House Becoming Clearer

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 4, 2016 — The late turnout trends, as influenced greatly by how the presidential race is closing, may well be increasing Republican/right-of-center voter participation. If so, this will have great effect upon the House races, potentially holding down Democratic gains because more heavily contested GOP incumbents will survive.

Looking at all House as we head into the final weekend of campaigning, it appears that 226 seats are rated as Safe Republican, Republican Favored, or Lean Republican. Democrats look to have 189 seats where their candidates are rated as safe, favored or leaning to their party.

The remaining 20 are toss-up campaigns. Sixteen of these are in current Republican CDs, while the remaining four are Democratic.

Included in what we can refer to as the “decided count”, are five Republican seats headed to the Democratic column and one Dem seat returning to the GOP. Four of these six turning districts are directly related to the mid-decade redistricting process in Florida and Virginia.

The one Democratic seat going Republican is the open northern Florida seat of retiring Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee). Because the adjacent 5th District was drawn to elect a minority candidate in a drastically different manner than the previous 5th District, a major chunk of Rep. Graham’s Democratic base was removed from her 2nd District. Without a reasonable place to run for re-election, Graham retired after one term, but we will likely see her in the 2018 open governor’s race. The new 2nd District will go to Dr. Neal Dunn, who won a two-point Republican primary victory in late August. Under the new draw, the GOP nomination is tantamount to election in the fall.

Two Florida Republican seats are apparently headed to the opposite party. In the open 10th District, former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings (D) is sure to win her campaign next week. Rep. Dan Webster (R-Orlando) decided to seek re-election in the neighboring open 11th District instead of fighting an uphill, and ultimately losing battle for the new heavily Democratic CD-10.

The Pinellas County seat (District 13) was drawn to elect a Democrat by adding the city of St. Petersburg. The situation is exacerbated for Rep. David Jolly (R) because his internal feud with the National Republican Congressional Committee has led to no outside funding for his campaign. Therefore, as the polls project, former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) is likely to convert this newly configured district to the Democratic column. The former governor’s high negatives still leaves the outcome somewhat in doubt, especially with Donald Trump exceeding expectations in this district, but it is still highly probable that Crist will defeat Rep. Jolly on Tuesday.

The final redistricting-influenced change occurs in Virginia. Rep. Randy Forbes’ (R-Chesapeake) district was transformed into a Democratic seat. Forbes hopped into the adjacent open 2nd District, but fell in the Republican primary to state Del. Scott Taylor. This leaves the new 4th for state Sen. Donald McEachin (D), who will easily defeat Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade (R).

Two traditional seats look to be converting from Republican to Democrat, both open seats. In Michigan, former state Democratic Party chairman Lon Johnson appears well positioned to defeat retired Marine Corps Gen. Jack Bergman (R) in the Upper Peninsula district. To the west in Minnesota, the open south Minneapolis/St. Paul suburban seat of the retiring Rep. John Kline (R-Burnsville) appears headed to Democratic health care executive Angie Craig.

Twenty seats (21, counting the double-Democratic California race) are now in the toss-up category, meaning next week’s vote is believed too close to project. They are:

• CA-7: Rep. Ami Bera (D) vs. Scott Jones (R)
• CA-10: Rep. Jeff Denham (R) vs. Michael Eggman (D)
• CA-17: Rep. Mike Honda (D) vs. Ro Khanna (D)
• CO-6: Rep. Mike Coffman (R) vs. Morgan Carroll (D)
• FL-7: Rep. John Mica (R) vs. Stephanie Murphy (D)
• FL-18: Open Seat: Randy Perkins (D) vs. Brian Mast (R)
• FL-26: Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) vs. Joe Garcia (D)
• IL-10: Rep. Bob Dold (R) vs. Brad Schneider (D)
• IA-1: Rep. Rod Blum (R) vs. Monica Vernon (D)
• ME-2: Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R) vs. Emily Cain (D)
• MN-8: Rep. Rick Nolan (D) vs. Stewart Mills (R)
• NE-2: Rep. Brad Ashford (D) vs. Don Bacon (R)
• NV-3: Open Seat: Danny Tarkanian (R) vs. Jacky Rosen (D)
• NV-4: Rep. Cresent Hardy (R) vs. Ruben Kihuen (D)
• NH-1: Rep. Frank Guinta (R) vs. Carol Shea-Porter (D) and Shawn O’Connor (I)
• NJ-5: Rep. Scott Garrett (R) vs. Josh Gottheimer (D)
• NY-19: Open Seat: John Faso (R) vs. Zephyr Teachout (D)
• NY-22: Open Seat: Claudia Tenney (R) vs. Kim Myers (D) and Martin Babinec (I)
• PA-8: Open Seat: Brian Fitzpatrick (R) vs. Steve Santarsiero (D)
• TX-23: Rep. Will Hurd (R) vs. Pete Gallego (D)
• VA-10: Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) vs. LuAnn Bennett (D)

Depending largely upon the outcome in these toss-up races, and assuming the “lean” category for both parties completely holds, Democratic gains should land between a net nine and 15 in the overall count.

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