‘Would You Rather?’ House Race Edition
July 21, 2014 · 9:40 AM EDT
In the game “Would You Rather?” one is usually faced with a choice between two difficult and undesirable options.
“If you had a machete, would you rather amputate the feet of two friends or amputate one of your own feet?” asks the site YouRather.com. Or, “Would you rather spend a day with Justin Bieber or spend a day with Miley Cyrus?”
It’s some of the same anxiety facing voters at the polls in the next election. But the contrast in a trio of House races stand out as particularly difficult choices for voters this year. Remember, your first reaction may not be the best choice.
Question 1: Would you rather be an indicted congressman from Staten Island or a candidate from Brooklyn in New York’s 11th District?
Don’t laugh. The answer isn’t as simple as you might think.
When a 20-count indictment came out against GOP Rep. Michael G. Grimm in April, there was a widespread assumption the congressman could not win his re-election bid in New York’s competitive 11th District.
But the charges against Grimm may not be as toxic as being from Brooklyn in a district dominated by Staten Island. That’s one of the biggest challenges facing former Democratic New York City Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr., who is challenging Grimm.
There is qualitative and quantitative data that suggest this race is far from over. Grimm has withstood the barrage of negative headlines and is still standing. But the question is whether the congressman can withstand paid Democratic attacks headed his way later this year, particularly when his fundraising has been poor.
The Rothenberg Political Report continues to rate the race as Leans Democrat, but Democrats still have some work to do to put it away. And as I wrote this spring, legal action does not guarantee electoral loss.
Question 2: In a congressional race in West Virginia, would you rather be a former state senator from Maryland or a former Obama advocate?
Being a former state legislator and former chairman of the state party are common credentials for office, except when they are from a different state. Democrats, and even some Republicans, aren’t happy with Alex Mooney’s move from Maryland to West Virginia, where he is the GOP nominee in the 2nd District.
But even though most of Mooney’s résumé comes from across the state line, he is a Republican running in a district where President Barack Obama’s job approval rating can’t be higher than the mid-30s.
Democrat Nick Casey is trying to position himself as a bipartisan accountant, but he is a former state party chairman and top party fundraiser who endorsed Obama in the past presidential elections.
This race will be an excellent test of what West Virginia voters hate more: candidates from Maryland or candidates connected to Obama. The Rothenberg Political Report rates the race Leans Republican.
Question 3: In a congressional race in Michigan’s 11th District, would you rather be a Santa Claus-impersonating incumbent or someone whose law firm sent a foreclosure notice on Christmas Eve?
Republican Kerry Bentivolio has been ridiculed for his reindeer farm and hobby of impersonating Santa Claus. He became an accidental congressman when former Rep. Thaddeus McCotter was dropped from the 2012 primary ballot because of a lack of valid signatures.
But Bentivolio is a sitting member of Congress at a time when 99 percent of incumbents (273 out of 275 through July 8, according to the University of Virginia Center for Politics’ Kyle Kondik) have won their primaries thus far this cycle. And the congressman’s primary challenger, attorney Dave Trott, is not perfect.
Trott’s law firm specializes in home foreclosures on behalf of banks and lenders. The Detroit Free Press detailed one eye-popping incident in particular:
But Rozier, like tens of thousands of other Michiganders, lost his home to foreclosure during the housing crisis. After a three-year legal battle with Trott’s law firm and the bank, the notice arrived last Christmas Eve. He was evicted in January and moved his wife, who is on kidney dialysis, his bedridden mother, and his uncle, who has Down syndrome and is in a wheelchair, into a neighbor’s empty duplex across the street.
But Trott is far outpacing Bentivolio in fundraising and is controlling the debate on the television airwaves. Most GOP insiders believe the congressman is at least a slight underdog in the Aug. 5 primary.