The third look at seats in play in the House of Representatives takes us to the upper Midwest and the states of Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. A trio of states with 15 total seats where 6 are in play. Of the nine safe seats, 5 are held by Democratic Representatives and 4 are by Republican Representatives.
A) Nebraska's 2nd seat is the smallest of three in the state and built entirely around the city of Omaha and it's environs. You might think that any outpost of blue in a very red state is an oddity, but consider how in the midst of very conservative places, pockets of liberalism and progressive thinking pop up--like St. Lake City in Utah or Austin, San Antonio and Houston in Texas. This would be a good description of Omaha. The 1 term incumbent was only 1 of two Democratic Representatives to win a seat from a Republican in the 2014. He has a long history of serving the people of Omaha in the state legislature and is a hometown representative. His opponent Republican Don Bacon moved to Omaha to retire and has a military career that spans decades. He is basing his campaign on a strong military with the promise to supporting intervention in the Middle East. I think while he speaks for many citizens of Nebraska, too many of them for his good live outside of the 2nd district. I think this will be a very close race, but I'm giving it to Ashford, based in part on the fact that Presidential candidate Clinton is projecting very well in this district, too; one that Obama carried in 2008.
B) Iowa's 3rd district is in play with its freshman Republican representative David Young. David won the right to represent Republicans from a crowded field of wannabes where a majority is not a plurality. He is also very likely a closeted gay man, which I wouldn't normally bring up, except that rumors to that effect weaken his appeal to conservative core. His opponent is Jim Mowrer who is an unabashed progressive who has laid out there just how far left he's willing to go. It's a very interesting dynamic in a district that was drawn by a Republican legislature to trend Republican. I think it's too close to call--but Mowrer is a candidate worth sending a little cash to.
C) Iowa's 1st district trends Democratic and is held by another Republican freshman swept in to office in the 2014 Republican tsunami. Republican Rod Blum has done little to distinguish himself in congress except vote the Republican obstructionist party line. He faces a bit of a firebrand in Democrat Monica Vernon. Vernon has held nearly every public office and position in the district over her frenetic career of public service from Education to Journalism to Public Office. Her campaign machine is tight, and I think it's easy to predict this one is going back to the Democrats.
D) The only open seat in this region is Minnesota's 2nd. It is a seat held by a Republican who is retiring and it leans Democratic by demographics. The Republicans are placing their hope on a radio talk show host, Jason Lewis, who has run and lost other offices in the past. The Democrats chose Angie Craig. Craig is a non-politician who has worked in the field of healthcare for the St. Jude's children's hospital non-profit corporation. I'm going with Craig.
E) Minnesota's 3rd district is currently held by Republican second term representative Erik Paulsen. The district wraps around the western suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul and has long been a Republican seat. Democrats are hoping that Paulsen's margins indicate weakness and have offered Terri Bonoff as his opponent. She is a strong candidate and current state Senator, but I'm not feeling it. I think Paulsen holds onto this one.
F) One of my favorite Representatives is Rick Nolan of Minnesota's 8th district. Rick has had two careers in the House. His first was from 1975 to 1981 when he was elected in the post Watergate purge (the only other politician who can claim that still in office is Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy!) Long after retiring from that stint in Washington he returned and won re-election again in 2012 (and again 2014). His 2014 election was a squeaker, and thus he is seen as vulnerable. His opponent is a young, one issue Republican candidate who is also the owner of a multistate shooting range company called Mills Fleet Farm. Further it's a rematch of the previous campaign where Mills was also Nolan's opponent. Given the trend, I see this election as the nail in the coffin of Mills' political hopes--Nolan wins again.