16 House Republicans Who Could Lose For Blocking Immigration Reform

Bill Scher

Friday I explained at The Week “How Obama’s immigration push could hand the House to Democrats.” In short, Democrats need a net gain of 17 seats to take back the House. And there are 19 Republican-held House districts – 16 in which the incumbent is running for re-election – that professional congressional handicappers Stu Rothenberg, Charlie Cook and Larry Sabato deem to be competitive races, and where according to Latino Decisions poll analyst David Damore the Latino population is significant enough – exceeding or approaching the incumbent’s 2012 margin of victory – to influence the outcome of the election.

Winning all of these would be effectively running the table. Democrats could lose a few and win a few competitive races elsewhere, but they would also have successfully defend nearly all the seats of their own in vulnerable territory.

This is not a high-probability scenario. But it is perhaps the Democrats’ best scenario.

As it stands the race for the House is a sleepy one. No single national issue animates the race and few seats are expected to change hands. But when Obama issues his immigration executive order, the races in the districts below may heat up, and cause a mini-wave just big enough to spark a major upset.

Below are the 16 Republican incumbents – all of whom have refused to support the discharge petition that would have forced a House vote on comprehensive immigration reform – that may find themselves in danger this fall.

As you look them over, you’ll notice that many of them have not been in office long, meaning voters are not yet in the habit of pulling them lever for them. More importantly, many are squirrelly about stating their immigration position, indicating that the Latino population is significant enough in their districts that it is difficult to simultaneously appeal to their Latino and Tea Party constituencies.

Rep. Dan Benishek
Michigan – 1st district
Tenure in Congress: 2nd term

Latino Voting Age Population: 1.1%
Margin of Victory 2012: 0.5%

House Race Ratings
Rothenberg: Toss-up/Tilt Republican
Cook: Lean Republican
Sabato: Lean Republican

Immigration position: Advocacy group America’s Voice says Benishek has “been silent on immigration reform.” He faces a right-wing primary challenger who is trying to use his U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsement against him. The Chamber is supportive of immigration reform.

Rep. Mike Coffman
Colorado – 6th district
Tenure in Congress: 3rd term

Latino Voting Age Population: 16.7%
Margin of Victory 2012: 2%

House Race Ratings:
Rothenberg: Pure Toss-Up
Cook: Toss-Up
Sabato: Toss-Up

Immigration position: Did a “180 on immigration” after his district was redrawn to include more Latinos. In 2011, he opposed the DREAM Act and supported Arizona’s anti-immigrant law. Now he says he supports a path a citizenship once there is an “independently verified secure border” and he has introduced a bill creating a path to citizenship for undocumented children that serve in the military.

Rep. Rodney Davis
Illinois – 13th district
Tenure in Congress: 1st term

Latino Voting Age Population: 2.6%
Margin of Victory 2012: 0.3%

House Race Ratings
Rothenberg: Toss-up/Tilt Republican
Cook: Lean Republican
Sabato: Lean Republican

Immigration position: He has avoided taking a clear position. A reporter from his local NBC affiliate was unable to get him to comment on immigration earlier this year. When the Senate passed its bill, Davis called it a “disaster” while suggesting he might support a pathway to citizenship in a differently written bill.

Rep. Jeff Denham
California – 10th district
Tenure in Congress: 2nd term

Latino Voting Age Population: 34.9%
Margin of Victory 2012: 5.4%

House Race Ratings
Rothenberg: Republican Favored
Cook: Likely Republican
Sabato: Likely Republican

Immigration position: One of three Republicans to back the House Democratic version of the bipartisan comprehensive Senate immigration reform bill. One of six Republicans to vote against amendment denying funds for Obama’s 2012 executive order de-prioritizing deportations of undocumented who came as children. He introduced legislation to legalize undocumented children that serve in the military.

Rep. Chris Gibson
New York – 19th district
Tenure in Congress: 2nd term

Latino Voting Age Population: 5.4%
Margin of Victory 2012: 5.8%

House Race Ratings
Rothenberg: Toss-up/Tilt Republican
Cook: Lean Republican
Sabato: Toss-up

Immigration position: He has avoided taking a clear position. He says the Senate bill “doesn’t really solve the problem.” America’s Voice reports he won’t “discuss citizenship until border security, other pieces are in place.”

Rep. Michael Grimm
New York – 11th district
Tenure in Congress: 2nd term

Latino Voting Age Population: 13.9%
Margin of Victory 2012: 5.4%

House Race Ratings
Rothenberg: Lean Democrat
Cook: Lean Democrat
Sabato: Lean Democrat

Immigration position: He has expressed support for a path to citizenship once the border is deemed secure. However, he was recently indicted on fraud charges stemming from his hiring of undocumented immigrants to work at his health food restaurant. One of six Republicans to vote against amendment denying funds for Obama’s 2012 executive order de-prioritizing deportations of undocumented who came as children.

Rep. Joe Heck
Nevada – 3rd district
Tenure in Congress: 2nd term

Latino Voting Age Population: 13.5%
Margin of Victory 2012: 7.5%

House Race Ratings
Rothenberg: Lean Republican
Cook: Lean Republican
Sabato: Likely Republican

Immigration position: Sponsored legislation to establish pathway to citizenship for undocumented children.

Rep. Bill Johnson
Ohio – 6th district
Tenure in Congress: 2nd term

Latino Voting Age Population: 0.7%
Margin of Victory 2012: 6.6%

House Race Ratings
Rothenberg: Republican Favored
Cook: Likely Republican
Sabato: Likely Republican

Immigration position: Strongly against reform. Wrote last year, “There has been a lot of talk by some about providing amnesty to illegal immigrants, and developing a ‘comprehensive’ immigration policy to fix this problem. In my view, providing amnesty to those who’ve broken our laws is wrong. Period. And before Washington discusses any changes to the visa waiver program, temporary workers program, or anything else, we must secure the border. Without border security, ‘immigration reform’ is useless.”

Rep. John Kline
Minnesota – 2nd district
Tenure in Congress: 6th term

Latino Voting Age Population: 4.3%
Margin of Victory 2012: 8.2%

House Race Ratings
Rothenberg: Safe Republican
Cook: Likely Republican
Sabato: Likely Republican

Immigration position: Supportive of legalization but vague on specifics. Last year he told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “Certainly, we need to look at a way to take them from an illegal status to a legal status. How that’s done, and if that’s citizenship or not, there’s still a lot of discussion and a lot of debate … [But] you can’t address those people who are here unlawfully until you have that credibility at the border.”

Rep. Frank LoBiondo
New Jersey – 2nd district
Tenure in Congress: 10th term

Latino Voting Age Population: 12.2%
Margin of Victory 2012: 17%

House Race Ratings
Rothenberg: Safe Republican
Cook: Likely Republican
Sabato: Likely Republican

Immigration position: Strongly against reform for much of his career. Huffington Post reported last year that “The Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) – a group that advocates strict immigration law enforcement and mass deportations – describes LoBiondo as voting ‘with us,’ on 20 of the last 28 immigration-related measures.” But in February NBC News categorized him among other congresspeople “who have yet to take firm positions.”

Rep. Steve Pearce
New Mexico – 2nd district
Tenure in Congress: 5th term (non-consecutive)

Latino Voting Age Population: 46.9%
Margin of Victory 2012: 18%

House Race Ratings
Rothenberg: Safe Republican
Cook: Likely Republican
Sabato: Likely Republican

Immigration position: A 2013 Wall Street Journal profile reported he was supportive of legalization but not a path to citizenship: “Pearce said he supported granting work permits to the 11 million or so immigrants now in the U.S. illegally. But if they want to become citizens, he said, they will have to leave the U.S. and ‘get in line like everyone else.'” A New York Times profiles quotes him saying “there is another alternative that would allow families to stay together, that would allow people to work, that just would not make them citizens. Because that makes me very nervous as a policy.”

Rep. Tom Reed
New York – 23rd district
Tenure in Congress: 2nd term

Latino Voting Age Population: 2.6%
Margin of Victory 2012: 3.8%

House Race Ratings
Rothenberg: Lean Republican
Cook: Lean Republican
Sabato: Lean Republican

Immigration position: Last year he moved away from an absolute anti-citizenship position to supporting citizenship for undocumented children. This year he signed a letter from the New York Farm Bureau calling for non-specific immigration reform to improve “farm labor availability.”

Rep. Scott Rigell
Virginia – 2nd district
Tenure in Congress: 2nd term

Latino Voting Age Population: 5.7%
Margin of Victory 2012: 7.6%

House Race Ratings
Rothenberg: Safe Republican
Cook: Likely Republican
Sabato: Likely Republican

Immigration position: Supports legalization but not citizenship for the undocumented. The Virginian-Pilot interviewed him last month: ‘“I have not gotten to the point – and I don’t know that I will – where any set of circumstances could be presented to me where a person who has come here illegally ends up with citizenship and the ability to vote and shape the direction of this country,’ Rigell said. ‘I just can’t process that.’ Yet Rigell said he opposes deporting all who came illegally. He favors helping those brought here as children. He’s not certain what do about the adults, particularly because many have established families and deep connections within the community.”

Rep. Steve Southerland
Florida – 2nd district
Tenure in Congress: 2nd term

Latino Voting Age Population: 4.8%
Margin of Victory 2012: 5.4%

House Race Ratings
Rothenberg: Lean Republican
Cook: Lean Republican
Sabato: Lean Republican

Immigration position: He has avoided taking a clear position. The Miami Herald reported on his comments from an August 2013 town hall: “Southerland sounded more open to the idea of a general pathway to citizenship, Still, he drew a distinction between young people brought as children and those who came when they were older and knew they were breaking the law. Southerland said he wasn’t sure about whether they should be granted a special path to citizenship or legal residency. ‘If there’s going to be a chance to create a legal path, there has to be a recognition of the wrong done,’ Southerland said, indicating they would need to pay fines and express contrition. ‘But I believe in reconciliation.'” He supports legislation to legalize undocumented children that serve in the military.

Rep. David Valadao
California – 21st district
Tenure in Congress: 1st term

Latino Voting Age Population: 65.8%
Margin of Victory 2012: 16%

House Race Ratings
Rothenberg: Toss-up/Tilt Republican
Cook: Lean Republican
Sabato: Lean Republican

Immigration position: One of three Republicans to back the House Democratic version of the bipartisan comprehensive Senate immigration reform bill. One of six Republicans to vote against amendment denying funds for Obama’s 2012 executive order de-prioritizing deportations of undocumented who came as children. He supports legislation to legalize undocumented children that serve in the military.

Rep. Jackie Walorski
Indiana – 2nd district
Tenure in Congress: 1st term

Latino Voting Age Population: 6.3%
Margin of Victory 2012: 1.4%

House Race Ratings
Rothenberg: Republican Favored
Cook: Lean Republican
Sabato: Likely Republican

Immigration position: Relentlessly vague. Her spokesperson says she “will take a careful look at each bill that is offered.” One local labor activist says “Her position remains somewhat elusive, except to say she’s constantly listening.”

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