Democrats Set To Pick Up House Seats in the South and Northeast

Senator Richard Ojeda, a Democrat from West Virginia, center, gestures to striking school workers inside the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., on Friday, March 2, 2018. A week ago, thousands of public school teachers in West Virginia went out on strike, a rare but familiar union-organized action to protest low wages and rising health-care costs. Tuesday night, state union leaders and the Governor Jim Justice reached a deal, and the teachers were expected to be back at work on Thursday, but they didn't go. Unsatisfied with the resolution, they stayed on the picket line, mounting one of the country's biggest unauthorized "wildcat" strikes in decades. Photographer: Scott Heins/Bloomberg via Getty Images

After producing initial rankings for the US Senate and Gubernatorial Elections in 2018, we complete our 3 part series covering the US House races across the country that are contested with a look at seats in the South and Northeast, both areas where Democrats are set to gain despite being quite different culturally. For a comprehensive look at the US House elections you can review my initial rankings for the Western states House seats, and the Midwest by clicking the links.

South (AR, TX, GA, SC, FL, NC, VA, WV, KY)
Ratings for Highlighted Seats:  24 GOP, 5 Dem, 5 Toss-Up
Current Expectation: 4-9 seat gain for Democrats

AR-02 (Likely GOP): Republican Congressman French Hill is facing a competitive race in this North Little Rock seat against State Rep. Clarke Tucker, a blue dog Democrat. Tucker has money and he’s party backed but this is still a red district and Democrats infrastructure in Arkansas is severely lacking. Tucker had a shot at the start but at this point Hill looks set to hold on.

TX-02 (Likely GOP): This R+11 seat north of Houston is an open seat that features Republican veteran Dan Crenshaw taking on Attorney Todd Litton (D). Litton has plenty of money and in a wave, this open seat would become a toss-up, but right now Crenshaw should be favored because the straight ticket device alone gives the GOP an edge in seats like this.

TX-07 (Lean GOP): A top DCCC pickup target, they intervened aggressively to push Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, an attorney, through her primary to take on Republican Congressman John Culberson in this Clinton voting seat west of Houston. The problem is Culberson is proving to be relatively resilient compared to other Republicans in Clinton seats, based on polling alone he should hold on by a slim margin. He’s focused on post-Harvey disaster relief as a key re-election platform point.

TX-10 (Likely GOP): This seat between Austin and Houston is R+9 and could have been in play for Democrats if they had pushed the issue. That said, Republican Michael McCaul looks set to avoid trouble against attorney Mike Siegel, an underfunded Dem challenger who can’t carry the burden of flipping this seat alone. A missed opportunity for Democrats.

TX-21 (Likely GOP): Another reach seat for Dems where opinions are mixed as to the state of the race. This R+10 seat between San Antonio and Austin is an open one featuring attorney Chip Roy against Democratic Businessman Joseph Kopser. Kopser is a well-funded and credible challenger but this is still a Trump voting seat and looks to be a tough lift for Dems right now.

TX-22 (Likely GOP): South of Houston, the GOP is trying to retain Congressman Pete Olson’s seat against Democrat Sri Kulkarni. Kulkarni is one of the few Asian recruits that Dems have in competitive races this year. He’s unsurprisingly looking to build a diverse coalition and turnout new voters in this R+10 seat. I don’t think it will work this cycle, but in a Presidential year this is worth targeting for Democrats.

TX-23 (Lean GOP): This heavily Hispanic Southwest Texas border seat features popular Republican moderate Congressman Will Hurd taking on Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, a lesbian veteran who is one of the DCCC’s top recruits. On paper this seat should shift to Dems based on demographics, but Hispanic turnout lags in non Presidential years, and there are signs that isn’t changing this year. Additionally Hurd is a tough opponent, and one of the most likely to stave off a “blue wave”, that’s why for now he should still be favored, and should get a good amount of slip ticket voting.

TX-31 (Likely GOP): Celebrity candidate MJ Hegar, another of the many Democratic veterans running this year, has put this normally GOP leaning seat into play and forced Congressman John Carter (R) to run hard for re-election (partially thanks to a viral video game trailer style ad). That said this seat north of Austin and south of Waco is still too conservative to flip based on the fundamentals, and it’s not a priority for outside spending and field work.

TX-32 (Toss-Up): Democrats best pick-up opportunity in Texas at the moment, though it’s still a toss-up where Congressman Pete Sessions leads in polling against former NFL player Colin Allred (D). Allred’s strong fundraising has put this suburban Dallas seat into battleground status, and if Beto O’Rourke overperforms in the Senate race, he should take Allred with him into Congress. It’s tilt Sessions for now but even a minor change will flip it into the Dem column.

GA-06 (Lean GOP): The district that saw the most expensive special election in Congressional history last year is unsurprisingly, competitive once more with Republican Karen Handel looking to fight off another nationally known Democratic challenger. This time the Democrats nominated Lucy McBath, a gun control activist who rose to political viability after her son was a victim of gun violence. McBath’s ties to the Clinton money machine, and gun control and women’s political groups give her a good shot against Handel if Dems can continue to make inroads in the Atlanta suburbs. The problem is Handel has proven herself to be a battle tested Republican and she will overperform among swingable women voters compared to say, a male tea party candidate. Only a big boost in turnout will flip this seat.

GA-07 (Lean GOP): The more competitive of the two suburban Atlanta seats that the GOP is trying to defend in Georgia this year. Congressman Rob Woodall is a milktoast Republican who makes few waves, and has never faced a serious general election. He’s taking on college professor Carolyn Bourdeaux, a bland inoffensive challenger who has also failed to make headlines. The R+9 lean of the district will probably save Woodall for now, despite the fact he’s not a great campaigner or fundraiser. Democrats don’t have the diversity turnout machine they need to flip this seat (yet), and Bourdeaux has done little to galvanize persuadable voters, which seems to be why there has been very little IE action here.

SC-01 (Likely GOP): Likeable “dad bro” Democrat Joe Cunningham, an attorney, has been a great Dem recruit for Mark Sanford’s old coastal Carolina seat that includes Charleston. He’s gotten some critical crossover support in this R+10 district, but Democrats missed out in the sense they are taking on GOP State Rep Katie Arrington, rather than the baggage laden Sanford (who lost his primary). Arrington was involved in a car accident a few months back that scored some sympathy points with the public and Dems don’t have enough of a machine in this area to flip this race, though it would certainly move in a wave.

FL-06 (Likely GOP): This seat has slipped away from Democrats despite being a top target early in the cycle. It’s an R+7 open seat on the east coast of Florida where Republican businessman and veteran Mike Waltz hopes to replace Ron DeSantis in Congress. Former US Ambassador Nancy Soderberg was recruited into the race by DCCC and has raised a ton of money, but structural problems for Democrats in Florida have taken it from Lean GOP to Likely GOP in the past 30 days. It will will flip in a wave, or could come back to Lean if fundamentals change.

FL-07 (Lean Dem): North of Orlando Dems are facing a surprisingly competitive race between Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy and GOP State Rep Mike Miller. This is a toss-up district on paper that Dems were favored in due to the current national environment, but a recent poll only put Murphy up by 1 point. That may be the ceiling for Miller but Murphy will have to work hard to put this race away for good and avoid an upset (which is probably why she’s back on tv).

FL-15 (Lean GOP): A top Dem pickup target that came online after Republican Dennis Ross retired. The GOP has turned to State Rep Ross Spano, who held a swing State House District, while Democrats nominated citrus attorney Kristen Carlson, a moderate Dem for this R+6 seat. This is a Republican leaning area that holds promise for Democrats if they can activate new voters. Spano has not run a strong campaign, and frankly it’s been a toss-up since before Ross retired. The problem is a lack of Dem ground game in the area should make Spano a slight favorite right now.

FL-16 (Lean GOP): Another seat the GOP should not be having trouble in, but they are due to the cycle. This Sarasota based seat features long-time Congressman Vern Buchanan against attorney David Shapiro. Shapiro isn’t the most exciting Dem recruit, but this is a house seat with a significant elderly population where healthcare, and retirement issues are paramount. Buchanan is in trouble due to corruption allegations and being out of touch, depending on what further polling shows I wouldn’t hesitate to move this race into toss-up territory.

FL-18 (Lean GOP): This R+5 West Palm seat features battle tested Republican Brian Mast against top DCCC recruit Lauren Baer, a former State Department official. I previously had it a toss-up but Mast has more resources than Baer, and a mix of polling and sources on the ground seem to suggest it’s trended a bit Republican in the past 30 days. Baer needs to quickly get things back on track if she’s going to flip it.

FL-25 (Likely GOP): Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart is an institution in this diverse South Florida seat that is west of Miami. Normally pretty safe, the unpopularity of Trump has given Democratic attorney Mary Barzee Flores a credible chance this time around. That said, Diaz-Balart’s personal popularity makes him likely to retain this race for the GOP right now, as Dems have not made the inroads with Hispanics they expected to in 2018.

FL-26 (Lean GOP): This split ticket South Florida seat that includes the Keys and parts of Miami features popular Republican moderate Carlos Curbelo against non-profit consultant Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D). The district has become relatively Democratic at the top of the ticket, but downballot and for Curbelo, Hispanics in the area trend Republican. It’s a top target for Democrats this cycle and they won’t give up on it easily, but Curbelo’s personal strengths have helped him maintain a small edge for now.

FL-27 (Toss-Up): Democrats are suddenly sounding the sirens in this open GOP held seat in Miami that looked set to flip in favor of Clinton machine member Donna Shalala, the elderly former President of the University of Miami. Republicans got a strong recruit in TV anchor and journalist Maria Elvira Salazar though, and Salazar has made this a race, outhustling and outworking Shalala (especially with Hispanic voters), a lazy campaigner who is reviled by University of Miami football fans for leading the program into a state of disrepair. Calling in the calvary will probably save this pickup for Dems, but Salazar beating the national environment and prevailing is a clear possibility right now.

Shalala with disgraced Miami booster Nevin Shapiro in 2008

NC-02 (Toss-Up): This research triangle seat in the Raleigh/Durham market has come online late for Democrats. Democrat Linda Coleman was ignored by the party and national groups but has proven herself viable against Congressman George Holding, as two separate polls have shown this race to be a tie. With a bit more support, Coleman, a frequent candidate and former state Rep who has lost two previous statewide races, looks set to flip this seat and defeat an underperforming Holding.

NC-06 (Lean GOP): A Greensboro and Research Triangle mixed seat that is R+9 on paper but has come onboard for Dems due to GOP underperformance in North Carolina. Underfunded Democrat Ryan Watts, a management consultant, has been closing the gap against Republican Congressman Mark Walker, and if Watts gets more outside support this seat could easily move into toss-up territory.

NC-07 (Lean GOP): This is another R+9 seat, this time based in Wilmington, where the GOP is in serious trouble. Physician Kyle Horton would probably move this seat further into play with outside spending and support against Congressman David Rouzer. Rouzer should stay favored for now but he needs to start taking action to ensure he’ll be re-elected.

NC-08 (Likely GOP): This seat between Fayetteville and Charlotte features Republican Richard Hudson against former Mayor and School member Frank McNeill (D). It’s R+9 and looks pretty safe for the GOP still, but a wave could put Hudson in danger.

NC-09 (Lean Dem): This R+8 seat is open because the outgoing GOP Congressman lost his primary to conservative pastor Mark Harris (R). Democratic veteran and solar exec Dan McCready is a strong candidate and has significantly outraised Harris. Harris is simply too conservative for the demographic of this district that stretches between Charlotte and Fayetteville. This seat will be a Dem pickup in November barring something unforeseen.

NC-13 (Lean Dem): This Greensboro seat is R+6 and currently held by Republican Ted Budd. Attorney Kathy Manning (D) has put it into play and I’d put her as the favorite now as she’s outraised Budd and Budd frankly seems a bit asleep at the wheel regarding re-election. The GOP has gotten themselves caught in a trap in this district.

VA-01 (Likely GOP): This R+8 seat on the Virginia coast should be a target on paper but it was a major recruiting miss for Democrats. Realtor Vangie Williams has failed to put together the resources needed to defeat Republican Congressman Rob Wittman, and although the GOP is in trouble in VA, Wittman will probably escape with a win.

VA-02 (Lean Dem): This R+3 Virginia Beach based seat looks like a pickup for Democrats as Congressman Scott Taylor (R)’s reputation has been damaged by a scandal where his campaign team tried to plant a third party candidate on the ballot in order to enhance his re-election chances. Veteran Elaine Luria is probably headed to Congress as Taylor’s chances are fading in a tough state for the GOP to begin with.

VA-05 (Toss-Up): This is a big seat that cuts from southern Virginia into Central Virginia and has a natural R lean, but in this cycle it’s become tough for the GOP to hold. Republican Denver Riggleman isn’t an amazing nominee and he hasn’t raised a ton of money. Democrat Leslie Cockburn would be the favorite if she didn’t have major baggage of her own. Dems are favored in VA this year, but the GOP could still save this seat late.

VA-07 (Lean GOP): Conservative Republican Dave Brat is facing a strong re-elction challenge from ex CIA officer Abigail Spanberger. Spanberger made headlines earlier this year as her private background check was leaked to a GOP Super PAC, who then used it for op-res attacks against her. Brat is not a good fit for this district that is R+6 and based outside of Richmond, but at the moment he retains a narrow advantage and Spanberger may run out of votes to make up the gap.

VA-10 (Lean Dem): Republican Barbara Comstock is one of the most battle tested members of the GOP house delegation, if she had run for this Senate this cycle she would have made the race against Tim Kaine competitive. Instead she is in trouble for re-election against Democratic State Senator Jennifer Wexton in this NOVA seat that is full of well educated moderates in the DC suburbs. This Clinton voting district looks set to finally send a Democrat to Congress, as Comstock is probably going to be sucked up by the Trump tsunami, depriving the GOP of one of their best lawmakers.

WV-02 (Likely GOP): This seat may be R+17 at the federal level but downballot it’s much more competitive and Republican Alex Mooney, a carpetbagger from Maryland, is not a great Congressman for this Charleston based seat. Democrat Talley Sergent, a former State Department official, has made a credible run at this race and in a wave she could notch an upset.

WV-03 (Toss-Up): Military veteran and State Senator Richard Ojeda (D) is one of the strangest stories in politics this year. Ojeda has put this open R+23 house seat firmly into play in southern West Virginia against State Rep Carol Miller (R) who he calls a “country club Republican”. Ojeda, a labor backed progressive, with rural values, was an oddity in previous years when he ran for office, raising limited money but developing a cult following online. This year he’s made it to the big time raising significant money and putting his race on the map for the DCCC and outside groups. Downballot this district will vote for Democrats, but electing a Democrat to represent them federally is still a tough task. This low-income and poorly educated district is somewhat hard to get a read on, but Ojeda clearly has a good chance as his platform fits the needs of the district more than Miller’s.

KY-06 (Lean GOP): This Lexington based house seat that also includes Frankfort is another blue collar seat that Dems have put in play this year. R+9 on paper, veteran Amy McGrath won a tough primary against a party backed recruit and now has the tough task of trying to upset Republican Andy Barr. The natural GOP lean of this seat at the federal level, and the IE spending against McGrath as “too liberal” and a “Pelosi Democrat” has eroded her favorability to the point Barr is back to be a slight favorite, but he’s far from safe.

Northeast (NJ, NY, NH, ME)
Ratings for Highlighted Seats: 8 GOP, 10 Dem
Current Expectation: 7 Seat Gain for Democrats

NJ-02 (Safe Dem): Democrats have locked down this R+1 Atlantic City seat, as the GOP candidate Seth Grossman is an awful racist, and Blue Dog Democrat Jeff Van Drew is incredibly strong by contrast. This is an open seat where the GOP has failed worse than Trump’s Atlantic City Casino.

NJ-03 (Lean Dem): I’m relatively bullish on Dem chances in this R+2 central New Jersey seat held by Congressman Tom MacArthur. The SALT Tax issue is going to hurt the GOP in New Jersey, and a polling tie should favor former diplomat Andy Kim (D).

NJ-05 (Safe Dem): A shock August poll had Democrat Josh Gottheimer trailing Republican John McCann in this Northern New Jersey seat that is R+3 on paper. However McCann has almost no money left and Gottheimer has over 4 million. If he’s even feeling threatened he can easily put McCann away.

NJ-07 (Lean Dem): Sticking with the bullish trend for Democrats in New Jersey. Republican Congressman Leonard Lance started as a favorite in this New York suburb seat that is R+3, but former assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski should now be the favorite as the race is trending his way.

NJ-11 (Likely Dem): A second clear pickup for Dems in New Jersey is the 11th district. This open seat features Assemblyman Jay Webber (R) against Democratic veteran Mikie Sherrill. Sherrill is a strong recruit who is crushing Webber financially in what would otherwise be a toss-up district. She pretty much has this win sewn up.

NY-01 (Likely GOP): Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin has the upperhand for re-election against Democrat Perry Gershon a corporate exec.  This R+5 seat near NYC backed both Trump and Zeldin by a decent margin last election, and Gershon is broke.

NY-02 (Likely GOP): This R+3 seat, also near NYC, has been Peter King’s (R) Kingdom for quite some time but Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley is trying to change that. Shirley is a credible candidate but the working families candidate DuWayne Gregory is going to take some Dem votes here and King looks too strong to be beaten even in a bad year for the GOP.

NY-11 (Lean GOP): This R+3 seat backed Trump and moderate Republican Dan Donovan last time out. Donovan is facing health care executive and veteran Max Rose, who has more money and very well could make this a race late. The moderate Donovan should be favored to hold on south of NYC right now.

NY-18 (Safe Dem): An R+1 seat bordering Connecticut, Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney ran for Attorney General and lost recently in the New York Primary, but as a result he looks set to return to Congress against Orange County legislator James O’Donnell. In a different cycle this would be a top GOP target, but Maloney is popular enough to cruise to re-election via split ticket voting in this seat near the Connecticut border.

NY-19 (Lean Dem): South of Albany Attorney Antonio Delgado has weathered a wave of GOP attacks and looks set to defeat Republican Congressman John Faso. Polling has been mixed on this race but this district looks like one that will undergo a classic shift from red to blue this cycle.

NY-21 (Likely GOP): This R+4 Western New York seat should be in play for Dems, but young Republican Elise Stefanik seems to have dodged the blue wave, as she’s cruising to re-election against former county legislator Tedra Cobb (D), Cobb is underfunded and Dems have not targeted this seat.

NY-22 (Likely Dem): Republican Congresswoman Claudia Tenney is underwater already in this Utica and Binghamton seat. Democratic State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi has weathered GOP attacks and continues to lead polling, making him a clear favorite on election day.

NY-23 (Safe GOP): A missed targeting opportunity for Democrats, Congressman Tom Reed is easing to re-election in this R+6 seat against cyber security consultant Tracy Mitrano, an underfunded and unsupported Dem candidate. This is another Western NY seat on the map.

NY-24 (Lean GOP): This D+3 seat should be a great pickup chance for Dems, but yet again the Republican seems to be escaping without an intense fight. Congressman John Katko (R) has pulled ahead of college professor Dana Balter in this Syracuse based seat, as Balter is probably too liberal for the district.

NY-27 (Likely GOP): This Rochester/Buffalo seat was safely GOP until Republican Chris Collins was indicted for insider trading. Collins is stuck on the ballot, but if the charges against him advance through the courts he’ll surely have to resign and trigger a special election after November.With a wounded candidate on the GOP line, they look set to limp over the finish line against attorney Nate McMurray, who was not on the Democrats radar until Collins faced legal troubles.

NH-01 (Likely Dem): An easy Dem pickup in the swingy state of New Hampshire. Gay businessman Chris Pappas should ease into office replacing outgoing Dem Rep Carol Shea-Porter. Former police chief Eddie Edwards isn’t a great GOP candidate and the cycle is bad for R’s this time. Pappas will have to fight for this seat in the years to come.

NH-02 (Safe Dem): The other New Hampshire seat is only D+2 on paper but Republicans haven’t done anything to help State Rep Steve Negron (R) in his challenge against Congresswoman Annie Kuster. Nothing to see here.

ME-02 (Lean GOP): The GOP is trying to avoid a complete wipeout in New England as Congressman Bruce Poliquin is facing a stiff challenge from State Rep and veteran Jared Golden. Golden is a strong Dem recruit and some polls have showed him leading, but Poliquins personal popularity in this mix rural/semi-urban seat that is R+2 and includes Bangor currently should help him hold onto it. There is still much to be written about this race.

Summing It All Up

Our initial three part set of House Rankings covering battlegrounds all over the country (in one of the most competitive House maps in modern history) sees Democrats set to gain in every part of the country. Democrats need 23 seats to flip House Control. Even using the most conservative estimate I have Democrats picking up 26 seats across the country for a narrow majority. The current range of outcomes looks to be anywhere from a 20-40 seat gain for Democrats, with most of those outcomes giving them a majority in the House. Additonally more GOP seats could come on, making a 50+ seat “wave” gain possible. I currently have the House pegged at 221-215 in favor of Democrats, an outcome that many pundits and Democratic voices said was impossible due to “gerrymandering”.

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