The recent retirement announcement of Rep. Barney Frank (D.-Mass.), coming on the heels of similar announced exits in ’12 by Democratic Representatives Charles Gonzalez (Tex.) and Dennis Cardoza (Calif.), is just the latest piece of evidence in the increasingly strong case that Republicans will retain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives next year—no matter what happens to the top of their ticket.
The departure of the three lawmakers brings to 17 the number of Democrats opting to leave the House—eight who are retiring outright and nine who are seeking other offices. More than half of the House seats now in Democratic hands will be seriously contested by Republicans and are considered up for grabs.
In contrast, only seven Republicans are leaving the House in ’12, all of them to pursue other offices. All of their seats are considered firmly in GOP hands.
The one House seat in the nation that is currently vacant is that of former Democratic Rep. David Wu, who resigned his seat from Oregon’s 1st District earlier this year amid mounting stories about his erratic personal behavior. The special election in the Portland-based 1st District will be held Jan. 20, and state and national Republicans seem certain to make as spirited an effort for nominee Rob Cornilles as they did for Bob Turner in his now-celebrated upset race in New York’s 9th District this year.
And in a year when much of the attention of the punditocracy has been on open House seats and House districts redrawn as a result of the redistricting process, Republicans are no slouch in the department of recruiting challengers to Democratic incumbents. In Kentucky’s 6th District, for example, attorney and ’10 GOP nominee Andy Barr, who lost to Democratic Rep Ben Chandler by about 600 votes, is not only gearing up for a rematch, but has banked more than $300,000. Another “squeaker” House race of ’10 will be replayed in ’12: conservative former State Rep. John Koster is already running hard against Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen in Washington State’s 2nd District.
In North Carolina’s 8th District, where Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell survived the GOP tide last year with about 53% of the vote, there is a hotly contested primary for nomination to a race that local GOPers felt sure was theirs for the taking in 2010. The seat was held by Republican Robin Hayes (now GOP state chairman) from 1996 until he was unseated by Kissell in ’08. Last year, popular former TV sportscaster Harold Johnson won the GOP nomination after a contested primary, but lost to Kissell after what many concluded was a poorly run campaign.
This year, the leading Republican contender is considered to be Scott Keadle, dentist and former Iredell County commissioner. From his work in such community activities as the Stop Child Abuse program and involvement in local politics, stalwart conservative and self-styled “constitutionalist” Keadle has a vigorous cadre of volunteer supporters. Along with advocating repeal of ObamaCare and supporting the Balanced Budget Amendment, Keadle makes no bones about his enthusiasm for abolishing the Departments of Education and Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency—“to name a few,” as he put it to HUMAN EVENTS.
“And when people ask where would I cut taxes, I reply, ‘Where wouldn’t I?’ ” Keadle told us.
With several candidates gearing up for the race, Keadle’s leading nomination foe is expected to be businessman Richard Hudson, once district aide to Hayes during his congressional days and later chief of staff to Republican Representatives Virginia Foxx (N.C.), John Carter (Tex.) and Mike Conaway (Tex.).
In a district that gave 57% of its votes to John McCain in ’08 and 61% to George W. Bush in ’04, Kissell (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 20%) clearly has a long haul in his attempt to hang on.
And Democrats apparently have an even longer haul to come close to overturning the Republican majority in the House in 2012.