CD-7 a Barometer For Other Open Seats

Missouri is often cited as a good barometer for national politics. The state’s electoral votes have gone to the winner in 25 of the past 26 presidential elections. This year, Colorado’s 7th Congressional District is similarly being looked toward as a bellwether for open-seat battles across the country. There are 33 open House seats up for grabs in the upcoming election. Saturday, the New York Times highlighted the CD-7 race between Democrat Ed Perlmutter and Republican Rick O’Donnell. The article states Perlmutter’s lead is indicative of how other open-seat races are playing out, and Democrat wins in these districts could tilt the balance of power in Congress.

Surveys show Mr. Perlmutter in command of his race against his Republican opponent, Rick O’Donnell, in the contest to succeed Representative Bob Beauprez, a Republican who is running for governor.

In races for 20 other Republican open seats, recent polls show the Democrat leading in at least 8, putting the party more than halfway to the 15 seats needed to capture the House. Just one of 12 Democratic open seats appears at risk, and even that is considered a long shot.

The state-of-play shows why leaders of both parties pleaded with incumbents who were contemplating leaving the House to stick around, begging them to pass up career changes, more time with the grandchildren or a run for the Senate.

Grabbing open seats has proven critical in past Congressional realignments. In the watershed election of 1994, House Republicans converted 22 Democratic open seats; in the Watergate election of 1974, House Democrats flipped 13 Republican seats. Now, for Democrats to seize the majority, the open seats will be crucial. “You have to win the open seats by a rather substantial proportion because, unless you have a nationalized race, the incumbents are going to win,” said John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute.

It is a testament to the partisan makeup of most Congressional districts that even with such a strong political tide running against the Republican majority, Democrats are still trying to assemble enough victories to gain control of the House.

But Colorado’s Seventh, which ranges from industrial Commerce City through bedroom communities to the old Gold Rush town of Golden, is a textbook swing district drawn to foster competition.