Part 2: Twenty House Races To Watch

FILE- In this Oct. 22, 2018 file photo, Republican congressional candidate Jay Webber speaks at a reception in Wayne, N.J. Webber is running for the House of Representatives in New Jersey's 11th Congressional District. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 12:12 am by Taylor Lang

By Jefferson Fenner – Syracuse, N.Y. (CitrusTV) – In part two of our three-part series, we look at the important races across the country that will decide the control of the House of Representatives. This time, the format will be a little different. Instead of analyzing each race intricately, we will be grouping races by why we feel you should pay attention to them.

Pink Wave: The Races Where Women are Making a Splash

Iowa – 1 (Cedar Rapids): This is one of the DCCC’s Red-to-Blue races which target vulnerable Republicans in districts favorable to Democrats. Here we see Abby Finkenauer, a two-term state representative, who has out earned her opponent, Rep. Rod Blum by over $1.2 million. Blum is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in a district that went for Obama twice. Iowa-1 has never seen a woman hold the seat, and Finkenauer will most likely change that on November 6th.

Kentucky – 6 (Lexington): Another seat never held by a woman, Kentucky’s 6th district features a challenge from Marine Lt. Col. Amy McGrath. McGrath was a former pilot who became the first female Marine to fly an F-18 in combat. She runs against three-term incumbent Andy Barr who has support from Vice President Mike Pence. Polls have given both candidates leads, but with McGrath outraising Barr by 66%, she holds a sizeable advantage going into Election Day.

New Jersey – 11 (Morristown): Rodney Frelinghuysen, who represented NJ-11 for 23 years, and has decided to step down from his position. His district went for Trump in 2016, but Mikie Sherrill is looking to change that. Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor, is hoping to flip the district blue for the first time since 1985 but faces a tough challenge from a young Republican in State Assemblyman Jay Webber.

New York – 24 (Syracuse): Many think that Dana Balter holds little to no chance in this race against Rep. John Katko, but this is the toughest challenge the incumbent has faced so far. Both candidates have raised a similar amount of money, and with a populous city like Syracuse that has gone blue, a good citywide turnout for Balter could shock Central New York.

Blue Wave: Featuring Democratic Hopefuls in Historically Red Districts

Maine – 2 (Bangor, Northern Maine): An incumbent hasn’t lost this district since 1916 and Bruce Poliquin hopes that stays the same. As the only Republican House member from New England, he has stood out for his support of Trump’s issues such repealing the Affordable Care Act. His opponent, Democratic State Rep. Jared Golden, is a Marine Corps veteran who used to work under GOP Sen. Susan Collins. This part of the state is the reason why Trump got an electoral vote from Maine, but with polls giving both candidates a lead, this race will be close.

Kansas – 2 (Topeka): Kansas hasn’t been represented by a Democrat in the House since 2008, but Paul Davis is trying to change that. The former Kansas House Minority leader has been running a close race against an outsider in former Army Ranger Steve Watkins. This area of the country is very red, but after Rep. Lynne Jenkins announced her retirement, and with no clear GOP leader stepping up to the plate, Democrats could surprise many with this win.

New York – 22 (Utica): Rep. Claudia Tenney has been running as one of the President’s closest allies in Upstate New York. And while registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by over 30,000, somehow a centrist Democrat, State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, has been able to get serious support in this rural district. Visits from members of the Trump family won’t help the Democrats, but with Brindisi outspending Tenney by over $600,000, he could help flip this seat in CNY.

Virginia – 10 (Manassas): Rep. Barbara Comstock was very lucky last cycle. She was able to ward off a strong challenge from LuAnn Bennet and kept her seat. That’s probably not going to happen this time around. Since 2015, Democrats have targeted this district with Red-to-Blue money, and with a strong candidate in State Sen. Jennifer Wexton, she has faced her toughest challenge yet. Even though she is outraising Wexton, Comstock has lost every poll but one, which her campaign sponsored. Since October, Wexton has shown a lead of 7-13 points in polls. The writing is on the wall, Comstock looks all but certain to be out of office.

Utah – 4 (Salt Lake City): In a particularly young district, Utah’s fourth includes a part of Salt Lake City and is currently held by a Haitian American woman, Rep. Mia Love. In a conservative state such as this one, only a special kind of Democrat could be able to win. Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams may be that kind of Democrat he has said he looks to limit lobbyists and says he won’t support Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker. Both candidates have won polls in this race, but some forecasters think this race is still a reach deep in the heart of Trump country.

Scandalous Seats: Races Known for All the Wrong Reasons

California – 48 (Huntington Beach): Rep. Dana Rohrabacher will be fighting for his seat against a tough Democrat challenge in former GOPer Harley Rouda. Rohrabacher’s name has been in the news for a connection with Maria Butina, a Russian operative who was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Muller in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Due to his connection, Now Rohrabacher himself has been tied to Muller’s work which has made this close race that much harder for him to win.

Iowa – 4 (Sioux City): The “October surprise” in this race came late. Rep. Steve King has long had a questionable past when it comes to immigration and sensitivity. He’s retweeted messages from Nazi sympathizers, endorsed white nationalists and, more recently, met with a far-right Austrian political party founded by a former SS officer days after the Pittsburgh shooting. These remarks and meetings have brought criticism from politicians, including some from his own party. For the first time in years, he’s been losing support. His opponent, a lawyer and former Minor League Baseball pitcher J.D. Scholten, has seen a huge financial boost in the last few days and has an outside shot at making King strike out of Congress.

New York – 19 (Oneonta): Rep. John Faso was going into a close race. As the most vulnerable Republican congressman in the state, many forecasters have called this race a toss-up. But this isn’t the reason why the race has captured national attention. Faso’s opponent, lawyer Antonio Delgado, had a short career as a rapper. The National Republican Congressional Committee ran ads featuring Delgado’s music with some lyrics being misrepresented and taken out of context. Media outlets have criticized the ads for bringing race into this election. Faso hasn’t publicly denounced the ads, which has hurt him in recent polls, which have given Delgado a slight lead.

New York – 27 (Greater Buffalo): I’m incredibly baffled by this race. I don’t know why this race is close. It shouldn’t be. Rep. Chris Collins is the biggest supporter of Donald Trump in the state, even serving on his transition team. It seemed that Collins was going to easily take his seat back, but in early August, the FBI arrested him and his son on charges of insider trading. He then announced he was suspending his campaign, almost certainly giving the race to Town Supervisor Nate McMurray. But then, in mid-September, Collins re-started his campaign and announced he would stay on the ballot. The only thing more shocking than his announcement, is that Collins has been winning recent polls. There is a large number of undecided voters, but even if Collins wins, there could be a recall election for this seat in the next year.

Pennsylvania – 7 (Allentown): This race doesn’t feature a troubled candidate, but the seat itself is the subject of controversy. Earlier this year, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled the state’s district map was illegally gerrymandered and the Court redrew the map. The worst offender in this case of gerrymandering was the old Pennsylvania 7th district, which had a shape no one could accurately describe. The new district is more evenly drawn and encompasses Lehigh and Northampton Counties and part of Monroe County. The district is politically competitive and the race between Democrat Susan Wild and Republican Marty Nothstein should be close.

Midnight Miracles: Races that Are Close and Could Be Called Late in the Evening

California – 39 (Fullerton): This race has seen the most money raised for a single House seat outside of a Special Election this year. Over $35 million dollars have been spent in this race, with about 60% of that coming from the candidates themselves. Polls have kept it close between Democrat Gil Cisneros and Republican Young Kim, with the most recent polls giving Cisneros only a one-point lead. This race should be the toughest on the West Coast, and it could take late in the night to announce a winner.

Colorado – 6 (Aurora): Incumbent Republican Mike Coffman is in the middle of a tough race in suburban Denver. The popular GOP congressman faces a fight from veteran and former Obama advisor Jason Crow. Crow is campaigning as a moderate and an outsider, who doesn’t plan on supporting Nancy Pelosi. This district has been targeted by Democrats for years and has long been a battleground in Colorado. This campaign cycle is no exception.  

Florida – 26 (Homestead, Key West): Florida has a host of races that could take a while to decide, but Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s seat has been a Democratic target for a while. The Latino moderate Republican has tried to distance himself from the President by highlighting his bi-partisan decision making and commitment to battling climate change. Democrat candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell has campaigned on a more progressive platform, advocating for affordable healthcare and protecting immigrants. Mucarsel-Powell is a first-generation American coming from Ecuador and Curbelo is the son of Cuban exiles. In a Democratic district with almost 70% Hispanic representation, this campaign will be one to watch into the early hours of the morning.

Illinois – 6 (Chicagoland): In a well-educated suburb of the largest city in the Midwest, IL-6 is an interesting case study. The average median income is close to the six-figure range, it’s represented by a Republican in Peter Roskam, but the usually red district voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Roskam has inconclusive favorability ratings (36% favorable, 38% unfavorable, 25% unsure) and voted for the tax reform bill. Sean Casten is a Democratic outsider who started a clean-energy business who plans on working across the aisle in Congress. The biggest factor in this race could be health care, with Roskam voting to repeal the ACA and Casten advocating for Medicare expansion. Polling has put them close and with a high number of undecided voters, it’s too early to predict who comes out on top.

Texas – 7 (Greater Houston): Incumbent Rep. John Culberson started his campaigning really late, which isn’t good in a district becoming bluer over the years. TX-7 had one of the biggest presidential voting swings in the country, going from a 21-point Romney win in 2012 to a one-point Clinton win in 2016. Corporate litigator Lizzie Pannill Fletcher is trying to capitalize on that momentum by running on a progressive platform in an attempt to turn anti-Trump Republicans for the Democrats. In a district that is nearly 1/3 Hispanic, immigration is a major issue and Culberson has fully embraced Trump’s hardline stance on the subject. That late start from Culberson has allowed Fletcher to raise almost double the funding than the incumbent but reserves from SuperPACs have weighed in on this race, making it a key one to watch on November 6th.

Finally, One Weird Race

Pennsylvania – 17 (North Pittsburgh): Redistricting can sometimes give you anomalies in politics, and PA-17 is one such race. This is one of the rarest races in electoral history, featuring two currently serving incumbents fighting for the same seat. This is the second campaign Democrat Conor Lamb would run this year, after winning a Special Election upset in March for the 15th District seat vacated by former Rep. Tim Murphy. After taking office in April, Lamb began a new campaign for the 17th district when his hometown of Mt. Lebanon was drawn into it. Another incumbent whose home was included in the new 17th is PA-12 Rep. Keith Rothfus. As of mid-October, Lamb has raised over $8 million and leads most polls in a slightly red district. Keep an eye out to see how this wacky race ends.

Images Courtesy of AP Images