Tip Sheet: 2016 State House Seats

   

In 2014, the Republicans elected 118 members to the House, which was not only a majority, but a supermajority with nine votes to spare. Few state parties across the country have suffered more at the statehouse level under the Obama administration than Missouri Democrats. While resignations have cost the Republicans two seats and the Democrats one, both of which will be filled in November’s special elections, the GOP’s dominance has radically changed the map in 2016.

As Obama leaves office Republicans hold every seat rated 50 percent or better Republican, which virtually assures them of nearly 100 seats to the Democrats measly 40 or so seats before election season begins.

There are 30 seats that are rated between statistically even (R/D-0) and a 10-point advantage for the Democrats (D+10). The Republicans hold an astounding 20 of those seats. The Democrats will have to turn 10 of those 20 to take away the Republicans’ supermajority.

But every election cycle that you think the Republicans could not add to their majority, they still seem to do it. So, here are a half dozen seats that are some of the very few remaining Republican targets.

REPUBLICAN TARGETS

  1. 90th District – Rep. Deb Lavender (R/D+0)

Lavender won in 2014 after several attempts, and for her trouble, she is likely the top target in 2016. St. Louis County Republicans have a love affair with this Kirkwood seat and have proven that they will dedicate manpower and financial resources to win it. Former Rep. Rick Stream could be on the ballot in his state senate run which would help Republicans, and they have found a good recruit in attorney Mark Milton. He jumped out of the gates with $15,000 on hand compared to just over $34,000 for Lavender. Again the 90th will be a battleground and both sides will be competing on it.

  1. 70th District – OPEN (D+2)

State Rep. Bill Otto is leaving this seat open to run for Congress, so the current front runner is Byron DeLear, who has previously run for office and has been very active on the Westlake Landfill issue. DeLear, who has $14,000 cash on hand, may benefit from the House Republican Campaign Committee having so many seats to defend that funding this seat may not become a priority. If he can avoid a Republican candidate who can raise money, he may finally make his way into the Capitol.

  1. 29th District – OPEN (D+8)

This is the seat that former Rep. Noel Torpey left, and no matter who wins the special, it will be targeted by both parties. An eight-point advantage is a big hill to climb, and this may have just been a case where only a Republican like Torpey could win the seat.

  1. 91st District – OPEN (D+4)

Rep. Jeanne Kirkton is leaving this seat, and I know you’re thinking there is no way a Republican competes here. However, the Republicans have a candidate they are excited about and feel they have a chance here. Michael Peters, who previously ran against Kirkton, will run again as a Republican. The Democrats have a very polished candidate in Sarah Unsicker running, and she is likely to be the front runner throughout. Neither candidate was required to file a report last quarter.

  1. 118th District – Rep. Ben Harris (D+8)

Harris has a target on his back, and there is speculation that his 2014 opponent Michael McGirl, who is a strong candidate, will opt for a rematch. However, with nearly 120 seats to defend the Republicans may just wait until 2018 when Harris becomes term limited to commit real resources. This seat and the 10th, where Rep. Pat Conway will be term limited, are primed to flip when they are open seats in the 2018 off-year election.  Harris has just over $9,000 on hand, so it wouldn’t hurt him to start fundraising now.

  1. 132nd District – OPEN

Currently held by Charlie Norr, who is the only Democrat state lawmaker in the 7th congressional district, there is always the possibility that the area’s sizable Republican resources converge on the district simply because there are no other districts left to take.

Other potential targets:

  • 92nd District – Rep. Genise Montecillo (D+4) $57,000 on hand,
  • 10th District – Rep. Pat Conway (D+6) $20,000 on hand,
  • 21st District – Rep. Ira Anders (D+7) $22,000 on hand,
  • 46th District – OPEN (D+8)
  • 18th District – Rep. Lauren Arthur (D+9) $5,000 on hand.

DEMOCRATIC TARGETS

  1. 17th District – Rep. Nick King (D+4)

Nick King won by the smallest margin of any representative in 2014 and will likely be in for another nail biter in 2016. However, this time he has the advantage of being an incumbent and having HRCC helping him out of the gate. King has $16,000 on hand, but it is likely the caucus will be spending heavily on his behalf as well.

  1. 112th District – Rep. Rob Vescovo (D+2)

Vescovo won a close election in 2014, and on those merits, will likely face an even closer race in a presidential election year. Rematches are typically tough to win and, as of now, his opponent from 2014, Robert Butler, is seeking one. To make matters worse, Vescovo’s donors have not kicked in yet as he only has $11,000 on hand.

  1. 114th District – Rep. Becky Ruth (D+6)

Ruth won in her second attempt in the 2014 landslide, and while it is likely she is targeted, she is in a good position to win re-election. Her 2014 opponent, former Rep. T.J. McKenna, has decided to take a pass on a rematch. She currently has $11,000 on hand. The most likely route to Republicans losing this seat would be for a pro-right-to-work activist to attack her in a primary, but you would have to think House leadership could convince those groups to interfere in safer districts than the 114th..

  1. 35th District – Rep. Gary Cross (R/D+0)

Cross has a Tea Party Republican voting record in the very definition of a swing district in Jackson County. He has voted far to the right of his district and won re-election every two years, but if his 2014 opponent, Dave Dillon, opts for a rematch in a presidential year, this district will likely be targeted. Currently, Cross has a healthy $26,000 on hand.

  1. 29th District – OPEN (D+8)

It’s possible that the only Republican that could have won this D+8 district was Noel Torpey, but a special election likely gives the Republicans their best chance to hold the seat. The Independence-based district is in the middle of some of the LeVota drama, and its possible the Republicans hold on, but its also likely they will have to completely foot the bill to defend it in 2016.

  1. 47th District – Rep. Chuck Bayse (D+1)

Bayse proved that he could topple a tough opponent in 2014 when he defeated former Rep. John Wright in one of the most expensive contests of the entire cycle. He will face another tough opponent in 2016 in education advocate Susan McClintic, who already has $17,000 on hand in what looks to be another expensive race. Boone County will be the center of the Missouri political world with the marquee state senate race, a swing county for statewide races, and at least two competitive state representative seats, including the 47th.

  1. 94th District – Rep. Cloria Brown (D+2)

This is, of course, the seat that has been flip flopping between Brown and Vicki Englund for 4 cycles now. Brown wins in off year elections, while Englund wins in presidential years. This cycle, Brown has incumbency on her side, but Englund has state Sen. Scott Sifton running his senate campaign to assist her. It will be another close race that likely hinges on turnout. Brown currently has $5,000 in the bank, while Englund has five times as much with $25,000 on hand.

  1. 111th District – Rep. Shane Roden (D+2)

Roden has established some deep relationships during his year in the legislature that are likely to come in handy during his re-election campaign. He has a great deal of support from the firefighters and will be supported by labor. Roden has over $8,000 on hand and is likely to be well funded. Normally, he would be on a path to a very likely re-election in a tough swing district that isn’t accustomed to voting Republican, but in 2016, House leaders have to deal with an outside threat from right-to-work supporters, and it could cost Republicans the 111th. They may have their candidate to back in Jason Jarvis, who is running a rematch of the primary Roden defeated him in from 2014. Waiting in the wings while the Republicans hammer each other is a formidable campaigner in former Rep. Mike Frame.

  1. 14th District – Rep. Kevin Corlew (D+3)

Corlew was another candidate who was recruited by the HRCC to take a lean Democrat district and win it. Now, he may be targeted by outside groups, which could ultimately hand the district back to the Democrats. It will be the HRCC and House leadership against right-to-work activists in the 14th in a race where the real winners are likely the Democrats. But Corlew is likely to beat back the extremists on both flanks to return to Jefferson City, and he has already banked $20,000 for his re-election to try to do so.

  1. 150th District – Rep. Andrew McDaniel (R/D+0)

McDaniel won what some considered an upset in the deep bootheel, but he simply knows his district. Still, it will be tough to win as an incumbent, even during a presidential year. Recruiting candidates can be tough in the bootheel, and as of now, he doesn’t have an organized competitor and has $4,000 on hand. This is typically an expensive seat where both parties spend pretty freely, but something will have to change to see that trend repeat itself in 2016.

  1. 113th District – Rep. Dan Shaul (D+5)

Shaul won a tough seat in 2014 with many in labor believing that he was against right-to-work, and he was… before he flipped in special session. This race may be a primary where anti-right-to-work Republicans back a candidate who has not shifted on the position, and the HRCC must defend their member from the other flank. Whether Shaul, who only has $3,000 on hand, faces a primary, as of now, is unknown, but he does already have a Democratic opponent in Mike Evans.

  1. 44th District –  OPEN (R/D+0)

The race in the 44th has been very expensive the past two cycles, and the race to replace Rep. Caleb Rowden, who is running for Senate, does not look any different in 2016. Tom Pauley is likely to carry the Democratic banner, but the HRCC is still recruiting Rowden’s replacement. His being on the ballot will help, but look for this to be another close and expensive race.

Other potential targets:

  • 115th District –  Rep. Elaine Gannon (D+8) $12,000 on hand
  • 20th District – Rep. Bill Kidd (D+6) $15,000 on hand
  • 117th District –  OPEN  (D+5)
  • 11th District – OPEN (D+4)
  • 149th District – Rep. Don Rone (D+4) $10,000 on hand
  • 97th District – Rep. John McCaherty (D+3) $38,000 on hand
  • 16th District – Rep. Noel Shull (D+2) $72,000 on hand
  • 144th District – Rep. Paul Fitzwater (D+1) $24,000 on hand