The middle-Atlantic region stretches from the shore of eastern Lake Eire to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Traditionally, a Democratic region, through careful gerrymandering, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia have all gone majority Republican in their representation in the House--in spite of the fact that by registration both Pennsylvania and New Jersey of by huge numbers majority Democratic. Virginia lost a court battle over their 2011 district map and will be voting with a new map this year. Through shifts in boundaries and retirements as many as 4 of their districts are now competitive. Add to that 3 districts in Pennsylvania and 1 in New Jersey and 8 total districts are interesting.
A) If this weren't a year with a Republican Governor who is a hot mess and polling below 20%, a Republican Presidential candidate not doing much better, I would not think that this district was even vulnerable. The Republican incumbent is Scott Garrett. Garrett has been in possession of this seat for the past 7 terms. In the past two cycles, he was managed to get about 55% of the cast votes against nominal opponents. Garrett is a staunch conservative who has never had his record fully exposed. And here's the difference this time. His opponent is Democrat Josh Gottheimer, an executive with Microsoft who works as their General Manager for corporate strategies. He is well financed, fully supported by the DCCC and plays to win with an intelligent, aggressive campaign. He is running on economic issues and infrastructure renewal. He supports securing Medicare & Social Security, important issues for the aging population of the district and against Garrett's stand to privatize retirement. I might be stepping out on a limb, but I honestly think this is the year when an incumbent like Garrett, in a district like the 5th of New Jersey, can lose.
B) The circumstances of this election also place the 15th district on the map. Incumbent Charlie Dent is a high profile Republican congressman with a very moderate rating, leaving him out of step with the leadership of the party. That he is popular in his district speaks volumes to the districts sensibilities that lean more to the Democratic agenda. Dent won unopposed in 2014. This year he is facing a rematch with his 2012 opponent, Democrat Rick Daugherty. Daugherty is a genial candidate with local roots and years of working in the Democratic Party apparatus at the grassroots level. It's an odd de je vu moment in a Democratic year, but I still give this one back to Dent. A Republican keep.
C) Pennsylvania's 8th is the ultimate swing district in the state. The current holder is Republican Michael Fitzpatrick who is not seeking re-election. In his absence, his brother, Brian is running. Brian Fitzpatrick is a former FBI Agent and is leaning on this as his sole reason to represent. Steve Santarsiero is running for the Democrats. Santarsiero is a state Senator with wide popularity and a long history of bi-partisan support and success. This one is swinging back to the Democrats.
D) Pennsylvania's 16th district is open and being sought by two strong opponents with views that represent the progressive Democratic agenda and the conservative Republican agenda. The Republican is a state Senator with 7 years of experience named Lloyd Smucker. The Democrat is political novice, Christina Hartman and is well known in the local not-for-profit community. In a year with a strong Republican presidential candidate I would give this one to the Republicans, but in this year? It's a toss up.
E) Virginia's 10th District is held by freshmen congresswoman, Barbara Comstock. Comstock won the seat in a squeaker, and the shifts in demographics give this seat a zero bias one way or the other. The Democratic opponent is LuAnn Bennett. She has an amazingly compelling personal story who knows the issues in the district and has the roots to give her credibility. Bye, bye Barbara. Check out her video: https://youtu.be/7vYe6FLaPk0. I did, and then I sent her a contribution.
F) Virginia's 5th District runs down the center of the commonwealth. This area is traditionally Republican territory. It is an open seat with the retirement of it's current Republican representative, Robert Hurt. The Republican vying to replace him is Tom Garrett. Garrett is a lawyer and a state Senator for the past 5 years. He is a party line conservative who is anti welfare, anti choice and anti immigration, but he would like the government to bring high speed internet to rural communities (read between the lines for yourself). His Democratic opponent is Jane Dittmar a local politician in a small county in the district. She has deep roots and is mounting a serious campaign. This one is probably my largest stretch of all of these predictions, but given Virginia's generally strong support for the Democratic ticket and the campaign support from other Democratic state office holders like Senator Warner and Governor McAuliffe--and more importantly the addition of more Democratic precincts in the redrawn congressional map. I'm gonna say, for now, too close to call.
G) Virginia's 4th district benefits the most from the state's redrawn district map. The demographics so favor the Democrats now that the Republican incumbent chose to retire. His replacement wannabee is Mike Wade a local county sheriff. His Democratic opponent is a member of the Virginia state Senate, Donald McEachin. McEachin wins easily.
H) Virginia's 2nd district is a swing district, and it's open with the retirement of current Republican Scott Rigell. The Republican candidate is Scott Taylor. Taylor is a current state representative, former Navy SEAL, a small business owner. These credentials all carry a lot of weight in a district that encompasses all of Virginia Beach and one of the densest concentrations of military families and employees. The Democrat is Shaun Brown. Brown is a local business owner, community activist and liberal Democrat, who is probably too left of center for the majority of this district's residence. I'm calling this one for the GOP.