3 Local Races That Could Affect the Fight for the House

by Nathan L. Gonzales September 6, 2013 · 1:49 PM EDT

Local races rarely have an impact on statewide or congressional elections, but a trio of local races this year could have an effect on three competitive House districts next year.

The most immediate example is the special election for mayor of San Diego.

Republican former City Councilman Carl DeMaio lost the 2012 mayoral election to Democratic Rep. Bob Filner. But DeMaio is using that narrow loss as a springboard to challenge Democratic Rep. Scott Peters in the 52nd District, and the challenger starts that race in a very strong position.

DeMaio was thought to be preparing to drop his congressional bid in order to run in the special election to replace the discredited and recently resigned Filner. Doing that would have taken a top GOP challenger off the table for the National Republican Congressional Committee. But instead, DeMaio has re-affirmed his congressional bid, and he remains a strong Republican challenger for Congress next year because of his high name identification, proven vote-getting ability in the area and fundraising power.

California’s 52nd District is rated Lean Democrat, but that could be underestimating DeMaio’s strength in the district.

Another example is the state Senate special election in Northern California from this summer. Republican Andy Vidak defeated Democratic Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez, 52 percent to 48 percent, on July 23 to take over a seat previously held by Democrat Michael Rubio.

The loss stung Democrats for a few different reasons. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wanted Rubio to take on GOP Rep. David Valadao in the 21st District. But not only did Rubio pass on a congressional bid, he resigned from the legislature to take a position with Chevron.

Perez was mentioned as a potential congressional candidate but decided to run for the state Senate seat, which includes Fresno, Kerns, King and Tulare counties. Vidak, who lost to Democratic Rep. Jim Costa in 2010, almost won the special election outright in May when he received 49.8 percent of the vote in a five-candidate race.

Aside from the fact that Democrats lost a competitive legislative election ($5 million total spending) within a competitive congressional district, Democrats are left searching for a congressional candidate for the second straight cycle. Barack Obama won the district in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections but congressional Democrats can’t crack the code. Valadao’s 60 percent victory was the result of one of Democrats’ biggest recruitment failures last year. And there doesn’t appear to be a solution on the horizon.

California’s 21st District is rated Tossup/Tilt Republican. But that is based on the competitive nature of the district and is generous to Democratic hopes right now.

Democrats got a piece of good news in Kentucky early this summer when they won a competitive special election for the state House within what has been a competitive congressional district.

Democrat James Kay won the 56th House District but it was just to keep the seat in Democratic hands. And, like many places in the South, the seat continues to vote Democratic at the local level but goes Republican in federal races.

After nearly winning in 2010, Republican Andy Barr defeated Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler in 2012 in the 6th District. Barr won his race, 51 percent to 47 percent, while Mitt Romney carried the district with 56 percent.

Democrats are headed for a primary next year between lumber company owner Joe Palumbo and nonprofit education group founder/CEO Elisabeth Jensen. They look like credible candidates, and the special election victory was nice, but defeating Barr won’t be easy.

Kentucky’s 6th District is rated Safe Republican.