Examining Competitive US House Races in the West
Elections & Politics Policy Brief #102 | By: Ian Milden | October 20, 2023
Photo taken from: theguardian.com
Democrats lost their majority in the House of Representatives in the 2022 mid-term elections. However, the small size of the Republican majority leaves Democrats with a path to re-take the House majority. This brief will take an early look at some of the races in the western United States (outside of California, which I already previewed).
Republicans shocked many pundits by only winning a four-seat majority in the House of Representatives during the midterm elections. The changing political landscape in the southwest provides some additional opportunities for Democrats.
Democrats have won some recent statewide elections in Arizona due to growing support in Maricopa County, which contains the city of Phoenix and some of its suburbs. Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ) represents part of Maricopa County (Arizona’s first district), which is becoming more competitive. Schweikert won re-election in 2022 by only slightly over 3,000 votes. Schweikert has also recently been reprimanded by the House Ethics Committee for violating rules on using official funds. Schweikert’s campaign also got fined by the FEC for campaign finance rule violations. Democrats have a large field of candidates running for the nomination to face Schweikert.
Arizona’s 6th district, which contains part of Tuscan, will also have a competitive race. This district is currently represented by Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ), who won the open seat by a little over 6,000 votes. Ciscomani is currently seeking reelection. Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) was the previous representative for the seat, so the seat is winnable for Democrats. Changes in redistricting have made it a Republican-leaning seat. Kirsten Engel, a former state legislator who lost to Ciscomani in 2022, is running for the Democratic nomination again.
Oregon’s 5th district should also be a target for Democrats. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR) won the seat after incumbent Kurt Schrader (D-OR) lost in the primary. The district was reconfigured in redistricting due to Oregon gaining an additional district in reapportionment. The district has a Democratic lean, so Democrats can win if they recruit the right candidate. Schrader was a centrist, so another moderate would likely have the best chance of defeating Chavez-DeRemer.
Colorado’s third district had the closest race in the country in 2022 with Congresswoman Lauren Boebert winning re-election by less than 600 votes. This isn’t a district that Democrats usually compete in because it is composed of a large number of rural counties. Republicans might have been caught sleeping in 2022, so they may devote more resources here. However, local Republicans could try to defeat Boebert in a primary if they are tired of her behavior. Boebert is facing opposition in the Republican primary, and a different nominee could help Republicans win the General Election with a lot less trouble.
In addition to these target districts, Democrats will also have to defend several districts. Colorado’s newly created 8th district, which is north of Denver, was decided by less than 3000 votes. Congresswoman Yadira Caraveo (D-CO) will run for reelection. It remains unclear who the Republicans will nominate. A Libertarian candidate took nearly 4% of the vote in 2022, and Democrats can’t bet on that happening again.
Democrats will have to defend a few incumbents who won their seats due to unusual dynamics and poor Republican candidates. In Alaska, Mary Peltola (D-AK) will run for a second term after defeating Sarah Palin twice in 2022. In Washington State, Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez will be defending the seat she won against a conspiracy theorist. The seat was previously held by Jamie Herrera Beutler, who failed to advance from the primary after she voted to impeach Trump in 2021. If Republicans nominate better candidates in these races, then these seats might flip back to Republican control.
Congresswoman Kim Schrier (D-WA) will defend a slightly Democratic-leaning swing district east of Seattle. Schrier won the open seat in 2018. In Nevada, the redistricting process made three competitive districts in the Las Vegas area, which are held by Dina Titus (D-NV), Susie Lee (D-NV), and Stephen Horsford (D-NV). If any of them lose, it’s probably a bad sign for Democrats’ prospects in the state in 2024.
New Mexico’s Congressional Districts are also in a similar spot, where Democrats control three competitive seats. The second district, represented by Gabe Vazquez (D-NM), has swung back and forth in recent years. Vasquez defeated Congresswoman Yvette Harrell in 2022 by less than 1500 votes. Harrell is seeking a rematch in 2024.
While the western states outside of California don’t provide many opportunities for Democrats to pick up seats, there are several seats that they need to defend to regain the majority.
- DCCC Website, Official Campaign Arm of House Democrats, https://dccc.org/