For the first time this election cycle, a Republican tops the list of the 10 most vulnerable House members.
California Rep. Mike Garcia takes the No. 1 spot after winning a May special election for a seat President Donald Trump lost in 2016. The list now features the same number of Republicans and Democrats, as Trump struggles in competitive districts across the country amid an ongoing pandemic and economic crisis. Bolstered by massive campaign war chests, House Democrats are more bullish than ever that they will grow their majority by defeating vulnerable Republicans and winning a slew of open-seat races. Republicans acknowledge their path to the majority is shrinking.
Two Republicans, New York’s John Katko and Nebraska’s Don Bacon, are also new to the list of vulnerable members. Katko holds a seat Trump lost, while Bacon’s district narrowly backed the president. Katko and Bacon face rematches against 2018 opponents, but Democrats argue 2020 may be shaping up to be an even better year for them than when they retook the House. To make room for the GOP entrants, a few Democrats have fallen off the list, including Utah freshman Ben McAdams and longtime Minnesota Rep. Collin C. Peterson, who chairs the House Agriculture Committee.
The 2016 presidential results in these districts were factored into the rankings, along with conversations with strategists and race ratings from Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.
Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif.
Garcia won a May 12 special election to replace former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill by 10 points, but the fall electorate in this district outside Los Angeles is expected to look much less Republican. Garcia once again faces state Assemblywoman Christy Smith. And even though he had $738,000 on hand as of June 30, to $403,000 for Smith, a surge in turnout in November compared to the special election could be a problem for him in a seat Trump lost in 2016. Garcia is also the only Republican incumbent running in a district where Hillary Clinton won more than 50% of the vote.
Rep. Torres Small, D-N.M.
New Mexico’s 2nd District, in the arid and sparsely populated southern half of the state, is among the most rural of the Democratic-held seats Trump carried in 2016. That could make it harder for Torres Small, a water rights lawyer who has built a strong local profile, to hold on after her narrow 2018 victory. She faces a rematch with Republican former state Rep. Yvette Herrell, who has doubled down on her support for Trump.
Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Okla.
Rep. Kendra Horn has been a top Republican target since her surprise 2018 victory in an Oklahoma City-area district Republicans had held for more than 40 years. But her position has slightly strengthened in recent months, mainly because of Trump’s problems in suburbs. She will face a formidable opponent no matter who wins the Aug. 25 runoff for the Republican nomination. That race features businesswoman Terry Neese, who has run a standard pro-Trump campaign, against state Sen. Stephanie Bice, who has pitched herself as a moderate while also working to woo the Trump voters she needs to secure the GOP nod. Horn had $2.6 million on hand on June 30, which will go far in the region’s cheap advertising market.
Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C.
Democrat Joe Cunningham has been stressing his moderate appeal since narrowly winning this longtime Republican seat in 2018. But Republicans argue the pitch falls flat in a district that backed Trump by double digits. His opposition to offshore drilling helped him win in 2018, but it might be harder to draw a contrast against Republican Nancy Mace on the issue. As a state lawmaker, she has sponsored legislation opposing it. And powerful Republicans in the state appear to be consolidating around Mace after a bruising GOP primary.
Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y.
Katko faces a rematch from his 2018 opponent, former college professor Dana Balter. Republicans believe the three-term lawmaker is one of their strongest battleground incumbents and he’s beaten Balter before. But the national political environment this year could overwhelm the race as the Syracuse-based district shifts even further away from Trump. Notably both House campaign committees have already started spending in the race. With
$1.6 million in the bank at June 30, Katko has a sizable financial advantage over Balter, who had $253,000 after winning a contested primary.
Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb.
Bacon, a two-term incumbent and retired Air Force brigadier general, narrowly fended off a challenge during the blue wave of 2018 from nonprofit executive Kara Eastman in this Omaha-anchored seat. The Democrat is back this year with a more professional campaign team that has recalibrated her presentation to appeal to the district’s more moderate voters.
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa.
Even though Trump would have carried Rep. Scott Perry’s south-central Pennsylvania seat had the current congressional map been in place in 2016, Democrats are anticipating a close House race in November. This is just the second time Perry is running under the district’s present configuration, and his Democratic opponent, state Auditor Eugene DePasquale, narrowly carried the seat in his 2016 statewide race.
Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.
Even though Rep. Rodney Davis managed to survive the blue wave of 2018 by a narrow margin, 2020 may pose an even tougher landscape for the affable incumbent as his Central Illinois district is becoming less friendly turf for Trump. Davis, who’s bidding for a fifth term, faces a rematch against businesswoman Betsy Dirksen Londrigan. The Democrat reported a cash advantage over the incumbent as of June 30, with more than $2.2 million in the bank to almost $1.9 million for Davis.
Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y.
As expected, state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis won the June Republican primary to take on Rep. Max Rose. While the seat is favorable to Trump, the straight-talking Rose is also described as a good fit for the district.
Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y.
Republicans are still confident Trump supporters who didn’t show up in 2018 will turn out in November and doom Brindisi’s reelection in this upstate New York district. But Democrats note that Rep. Anthony Brindisi has already defeated his GOP opponent, former Rep. Claudia Tenney, once, and he had an established brand as a state lawmaker before coming to Congress.