House seats Democrats and GOP are trying to flip in 2020

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After seeing House Democrats take the majority by winning 30 districts in 2018 that President Trump had won just two years earlier, House Republicans immediately seized on these seats as their path back to the majority. In total, Republicans need a net gain of at least 17 seats to flip the chamber back. They’re specifically energized around the 13 “ruby red” districts where Mr. Trump won by more than 6 points in 2016.

However, vulnerable “frontline” House Democrats have had a prolific fundraising year so far — 26 of these members have more than $2 million cash on hand. After recent redistricting in North Carolina, Democrats are also expected to add two more seats to their ranks and have laid out an offensive effort across the map and especially in Texas, where retirements and close 2018 race results have kept Democrats optimistic. 

Congressional primaries in many of these districts have yet to take place, and Republican recruits are facing some massive fundraising deficits, compared to the incumbents they’re challenging. But Republicans believe that because these freshman Democratic members now have records in Congress they can run against, they’ll be able to capitalize on Mr. Trump’s support in these districts to help flip the House. 

Republicans are also encouraged by their recent win in California’s 25th District special election, where Mike Garcia, a former Navy fighter pilot and the son of a Mexican immigrant, in May became the first Republican to flip a House seat in California held by a Democrat since 1998. A memo by Tom Emmer, chair of the House Republican campaign arm, said the committee will “run the same playbook in November that Democrats ran so well against the GOP in 2018: Exploiting the legislative records of our opponents with our diverse field of candidates.”

Here are some of the most interesting and competitive House races to watch: 

Oklahoma: 5th District

Incumbent: Kendra Horn (D)
Challengers: Stephanie Bice, Terry Neese (Primary on June 30, nine total challengers)
Cook Political Rating: Toss-up

Horn won the Oklahoma City-area district in 2018 in a surprise upset for Democrats, beating Republican incumbent Steve Russell by less than 2 points. While Republicans held the seat for nearly 44 years, state legislative flips in the district showed a Democratic trend building right before Horn’s victory. Her campaign’s hyper-local approach has continued on into 2020, though Republicans have tried to tie her to impeachment and presidential politics to nationalize the race in a district Mr. Trump won by 13 points. 

Republicans are holding their primary on June 30, and the top two fundraisers in the field are businesswoman Terry Neese and state Senator Stephanie Bice. Horn maintains a massive fundraising advantage and the largest county, Oklahoma County, which Horn won in 2018, is seeing shifting demographics that favor Democrats. The state is a safe bet for Mr. Trump to win in the presidential race, and with no Senate or gubernatorial election, Horn’s race is the most competitive to watch in the state. If Republicans are going to have a chance of retaking the House, it’ll be because of districts like these. 

South Carolina: 1st District

Incumbent: Joe Cunningham (D)
Challengers: Nancy Mace, Katherine Landing (Primary on June 9, four total challengers)
Cook Political Rating: Toss-up

After becoming the first Democrat to win this district in 30 years, Cunningham now has to keep the Charleston district that Mr. Trump won by 13 points in 2016. 

Former Congressman Mark Sanford, who represented the district since 2013, was ousted in a contentious Republican primary in favor of a more Trumpian candidate for the midterms. In 2020, the Republican challengers are continuing to promote their loyalty to the president. State representative Nancy Mace, who leads the Republican field in fundraising, previously worked on the Trump campaign as a field director. 

City councilwoman Kathy Landing has aired an ad calling Cunningham a “self-promoting talker” and says “we need adults in Congress to help President Trump restore stability.” 

Candidate Chris Cox founded the national “Bikers for Trump” group.

While the district has voted Republican by double digits in the past five presidential elections, Cunningham has been able to raise over $3.8 million for his reelection effort. There may also be some impact from the  surprisingly competitive Senate race between powerful Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham and Democrat Jamie Harrison. 

A “Path to Victory” memo by Harrison’s campaign specifically cites Cunningham’s Lowcountry district as a sign of white suburban voters moving away from Republicans. 

New Mexico: 2nd District

Incumbent: Xochitl Torres Small (D)
Challengers: Claire Chase, Yvette Herrell, Chris Mathys (Primary on June 2)
Cook Political Rating: Toss-up

A competitive GOP primary created an avenue for Torres Small to flip this rural New Mexico district in 2018 that Mr. Trump won by 10 points. So far, it seems like Torres Small could see a similar narrative play out in 2020. 

The three Republican candidates have started to build up a combative primary, filled with litmus tests on each candidate’s loyalty to the president. Claire Chase, a former governmental relations head for an oil company, leads the pack in fundraising. State Representative Yvette Herrell ran in 2018, and has already gone after Chase in an attack ad displaying old anti-Trump Facebook comments. 

“She’s Never Trump, so we’re Never Claire,” the ad declares. Chase has already retorted with an attack ad against Herrell, and told the Santa Fe New Mexican she was “completely wrong about the president. He has been incredible for our district.” 

Mr. Trump’s margin of victory here was more than 3 points higher than Mitt Romney’s in 2012, but Torres Small has nearly $3 million in the bank. She has sought to distance herself from being branded as a “socialist” by Republicans, and most recently, criticized Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for celebrating a drop in oil and gas prices. 

Georgia: 6th District

Incumbent: Lucy McBath (D)
Challengers: Karen Handel, Mykel Lynn Barthelemy, Blake Harbin, Joe Profit, Paulette Smith (Primary on June 9)
Cook Political Rating: Toss-up

In a 2017 special election, Democrat Jon Ossoff came within 0.4 percentage points of defeating Republican Karen Handel in one of the most expensive House races in history. McBath ended up defeating Handel by 1 point in 2018, and Handel is looking for a rematch to claim a seat she held for 18 months. 

While she’s far ahead of the field in fundraising, Handel will first have to get through four other Republicans, who have argued she is not the candidate to win back the district. Handel has been endorsed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, the top three House Republican members and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who previously represented the seat. 

While Mr. Trump won Georgia in 2016 by 5 points, he won this district by a slimmer 1.5 points. McBath is well known as a gun control advocate, after being motivated to run after her son’s murder nearly seven years ago, she is likely to bring up Handel’s “A” rating from the National Rifle Association in a general election race. 

Democrats are also looking to tie Handel to the contentious Republican Senate primary and to Governor Brian Kemp, whose popularity has been declining. McBath also has $2.9 million cash on hand to supplement another race against Handel, or whomever ends up taking the nomination 

Georgia: 7th District

Incumbent: Open
Challengers: Carolyn Bordeaux (D), Renee Unterman (R), Dr. Dean Richard McCormick (R), Lynne Homrich (R) (Primary on June 9, 14 total candidates)
Cook Political Rating: Toss-up

GOP Congressman Ron Woodall has been in office since 2010, but after a razor-thin reelection in 2018, announced his retirement in February 2019. Thirteen people have announced they are running for the district seat, including Democratic professor Carolyn Boredeaux, who lost by less than 450 votes to Woodall in the 2018 midterms. Boredeaux leads the pack in fundraising, though Democratic state Senator Zahra Karinshak is also running and has over $500,000 cash on hand. 

Among the Republican candidates are state Senator Renee Unterman, Dr. Dean Rich McCormick and former Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich. While Mr. Trump won the district by 6 points, its two counties, Forsyth and Gwinnett, split the vote. Forsyth is a majority white and voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump but Gwinnett is more diverse and narrowly voted for Clinton in 2016.

Illinois: 13th District

Incumbent: Rodney Davis (R)
Challenger: Betsy Dirksen Londrigan (D)
Cook Political Report: Toss-up

In 2018, Congressman Rodney Davis beat Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan by less than 1%. Londrigan is running again and has locked up the Democratic nomination, and her campaign and national Democrats have already been hitting Davis hard on healthcare, promoting a local interview where he came out against reopening the enrollment period during the pandemic.

Davis won the central Illinois seat in 2012, beating Democrat David Gill by 0.3%, and saw a nearly 20-point win when Mr. Trump was on the ballot in 2016. The two are in a dead heat so far in fundraising, though Londrigan holds a slight edge with $1.6 million in the bank compared to Davis’ $1.5 million. 

One factor is Champaign County, the most populous county in the district and home to the University of Illinois. Londrigan got more than 41,000 votes from this county in 2018, but the University is considering a hybrid of in-person and remote learning this fall, potentially impacting how many students might be around to vote. 

New York: 22nd District

Incumbent: Anthony Brindisi (D)
Challengers: Claudia Tenney (R), Georgia Phillips (R) (Primary on June 23)
Cook Political Report: Toss-up

Brindisi was able to win his Republican leaning upstate district by focusing on his moderate profile, becoming the first Democrat to flip the seat in 60 years. He previously served as a state assemblyman representing Utica, New York, the largest city in the congressional district. His 2018 opponent, Claudia Tenney, held the seat for one term with a 5-point win in 2016, and outside independent groups spent $16 million for that race.

Tenney is running again for the seat this year and was already endorsed by Mr. Trump ahead of the June primary. So far, she lags Brindisi in fundraising efforts by a wide margin, and has tried to tie the freshman congressman to wider Democratic figures like former Vice President Joe Biden in a district Mr. Trump won by 15 points. Since the pandemic, she has also associated Brindisi with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Tweeting that Brindisi is Cuomo’s “biggest ally.” 

California: 21st District

Incumbent: T.J. Cox (D)
Challenger: David Valadao (R)
Cook Political Report: Toss-up

This Central Valley district certainly favored Democrats the last presidential cycle, with Clinton winning by 15 points in 2016. However, Cox had one of the closest midterm wins, beating incumbent Republican Congressman David Valadao by less than 1,000 votes. Valadao is running again in 2020 and the March 3 primaries showed his support is still there, as he lead Cox by 11 points in the jungle primary

Cox has also been dogged by local scandals, and after seeing a swath of California seats go Democratic in 2018, Republicans are hoping to capitalize on this and Valadao’s name ID to reclaim this seat. Democrats are looking to build up Mr. Trump’s presence in a district where he is already highly unpopular, and Cox has already sent out fundraising emails tying Valadao to Mr. Trump. 

IOWA: All

(Primary on June 2)
All four Congressional seats in the state are expected to be in play this cycle, with two freshman Democrats, one controversial Republican incumbent and one open seat. Trump won the three districts 

held by Democrats by an average of about 4 points. In Iowa’s 1st District, state Representative Ashley Hinson is trying to unseat freshman Democrat Abby Finkenauer. Hinson is a Cedar Rapids TV anchor and has raised $1.8 million this cycle, $1 million less than Finkenauer. 

In the Southeast portion of the state, the 2nd District, the seat is left open by Democrat Dave Loebsack, who is retiring after seven terms. Democrats have coalesced around Rita Hart, a 2018 lieutenant governor nominee who also served in the state senate for 6 years. The leading Republicans include Bobby Schilling, a former Quad City-area Illinois Congressman, and state senator Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who ran against Loebsack in 2014.

A rematch is set in the 3rd District, currently held by freshman Democrat Cindy Axne. Former Republican Congressman David Young narrowly lost to Axne by 2 points, and announced his 2020 campaign a year ago. Young has received the support of several of Iowa’s former representatives in his bid for the Des Moines area district, though still has to face Axne’s $2.6 million cash on hand. 

Lastly, Republican Congressman Steve King is facing two formidable opponents on both sides in Iowa’s 4th District. GOP State Senator Randy Feenstra has outraised King, who was notably kicked off his House committees last year in a rebuke to his comments about white supremacy. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Feenstra and has already begun running an ad against King. Democrat J.D. Scholten has picked up early support from the national party, a perk of connecting with all the presidential candidates who came to visit during caucus season. After coming up three points short of unseating King in 2018, Scholten has to try and beat the Republican in a district Mr. Trump overwhelmingly won by almost 30 points. 

TEXAS 

After flipping two seats in 2018, House Democrats are bullish about competing in the Lone Star state and adding to their ranks. Changing demographics and trends of suburbs drifting away from Mr. Trump already had Democrats feeling optimistic, but a pattern of House Republican retirements has only reinforced their thinking. 

Still, this is a historically red state and House Republicans have the two flipped seats on their target list. House Republicans like their candidate in Texas’ 7th District, West Point graduate Wesley Hunt, who is trying to try and unseat freshman Democrat Lizzie Fletcher. 

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy in particular was an early advocate for Hunt. Fletcher, like many other House Democrats in competitive districts, has enjoyed a strong quarter-after-quarter in fundraising, which will help in the Houston-area media market. House freshman Collin Allred is also a targeted Democrat, as both he and Fletcher represent districts Clinton won narrowly in 2016.

While six Texas House Republicans have announced retirements, three seats are in places Democrats lost by less than 5 percent in 2018. Fundraising in these seats have been tight among the candidates, though Republicans have a runoff incoming in Texas’ 22nd and the 23rd to filter out their eventual candidate. After three terms of close margins of victory, Republican Will Hurd’s massive Texas 23rd District was already a top priority for Democrats, even before he ended up announcing his retirement. The 2018 Democratic candidate, Gina Ortiz Jones, is running again and has built a substantial war chest with $2.3 million. 

After seeing a recent record low number of women Republican House members, Republicans have supported candidates like Genevieve Collins in Texas’ 32nd and Beth Van Duyne in Texas’ 24th. Another primary to watch here is in Texas’ 13th District, where former White House physician Ronny Jackson is in a Republican runoff against Josh Winegarner. 

Honorable mentions

Maine’s 2nd District, represented by Congressman Jared Golden, is another one of those “ruby red” districts Republicans are targeting because of Mr. Trump’s double-digit win in 2016. His main challengers, state Senator Eric Brakey and former State Representative Dale Crafts, have a combined $300,000 cash on hand, compared to Golden’s $1.7 million.

As a Democrat in 2018, Jeff Van Drew flipped New Jersey’s 2nd District by 7 points. Now running as a Republican in a District Mr. Trump won by 5 points, Van Drew’s primary field cleared a bit when businessman David Richter decided to run in the 3rd District instead. Democratic candidates Brigid Callahan Harrison and Amy Kennedy are currently running to unseat Van Drew. Harrison, a political science professor, lined up local support early. However, Kennedy, a teacher and part of the famed political family, leads in fundraising and has used it to build a bigger campaign operation. 

In Michigan’s 13th District, Detroit City Council president Brenda Jones is trying to beat Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib in their August 4 Democratic primary. Jones, who entered the race in late March, lost to Tlaib in their 2018 primary matchup by only 900 votes.

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