The Washington Post: The top 10 House races of 2018 still heavily favor Democrats

TOPICS: In the News

By Amber Phillips

Votes from California's House primaries are still being counted, but it looks like Democrats will fight another day to try and recapture the majority of the House of Representatives in November. Every House race in California's unique all-party primary system will have a Democrat in it.

California is a linchpin to Democrats' path to taking back the House, but so are races in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and Minnesota. If Democrats win back the House for the first time in eight years, they'll do it by winning in districts like the 10 below, which are scattered across the country.

Here are the most competitive House districts in 2018, ranked in order of least likely to flip parties (10) to most (1). (March rankings here.) We'll revisit these semi-regularly leading up to November's midterm election, especially as more primaries wrap up.

10. California's 49th district (open seat, no previous raking):We're switching up which Republican-leaning Orange County seat makes the top 10 this time, though as one Democratic operative pointed out, any of the three could be on the list.

In the San Diego area, Rep. Darrell Issa (R) is retiring rather than try to win reelection in a district he barely held onto in 2016. Republican Diane Harkey advanced to the general election Tuesday by winning the most votes in California's all-party primary. As votes trickle in, it looks like she'll face either Democratic environmental lawyer Mike Levin or former Hillary Clinton adviser Sara Jacobs, who can both expect the entire Democratic establishment to get behind them.

9. Arizona's 2nd district (open seat, previous ranking No. 7):Democrats are hoping to grab this Tucson-area district now that GOP Rep. Martha McSally is running for Senate. Former Democratic congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, who represented another Arizona district and tried to unseat Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2016, is Democrats' choice candidate. But Republicans think she'll pay the price for jumping congressional districts. This formerly Republican-held district gets marked as slightly less likely to flip parties because other Republican-held districts suddenly look more vulnerable.

8. Minnesota's 2nd district (Republican held, previous ranking No. 8): Democrats are excited about a rematch between first-term GOP Rep. Jason Lewis and Democrat Angie Craig. Craig lost by two points in 2016 in this swing district outside the Twin Cities. This time around, the race may hinge on what voters here, who went for Trump, think about the president now. Lewis has willingly cast himself in Trump's shadow and some say he may be too conservative for this district.

7. Virginia's 10th district (Republican held, previous ranking No. 6): Rep. Barbara Comstock is perennially one of Republicans' most vulnerable lawmakers. She disavowed Trump in 2016 on her way to reelection in the outer D.C. suburbs. But Democrats think even smart campaigning won't save Comstock in a region of the state that is rapidly turning blue. One of the more conservative counties in Comstock's district, Loudoun County, helped put a Democrat in the governor's mansion in 2017. Republicans calculate that Democrats' crowded primary, held Tuesday, will push the nominee too far to the left.

6. Iowa's 1st district (Republican held, previous ranking No. 9): GOP Rep. Rod Blum's race looks much more likely to go to Democrats for two reasons: First, Republicans privately say he's not working hard enough, when he should be campaigning like his political life depends on it. Second, on Tuesday, Democrats nominated 28-year-old state representative Abby Finkenauer, who is getting lots of buzz because she could be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress and the first woman elected to the House from Iowa.
5. Minnesota's 8th district (open seat, previous ranking No. 5): This rural district is one of Republicans' best pickup opportunities. (Minnesota, in case you can't tell, is a 2018 battleground.) Rep. Rick Nolan (D) retired from the most pro-Trump seat any Democrat held onto in 2016 to run for lieutenant governor. There are five Democrats competing in the August primary, while Republicans think they have one of their best recruits of the year in St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber, a former police officer and member of a hockey dynasty.
4. Florida 27th district (open seat, previous ranking No. 2.):In March, we wrote that another GOP retirement forces the party to give up this seat. With longtime Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's departure goes perhaps the only Republican who can win this heavily Hispanic Southern Florida district that went for Clinton by 20 points. Except, say Republicans, for the candidate they recruited: Cuban TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar. Ros-Lehtinen said she "could be the right candidate" to keep this seat Republican. This primary isn't until August, so this race will fluctuate.

3. Pennsylvania's 6th district (open seat, previous ranking No. 4): Pennsylvania is another battleground this November, made even more heated by the state's Supreme Court order redrawing all 18 congressional districts in a way that helped out Democrats. Shortly afterward, GOP Rep. Ryan Costello announced he was retiring (throwing shots at Trump on his way out). But he did it after the filing deadline, which meant Republicans had no choice but to select little-known lawyer Greg McCauley in May as their nominee. He'll face Democrat and former Air Force captain Chrissy Houlahan.

2. New Jersey's 2nd district (open seat, previous ranking No. 3): Longtime GOP Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo's decision to retire from this centrist district gives conservative Democratic state Sen. Jeff Van Drew a pretty clear path to victory. He easily won his primary in May. Republicans openly acknowledged they didn't have a solid candidate to respond. In that vacuum, pro-Trump former Atlantic City councilman Seth Grossman "came out of nowhere" to win the nomination in May. Democrats are confident he's too much of a firebrand conservative to win this district.

1. Pennsylvania's 5th district (open, previous ranking No. 1): Our most likely seat to flip is easier for Democrats to take as a direct result of the #MeToo movement. Former GOP congressman Patrick Meehan, who had held it for eight years, resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal. But that's not the only reason it's first. Perhaps no district got reshaped in Pennsylvania's redistricting legal battle as drastically this Philadelphia-area one. While the old district narrowly went for Clinton by one point, Clinton would have won the new one by nearly 30 points. This is likely a Democratic giveaway now, and there's not much Republicans can do about it.

No matter who wins this race, they'll break a glass ceiling. In May, Republicans nominated lawyer Pearl Kim and Democrats lawyer Mary Gay Scanlon, which means Pennsylvania's currently all-male House delegation will have at least one woman on it next year.




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