Your browser does not support JavaScript A Closer Look at Toss Up Districts that Favor Democrats - Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy - Christopher Newport University A Closer Look at Toss Up Districts that Favor Democrats
Skip navigation

Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy

Wason Center

September 14, 2018

A Closer Look at Toss Up Districts that Favor Democrats

Elections / National / Midterm

Donkey political symbol

The Wason Center has predicted that 9 districts nationwide are “leaning” toward electing Democratic representatives in the 2018 midterm elections.  Of these 9 districts, 4 are located in the Midwest — MI 5, MN 2, MN 7, and NE 2.  MI 5 is one of two districts (along with MN 7) listed as “Lean D”  races that have a Democratic incumbent and is the only district within this category to have a Democratic rating on the 2018 Cook Partisan Voter Index, at D+5.

The candidates in Michigan’s 5th district are incumbent Rep. Daniel Kildee (D) and Travis Wines (R). The NRCC has listed MI 5 as an initial offensive target for the 2018 midterm elections due to 3 term Democratic incumbent Kildee and a voter index rating that favors the Democratic party. Bay and Saginaw Counties are both classified as “pivot” counties, meaning President Trump won by slim margins in the 2016 presidential elections. The Kildee campaign has raised roughly $820,000 total while no financial data was available for the Wines campaign on the FEC website.  Major endorsements for Kildee include the Sierra Club, United Auto Workers, the National Education Association, Michigan AFL-CIO, and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

The two Minnesota districts differ greatly in their voter index ratings; MN 2 is listed at R+2 while MN 7 is listed at R+12. The candidates for Minnesota’s 2nd district are incumbent Rep. Jason Lewis (R) and Angie Craig (D).  Rep. Lewis and Craig ran against each other for the congressional seat in 2016, with Lewis defeating Craig by a slim margin of 1.8 percentage points (6,655 votes).  Minnesota’s 2nd district was listed as an initial target for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).  The most recent campaign finance data shows that the Craig campaign has raised roughly $2.4 million in contributions and has $1.7 million cash on hand, while the Lewis campaign has raised $2 million in contributions and has $1.3 million cash on hand.  Craig has a number of notable endorsements, including former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN), Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), EMILY’s List, the HRC, and the LCV Action Fund.  Rep. Lewis has been endorsed by Speaker Paul Ryan, Senator Rand Paul, former governor Tim Pawlenty, and former Speaker Kurt Zellers. Lewis has received attention during the 2018 cycle regarding provocative comments he made in 2012 involving women and race on a radio show.  While Craig condemned these remarks earlier this year, the Lewis campaign issued a statement saying, “This has all been litigated before, and as Rep. Lewis has said time and time again, it was his job to be provocative while on the radio.”  These remarks, as well as Lewis’ fundraising compared to Craig’s fundraising, could create problems for the Lewis re-election campaign.

The candidates for Minnesota’s 7th district are incumbent Rep. Collin Peterson (D) and Dave Hughes (R).  Peterson has served as the district’s representative since 1991.  Peterson and Hughes have also run against one another before in 2016, with Peterson defeating Hughes by 5.1%.  Peterson’s endorsements include the Minnesota AFL-CIO, the National Farmers Union PAC, the Business Industry PAC, and Communications Workers of America.  Notable endorsements for Hughes include President Trump, MN Rep. Dan Fabian, and a slew of US Air Force officers due to Hughes’ service in the USAF.  In terms of fundraising, Peterson has a huge advantage over Hughes.  The Peterson campaign has raised just over $1 million while the Hughes campaign has raised only $140,000.  Despite the voter index rating favoring Republicans, the lack of fundraising by the Hughes campaign accompanied by a history of support means that Rep. Peterson may secure his seat for another two years.

In Nebraska’s second district, Republican incumbent Don Bacon is going up against Democrat Kara Eastman.  This district has a voter index rating of R+4.  A note of particular interest is that Eastman defeated a former United States House member, Rep. Brad Ashford (D), in the Democratic primary with 51.64% of the vote.  Another important note is that NE-2 is a swing district; Bacon won his seat in 2016 by just 1%, and President Trump won the district by only 2 percentage points.  Due to the swing nature of the district, the DCCC has NE-2 listed as one of its targets for the 2018 elections.  However, one area in which Bacon has a stark advantage over Eastman is fundraising.  The Bacon campaign has raised $1.8 million total and has $1.1 million cash on hand, while the Eastman campaign has only raised $780,000 and has $260,000 cash on hand.  In addition to typical campaign fundraising, there are two major satellite spenders.  The American Action Network, supporting Bacon, included NE-2 (and 25 other districts nationwide) in its $1 million ad campaign for candidates who supported the December 2017 tax bill.  Similarly, the Congressional Leadership Fund spent $1.6 million in NE-2 alone to reserve airtime for TV ads.  This spending comes as part of a $48 million media reservation plan that involves 19 other congressional districts nationwide.  Both candidates also come with a slew of endorsements.  Bacon is endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business, the Carpenters Union, the Omaha Police Officers Association, and the Transportation Communications Union/International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.  Eastman is endorsed by the DCCC, Off the Sidelines, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), EMILY’s List, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the National Organization for Women PAC.  Some more controversial endorsements such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America may discourage more conservatively-minded independents from going Democratic, especially considering the Cook Partisan Voter Index rating favors Republicans by 4 points.

Texas’ 23rd district is one of 23 districts nationwide which Clinton won, but whose House seat is held by a Republican.  Incumbent Will Hurd was first elected in 2014 and was able to secure his seat again in 2016 (albeit by only 1%) despite support for the Democratic presidential nominee.  His challenger in 2018 is Gina Ortiz Jones (D).  Due to the tight power struggle between Democrats and Republicans in the district, the DCCC listed it as one of its targets coming into the 2018 elections.  On the side of the NRCC, Hurd was included as a member of the Patriot Program, which is designed to aid incumbent Republicans who will be facing particularly challenging re-election races.  In terms of fundraising, the Hurd campaign has raised $3.1 million total and, as of the last measure, has $2 million cash on hand while the Ortiz Jones campaign has raised $2.3 million total.  There is a record of a $5000 satellite contribution to the Ortiz Jones campaign from Onward Together, a PAC formed by Hillary Clinton.

Texas’ 7th district is quite similar to TX-23 in that it is a Republican-held district which voted for Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.  Like TX 23, it has a voter index rating of R+7.  Given this distinction, it should come as no surprise that the DCCC listed the district as one of its targets heading into the 2018 midterm elections; although, the DCCC has its work cut out for it as Rep. John Culbertson (R) has held the district’s seat since his initial election in 2000.  However, Culbertson may have a fierce challenger in Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D), as the two candidates’ campaigns have nearly similar funds and at least one high-profile endorsement.  The Culbertson campaign has raised $2 million total and has $1.3 million cash on hand, while the Pannill Fletcher campaign has raised $2.3 million total and has $800,000 cash on hand.  Additionally, each campaign has received an endorsement (formal or informal) from a Vice President.  Former Vice President Joe Biden has explicitly endorsed Pannill Fletcher and current Vice President Mike Pence has implicitly endorsed Culbertson.  Pence did this through headlining a fundraising event for the Culbertson campaign, which split all raised funds between the Culbertson campaign, the Culbertson PAC, the Republican Party of Harris County (which is housed within TX-7), and the NRCC.  Additionally, the Culbertson campaign has benefitted from satellite spending on behalf of the Congressional Leadership Fund.  The organization spent $2.45 million in TX-7 as part of its' $48 million media reservation plan, which also includes NE-2 (see above).  Overall, this looks to be a tight race between two candidates who have endorsements to fall back on, as well as plenty of funds heading into the final months of campaigning.

In CA 10, we see a tight race in a Republican-held district which supported Clinton in 2016, an identical situation to both of the Texas districts previously discussed.  However, the district has an even voter index rating, indicating no particular preference for either party.  CA-10 has a relatively new Republican incumbent in Jeff Denham, who was first elected in 2010.  His opponent, Josh Harder, has an important ace up his sleeve—he has been endorsed by former President Obama, as well as Obama campaign advisor Franklin Urteaga and Emile Gatfield, president of the California Democratic Council.  In addition, Harder was also named to the NewDemPAC’s Candidate Watch List.  Denham has been endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and several local farm bureaus and police officer’s associations.  The support of farm bureaus is vitally important in this district as it sits in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley, where debate over water access and storage has been rampant.  In fact, both candidates list the water crisis, and the needs of the agricultural community at large, as major issues in their campaigns.  Additionally, both campaigns are relatively well-funded, with Denham raising $3.5 million total with $2.4 million cash on hand and Harder raising $2.6 million total with $1.5 million cash in hand.  There has also been satellite spending to benefit both candidates.  Harder’s support comes from Onward Together, the Clinton-founded PAC which spent $5000, and PAC for a Change, which spent a total of $2000 on an anti-Denham ad.  Denham has received support as a member of the American Action Network’s $1 million ad campaign, along with several other candidates throughout this article.

The last two “Lean D” districts come from the east coast.  The first is NC 9, where the two candidates are Dan McCready (D) and Mark Harris (R).  This race is unique in that there is no incumbent candidate.  However, this is not due to retirement; Harris defeated the incumbent Republican Robert Pittenger in the Republican primary by 2.32 percentage points, placing him on the ballot rather than Pittenger.  Because both Senate seats and 10 of 13 districts are currently held by Republicans, the district has seen heavy action by Democratic causes during this election cycle.  The DCCC listed the district as an offensive target in 2018 despite supporting President Trump by roughly 12 percentage points in 2016.  In terms of campaign fundraising, Harris has raised $930,000 total and has just under $300,000 cash on hand while McCready has raised $2.7 million total and has $1.8 million cash on hand.  Harris was added to the NRCC’s Young Guns Program, which notes candidates who have achieved financial and campaign goals.  This endorsement may be an attempt to drive support from Pittenger voters toward the Harris campaign amid a well-funded Democratic campaign.  Additionally, Harris has been involved in a scandal regarding comments on women made during a sermon.  Harris stated that women can have successful careers but “must understand [their] core calling” as mothers and wives, as this is “God’s plan for biblical womanhood.”  McCready responded to the controversy by stating that “men and women are equally valuable and equally capable…” and believed that Harris’ words do not support this belief.

The last “Lean D” district is NJ 3.  The district is currently represented by Tom MacArthur (R), who is being challenged by Andy Kim (D).  Rep. MacArthur initially won his seat in 2014 following the retirement of his predecessor, Rep. Jon Runyan (R).  The district has a voter index rating of R+2, indicating a slight preference for Republican candidates.  This rating reflects why the district is listed by the DCCC as one of its offensive targets for 2018.  Both candidates’ campaigns have been sufficiently funded.  MacArthur has raised nearly $2.4 million total while Kim has raised just slightly less at nearly $2.2 million.  In terms of endorsements, Kim has been endorsed by the Asian American Action Fund, End Citizens United, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Progressive Action PAC, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and New Jersey AFL-CIO, among others.  Conversely, the only endorsement listed for MacArthur was New Jersey Right to Life.

Now that these districts’ races have been profiled, focus in the coming weeks will be shifted to ads & messaging, demographic data, core campaign issues, campaign strategy, and any scandals which may arise among candidates, both localized and more generalized, in order to provide a more comprehensive view of the campaigns.

Report a problem
Version 3.4