Last week, we took a look at the initial race rankings for Senate and Gubernatorial Races across the country. Now we will take on the task of reviewing all of the competitive seats in the US House for 2018. The House preview will be split into 3 articles. The first will cover battleground seats in the western half of the country, highlighting 35 races in the West Coast, Mountain West, and Great Plains states.
Democrats are favored to regain control of the House for the first time since 2008, and will be aided by an expected 9-12 seat gain in the western half of the country at present. Part 2 of our US House preview has been published, covering House races in the Midwest. and part 3, which covers competitive House races in the South and Northeast can be found by clicking here.
West Coast (AK, WA, CA, NV)
Ratings for Highlighted Seats: 10 GOP, 6 Dem, 1 Toss-Up
Current Expectation: 4-5 seat gain for Democrats
AK-AL (Likely GOP): Republican Congressman Don Young is an institution in Alaska, independent Alyse Galvin is backed by Democrats and should get this race into the single digit margins but a flip still seems unlikely.
WA-03 (Likely GOP): This Southwest Washington based seat features Republican Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler against college professor Carolyn Long. This is another wave seat, it’s naturally Republican and the incumbent should be favored, but Long could snag it by less than 3%.
WA-05 (Lean GOP): This eastern Washington district that includes Spokane features an endangered member of House GOP leadership, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, facing former State Legislator Lisa Brown, the Democrat. Brown is well funded and that gives her a credible chance, but most likely McMorris Rodgers will simply win by a smaller margin than she normally does.
WA-08 (Likely Dem): Frequent candidate Dino Rossi, the Washington GOP’s 6th man off the bench, is taking on pediatrician Kim Schrier in this open GOP held seat based just east of Seattle. In this political environment I would find it difficult for Schrier to lose. Rossi’s name recognition advantage is going to get eroded the closer it gets to election day and this seat voted for Clinton. Rossi isn’t an awful Republican candidate but I don’t see a path for him.
CA-01 (Safe GOP): This rural northeast California house seat should remain in the hands of Congressman Doug LeMalfa. Democrat Audrey Denney, a farmer, doesn’t have enough money or support to overcome an R+18 seat, but the fact it’s even being discussed is a bad sign for the GOP, which is collapsing in California in the age of Trump.
CA-04 (Likely GOP): Democrats got a strong recruit in this East-Central California seat where the Republican incumbent is Tom McClintock. This district is normally safe, but national security specialist Jessica Morse, a well funded candidate, is making McClintock have to campaign, and in a wave she could pull a surprise.
CA-10 (Lean Dem): Republican Congressman Jeff Denham faces venture capitalist Josh Harder (D) in a seat based just east of the Bay Area. This is a Clinton voting seat where Denham still retains residual support. The problem is, a relative tie now, should favor the Democrat on election day and that’s why I’ll back Harder to pull off a slight upset.
CA-21 (Lean GOP): This seat situated between Fresno and Bakersfield is held by Republican David Valadao, who faces chemical engineer T.J. Cox. Cox doesn’t live in this district and Valadao has consistently beaten the line in the Central Valley, at this point he’s one of the GOP incumbents in California best positioned to hold on, but he hasn’t locked this race up by any measure.
CA-22 (Likely GOP): One of Trump’s favorite Congressmen, Republican Devin Nunes, is facing a spirited challenge from attorney Andrew Janz, a favorite of the progressive netroots for his trolling of the right wing Nunes. The problem is this is still a conservative district (located near Fresno) by any measure and even if Janz cuts the gap, Nunes looks set to clear 50% no matter what.
CA-25 (Toss-Up): Non-Profit Exec Katie Hill, a progressive, faces off with Republican Congressman Steve Knight in this highly competitive district just north of Los Angeles. This is a Clinton voting district that remains more open to the GOP locally and Knight is not a weak incumbent. However the political environment clearly favors Hill, who would likely eke a win if the election was held today. Knight’s only path to winning is to invalidate Hill as too extreme.
CA-39 (Lean R): Congressman Ed Royce’s retirement has opened up this GOP held seat in Orange County. Asian-American Young Kim, a former state Assemblywoman, is a strong GOP recruit, while lottery winner Gil Cisneros is not the best of Democratic candidates, with his baggage including credible sexual harassment allegations. This district was safely Clinton territory in 2016, but Kim’s strong profile and Cisneros own baggage mean it should remain Lean R for now.
CA-45 (Lean R): Another Orange County seat where Republicans are trying to hold on. Republican Mimi Walters faces progressive Katie Porter in a seat that went for Clinton by a small margin. Walters has beaten the line so far and Porter is perhaps too liberal for this seat, meaning I have Walters as a very slight favorite. If the environment keeps moving away from the GOP this seat will become a toss-up.
CA-48 (Lean Dem): Russia’s favorite Congressman, Republican Dana Rohrabacher is in serious trouble and will probably lose to businessman Harley Rouda (D) in yet another Orange County competitive seat. Rohrabacher is too extreme for this district and over time his support should continue to erode as his record becomes more known, this is a weak link seat for the GOP and Rohrabacher should have been convinced to retire.
CA-49 (Lean Dem): This open seat in Southern Cal north of San Diego, being vacated by Darrell Issa (R), should see attorney Mike Levin edge local Republican Diane Harkey. Issa barely won in 2016 and Clinton won this district by 8%, now that it’s open the dem is favored in the current environment.
CA-50 (Lean GOP): Congressman Duncan Hunter (R) is only in trouble in this R+11 seat east of San Diego because of serious campaign finance violations and significant coverage of corruption and family problems. Hunter, part of a political dynasty (he replaced his father in Congress), faces Ammar Campa-Najjar, a former Obama administration official who isn’t the strongest of candidates, but given the national climate and Hunter’s likely poor favorability there is a chance he could lose in a wave.
NV-03 (Likely Dem): Democrats recruit Rep. Jacky Rosen to run for Congress, opening up this Las Vegas seat that barely voted for Trump. Republican Danny Tarkanian is back after losing by 1% in 2016 to Rosen, this time he faces Democrat Susie Lee, an education leader. Given the national environment and Trump endorsing Tarkanian, Lee should have this race almost put away.
NV-04 (Safe Dem): The retirement of Dem Congressman Ruben Kihuen due to sexual harassment allegations would normally put this central Nevada seat into play. But this was a Clinton voting seat and former GOP Congressman Cresent Hardy is not a great GPO recruit. Another former Congressman, Steven Horsford, should ease his way into office.
Mountain West (AZ, NM, CO, UT, MT)
Ratings for Highlighted Seats: 5 GOP, 3 Dem, 1 Toss-Up
Current Expectation: 2-3 seat gain for Democrats
AZ-01 (Safe Dem): IE spending has taken place in this Trump voting Democratic held seat that Tom O’Halleran is defending in eastern Arizona. In a different cycle this could be a tough seat to defend but the former Republican O’Halleran is safe in this environment against Republican Wendy Rogers, a retired Air Force Officer.
AZ-02 (Lean Dem): This open Southeast Arizona seat was vacated by current GOP Senate candidate Martha McSally. It’s a seat that voted for Clinton and thus moderate former Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, the Democratic nominee, should be slightly favored to beat Tucson businesswoman Lea Marquez Peterson. Kirkpatrick isn’t exciting but she’s been around the block before.
AZ-06 (Likely GOP): A reach seat for Democrats in the Phoenix suburbs, marketing executive Anita Malik is likely lacking the resources and money to make Republican Congressman David Schweikert, currently under an ethics investigation, feel pressure, the question is whether or not she can make it a single digit race and put it on the map for 2020.
AZ-08 (Likely GOP): New GOP Congresswoman Debbie Lesko got 53% in a special earlier this year, Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, a physician has more money, but in a non-Democratic turnout surge environment only a Lesko slip up would cost her this seat in the Phoenix suburbs.
NM-02 (Lean GOP): State Rep. Yvette Herrell, who is white, is battling Attorney Xochitl Torres-Small, who is Hispanic, in this racially diverse southern New Mexico seat being vacated by Republican Steve Pearce. This seat is moving more into play but Herrell remains the favorite for now. Democrats are likely to underperform in heavily Hispanic districts compared to other competitive districts due to lower voter turnout.
CO-03 (Lean GOP): Colorado is a tough state for the GOP right now, as it is becoming structurally Democratic. This western Colorado based house seat held by Scott Tipton will probably remain in GOP hands, but State Rep Diane Bush will probably pick it up if Colorado has a wave election. Tipton remains favored simply because he hasn’t been heavily targeted.
CO-06 (Likely Dem): This suburban Denver seat split ticket in 2016 with Republican Mike Coffman winning, while Hillary Clinton did the same (by 9 points). Coffman hasn’t done anything wrong honestly, and he’s one of the strongest Republican campaigners and “moderate brand” candidates but this district has turned hard against the GOP with Democratic veteran Jason Crow almost ready to start measuring the drapes for his new Congressional office. The GOP is going to triage this seat.
UT-04 (Lean GOP): Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, a moderate, has been one of the strongest Democratic recruits this cycle. Republican Mia Love is currently facing serious campaign finance violations, but Love is still running in a naturally red state, and district that is mainly competitive due to Utah Mormons notorious dislike of Trump, combining with the progressive Salt Lake populating being strongly behind McAdams. McAdams will make it close but Love should squeak it.
MT-AL (Toss-Up): Former State Rep Kathleen Williams is mounting a strong challenge to Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte in Montana’s only House Seat. I have this race as a toss-up because Montana has a finicky voter population that has selected both Democrats and Republicans in recent years, and the strength of the Jon Tester Senate campaign should help Williams. Gianforte is a thug who only got into Congress via a special election last year, with his bad reputation and a tough political environment, he’s in serious trouble, with Williams favored slightly if I had to pick.
Plains States (NE, KS, OK, MO, IA)
Ratings for Highlighted Seats: 5 GOP, 3 Dem, 1 Toss-Up
Current Expectation: 3-4 seat gain for Democrats
NE-02 (Toss-Up): This normally competitive Omaha based congressional seat is currently held by Republican Don Bacon. The DCCC tried and failed to get former Congressman Brad Ashford through the primary, and has been less than eager to support local progressive Kara Eastman (D), a non-profit exec. This race is currently suffering from a dearth of information, but Democrats look set to recover in the Midwest and Eastman actually ran a good primary campaign, which is enough for me to give her coin flip odds in a coin flip district.
KS-02 (Lean GOP): An open GOP held seat that is in-play because Democrats got a strong recruit. Defense contractor Steve Watkins (R) is locked in a tight contest with former Gubernatorial nominee Paul Davis (D) in this Topeka based district. While polling has favored Davis, this district is heavily Republican at the federal level on paper, and Davis looks to be benefiting from a moderate image and high name recognition. I expect the GOP to stabilize this seat and hold it by a very slim margin.
KS-03 (Lean Dem): This Clinton voting district features Congressman Kevin Yoder (R) trying to hold on in Kansas City against Democrat Sharice Davids, a candidate with a unique background. She’s LGBT, a former MMA fighter, and native American. Yoder is in serious trouble and Davids is a strong candidate, this district is setup perfectly for a Dem gain with Dems running strong in the Governor’s race here as well.
KS-04 (Likely GOP): Republican Ron Estes was locked into a barn burner with progressive veteran James Thompson in this southern Kansas district. Thompson isn’t likely to catch lightning in a bottle again though in a general election environment. Estes has stabilized and this is still a very red district. Plus the “freshness” factor of Thompson is gone and he’s now a more defined entity.
OK-05 (Likely GOP): Another seat that is probably a bridge too far for Democrats in the plains. Oklahoma is competitive at the state level but former Congressional Aide Kendra Horn (D) knocking off GOP Congressman Steve Russell in this R+10 Oklahoma City based district would be a big surprise. If Russell loses, the Republican party will be getting wiped out nationwide.
MO-02 (Lean GOP): This is a red district but Rep. Ann Wagner (R), who was heavily recruited to run for Senate but ultimately passed, is facing a strong challenge from attorney Cort VanOstran, one of the best recruits for Democrats this cycle. VanOstran will need some luck to get over the hump but this race needs to be on the map.
IA-01 (Likely Dem): 29 year old state Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D) is cruising her way into becoming the youngest woman in Congress as Republicans have given up on Rep. Rod Blum in this eastern Iowa district. Trump did well in Iowa but the state has swung back hard towards Dems, not helped by Trump’s tariffs concerning farming communities. This is one of the most obvious Dem pickups on paper right now as Blum has been in trouble since last year.
IA-03 (Lean Dem): Businesswoman Cindy Axne will likely add to the pain for the GOP in Iowa as Congressman David Young is also in deep trouble. Axne wasn’t even the strongest candidate in her primary, but she’s already leading polling in this southwest Iowa district and I don’t see a path back for Young at this time.
IA-04 (Likely GOP): The most conservative district in Iowa may not be conservative enough for open racist and alt-right Congressman Steve King (R). King has (usually) easily won re-election but the national environment and his own outrageous behavior has to give former baseball player J.D. Scholten a very slim path to victory. If the wave hits Iowa King could lose, but it’s probably not in the cards.