2020 Open House Seats Review

By Jim Ellis

June 12, 2019 — Since the last national redistricting completed in 2011 for the 2012 election cycle, we have seen 222 US House seats come open, for a mean average of 55.5 per cycle during the eight-year period. Prior to this decade, the average House open seat factor was typically closer to 35.

In 2012, reflective of the new reapportionment from the 2010 census, the House featured 62 open seats. This was followed by 47 more in 2014, another 49 in 2016, and finally 64 opens in the 2018 election cycle.

So far in this current 2020 election cycle, the exodus syndrome appears to be winding down as we see only nine districts now opening, assuming that Montana at-large Rep. Greg Gianforte follows through with his stated plans to announce his gubernatorial campaign later this week. One open district, PA-12, was already filled at the end of May as Republican Rick Keller replaced resigned Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport).

Below is a listing of the nine seats and the preliminary replacement outlook:

Special Elections – Sept. 10, 2019

NC-3: Rep. Walter Jones (R) – passed away Feb. 10, 2019
The Republicans are in a run-off election that will be decided on July 9. Participants are state Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville) and physician Joan Perry of Kinston. The winner faces Democratic nominee Allen Thomas, the former mayor of Greenville. The eventual GOP nominee will begin the special general election as a heavy favorite for a seat that has been in Republican hands since 1995.

NC-9: Vacancy, non-declaration of 2018 election winner due to alleged voter fraud
Both parties nominated outright in this special election. Democrats feature 2018 nominee Dan McCready, who ran unopposed in the special primary. Republicans nominated outright state Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte), who captured 48 percent of the vote in a crowded Republican primary. A minimum total of 30 percent was needed to win outright nomination and avoid a run-off. Two polls have been released, both showing the race in toss-up mode with each candidate leading in one of the surveys.

Regular-Cycle Open Seats

AL-1: Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) running for Senate
With the Republican presidential nominee topping 60 percent of the vote here in the past three national elections, including President Trump attracting 63.5 percent, the Republicans will be in strong position to hold this seat. With candidate filing coming on Nov. 8 for the March 3 primary, the field of four announced candidates could swell to as many as 10 before the filing cycle concludes. No Democrat has yet come forward to declare.

GA-7: Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville) retiring
This race begins as a pure toss-up considering the 2018 contest was decided by just 419 votes. So far, nine Republicans have announced, only one of whom is an elected official. Democratic nominee Carolyn Bourdeaux returns from 2018, but she will first have to out-duel four party members for the nomination, including state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero (D-Norcross) and former Fulton County Commission chairman John Eaves.

IA-2: Rep. David Loebsack (D-Iowa City) retiring
At this point the Democrats appear to be coalescing behind former state senator and 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Rita Hart as the successor to Rep. Loebsack, who decided not to seek an eighth term. At least seven Republicans are being speculated about as potential candidates, but only one, Osceola Mayor Thomas Kedley, has actually announced. This race has the potential of becoming competitive, but the early campaign is certainly going the Democrats’ way.

MT-AL: Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) announcing for governor
Rep. Gianforte is expected to announce his new gubernatorial campaign Thursday, and that will open this at-large congressional district for the sixth time since 1996. Gianforte was the party nominee for governor in 2016, losing to incumbent Steve Bullock (D), 50-46 percent. He then won the special election to replace Rep. Ryan Zinke (R) who resigned from the House to serve as Interior Secretary and was elected to a full term in 2018. He failed, however, to reach 51 percent in either of his congressional elections.
Previously, two Democrats had already announced their congressional candidacies, 2018 nominee and former state Rep. Kathleen Williams and state Rep. Tom Winter (D-Missoula). We can now expect a crowded Republican field to do battle in yet another open at-large congressional campaign for what will be a competitive general election campaign.

NM-3: Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe) running for Senate
Rep. Lujan’s open senatorial bid leaves a crowded Democratic primary in New Mexico’s northern congressional district, open for the first time since 2008. Already 10 Democrats have announced their candidacies, including a state representative, a district attorney, a local mayor, and an ex-CIA agent. The June 2, 2020 Democratic primary will determine Lujan’s successor in the House since the 3rd District will safely remain under the party’s control.

NY-15: Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx) retiring
Rep. Serrano’s retirement after what will be a 30-year stint in Congress and another 15 years in the state legislature opens what was the most anti-Trump district in the nation. In 2016, the president only managed to attract five percent of the vote here, meaning as an open seat the June 23, 2020 Democratic primary will determine who succeeds the outgoing congressman. Eight Democrats are off and running, including a state aenator, a state assemblyman, and two NYC council members.

UT-1: Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Brigham City) retiring
Before the 2018 election, nine-term Rep. Bishop announced that he would not seek re-election in 2020; therefore, potential successors have had an extra-long time to construct their open seat campaigns. The Republican primary will be the main battle here, as UT-1 is a safe seat for the GOP (Trump ’16: 50-22 percent). Rep. Bishop has never fallen below 61 percent in any of his nine elections here.
Though candidates have already had close to a year notice that this will be an open seat, no one from either party has yet announced. But, we can expect an active Republican primary with the eventual nominee coming to Washington as the next 1st District Representative.

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