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February 8th, 2024             Len’s Political Note #620 Taking stock of the Democratic Incumbent Leaners

2024                                      General Election

I write notes about the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents and the Democrats who are challenging the most vulnerable Republican incumbents.  I follow my own developed list of who the most vulnerable are and note the most vulnerable as identified by Daily Kos, which uses a ranking system similar to mine,

I decided it was time to look at candidates from a slightly different perspective – and used the Cook Reports rating system.  Len’s Political Note #616 reviewed where things stood with candidates who Cook rated as toss ups.

Look at the Democratic Incumbents Cook rated as Leaning.  Two addition bits of information have been developed since January 23 when I wrote about the Toss ups.  The FEC has announced fund raising information as of December 31, 2023 – information for which the deadline for reporting was January 31.  And the Democrats have announced 17 Red to Blue candidates – candidates the DCCC thinks have a decent chance to flip a Republican seat.

Look at the Democratic incumbent leaners.  Will any of them lose?


Democrats Vulnerable Enough to be Toss ups.

Johanna Weiss.           David Min

CA 47 is currently represented by Katie Porter. The district runs along the coast of Orange county and includes Huntington Beach and, inland, Irvine.   Porter is running for the US Senate.  California has a non-partisan primary on March 5. The two highest vote getters will be in a run off in November for the election.  Two Democrats are competing for second place in the non-partisan primary: State Rep David Min who is endorsed by Katie Porter and activist attorney Johanna Weiss.

Had Katie Porter been a candidate for reelection, she would have been #11 on Len’s list. Daily Kos, on the other hand, rated CA 47 as #14 on its list as an open seat.  Johanna Weiss began 2024 with $880,000.  David Min began the year with $835,000.  Both candidates are progressives on the issues that count.  The result has been a tough campaign focusing on Min’s DUI conviction and Weiss’s husband’s representation of the Orange County Catholic Diocese in child sex abuse complaints. After the non-partisan primary, one of them will probably face former County Republican Party Chair Scott Baugh, who began the year with $1.7 million.  Republican Businessman Max Ukropina, who began the year with less than $200,000 is unlikely to be a factor.  DONATE TO DAVID MIN or DONATE TO JOHANNA WEISS.  If I were in charge of the DCCC, I would endorse one of those candidates now to ensure that there is one Democrat in the run off.

CT 05 Jahana Hayes represents western Connecticut north of the New York suburbs.  She is #3 on Len’s list of vulnerable Democrats, tied for #11 on Daily Kos’s list. She entered 2024 with $1 million.  Her Republican opponent, George Logan, also an African American, is a former state Senator. He entered 2024 with less than $400,000.   538 reports a Republican funded poll from mid-November, 2023 found her leading by 2 points.  She was elected to a second term in 2022 by 2,000 votes.  A former national Teacher of the Year, she taught in Waterbury where she grew up and went to school.  DONATE TO JAHANA HAYES.  She is probably the most vulnerable Democrat in this group.  See Len’s Political Note #541

AK AL. Mary Peltola represents all of Alaska.  She is #35 on Len’s list of vulnerable Democrats, #18 on Daily Kos’s List.  She entered 2024 with $1.8 million.  She has two serious opponents.  Lt. Governor Nancy Dahlstrom began this year with $200,000 available and Nick Begich III, a Republican in a predominantly Democratic family, had not yet reported,  He began September with $200,000.  The website 538 shows no polls since the 2022 election for this seat.  Mary Peltola’s win in 2022 was a surprise and an upset.  A Native American, she had been a tribal judge and a tribal fish commissioner.  Her win was a product of Alaska’s top four run off system that has a first round regular vote followed by a ranked voting top four run off of the four highest finishers.  DONATE TO MARY PELTOLA  Help her stay in Congress, It is not so easy for an Alaska Democrat.  See Len’s Political Note #600

Leaning Democratic, but not Comfortably

OH 09 Marcy Kaptur represents an east-west district bordered on the north by Lake Erie and the state of Michigan, on the west by the state of Indiana – with the city of Toledo in the middle.  Because both Len’s list and Daily Kos’s list rely on the previous year’s margin, she is not on either list of vulnerable Democrats because she won handily in 2022.  She entered 2024 with $1.3 million.  Her only opponent with a substantial sum, Craig Riedel, burned his bridges with many Republicans when a tape surfaced of his criticizing Trump.  Her 2022 opponent, JR Majewski, misspoke and lied and got caught during his campaign which led to his loss.  National Republicans scrambled and found State Rep Derek Merrin.  They will get him money, if he cannot raise it himself.  With redistricting, Republicans turned OH 09 into what appeared to be an overwhelmingly Republican district.  They thought they would oust a Democrat whose political origins are with the Catholic left and was first elected to Congress in 1982 — 42 years ago.   It turns out, she is tough to dislodge.  DONATE TO MARCY KAPTUR.  See Len’s Political Note #555.

OR 06 Andrea Salinas represents a district southwest of Portland that, nevertheless, does not reach the Pacific, but does include Salem on its eastern border.  She is #8 on Len’s list, tied for #22 on Daily Kos’s list.  She entered 2024 with $1.1 million.  Although no Republican candidate reported any funds to speak of, she can anticipate a particularly nasty campaign from Mike Ericson, who she defeated in 2022 and has recently announced he will run again.

After his defeat, Ericson sued Salinas for $800,000 for a television ad that said he was charged with felony drug possession.  He had been arrested and charged with DUI. The police had found an unprescribed oxycontin pill and “charged” him in the sense that they recommended the prosecutors charge him with felony drug possession.  Would he do  better by claiming she was a Democratic insider — a DC labor union lobbyist and Oregon political consultant before she ran successfully for elected office?  DONATE TO ANDREA SALINAS.  See Len’s Political Note #548

VA 07 is currently represented by Abigail Spanberger.  The district is southwest of Washington, DC and includes Fredericksburg. Its population is mostly suburban, though it reaches south towards Richmond, southwest toward Charlottesville and west toward Harrisonburg.  Spanberger is not running for reelection as she prepares for a 2025 run for Governor.  Had she run, she would have been #21 on Len’s list and tied for #11 on Daily Kos’s list.

I have probably missed a few, but I count five Democrats and six Republicans running for this seat.  Although my list includes three elected members of the House of Delegates and one county supervisor, the front runner appears to be former NSC official and twin brother of Alexander Vindman, whistleblower against Trump, Eugene VindmanEugene Vindman is a ROTC graduate of SUNY Binghamton with a JD from the University of Georgia. He is a veteran of the Iraq War, a former infantry officer, a former JAG prosecutor, and NCS advisor.  He retired as a Colonel after being reassigned when his brother was reassigned.  Since his retirement, he has directed a unit of the Atrocity Crimes Advocacy group and, with his brother, trained members of the Ukrainian army.  He entered 2024 with $1.1 million. Two Democrats reported about 10% of that.  No others had as much.  Two Republicans, an investor and a former Green Beret, entered the year with around $300,000.  DONATE TO EUGENE VINDMAN


Leaning Democratic Comfortably

IN 01 Frank Mrvan represents a district that is the northwestern corner of Indiana and includes the cities of Gary and Valparaiso.  He is #18 on Len’s list of vulnerable Democratic incumbents, but not on Daily Kos’s list at all.  He entered 2024 with $800,000; his most likely opponent, Randy Niemeyer, the owner of a fleet of trucks, had less than $200,000.  There are no polls for this district since the 2022 election.  After a few years of working for a health insurance company, he concluded he should be a politician like his father, a state Senator for nearly 40 years.  Active in community groups and a township trustee for fifteen years, he ran for an open Democratic seat in 2020 and won with 57% of the vote.  He Is completing his second term and running again. DONATE TO FRANK MRVAN.  See Len’s Political Note #576.

OH 01 Greg Landsman represents a district that includes Cincinnati, northern suburbs, and rural areas further north.  He is #26 on Len’s list of vulnerable Democrats, #21 on Daily Kos’s list.  He entered 2024 with $1.2 million.  His opponent, a local prosecutor, had less than $100,000 at the start of the year.  A graduate of Ohio University and Harvard’s Divinity School, he worked for Ohio’s Democratic Governor Ted Strickland, for education-oriented non-profits, and was on Cincinnati’s City Council when he ousted the Republican incumbent Member of Congress in 2022.  DONATE TO GREG LANDSMAN.  See Len’s Political Note #599.

NY 18 Pat Ryan represents a district on the southern border of New York sloping north toward Binghamton and including small cities like Newburgh and Poughkeepsie.  He is #5 on Len’s list of vulnerable Democrats, #8 on Daily Kos’s list.  He entered 2024 well prepared, with $2.2 million.  There is no sign of a serious opponent.  A graduate of West Point with a Master’s from Georgetown, he served tours of duty in Iraq, specialized in intelligence, and ultimately joined businesses in the field.  Returning home to Kingston, he extended his business experience, was elected County Executive, lost a Congressional race in 2018, won a special election in NY 19 under the old districts in 2022, and won a close race in the general in NY 18 in November of 2022, a year when an embarrassing number of young New York incumbent Democrats lost.  DONATE TO PAT RYAN.  See Len’s Political Note #545.

IL 17 Eric Sorensen represents a C shaped district in western Illinois that includes Davenport at the Iowa border, Bloomington at the southern point of the C, and rural communities at the northern point of the C.  He is #12 on Len’s list of vulnerable Democrats, tied for #16 on Daily Kos’s list.  He entered 2024 with $1.6 million.  His probable opponent, former Circuit Judge Joe McGraw, had just over $200,000.  There are no polls for this district since the 2022 election.  Eric Sorensen was a television weatherman who lost his first job in Texas because he was gay.  He found his return home to northwestern Illinois was welcoming.  He is completing his first term in an area that was familiar with him because he had been on television and because he was active encouraging school children to understand reporting the weather.  DONATE TO ERIC SORENSEN.  See Len’s Political Note #552

NV 03. Susie Lee represents a district that runs along Nevada’s western border from west of Las Vegas to the southern tip of the state.  She is #13 on Len’s list of vulnerable Democrats; tied for #16 on Daily Kos’s list.  She entered 2024 with $1.6 million.  The strongest Republican fund raiser withdrew from the race.  None of the remaining three candidates have yet to demonstrate they can challenger her.  She came to Nevada to work for the Las Vegas government on water issues, married a casino mogul, became a philanthropist and education supporter, and ran for Congress.  Now she is a force.  DONATE TO SUSIE LEE.  See Len’s Political Note #553.

PA 17 Chris Deluzio represents a district that surrounds Pittsburgh – mostly to the northwest, but also to the northeast and southwest.  He is #34 on Len’s list, #19 on Daily Kos’s list.  He entered 2024 with just under $1 million; his opponent, State Rep Robert Mercuri, had less than $300,000.  A graduate of the Naval Academy with a law degree from Georgetown, he worked for the Brennan Center for taking a position at the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security.  His opponent is an accountant working on running away from previous extreme positions on abortion and gun safety. DONATE TO CHRIS DELUZIO.  See Len’s Political Note #611.

TX 34 Vicente Gonzalez represents a district that extends north from the Mexican border along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The district is east of Edinburg and south of Corpus Christi.  He is #16 on Len’s list and is not on Daily Kos’s list of vulnerable Democratic incumbents.  He entered 2024 with $1.2 million.  His likely opponent, who he defeated in 2022, former Rep Mayra Flores started the year with more than $500,000.  A business-oriented Democrat, he practiced law in McAllen and was elected to Congress in 2016.  After redistricting, he moved from TX 15 to TX 34 which was friendlier to a Democratic candidate.  His opponent had won a special election in a year when, under the leadership of DCCC head Sean Patrick Maloney, the Democrats were not contesting special elections.  DONATE TO VICENTE GONZALEZ.  See Len’s Political Note #569

.A summary

Of Cook’s thirteen districts they see as leaning Democratic, three appear to be toss ups, three appear to be leaning Democratic, but not so much, and seven are unlikely to flip.  Of the three that appear to be toss ups, it would not be a shock if one of them flipped Republican.  CA 47, for instance, has two Democrats fighting with each other for second place.  That fight could leave the second-place winner damaged enough to elect a Republican in the run off.

Of the three districts where I describe the Democratic lean as uncomfortable, none of the leads are uncomfortable enough to lose, though Marcy Kaptur or her successor will lose one day.  We can hope that does not happen until the Democrats have a sufficiently large majority that the loss will not matter.

None of the districts in which Democrats are sitting comfortably are likely to lose.

One other bit is worth commenting about.  The Republicans appear to be the party of men; the party of white men.  Of the twelve districts where we know who the Democratic candidate will be, five are women.  Of those twelve candidates, one is Native American, one is Black, two are Hispanic.  Democratic candidates, whose districts are considered to be leaning Democratic, still include plenty of white men.

Finally, even if the Democrats lose one of the three seats vulnerable enough to be Toss ups, they are still looking like they could win the House,


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