More on the House

By Jim Ellis

June 27, 2017 — Yesterday, we examined the House’s post-special election status and speculated upon the Democrats’ chances of wresting majority control away from Republicans during the coming regular campaigns. One of the obstacles that make the Democrats’ task difficult is that only 15 early seats are open, and Republicans risk just nine of the total sum.

What could bring Democrats greater opportunity is the number of potentially open seats — that is, where members are, reportedly, considering running for another office. In this category, 18 incumbents are said to be contemplating different political moves that, if executed, would send their current seats into the open category.

Of the 18, only two are Democrats. Should Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) draw a major Republican primary opponent, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) is likely to jump into the Arizona statewide race thinking her victory chances become more realistic if Flake is forced to battle through a difficult intra-party contest. In Maryland, Rep. John Delaney (D-Potomac) is still reportedly considering entering the governor’s race to challenge incumbent Larry Hogan (R). The Democratic field is expanding, however, with former NAACP president Ben Jealous and Prince Georges County Executive Rushern Baker just recently announcing their candidacies, so Rep. Delaney’s decision is likely becoming more difficult.

With redistricting potentially looming on the Pennsylvania political horizon, the latest state court lawsuit could greatly influence the political plans of three members: Reps. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford), Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton), and Mike Kelly (R-Butler/Erie). None have completely ruled out either Senate or gubernatorial runs, and now all could move forward should any potential re-draw drastically change their current district boundaries.

Republican House members considering Senate campaigns differ in terms of likelihood of making the statewide bid. Several appear to be on the verge of announcing. Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO), Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Luke Messer (R-IN), the latter two potentially challenging each other in the Indiana Republican primary, all look as almost sure bets to run statewide.

Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) is more than considering a Senate campaign. He is well underway as a Republican challenger to appointed Sen. Luther Strange in the coming special election to be finalized on Dec. 12. Should he win, his House seat would then also be filled by a subsequent special vote. Should he lose, Brooks will likely return to the House seat and seek re-election in the regular cycle.

Other members said to be considering Senate races but not as likely to run are Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND). The latter man says he will make a decision much later in the cycle. But, the more time that passes, the less likely it becomes that the political fence sitters will actually make the jump into an expensive statewide campaign.

Several members are looking at gubernatorial runs and, in this category, too, some are more serious than others. The most likely unannounced gubernatorial candidate is Rep. Diane Black (R-TN). The possible candidates are: Reps. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Steve Pearce (R-NM). Others mentioned as considering but believed to be less likely to run are: Reps. Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Erik Paulsen (R-MN) and Tom Emmer (R-MN).

Most of the 16 Republicans who could be vacating their seats to pursue a different campaign are from solidly Republican congressional districts. While Democrats may have a few more conversion opportunities if all of these incumbents vacate, the task of re-claiming their lost 2010 majority would still force them to defeat an inordinate number of Republican incumbents, something at which neither party particularly excels.

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