10 Under-the-Radar Congressional Races to Watch
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President Obama is riding high on a post-Democratic National Convention bounce in the polls, and high-profile candidates like Elizabeth Warren made an impact with speeches drawing a clear line between them and the Republicans.
There's still a long way to go before the elections, though, and while the glitz and glamour happened at Bank of America stadium, there were plenty of Democrats not invited to speak but doing their best to win office and help push Congress in a genuinely progressive direction. They might not be getting attention, but several of them are in winnable races against truly regressive—or just plain weird—Republicans.
Here are ten Congressional races, flying under the radar, where you just might see an upset.
1. CA-25: Democrat Lee Rogers vs Republican Buck McKeon
Buck McKeon is a trifecta of loathsome: a Republican in a district that Obama won in 2008 who got preferential treatment from housing-bubble blowers Countrywide, and who, as the Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, refused to hold hearings on sexual assault at the Air Force's training facility at Lackland. He was also one of the forces behind California's anti-gay Proposition 8, and is the co-chair of the House drone caucus (for real).
So why aren't we hearing more about his opponent, surgeon Lee Rogers? As could be expected, Rogers is running heavy on health care, leaning on his experience with the system—he says that 75 percent of his patients (he's a podiatrist) are on Medicare--and calling for improvements to the Affordable Care Act. He's called for keeping drug addicts out of prison, getting out of Afghanistan, and investing in infrastructure. As Blue America's Howie Klein notes, McKeon hasn't had real competition in a while, so this race could get interesting.
2. NY-23: Democrat Nate Shinagawa vs Republican Tom Reed
Nate Shinagawa is running as both the Democratic and Working Families Party candidate in upstate New York's 23rd district against Republican Tom Reed. He is one of the youngest candidates for Congress this year (just 28 years old) and a former student labor activist. He's already spent six years in the Tompkins County legislature, and has been an outspoken critic of fracking -- a practice his opponent is all for—which New York Governor Cuomo would like to open up in his district.
In addition to welcoming fracking in his backyard, Reed was one of the GOP members of Congress on an infamous trip to Israel, where in addition to enjoying the hospitality of AIPAC's nonprofit offshoot the American Israel Education Foundation, at least one legislator copped to going skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee. (Reed says that he and his wife were “appropriately clothed.”) He's been cited as a possible future GOP “star” from New York, and he's a big fan of Paul Ryan and his (wildly unpopular, especially in New York) budget.
3. PA-16: Democrat Aryanna Strader vs Republican Joe Pitts
Joe Pitts's name is familiar to anyone who cares about reproductive justice—along with Democrat Bart Stupak, the Pennsylvania Republican was the author of the infamous Stupak-Pitts amendment to the health care reform bill—a sneak attack on abortion rights that would've restricted access to abortion coverage in private health insurance plans.
Pitts should be a huge target for Democrats, but despite a leftward trend in his district and a bit of redistricting that might make it even more likely to swing Democratic, they're not pushing very hard. But Aryanna Strader is. She's a 29-year-old veteran, a mom, and a small business owner, and she leaves no question where she stands on reproductive freedoms—she argues that Pitts “started the war on women's health.”