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February 12th, 2024     Len’s Political Note #621 Taking stock of the Challengers to the Republican Incumbent Leaners

2024                                      General Election

 I will say this again.

Mostly, 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 I see things standing with candidates who Cook rated as Toss ups. Len’s Political Note #620 reviewed where I see things standing with Democratic incumbents whose seat Cook rated as Leaning Democratic.

Now, look at the Democratic challengers to Republicans who Cook rated as Leaning Republican.  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.

Democratic challengers to Vulnerable Republicans

The most vulnerable Republican seats that really are Toss Ups

CO 03 Adam Frisch running to represent a district that includes western Colorado and much of southern Colorado.  He lost an extremely close race in 2022 to Incumbent Lauren Boebert.  A former currency trader in NYC, a school friend of Dean Phillips while growing up in Minneapolis, and a former city counselor in Aspen, he organized another try immediately after his loss and, having raised $10 million dollars with $5 million available on January 1, he drove Boebert to running on the other side of the state.  His probable opponent is Jeffrey Hurd, a local attorney who entered the race as an opponent of Lauren Boebert and had $500,000 to start the year.  There are no polls since Boebert decamped and, if Frisch is going to win, he’ll probably need all the money he raised and more.  DONATE TO ADAM FRISCH.  See Len’s Political Note #523

MI 10. Carl Marlinga is running again in this district north of Detroit, in between Lake Erie and Lake Huron.  Michigan’s primary is not until August 6.  Waiting to make a donation until after the primary is not a great strategy.  The Republican incumbent is John James, son of a wealthy African American businessman. Newspapers call him battle-tested.  He lost two US Senate races and squeaked out a win in MI 10.  He is #3 in Len’s list of vulnerable Republicans, #13 in Daily Kos’s list.  He could lose, even though he started 2024 with $2.3 million.  Carl Marlinga is a former local prosecutor and judge who was effective in his campaign in 2022, losing by 1600 votes while being outspent $6 million to $1million. Unusually cautious about fund raising, he needs outsider help.  DONATE TO CARL MARLINA.

WI 03 Rebecca Cooke is winning the money race for the primary to be Democratic nominee for Congress.  The district extends along most of the western border of Wisconsin. The nearby cities are west of the district: Dubuque, IA, Rochester, MN, Minneapolis, MN.  Rebecca Cooke, political activist and owner of Red’s Mercantile, started 2024 with $500,000.  Her two primary opponents began the year with $100,000 or more. We cannot wait until August to see who wins the primary.  Rebecca Cooke is worth investing in. She is running against the incumbent, right wing radical Derrick Van Orden.  He participated in the January 6 rally but did not enter the Capitol building.  He has verbally attacked librarians and others about books with gay themes on display.  With visitors touring the capitol building late at night, he found pages, lying on the floor taking photographs of the interior of the dome – a traditional memorial, it turns out, of their time as pages.  Van Orden berated them, an act which drew opprobrium from Members of Congress of all stripes.  At the White House for a briefing about the Israel-Gaza war, he cursed and otherwise berated the briefers.  DONATE TO REBECCA COOKE.  Wisconsin’s 3rd deserves a better representative.

Seats that do not lean enough to make the Republicans uncomfortable

NE 02 Tony Vargas is running again in this Omaha based district.   The Republican incumbent, Don Bacon, is a retired Brigadier General who has been a. leader of the frequently caving moderate Republicans in the House.  He is #11 on Len’s list of vulnerable Republican incumbents, #12 on the Daily Kos list.  The child of Peruvian immigrants, Tony Vargas grew up in Queens and then on Long Island.  He came to Nebraska by way of Teach for America. A Senator in Nebraska’s unicameral legislature, he has, in a way, represented all the Hispanics in the state as well as Omaha.  The only poll for this election is the financial race – and that is relatively close.  Bacon began 2024 with $1.5 million.  Tony Vargas began the year with $1.1 million.  DONATE TO TONY VARGAS.  See Len’s Political Note #587.

PA 10 Retired Lt. Colonel Michael O’Brien or Television anchor Janelle Stelson.  Either would do. The primary is April 23. They are both candidates for this Harrisburg district’s PA 10.  The incumbent, Scott Perry, is only moderately vulnerable based on the 2022 election.  He is #23 on Len’s List and not on Daily Kos’s list at all.  Nevertheless, if Scott Perry is not vulnerable, he ought to be.  There was no Member of Congress more directly involved in Donald Trump’s attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 election than Perry.  Attorneys at the Justice Department threatened a mass resignation if Perry were to be successful in getting Trump to replace his acting Attorney General with a more compliant one.  Scott Perry entered 2024 with a very modest, for an incumbent, $500,000.  Michael O’Brien, a graduate of the Naval Academy, retired as a Lt. Colonel and TOPGUN instructor after commanding of a Marine Fighter Attack Squadron. He has raised close to $200,000.  Janelle Stelson is well known in the district as the news anchor for a local television station.  There are no polls.  And different as they are, these two Democrats seem evenly matched. The 2022 Democratic candidate, who announced early, appears to have abandoned fund raising. You could wait until April.  Otherwise:  DONATE TO MICHAEL O’BRIEN.  DONATE TO JANELLE STELSON.  Donate to both of them.  Scott Perry may not be as vulnerable as some, but he is moderately vulnerable and deserves defeat.

Leaning comfortably Republican

CA 45 Derek Tran is the leading Democratic candidate for this C shaped Orange County district.  The western curve of the C includes Long Beach. The northern end is above Fullerton.  The southern point is at Huntington Beach. Derek Tran is a consumer affairs attorney, politically active having made several $1,000 or #2,000 donations to Congressional candidates, and the child of Vietnamese refugees.  The incumbent, Michelle Park Steel, is not on Len’s list of vulnerable incumbents, but is tied for #7 nationally on Daily Kos’s list.  She is the daughter of a Korean ex-pat who was born in Shanghai. She is a former member of the County Board of Supervisors, and was first elected a Member of Congress in 2020.  A Trump conservative, she is married to a former head of the California Republican Party and pulled her daughter out of college when the daughter expressed support for same sex marriage.  Steel entered the year with $3 million to campaign with.  Tran started the year with $400 thousand and was substantially ahead of other Democrats.  He will need considerable resources to compete and come in second in the non-partisan March 5 primary and then in November.  There are no polls available for this race.  You can wait until March 5 or help him now.  DONATE TO DEREK TRAN.

IA 03 Lanon Baccam is running in this mostly southwest Iowa district that includes Des Moines.  The child of refugees from Vietnam, of a Laotian ethnicity, he has worked in the US Agriculture Department for many years.  He began 2024 with $450,000 to compete against the incumbent, Zach Nunn, a former Lt. Colonel in the Air National Guard and a cybersecurity consultant.  He entered 2024 with $1.6 million.  DONATE TO LANON BACCAM.  See Len’s Political Note #609

VA 02  Missy Cotter Smasal is running for this Norfolk-based district.  The incumbent is #16 on Len’s national list of vulnerable Republican incumbents, #17 on Daily Kos’s list.  A veteran and a kind of community pillar, she founded and supported The Valor run – a marathon in memory of those killed in combat since 9/11.  She raised what seemed like a lot of money for an unsuccessful run in a heavily Republican seat.  But she entered 2024 with less than $100,000.  The incumbent, Jennifer Kiggans, nurse practitioner and helicopter pilot —  both for the military  and has available $1.5 million fior tge canoaugb,.  She works to find relatively moderate positions.  She says she hesitates to acknowledge that Joe Biden was legitimately elected and would have liked a forensic audit of the Virginia vote.  She supports abortion – up to the 15th week of pregnancy.  DONATE TO MISSY COTTER SMASEL.  She needs those resources. See Len’s Political Note #595


It is plausible to think that of the five least comfortably Republicans, Democrats could win two seats.  That gets the Democrats a little further into the lead in the House.  This is really early to make a prediction so call it a guess:  223 D —  212 R

Of the 7 we can feel confident are Democratic nominees, 2 are women, 5 are men.  Of that same 7, 3 are Asians, 4 are white.  The world is slowly changing.



Support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

As we look toward November, 2024, Help sustain the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris campaign.  Put things in perspective.  In the period between January 15 and January 20, Trump led in 3 head to head polls by 1, 2, and 4 points; Biden led in two head to head polls by 1 and 7 points.

Every donation, large or small, does make a difference.  Larger donations mean more money for the campaign.  But many in the media count the number of small donations as a measure of enthusiasm for the candidate.  Make a small donation if you cannot afford a large one.  DONATE TO JOE BIDEN AND KAMALA HARRIS.

#5 in the Stephenson County, IL list of Biden accomplishment: “Ended the longest war in American history by pulling the troops out of Afghanistan.”