NOTE: Ellis Insight will be taking a break starting tomorrow through the weekend. We’ll return on Monday, Nov. 29. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
By Jim Ellis
Nov. 24, 2021 — Vermont Congressman Peter Welch announces his Senate candidacy, two-term Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath announces a switch from her GA-6 district to GA-7 as a result of redistricting, and 85-year-old veteran Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announces her retirement. Details below:
As expected, Vermont at-large Congressman Peter Welch (D-Norwich) announced his US Senate candidacy this week and becomes the prohibitive favorite to succeed retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy (D). With Welch representing the same statewide constituency as a senator, the move to the chamber of the states should be seamless.
It does not appear that Welch will have major opposition. At this point, Sanders for President campaign activist Niki Thran, a physician, is the only announced Democratic candidate. The more serious potential contenders are likely to opt for the now open at-large House seat.
Rep. Welch was first elected to the US House in 2006, and has cruised to re-election ever since. He was originally elected to the state Senate in 1980, and served 10 years. He became the Senate Democratic Leader for one two-year term.
In 1988, Welch ran for the US House, but lost the Democratic primary. He returned in the governor’s race two years later, this time winning the Democratic nomination but losing the general election. He would return to the state Senate in 2001 when then-Gov. Howard Dean (D) appointed him to fill a vacancy. He was then elected as a member of the Vermont legislative body in 2002, and became the Senate’s President Pro Tempore, a position he held until winning his first US House race.
In a surprising response to the Georgia state House voting in favor of the new congressional redistricting map, two-term Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) announced, even before Gov. Brian Kemp (R) approves the final legislation, that she will depart her current 6th District since its new constituency trends strongly Republican.
Instead, she will challenge freshman Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Suwanee) in adjacent District 7 in next year’s Democratic primary. McBath will run to the left of her new opponent, who she will attempt to paint as being too conservative before the primary electorate.
The new 7th was made more Democratic in order to swing the 6th CD back to the GOP. The 6th and 7th were Republican seats under the 2011 redistricting maps that Democrats converted in 2018 and 2020, respectively. The Bourdeaux-McBath race winner will then have a new safely Democratic district and will easily win the ensuing general election.
The McBath decision will virtually guarantee that the Republicans gain a seat in the delegation and the new Georgia map is projected to divide in a 9R-5D delegation partisan split.
As she promised during the 2020 campaign, veteran Texas US Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas) is now officially serving her final term in the House. On Saturday, the 85-year-old veteran representative announced that she will not seek re-election next year. Johnson first came to Congress in the 1992 election after serving 10 non-consecutive years in the Texas legislature.
Currently, seven Democrats have announced for the now-open seat, including ex-state representative and frequent candidate Barbara Mallory Caraway, and former Dallas City Councilwoman Vonciel Jones Hill. Several members of the Dallas state House of Representatives delegation are expected to soon join the campaign. The candidate filing deadline is Dec. 13 for the March 1 Democratic primary.
The Welch, McBath, and Johnson decisions means there will be at least 35 open US House seats in the 2022 election counting the nine districts that reapportionment and redistricting have so far created. Of the 26 incumbents not running in the regular election, 16 are from the Democratic side of the House.
The one remaining congressional vacancy, the FL-20 seat of the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Delray Beach) that will be filled in the January 11th special election, is not counted among the 35 open seats for the 2022 regular election.