Changing of the Guard?

By Thomas Duffy / November 1, 2010 at 6:57 PM

With election day 2010 less than 24 hours away and a Republican takeover of the House predicted by virtually every political pundit, the top four Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee may not have to worry about minority status. All four may be gone from the House, period.

Notably, committee Chairman Rep. Ike Skelton (MO) is in the political fight of his life. Skelton won reelection two years ago with 66 percent of the votes cast. This year, however, his race against Republican Vicky Hartzler, who served in the state House, is considered a "toss-up" by the political website, which bases its judgments on national and in-state polls.

John Spratt (SC) is right behind Skelton in terms of seniority among Democrats on the committee. And like Skelton, he won reelection in 2008 by a comfortable margin of 62 percent. But 2010 is a bad year for Spratt's party, and he faces a long day tomorrow against challenger Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney, like so many Republicans running this year, is criticizing his opponent for supporting the Obama-Pelosi agenda. says the Spratt-Mulvaney race "leans GOP."

Reps. Solomon Ortiz (TX) and Gene Taylor (MS) -- the third and fourth-ranking Democrats, respectively -- hold subcommittee chairmanships. Taylor has taken a very high profile over the last number of months because of the Gulf oil spill. He has also consistently argued for a larger surface fleet for the Navy. Northrop Grumman's Ingalls Shipyard is in Mississippi. RealClearPolitics. com puts both races in the "toss-up" category.

Maybe their wealth of political skill can get them reelected one more time. But in a year when the word incumbent is being spelled with four letters, each man carries a heavy burden -- their length of service in the House. Skelton was first elected in 1977, Spratt and Ortiz were members of the House freshman class of 1982, and Taylor was sworn in in 1989.