Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 20, 2014

Top 5 Races to Watch in the Southwest

azpol14 076 080914 Top 5 Races to Watch in the Southwest

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The battle for the Southwest really boils down to just one state: Arizona.

There is a lone congressional district in South Texas worth watching, but the majority of the action in the region is in the Grand Canyon State.

Two races dropped off the the list since last summer. The Texas Senate race is no longer worth watching after incumbent Republican John Cornyn dominated Rep. Steve Stockman in the GOP primary. And the race in Texas’ 16th District never materialized when no Hispanic candidate stepped up to challenge freshman Rep. Beto O’Rourke in the Democratic primary.

Here are the top five races to watch in the Southwest this fall:

Arizona’s 2nd District. Republican Martha McSally narrowly lost to Democratic Rep. Ron Barber in 2012 and is back for a rematch. The Republican starts the race with high name identification for a challenger but also carried over some negatives from the last competitive race. There is a wide difference of opinions between the two parties on the state of play — Democrats are emboldened by Barber’s position, while Republicans believe this is a neck-and-neck race. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Pure Tossup.

Texas’ 23rd District. Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego’s race for a second term hasn’t received much attention, in large part because of some GOP strategists’ lack of enthusiasm for former Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco’s comeback bid and lack of initial familiarity with their nominee, former CIA officer Will Hurd. But limited, private polling demonstrates that this race is far from over. And the contest for this border district is certainly worth watching as the White House ponders an executive order on immigration. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Lean Democratic.

Arizona’s 1st District. Republicans held their primary on Tuesday but still don’t have a nominee. State Speaker Andy Tobin and rancher Gary Kiehne are separated by a few hundred votes. But the drawn out Republican contest between three underwhelming fundraisers probably masks Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s vulnerability. She represents a district that has gone Republican in the last three presidential elections, and she lost her first re-election bid in President Barack Obama’s first midterm. Kirkpatrick starts the general election with a tremendous cash advantage, but this race is far from over. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Tossup/Tilts Democratic.

Arizona’s 9th District. Retired U.S. Air Force officer Wendy Rogers won the GOP primary over retired NFL quarterback Andrew Walter and will face Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in the general election. Republicans tried to demonize Sinema as a liberal during the 2012 race for the open seat, but that will be more difficult this time around. This race is worth watching because if Sinema finds herself in serious trouble as November approaches, Republicans would likely be on pace to have a fantastic election night. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Democrat Favored.

Arizona Governor. State Treasurer Doug Ducey won the crowded Republican primary on Tuesday and will face Democrat Fred DuVal in the general election. Arizona still has a Republican tinge to it, particularly in a midterm with a Democratic president, but DuVal is a good candidate who could make this a real race. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Leans Republican.

What races would you add to or subtract from the list?

Note: This is the eighth and final installment in a series of regional looks at the most competitive House and Senate races to watch. The Southwest Region includes Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. The previous regions: Mid-Atlantic, New England, Midwest, Plains, West, Mountain and South.

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