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Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy

Wason Center

September 6, 2018

As General Election Begins, a Closer Look at Wason’s “Will Flip” Districts

National / Elections / Midterm

Democrat donkey and Republican elephant political symbols

The Wason Center identifies 13 congressional districts that should flip to Democrats in the 2018 congressional midterms, five of which are in California. CA 25, 39, 45, 48, and 49 are large districts that have been historically Republican but have demographic characteristics that make them especially sensitive to a so-called Blue wave. These districts broke for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election and many of the Democratic candidates in these districts are meeting, if not exceeding their competitor’s fundraising.

CA 25’s race between Steve Knight and Katie Hill has been an exciting one for the constituents in California’s 25th District. CA-25 has not had a Democratic candidate hold the congressional seat since 2010, and incumbent Rep. Knight has held the seat since 2015. If elected, Hill will the first member of Congress from California to be part of the LGBTQ community. Hill has discussed her opinions greatly on LGBTQ rights, stating, “the federal government has no business in restricting basic human rights based on sexual orientation, and I am ready to protect equality at every turn in Congress.” Rep. Knight has emphasized the fact that he visited his district 70 times in his last term to highlight his dedication to his district. Rep. Knight has received wide support from the veteran community as a United States military veteran and former LAPD police officer. In February, Ambassador John Bolton endorsed 10 members of Congress, Rep. Knight being one of the 10. Ambassador Bolton contributed $10,000 to Rep. Knight’s campaign, stating, “as a veteran of both the United States Army and the Los Angeles Police Department, I know Steve will continue to support our armed servicemen and women in order to protect our nation and her allies from both global and domestic threats.”

California’s 39th district has two new candidates in the running after Republican Rep. Ed Royce announced he would not run for reelection in January 2018. The Democratic candidate, Gil Cisneros, is a Navy veteran and philanthropist who won the lottery with his wife in 2010. After winning the lottery of $266 million and starting two nonprofits dedicated to education, Cisneros has taken a seat in the public eye which has garnered support for his campaign, leading him to a primary victory. Cisneros was a member of the Republican party until 2008. He states that his flip to the Democratic party was due to the fact that the GOP has become “too ideological”. The Republican candidate, Young Kim, holds a close professional relationship with and has been endorsed by outgoing Rep. Ed Royce. Kim was elected to the California State Assembly in 2014 and stated, “I have been out there, I know the district, and my personal story and experience as an immigrant, as well as work ethic, sets me apart from the rest of the field”. According to Open Secrets, Kim has raised $1,278,531 while Cisneros has raised $5,499,829.

The race in California’s 45th district has been an enticing one for the citizens of the district. The candidates, Republican Rep. Mimi Walters and Democrat Katie Porter, are the top two winners of the CA-45 primary. Prior to the primary, Porter was challenging Dave Min for the Democratic primary seat. Min and Porter were both law professors at UC Irvine and ran many negative ads against each other. The negative campaigns between Min and Porter allowed Walters to garner GOP support for her campaign and lead in campaign funds. As of June 30, Walters raised $1.5 million while Porter had only raised $781,000. However, since her win in the primary, Porter has leveled the playing field; Porter has raised $2,067,985 and Walters has raised $2,926,804. CA-45 has never gone blue; however, Hillary Clinton was 5 points ahead of President Trump in this district in the 2016 Presidential election which leads the Democratic Party to be confident that Porter will be able to flip this House seat. Furthermore, Porter’s campaign funds that are competitive with Walter’s which allows her to run a competitive campaign against the incumbent.

California’s 48th district has been a GOP district since 2001 when the area was redistricted. FiveThirtyEight has deemed the district the “third most likely to be the House’s tipping point”. Interestingly, the current representative, Dana Rohrabacher, has ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although he is the incumbent, Rep. Rohrabacher faces opposition during this election due to the Russia scandal. The representative has traveled to Moscow several times this year and has met with Putin’s top advisors publically. Rep. Rohrabacher promoted one of Putin’s top priorities: removing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky from an anti-corruption law in Washington. Furthermore, Rohrabacher only received30% of the vote in the primary, making this district more than likely to flip to the Democratic Party. Rep. Rohrabacher’s challenger, Harley Rouda, ran somewhat of a negative campaign on his website about Rohrabacher’s response to the white supremacists’ rally in Charlottesville. Rouda outlined several quotes of Rohrabacher’s quotes about the riots, including that it was a “total hoax”. In terms of campaign funding, Rouda has almost doubled what Rep. Rohrabacher has made. According to Open Secrets, Rouda has raised $2,686,620 while Rep. Rohrabacher had raised $1,746,614.

California’s 49th district has seen several scandals with their current representative, Darrell Issa. Issa will not be running for reelection due to strategic retirement, resulting in a vacant seat. The Republican candidate, Diane Harkeywon the primary top-two election with 25.6% of the vote. However, Harkey has been accused of being involved in a Ponzi scheme within her family business and was forced out from the Chairman of the California Board of Equalization for being accused of “using her staff for her own political advancement”. Mike Levin has been elected as the Democratic candidate, winning the primary with 17.5% of the vote. However, it should be noted there was an additional Democrat who picked up 15% of the vote, so combined, the Democrats outperformed the Republicans in the primary. Levin has raised significantly more than Harkey; Levin currently has $2,577,583 raised while Harkey has $702,043 raised.

There are 7 more districts that the Wason Center has categorized as “will flip” districts. These districts include CO-6, IL-6, KS-3, MN-3, NJ-2, NJ-11, and VA-10. The race between Jennifer Wexton and Rep. Barbara Comstock in VA-10 will be covered in an upcoming article posted by the Wason Center.

The election in Colorado’s 6th district is one of the most competitive congressional races the United States will see this midterm cycle. Independent political analyst Eric Sondermann predicted, “I think the odds are high, not certain, but high, that whichever party wins this district will control Congress come January.” The race is between Democrat Jason Crow and Incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Coffman. Rep. Coffman was re-elected in 2016 despite the fact that Hillary Clinton won the district by 9 points ahead of President Donald Trump. The DCCC has been targeting CO-6 since the 2016 Presidential election as one of the key races needed to flip the House in the 2018 midterm elections. The DCCC has allocated $2 million for broadcast media and the RNC has allocated $1.5 million. In August, the Super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund ran a negative ad against Crow, stating that he is “all talk and no action”. Rep. Coffman is currently attempting to pass a law in Congress that would elicit national attention; an immigration law that would protect children born in the United States from being deported. If Coffman is able to get this law passed, his campaign could be bolstered by the national attention. However, if the law does not pass, Coffman faces the risk of national attention around a failed law. Rep. Coffman and Crow have both raised over $2 million, with help from many PACS and organizations. According to Open Secrets, Crow has raised $2,255,792 and Rep. Coffman has raised $2,362,516. CO-6 is already under the national eye as one of the most watched races in the nation and the Wason Center will continue to report updates on the campaign between Rep. Coffman and Crow.

The race between Democrat Sean Casten and Republican Rep. Peter Roskam in Illinois’ 6th district garnered national attention in August. On August 1, former President Barack Obama, who has largely remained under the radar since leaving office, publicly endorsed Casten (and 81 other candidates) for Congress. On August 30, Casten generated media attention when he compared President Trump to Osama Bin Laden, stating that the two have “a tremendous amount in common.” The Roskam campaign responded to Casten’s statement calling it “vicious” and “hateful”. Although Rep. Roskam has supported President Trump in the past, after President Trump compared himself to Abraham Lincoln, Rep. Roskam stated that President Trump is not in the “same category” as Abe Lincoln, challenging his honesty. A debate was held for the candidates on July 26, where Rep. Roskam compared Casten to President Trump by stating Casten is a “bully with words and tweets”.The Koch brothers publicly support Rep. Roskam, contributing to his campaign; the organization plans to contribute $400 million to 8 congressional campaigns for the 2018 election.

As explained in her midterm predictions, Rachel Bitecofer argues that a large factor for why some districts will flip the seat to the Democratic Party is due to a “pink” surge of college-educated women. These women are likely to turn out in large numbers in the 2018 midterms. In Kansas’ 3rd congressional district, the “pink” surge must manifest for Democrat Sharice Davids to win the congressional seat. If elected, Davids will be the first openly lesbian Native American member of Congress. She also owns her own small business, meaning she is attractive to four key voter groups: the LGBTQ community, small-business owners, women, and Democrats. She won the primary election against 5 other Democratic challengers and will face Rep. Kevin Yoder in the 2018 midterm election. In late August, was targeted with a negative ad by the Republican Party’s Congressional Leadership Fund ($1.7 million) which showed a clip of her appearing to support the Abolish ICE movement. In responding to the ad Davids stated that she misspoke and does not want to abolish ICE, but rather reform the immigration system. According to the Washington Post, David’s quote about abolishing ICE did not impact her primary win. And if the election indeed turns on Democratic voters it’s not clear how effective the ad will be. CNBC reports that “experts argue that the surge of Democratic enthusiasm in the district, which is located in the northeast part of the state, could be a big warning sign for Yoder.” Rep. Yoder has held the congressional seat since 2011 and his campaign, as well as the GOP, has recognized that his seat may be vulnerable in this upcoming election. At a recent fundraiser, Republican Whip Steve Scalise endorsed Yoder. Rep. Yoder has raised significantly more than Davids; Rep. Yoder has raised $2,727,430 whereas Davids has raised just $344,704. Her fundraising is surprisingly low given that Hillary Clinton won this district in 2016. If Davids can’t find the money necessary to compete with Yoder, this race may get downgraded.

The race in Minnesota’s 3rd district between Rep. Erik Paulsen and Dean Phillips is one of the most expensive races going on in Minnesota. In his last congressional race, Paulsen was a target of a negative ad campaign against him so this cycle, he has raised significantly more for his war chest. As of July 25, Paulsen raised $3.7 million. Phillips has also raised a large amount of money compared to other congressional campaigns across the nation, $2.7 million. On August 21, Phillips and Rep. Paulsen had their first debate. This district is one of the strongest Clinton districts. Hillary Clinton won the district by an astounding 10 points. Further compounding the woes of the Republican incumbent, Democratic Party turnout increased dramatically in the primary.

The race in New Jersey’s 2nd congressional district is between the Democrat State Sen. Jeff Van Drew and Republican Seth Grossman. The Democrats have an extremely good chance of flipping the congressional seat in this race due to the recent news that the NRCC announced they would no longer support Grossman. Furthermore, the NRCC asked Grossman to “reconsider his candidacy”. These statements came after many people noticed that Grossman had supported white supremacy posts and a string of comments regarding African Americans and Islam. Furthermore, at the end of the fiscal cycle in May, Van Drew had $416,000 compared to Grossman’s $10,800. According to Open Secrets, the most recent campaign finance reports that Van Drew has $1,043,005 and Grossman has $87,842.

Mikie Sherrill and Jay Weber are challenging each other for the congressional seat in New Jersey’s 11th district. Democrats turned out in larger numbers for the primary, despite a more competitive Republican primary. The district went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 by a margin of 0.9 points even though Clinton won New Jersey by 14 points. In May, Webber backed the immigration policy adopted by the Trump Administration stating, “the Democrats also are taking that financial aid away from New Jersey citizens to give that aid to non-citizens, and our citizens certainly see no fairness in that takeaway.” Thus far, Sherrill has raised $4,200,452whereas Weber has raised $574,410. Considering campaign finance alone, Sherrill has a large advantage over Weber.

The Wason Center will continue to report on the upcoming 2018 midterm elections. Specifically, there will be detailed articles on all the districts that are categorized as will flip to the Democrats, likely flip, lean Democratic, and the toss up races.

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