- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2014

New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District has become the chief bellwether for American political trends over the last decade, with a Democrat winning the district in 2006, losing it in 2010, regaining it in 2012 — and now facing a tight battle again.

The catch is that it’s the same Democrat, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, and for the third consecutive election she’s facing the same Republican, former Rep. Frank Guinta.

“New Hampshire has been susceptible to national trends and this cycle is no different,” said Nathan L. Gonzales, deputy editor or the Rothenberg Political Report. “The 1st District is competitive enough that neither party will probably ever control it forever.”

Congressional districts in New York and Illinois also feature rematches of candidates whose seats have switched parties with the ebb and flow of America’s turbulent political drift. Like Mr. Guinta, the Republican challengers in those races are former House members ousted in 2012 who hope to benefit from national headwinds this cycle that is pushing back against Mr. Obama and his Democratic Party.

But it’s New Hampshire’s 1st District, which includes Manchester, that has most closely mirrored America’s shifting political moods.

Ms. Shea-Porter, a 61-year-old former social worker, first won the seat in the 2006 midterm election. She was part of the Democratic wave that rose in opposition to President George W. Bush and the Iraq war, giving Democrats majority control of the House that year for the first time since 1994.

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When Republicans recaptured the House majority in 2010, fueled by the rise of the tea party movement in reaction to skyrocketing federal debt and the passage of Obamacare, voters tossed out Ms. Shea-Porter in favor of Mr. Guinta.

But in the next election, Mr. Guinta, a former mayor of Manchester, couldn’t hold back the rising tide of Democratic voters who turned out in 2012 to re-elect Mr. Obama and return Ms. Shea-Porter to Congress.

A New England College poll released Wednesday showed Mr. Guinta breaking into the lead over Ms. Shea-Porter 51 percent to 39 percent. The same poll last week showed the race tied at 45 percent.

Mr. Guinta has insisted that he isn’t waiting for another “wave” election to carry him into office.

“We don’t take anything for granted,” said Guinta campaign spokesman Jay Ruais.

But he noted that the GOP challenger, who has embarked on a “Kitchen Table Talks” tour to converse directly with voters, regularly hears about the weak economy, lack of jobs and problems with Obamacare.

“What we’re hearing from people is they are very upset about the direction the country is heading,” said Mr. Ruais. “We hear that all the time.”

Ms. Shea-Porter’s campaign did not respond to email or phone messages.

Mr. Guinta’s fellow Republican ex-House colleagues looking to stage a comeback this year are tapping into that same national current.

In Illinois’ 17th District, Republican ex-Rep. Bobby Schilling is running to reclaim the seat he lost to Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos in 2012.

Polls show the race in a statistical dead heat.


Mr. Schilling won the seat with the help of the tea party wave in 2010, ousting incumbent Democrat Phil Hare. Ms. Bustos, aided by redistricting, took it back for Democrats in the next election.

“We are in a swing district, which slants Democrat during presidential years but bounces back to a slight Republican lean in off years,” said Schilling campaign spokesman Jon Schweppe. “That being said, every vote is going to matter, and there’s no doubt it’s going to come down to the wire on Election Day.”

A similar race is playing out in the state’s 10th District, where Republican Bob Dold is trying to recapture the seat he lost in 2012 to Democratic Rep. Bradley S. Schneider. The GOP had held the seat for years until redistricting helped Democrats seize it.

Mr. Schneider was up 47 percent to 42 percent in a poll commissioned by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in early September.

In New York’s 18th Congressional District, Republican Nan Hayworth is trying to make a political comeback against Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney.

Ms. Hayworth won the seat in the tea party wave of 2010. She lost in the next election to Mr. Maloney, a former Clinton White House aide, after redistricting made the upstate New York district more Democratic.

Mr. Maloney led Ms. Hayworth by 8 points, 50 percent to 42 percent, in a Siena College poll last month.

Mr. Maloney has repeatedly called Ms. Hayworth a “tea party Republican” and an “extremist.” Ms. Hayworth, who calls herself a moderate, has worked to link Mr. Maloney to Mr. Obama and his unpopular policies.

“This race continues to be between a Bill Clinton Democrat and tea party Republican, but now voters have the chance to compare Sean’s record of results and creating jobs and Congresswoman Hayworth’s record of partisan gridlock,” said Maloney campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Formas.

Terence Michos, an adviser to the Hayworth campaign, said the district’s Democratic makeup remains a hurdle but Ms. Hayworth is getting a boost the national mood that this year favors the GOP.

“There’s a difference in the tide, just where the country is thinking and looking at the president’s policies,” he said.

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