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Top 10 Most Endangered Democrats

WASHINGTON - MAY 4: Democrats from the U.S. House of Representatives, including (L-R) Rep. John Barrow (D-GA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), visit after news briefing to unveil legislative proposals on health care at the Capitol May 4, 2005 in Washington, DC. The proposals are that are part of the Democrats New Partnership for America's Future and marks the third in a series of legislative initiatives that promote Democratic priorities. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

April 20, 2011

Once every decade, certain unfortunate incumbents are sucked into a ritual of panic. Census data is released and district lines are redrawn according to their reported populations -- leaving congressmen who have grown accustomed to loyal constituencies in their wake. The Cook Political Report's redistricting guru David Wasserman takes a look at the 10 most nervous Democrats in this click through gallery.

Click to see the 10 endangered Republicans>>


N2K: Redistricting Spells Danger for Democrats in 2012
(David Wasserman, video by Theresa Poulson with photos by Getty Images)

Laura Richardson, CA-37

Population loss coupled with a rising Latino population in central Los Angeles may force California's redistricting commission to collapse the area's three traditionally African-American seats down to two. Both Richardson's Long Beach-area 37th Congressional District and Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters' 35th District are now actually Hispanic-majority seats. Who will draw the short straw? "Everybody's looking at Laura," said one operative, in part because of sophomore Richardson's ethics issues. (

John Barrow, GA-12

Armed with a 2009 Supreme Court decision that rendered districts with less than 50 percent minority population unworthy of special protection, Georgia Republicans could easily dilute the four-term Democrat's 44 percent African-American district by dropping black precincts in Savannah and adding heavily white Augusta suburbs. This would create a district much like the one in effect during the late 1990s, a period when Democrats were locked out in the region.

Joe Donnelly,IN-02

Indiana Republicans are on the verge of passing a plan that might just be enough to push the three-term Democrat into the state's Senate race. Under the initial legislative proposal, Donnelly's 2nd Congressional District would lose blue-collar Michigan City and Kokomo (which provided him his 2010 margin of victory) and pick up rural Elkhart and Kosciusko counties, two of the most conservative pockets of northern Indiana. Under the new lines, President Obama's 2008 share of the vote in the district would fall from 54 percent to 49 percent.

Gary Peters, MI-09

If Michigan Republicans merge Peters and longtime Democratic Rep. Sander Levin into one Oakland County-based seat as expected, Peters could technically be the "majority stakeholder," occupying more territory in the new seat. Yet the sophomore Democrat would be a distinct underdog against Levin, who built his political career in Oakland County and is now one of the most powerful Democrats in the House. A twist: The son of the Republican whom Peters beat in 2008 could also be a candidate.

Russ Carnahan, MO-03

At this point, Carnahan appears to have come to terms with the fact that the state's Republicans -- and perhaps his two Democratic colleagues in the Show Me State delegation -- have thrown him under the bus. With his district all but certain to be parceled out four ways, Carnahan may move out of St. Louis City to embark on an uphill battle in GOP Rep. Todd Akin's conservative suburban 2nd District. It would be less of a suicide mission than running in a primary against African-American Rep. William Lacy Clay (D) in the 1st CD, but not by much.

Larry Kissell, NC-08

The sophomore Democrat hails from a deeply conservative swath of North Carolina's rural southern tier, but has relied on black voters at the district's two urban extremities -- Charlotte and Fayetteville -- for his margins of victory. Now that Republicans control redistricting for the first time, they have zero incentive to keep these Democratic goldmines in the 8th CD. By next fall, this district could be at least 10 points more Republican and a slam dunk for a conservative GOPer from the Charlotte suburbs.

Brad Miller, NC-13

After eluding serious competition since he drew this district for himself as a state senator in 2002, North Carolina’s Miller is getting ready for a taste of his own medicine. Or will he take a pass? Miller reported raising just $32,000 in the first quarter of 2011. Smart money has Republicans tossing Miller's Democratic base in Raleigh in with Democratic Rep. David Price's base in Durham and Chapel Hill, leaving Miller with little choice but to retire or run in a heavily Republican seat outside the Research Triangle.

Betty Sutton, OH-13

Ohio's five remaining Democratic seats are all clustered in northern Ohio, and according to the 2010 Census, they only have enough people for four districts. Who's in the most trouble when Republicans redraw the map? Sutton, whose suburban 13th Congressional District could easily be split four different ways. The most likely scenario pits Sutton against Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) in a district stretching from Cleveland to Sutton's home near Akron. If it materializes, it would be one of the top primaries to watch in the country.

Mark Critz, PA-12

The Pennsylvania Democrat embarrassed Republicans nationally by handily winning a May 2010 special election, but the GOP may get the last laugh. Western Pennsylvania has borne the brunt of the state's population loss, and Republicans could easily combine Critz into a district with Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire by stretching from Critz's home in Johnstown to Altmire's home north of Pittsburgh. Most of Critz's current territory could end up in the heavily conservative districts of GOP Reps. Bill Shuster and Tim Murphy.

Jim Matheson, UT-02

Utah Republicans just won't give up on trying to redistrict Matheson out of his seat. In 2002, Republicans stretched his district out of Salt Lake City to give him the state's entire border with Arizona and a whole lot of Republican voters. Matheson hung on that year by a handful of votes and now has the most heavily Republican Democratic-held district in the country. GOP legislators are likely to try to take even more Salt Lake County Democrats away from Matheson, making his 2012 escape act even harder.


For more about the redistricting battles, National Journal and Hotline subscribers can check out Redistricting Central.

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