By Jim Ellis
Dec. 3, 2019 — Now that two states have already completed their congressional candidate filing (Alabama and Arkansas) and five more are scheduled for December including Illinois, which closed yesterday, it is time to begin to ascertain where US House politics might reasonably stand right now.
California (Dec. 6), Texas (Dec. 9), Ohio (Dec. 11), and North Carolina (Dec. 20 – on hold due to court order), are the other states with candidate deadlines this month. At the end of December, the seven filed states including North Carolina, would account for 129 congressional district candidate slates.
Currently, the party division yields four vacant House seats — two from each party. Of the 431 seats with representation, Democrats hold 233 and Republicans have 197, along with one Independent — Michigan Congressman Justin Amash (I-Cascade Township/ Grand Rapids), who left the Republican Party earlier this year.
Comparing the current ratings for each district against where the seats stood a year before the 2018 election finds that 82 political situations have changed ratings with most moving away from the Republican column and toward the Democrats, but not in all cases.
Currently, 75 districts fall into either the Toss-up, Lean Democrat, or Lean Republican categories. This assumes that the four vacancies — CA-25 (Katie Hill-D), MD-7 (Elijah Cummings-D), NY-27 (Chris Collins-R), WI-7 (Sean Duffy-R) — all remain with their current party in upcoming special elections.
Adding another assumption concerning the House outlook involves the newly adopted court-ordered North Carolina congressional map, the third of this decade. On its surface, these latest district boundaries would net the Democrats at least two seats, those that Reps. George Holding (R-Raleigh) and Mark Walker (R-Greensboro) currently represent.
Both parties are lodging new legal challenges to the map, and the state’s Dec. 20 candidate filing deadline is on hold for the US House candidates until the legal situation is resolved. For the purposes of this analysis, the new North Carolina map is inserted into the national overlay, thus increasing the Democratic conference by two seats.
Of the 75 lean and toss-up seats, 36 are currently in the Democratic column and 38 lie in Republican hands. The remaining seat belongs to Independent Rep. Amash. Looking at how the seats might break right now, it appears that 33 are rated as Lean Democratic with 30 categorized as Lean Republican. The remaining dozen, including the Amash seat, are considered toss-ups.
Taking all of this into account, and then adding the safe and likely D and R seats, it appears the majority Democrats would see 231 districts either rated as safe, likely, or lean Democratic, with 191 as safe, likely, or lean Republican. Under this model, in order for the Republicans to make serious gains, the GOP would need to win the preponderance of campaigns in the dozen-seat toss-up category, and then convert a relatively large number of the 33 Lean Democratic seats.
If the Democrats retain their lean districts, they can increase the size of their majority by simply winning the most toss-up campaigns.
At this point, the twelve toss-up seats are as follows:
Within the toss-up group, just one seat is open, GA-7 (Woodall), while only one other features a veteran incumbent (Amash). The remaining 10 most vulnerable members are freshmen. Looking at the 75 most competitive seats, eight are open or vacant, 38 are freshman-held, while veteran incumbents hold the remaining 29 districts.