Veteran House incumbents fight for their seats as districts evolve

WASHINGTON — As he logs another campaign season piloting his single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza around his vast, crimson-red Minnesota district, voters greet Rep. Collin Peterson by name. But something else is hauntingly familiar as the Democrat seeks a 16th term in Congress.

“There are so many Trump signs out here you wouldn’t believe it,” Peterson, 76, said recently.

Much of the focus in this year’s fight for House control will be on dozens of freshmen Democrats who gave the party its majority in 2018 by capturing Republican-held seats. But there’s a smaller category of lawmakers like Peterson and GOP Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio who also merit attention: long-term incumbents of both parties fighting to preserve their careers.

Like their newer, more vulnerable colleagues, these congressional veterans are at the mercy of the country’s growing partisan fragmentation. This trend, which President Donald Trump has intensified, has seen conservative rural districts turn increasingly Republican while suburban voters exhausted by his discord-driven presidency flee the GOP in droves.

“These days for many voters, just seeing an ‘R’ or ‘D’ next to a name, that’s enough,” said Gary Jacobson, political science professor emeritus at the University of California San Diego.

Trump carried Peterson’s district by 31 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election, his biggest margin in any of the 29 House seats Democrats hold.

Over 90% of House incumbents are usually reelected, thanks to name recognition and campaign fundraising advantages. But they’re not immune to defeat. In the 2018 Democratic wave, 30 representatives seeking reelection — all Republicans — were defeated, including seven who’d served at least a decade. One, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., was in the House for 30 years.

This year, around a dozen representatives who’ve served at least five two-year terms have potentially competitive contests. Most are Republicans, whose numbers in this category would be higher if eight others who faced difficult races in states including Georgia, North Carolina and Texas had sought reelection rather than retiring.

Rep. Don Young of Alaska, 87, first elected in a 1973 special election and the longest serving Republican in House history, is favored but faces a well-financed opponent. Other GOP representatives eyeing tough races include David Schweikert of Arizona, reprimanded by the House Ethics Committee for campaign finance violations; Mike McCaul, whose Texas district includes suburbs of Houston and Austin; and Jaime Herrera Beutler of southwest Washington state.

Other close races for long-serving Republicans may loom in Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Texas.

Among Democrats, Reps. Ron Kind, a 12-term Wisconsin veteran, and Peter DeFazio, who’s served 17 terms from Oregon, are seeking reelection in closely divided districts but seem likely to win.

In a western Minnesota district stretching from the Canadian border to the Minneapolis exurbs, Peterson faces former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach, one of his most serious GOP challengers yet.

“Collin has been there a very long time,” the Trump-endorsed Fischbach, 54, said in an interview. To

Read more

Veteran House incumbents cling to seats as districts evolve

WASHINGTON (AP) — As he logs another campaign season piloting his single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza around his vast, crimson-red Minnesota district, voters greet Rep. Collin Peterson by name. But something else is hauntingly familiar as the Democrat seeks a 16th term in Congress.

“There are so many Trump signs out here you wouldn’t believe it,” Peterson, 76, said recently.

Much of the focus in this year’s fight for House control will be on dozens of freshmen Democrats who gave the party its majority in 2018 by capturing Republican-held seats. But there’s a smaller category of lawmakers like Peterson and GOP Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio who also merit attention: long-term incumbents of both parties fighting to preserve their careers.

Like their newer, more vulnerable colleagues, these congressional veterans are confronting the country’s growing partisan fragmentation. This trend, which President Donald Trump has intensified, has seen conservative rural districts turn increasingly Republican while suburban voters exhausted by his discord-driven presidency flee the GOP in droves.

Peterson represents a district Trump carried in the 2016 presidential election by 31 percentage points, his biggest margin in any of the 29 House seats Democrats hold.

“These days for many voters, just seeing an ‘R’ or ‘D’ next to a name, that’s enough,” said Gary Jacobson, political science professor emeritus at the University of California San Diego.

Over 90% of House incumbents are usually reelected, thanks to name recognition and campaign fundraising advantages. But they’re not immune to defeat. In the 2018 Democratic wave, 30 representatives seeking reelection — all Republicans — were defeated, including seven who’d served at least five terms. One, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., had served for 30 years.

This year, around a dozen House members who’ve served at least a decade, or five terms, have potentially competitive contests. Most are Republicans, whose numbers in this category would be higher if eight others who faced difficult races in states including Georgia, North Carolina and Texas had sought reelection rather than retiring.

Rep. Don Young of Alaska, 87, first elected in a 1973 special election and the longest serving Republican in House history, is favored but faces a well-financed opponent. Other GOP representatives eyeing close races include David Schweikert of Arizona, reprimanded by the House Ethics Committee for campaign finance violations; Mike McCaul, whose Texas district includes suburbs of Houston and Austin; and Jaime Herrera Beutler of southwest Washington state.

Other close races for long-serving Republicans may loom in Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Texas.

Among Democrats, Reps. Ron Kind, a 12-term Wisconsin veteran, and Peter DeFazio, who’s served 17 terms from Oregon, are seeking reelection in closely divided districts but seem likely to win.

In Peterson’s western Minnesota district, which stretches from the Canadian border to the Minneapolis exurbs, he faces former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach, one of his most serious GOP challengers yet.

“Collin has been there a very long time,” the Trump-endorsed Fischbach, 54, said in an interview. To paint him as out of touch with voters, she’s employing the widely used

Read more

Florida’s six most vulnerable House incumbents

Here are the most vulnerable Florida House incumbents in both political parties.

Republican Chuck Clemons

Clemons, who has represented House District 21, which covers portions of Alachua, Dixie and Gilchrist Counties, since 2016, faces a tough challenge from Democrat Kayser Enneking, an anesthesiologist who ran for the Florida Senate seat in 2018 that covers the same region. She lost to GOP Sen. Keith Perry by just 1 point.

By the numbers, the seat is a near tossup. In 2016, Hillary Clinton got 47.6 percent of the vote in the district, but that number jumped to 53.7 percent for Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s unsuccessful reelection effort in 2018, a cycle where he was the top Democrat on the ticket.

Both sides are getting help from their statewide parties, an indication the seat is seen as a key piece of each side’s overall strategy.

Enneking’s campaign and an affiliated political committee has raised $435,505 this election cycle, an effort boosted by $10,651 from the Florida Democratic Party to pay for research and campaign staff.

Clemons’ campaign has gotten nearly $70,000 in polling and staff help from the Republican Party of Florida. He has raised $308,617 between his campaign and an affiliated political committee.

Republican Elizabeth Fetterhoff

Fetterhoff is a first-term incumbent who represents House District 26, which covers portions of Volusia County. She is in a rematch with former Democratic state Rep. Patrick Henry, who she beat in 2018 by a mere 61 votes.

During the 2018 election cycle, Nelson got 51 percent of the vote in the district, up from 2016 when Hillary Clinton received 48.2 percent of the vote.

Fetterhoff has raised $208,786 between her campaign and a separate political committee, and has received just over $3,000 from the Republican Party of Florida to help pay for staff.

Henry has raised $71,600 between his campaign and committee, and has gotten nearly $40,000 in help from the Florida Democratic Party to help pay for staff.

Republican Mike Caruso

Caruso is in his first term representing House District 89, which covers portions of Palm Beach County, and is being challenged by former Democratic Ocean Ridge Mayor Jim Bonfiglio.

During the 2018 election cycle, Nelson got 51 percent of the vote in the district, an increase in Democratic vote share compared to Hillary Clinton, who got 49 percent of the vote.

Caruso has raised $242,160, and gotten a nearly $30,000 boost from the Florida GOP for polling and staff.

Bonfiglio has raised just under $60,000 between his campaign and committee, and poured in $72,500 in personal loans. The Florida Democratic Party has kicked in $18,000 for research.

Democrat Geraldine Thompson

Thompson, a former state senator, has represented Orange County’s House District 44 since 2018. She is being challenged by Bruno Portigliatti, who has never held public office.

Top-of-the-ticket Democrats have won the seat over the past two election cycles, but just barely. Nelson won the district with 52.8 percent of the vote in 2018, a number that was at 51 percent for

Read more