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Will 'tea party' backing for third-party candidates boost House Dems?

Third-party candidates with 'tea party' support stand to siphon votes from Republicans in as many as 20 House races.

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Independent Cecilia Iglesias faces similar allegations in California's 47th District. Critics say she is a Republican plant to split the Hispanic vote in a bid to defeat seven-term Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D) and elect Van Tran (R), a state assemblyman endorsed by tea partyers.

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Districts with third-party wild cards

Virginia's Second District. GOP car dealer Scott Rigell leads freshman Rep. Glenn Nye (D) by six points, but former Virginia Beach GOP chairman Kenny Golden isn't exiting the race. If it's close, the votes Mr. Golden pulls from Mr. Rigell could reelect the Democrats' Mr. Nye. Golden dismisses that concern: “Whatever happened to voting for the right person?” he says.

Michigan's First District. Cardiologist Dan Benishek (R) and state Rep. Gary McDowell (D) are locked in a race that is essentially tied, but "Citizen candidate" Glenn Wilson is polling as much as 12 percent. "The Democrats want me out because I'm going to give the seat to the Republicans. Republicans tell me I'm going to give the seat to Democrats," he says in a phone interview. "I've got news for them. This is the people's seat."

New York's 23rd District. Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman on Oct. 5 bowed out of the race, citing concerns that he would split the conservative vote and reelect the Democratic incumbent. But Mr. Hoffman's name remains on the ballot, and he could yet pull votes.

Pennsylvania’s Seventh District. Former US attorney Pat Meehan (R) is narrowly favored to defeat State Rep. Bryan Lentz (D) for an open seat, but backed out of an Oct. 14 debate because it included independent conservative candidate and tea party activist Jim Schneller, who had help from Lentz supporters to get on the ballot. Mr. Meehan leads by four points, according to the latest poll from Monmouth University Polling Institute. Four percent of likely voters said they support a generic “other candidate.” “Brian Lentz supporters put Schneller on the ballot, but it would be surprising if Meehan still didn’t win,” says G. Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin and Marshall College poll in Lancaster, Penn. “That’s how lethal the environment is for Democrats.”