Category Archives: House

The Open Seat Review

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 9, 2019 — With so many seats coming open during the past 10 days, it’s time to review exactly which districts will be incumbent-less for the coming election and how many are truly competitive.

With Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/Rockwall) withdrawing from his nomination as Director of National Intelligence, it returned Texas’ 4th District to the incumbents’ list, but that move was quickly negated when fellow Texas Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell/DFW Area) announced his retirement.

Taking those moves into consideration and including the two North Carolina special congressional elections that will be filled on Sept. 10, a total of 16 seats are open headed into the next election. Of the 16, Republicans hold, or last held in the case of the disputed NC-9 result from 2018, all but three of the open seats. Looking at the coming 16 campaigns, all can expect contested primaries in at least one party and seven look to be highly competitive during the general election.

Though the retirement action has been swift of late, the aggregate number of coming vacancies is still very low, especially when remembering that the number of cycle open seats throughout this decade has fallen between 47 and 64, inclusive.

The list below depicts the open House districts and their current status:


AL-1: Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile)
• Trump ’16: 63-34 | • Romney ’12: 62-37

This southern Alabama seat will be settled in the GOP nomination contest. A run-off after the March 3 primary is likely and will likely feature a two-person combination from the group comprised of former state Sen. Bill Hightower, state Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile), Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, and businessman Wes Lambert. The eventual GOP nominee wins the seat in the November 2020 election.
Safe Republican


AL-2: Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery)
• Trump ’16: 65-33 | • Romney ’12: 63-36

Rep. Roby was one of the surprise retirement announcements, but her leaving the seat open for the next election doesn’t cause the Republicans any harm. Expect a crowded Republican primary and a two-person run-off to ensue. The eventual Republican nominee wins the seat. So far, state Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) and former state Rep. Barry Moore are the most prominent candidates.
Safe Republican


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Now, Texas Rep. Marchant Bows Out

By Jim Ellis

Texas Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell/DFW area)

Aug. 7 2019 — The string of House retirements continues this week as eight-term Texas Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell/DFW area) announced that he, too, will leave the House at the end of the current term. Combined with his time in the Texas legislature, Marchant will have served 34 consecutive years in elective office.

The 24th District has been a focal point of the Texas congressional scene since Democrats position the seat high on their conversion opportunity list because of its close 2018 result. Despite Democratic nominee Jan McDowell spending less than $100,000 on her campaign, she came within a 51-48 percent margin of upsetting the veteran congressman, a difference of approximately 8,100 votes.

The vote drop-off from the 2016 presidential year, as it relates to turnout, was only four percent in 2018 compared to 42 percent when contrasting the 2014 midterm to the 2012 presidential election year, thus partially explaining why the latest results are so different.

Texas Congressional District 24, currently represented in the US House by Kenny Marchant.

The 24th District is the region surrounding DFW Airport, and contains parts of Dallas, Tarrant, and Denton Counties. President Trump carried the seat with a 51-44 percent margin, down from Mitt Romney’s 60-38 percent, and the 58-41 percent margin that John McCain recorded back in 2008. Then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke slipped past Sen. Ted Cruz (R) in the November election by the same margin that Rep. Marchant won re-election, 51-48 percent, however.

Over his eight elections, Marchant averaged 61.8 percent of the vote, but 58.2 percent since the district was drawn in its present fashion from as part of the 2011 redistricting process.

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Yet Another Texas Rep. to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 5, 2019 — The House Republican retirements keep coming. Now, three-term Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) announced late last week that he will not seek re-election, risking the truest swing seat in the Texas delegation. Hurd, a former CIA officer, says he wants to leave the House “to pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security.”

Texas Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio)

The Lone Star State’s 23rd District stretches from San Antonio all the way to El Paso, a distance of some 550 miles, making this one of the largest CDs in the United States that does not encompass an entire state. The 23rd also shares approximately 800 miles of the US-Mexico border, the largest of any congressional district.

TX-23 contains 26 counties and parts of three others, but just about 50 percent of the people live either in Bexar (San Antonio) or El Paso Counties. The seat’s voting history is as politically tight as its area is expansive. Hillary Clinton carried the district over President Trump, 50-46%, but Mitt Romney slipped past President Obama, 51-48 percent.

Rep. Hurd has represented the district for three terms but has never reached 50 percent in his trio of victories. Though he has won three times, his average vote percentage is 49.1 percent. In 2018, against Democratic nominee Gina Ortiz Jones, Rep. Hurd won the second closest raw vote victory of any Republican in the House, a 926-vote win. This seat will now likely become the top Democratic conversion target in the 2020 election cycle.

Prior to Rep. Hurd winning here in 2014, the district had flipped between the two parties since Democrat Ciro Rodriguez defeated seven-term veteran Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla in 2006. A subsequent court order after the state legislature drew new districts in 2003 changed significant parts of this seat, making it more Democratic.

After being re-elected in 2008, Rep. Rodriguez then lost in 2010 to Republican Quico Conseco, who then lost to Democrat Pete Gallego in 2012, who then lost to Hurd in 2014. From 2010-2018, the top winning percentage was Gallego’s 50.3 percent in 2012. Therefore, the 23rd has performed as the most evenly split district in the country during the current decade.

The citizen voting age population breaks into two racial demographic sectors, Hispanic (62.0 percent) and non-Hispanic white (31.8 percent). It is the most Hispanic district in the US that consistently elects a Republican candidate.

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Texas Rep. Mike Conaway to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Texas Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Midland)

Aug. 1, 2019 — It looks like the House GOP retirement cavalcade of the past week is continuing. Reports surfaced overnight yesterday that Texas Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Midland) would announce his retirement from Congress after what will be 16 years in office at the end of the current term. He did so yesterday in an afternoon press conference in Midland, Texas, which opens the 15th House seat in this election cycle, and the fifth in the past week.

Though the last five seats all come from the Republican side, four are safe for the party and will produce GOP successors. The eventual Republican nominee in the TX-22 seat, from which Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) is departing, will still be favored next November, but this district will be competitive.

Texas Congressional District 11, currently represented in the US House by Mike Conaway (R-Midland)

Texas’ 11th District is the third-safest Republican seat in the nation, at least on the 2016 Trump presidential scale. The president received 78 percent of the vote from this west Texas constituency, and the eventual GOP nominee will become a prohibitive favorite in the 2020 general election.

The 11th District is anchored in the Midland-Odessa region deep in west Texas, moves east to annex the city of San Angelo, and then travels northeast almost to the outer Ft. Worth suburbs. The district contains 27 counties and parts of two others. In addition to posting 78 percent for Trump, Mitt Romney earned 79 percent, and John McCain recorded 76 percent support in 2008.

More than 70 percent of the congressional district lies in two state Senate seats, the latter districts actually being larger than federal CDs. Interestingly, those two Senate seats are anchored in cities, Lubbock and Amarillo, that lie as population anchors of different congressional districts. Therefore, Sens. Chris Perry (R-Lubbock) or Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) will have a smaller political base in the 11th CD than one would guess from looking at the district overlay map.

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Another Open House Seat …

Texas Congressional District 5, currently represented in the US House by John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/Rockwall)


By Jim Ellis

Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/ Rockwall)

July 31, 2019 — The announcement that Dan Coats is resigning as Director of National Intelligence and Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/Rockwall) being nominated to replace him creates another open House seat. Now within the space of just one week, the number of open congressional seats for the next election has jumped from 10 to 14.

It is likely that Ratcliffe will go through the confirmation process well into November, meaning Gov. Greg Abbott (R) will call a special election to fill the balance of the current term upon the nominee’s confirmation. Looking ahead, it is likely the special general could fall on March 3, which is the day of the 2020 Texas primary, which means that the candidates would be running to simultaneously fill the current term and for the 2020 party nomination. The confirmation process and calendar, however, will largely dictate if such a schedule will happen.

John Ratcliffe was elected to the House in 2014, after he defeated 34-year congressional veteran Ralph Hall (R-Rockwall) in that year’s Republican primary. He was easily elected in the three subsequent general elections and posted a 76 percent victory last November.

Texas’ 4th District begins at Texarkana on the Texas/Arkansas border, encompasses the counties that touch the northwest Louisiana boundary, and then moves westward and well north of Dallas along the Red River and Oklahoma state line.

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