House Activity Percolates With Open Seats in 2020: Here’s an Overview

By Jim Ellis

April 2, 2019 — Last week we spent a great deal of time analyzing the 2020 Senate races, and now we begin to take a look at some of the expected US House activity.

With Republicans now fighting to regain the majority they lost in November, are there enough opportunities for them to convert the 18 or 19 (depending upon the NC-9 special election result) districts that they will need to reclaim the House?

After the November vote, we see 31 seats that President Trump carried in 2016, which a Democrat now represents. That number rose from 12 before the election. These districts will form the basis of the Republican target list, but it doesn’t appear they will have enough open seats to augment their conversion inroad opportunities. And, as has been the case in the previous four elections, Republicans are already risking many more of these latter seats than Democrats.

Generally, a feature of the House flipping is the winning party converting a sizable number of open seats. That certainly happened in 2018 as we again saw an unusually large number of incumbent-less campaigns (64), with 16 of them going to the opposite party (13 R to D; 3 D to R). Since the congressional seats were re-drawn before the 2012 election, a total of 64 (2012), 47 (2014), and 49 (2016) districts were open, in addition to the aforementioned 64 for the last cycle.

But, 2020 outlook appears far different. With so much change in the preceding four elections, more stability is on the horizon for the coming vote. At this point, we see only seven open seats, including the three impending 2019 special elections. And, almost all of those are safe for one party or the other.

The following is a list of the seven known opens, with an additional five where the incumbent is rumored to be making moves to jump into – or at least is seriously considering – a statewide campaign. Of course, there will be unexpected retirements so this list will grow, but it is highly unlikely that the aggregate number of open seats will fall close to the number we’ve witnessed in this decade’s previous elections.


  • AL-1: Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile): Rep. Byrne has already announced his US Senate campaign.
    – Byrne, ’18 campaign: 63 percent | Trump, ’16 campaign: 64 percent – Safe Republican

  • AL-5: Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville): Brooks is a possible Senate candidate.
    – Brooks, ’18 campaign: 61 percent | Trump, ’16 campaign: 65 percent – Safe Republican

  • GA-7: Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville): Rep. Woodall has already announced that he will not seek re-election in 2020.
    – Woodall, ‘18 campaign: 50 percent | Trump, ’16 campaign: 51 percent – Toss-up

  • KS-1: Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend): Should Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not return to Kansas to seek the open Senate seat, and he has repeatedly said he will not, Rep. Marshall is likely to run for Senate.
    -Marshall, ’18 campaign: 68 percent | Trump, ’16 campaign: 69 percent – Safe Republican

  • NM-3: Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe): With Sen. Tom Udall (D) announcing last week that he will retire at the end of the current Congress, Rep. Lujan is expected to declare his US Senate candidacy as early as today.
    – Lujan, ’18 campaign: 63 percent | Trump, ’16 campaign: 37 percent – Safe Democratic

  • NY-15: Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx): Serrano announced last week that he will not seek a 16th term in what is the safest Democratic seat in the country.
    – Serrano, ’18 campaign: 93 percent | Trump, ’16 campaign: 5 percent – Safe Democratic

  • NC-3: Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville): Jones’ death sends this seat into special election that will likely be decided on Sept. 10. Republicans have filed 17 candidates; Democrats have filed six.
    – Jones, ’18 campaign: Unopposed | Trump, ’16 campaign: 61 percent – Likely Republican

  • NC-9: Vacant: This district featured a contested 2018 election result and has been forced into special election. The 9th has been in Republican hands since it was created in the court-ordered 2016 redistricting, but it may well flip in the special election. Democrat Dan McCready, the 2018 nominee, is unopposed for his party nomination in the special election. Republicans have filed 10 candidates.
    – Trump, ’16 campaign: 54 percent – Leaning Democratic

  • PA-12: Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport): Marino resigned in January, thus leading to a replacement special election on May 21. State Rep. Fred Keller is the GOP nominee; college professor and 2018 nominee Marc Friedenberg is the Democrat.
    – Marino, ’18 campaign: 66 percent | Trump, ’16 campaign: 66 percent – Safe Republican

  • TN-7: Rep. Mark Green (R-Clarksville): Should former Gov. Bill Haslam (R) not run for the state’s open Senate seat, freshman Rep. Green likely will enter the statewide race.
    – Green, ’18 campaign: 67 percent | Trump, ’16 campaign: 67 percent – Safe Republican

  • TX-20: Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio): It is becoming more likely that Rep. Castro will soon announce his challenge to Sen. John Cornyn (R), thus leaving the downtown San Antonio seat open.
    – Castro, ’18 campaign: 81 percent | Trump, ’16 campaign: 34 percent – Safe Democratic

  • UT-1: Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Brigham City): Before the last election Bishop announced, and has since reiterated, that he will retire at the end of the current congressional session.
    – Bishop, ’18 campaign: 62 percent | Trump, ’16 campaign: 50 percent – Safe Republican

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