Wonders” and “Red to Blue” lists while the NRCC is defending him through the Patriot Program. Political analyst Charlie Cook rates the 2016 race a tossup, as does the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report.
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21)
No first-year member of Congress has received more media attention than North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Now 31, Rep. Stefanik has been a key player in Republican outreach to the Millennial generation. She is also close to Speaker Paul Ryan, whose debate preparation she managed when he was the 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee. She serves on two committees, Armed Services (on which she is vice-chair of the Subcommittee on Readiness) and Education and the Workforce. She has told reporters that she’s pleased her Congressional record of accomplishment shows bipartisanship: “I have been there to bring common sense governance.”
Rep. Stefanik is an existential refutation of the Democratic claim that there’s a “Republican war on women,” so naturally the Democrats would like to knock her out of office before she gains any of the traditional advantages of incumbency. She also represents a district that President Obama carried twice. The Democrats have recruited a strong candidate, a retired Army colonel and missile defense expert, to challenge Rep. Stefanik in her first reelection bid. Both the Cook Political Report and Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball have included this district in their list of 2016’s highly competitive races. The National Republican Campaign Committee has enrolled Rep. Stefanik in the Patriot Program, while the DCCC has named this one of its “Emerging Races.”
Congressman David Valadao (CA-21)
Rep. David Valadao is a third-term legislator from a California’s San Joaquin Valley. The son of Portuguese immigrants, he is a dairy farmer and one of the handful of Republicans who represents a majority-Hispanic district. He serves on the Committee on Appropriations, and is a leading Republican advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. For the past two years, he has introduced numerous initiatives to conserve water and combat the effects of the worst drought to afflict California in centuries.
The 21st District is more than 70 percent Hispanic, and Rep. Valadao has conducted some of his campaign debates in Spanish. Democrats have a commanding 17-point registration advantage over Republicans in the district, so Rep. Valadao’s continued success in winning reelection is a major irritation to the Democratic leadership in Congress. They have recruited Emilio Huerta, the son of Hispanic labor icon Dolores Huerta, to oppose him in the fall elections. Rep. Valadao is enrolled in the RNCC’s Patriot Program. All of the major political handicappers have pointed to this district as one of the most highly contested in the nation.
Congressman David Young (IA-03)
A freshman legislator who represents southwestern Iowa including Des Moines, Rep. David Young emerged victorious from a wild Iowa GOP convention in 2014, winning the party nomination on the fifth ballot. Rep. Young had previous experience with Congress, having served as chief of staff to both Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA). He is one of only two freshmen on the powerful Appropriations Committee, following in the footsteps of his predecessor (and former Main Streeter), Rep. Tom Latham.
Rep. Young’s district is predominantly urban, and has flipped back and forth between Republicans and Democrats since the 1980s. A majority of the district voted for President Obama in both 2008 and 2012. All of the political forecasters project that Rep. Young will have a difficult reelection contest, with the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report going so far as to rate the race a “pure tossup” and one of the dozen most competitive elections in the country. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) named Rep. Young one of its “One Term Wonders” and more recently has targeted him under its “Emerging Races” program. The RNCC has enrolled him in the Patriot Program.
Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-01)
Freshman Rep. Lee M. Zeldin is an Army veteran (who deployed to Iraq with the 82nd Airborne) and a former state legislator. He is currently the only Jewish Republican member of Congress. He’s a member of three House committees: Foreign Affairs, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Veterans’ Affairs. He is Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation and co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus. A New York Times profile of Rep. Zeldin observed that national Republicans “have long viewed Mr. Zeldin as a star in the making,” and that he has emerged as “one of the Republican Party’s most energetic — and caustic — spokesmen on foreign affairs.”
The same profile commented that “The congressman’s 2016 re-election bid will be a test of his brand of strident hawkishness, and of whether a conservative up-and-comer can have any future in Democratic-leaning New York.” President Obama carried this district in both 2008 and 2012, and Rep. Zeldin lost to a Democrat in his first race for the congressional seat in 2008. Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball considers Rep. Zeldin’s race to be one of the most competitive Republican reelection contests in the country. The DCCC targeted Rep. Zeldin as a “One-Term Wonder” and has included him in its “Red to Blue” program, while the RNCC includes him in the Patriot Program.