House: The Early Battlegrounds

We can already see that four states will be critical in determining the House majority in Election 2024.

When looking at the current 222-213 Republican advantage, one sees that a major reason for this outcome must be attributed to the party’s 2022 congressional candidates over-performing in two heavily Democratic states, California and New York.

Two more states, Ohio and North Carolina, are very likely to be redrawn before the next election, which will change their partisan complexion. The culmination of how the congressional races in these four entities unfold will be key to determining the post-presidential election US House majority.

In both California and New York, the Republican House candidates over-performed the redistricting map’s partisan lean by four seats. In the Golden State, on a commission gerrymandered plan that should have yielded Republicans only eight of the state’s 52 seats despite the party having almost 24% of the registered electorate, the GOP notched a dozen victories.

Winning the key races were Reps. John Duarte (R-Modesto), David Valadao (R-Hanford), Mike Garcia (R-Santa Clarita), and Michelle Steel (R-Orange County) all who either captured (Duarte), or were re-elected (Valadao, Garcia, and Steel), to seats with Democratic partisan leans.

A similar story occurred in New York. Freshmen Reps. George Santos (R-Huntington), Anthony D’Esposito (R-Island Park), Mike Lawler (R-Pearl River), and Brandon Williams (R-Syracuse) all won seats in districts that favor Democrats. Obviously, these four districts, and particularly the Santos seat noting the many controversies surrounding the new member’s well publicized negative characteristics, will be top tier Democratic targets next year.

Speculation is mounting that the US Supreme Court will drop the North Carolina political gerrymandering and judicial authority case, even though the justices have already heard oral arguments. After the SCOTUS hearing, the new North Carolina Supreme Court, now with a 5R-2D majority, scheduled reconsideration hearings on two election cases that the former state Supreme Court panel, just before adjourning, had ruled upon. The 4D-3R court declared both the NC Senate district lines and the state’s voter ID law unconstitutional in separate rulings.

Since the state Supreme Court is now actively hearing cases that generally come under the purview of what SCOTUS is considering, the national court may defer to the state court, which would make the federal case moot.

Regardless of what happens in the various court rooms, it is clear the Tar Heel state legislature plans to replace the interim court maps for the US House, state House, and state Senate. Expect a great deal of action coming from North Carolina in the coming months. It is conceivable that we could see a three-seat Republican gain in the 7D-7R current delegation map.

The Ohio map actually over-performed to a degree for the Democrats. Despite Republicans winning all the statewide races including the Governor and Senate contests, Democrats gained two seats in the congressional delegation, and held another against the partisan lean.

Veteran Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati) was defeated, and Democrat Emilia Sykes won a politically marginal open seat in the Akron metro area. Twenty-two term Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) then held a strongly Republican district that the FiveThirtyEight data organization rated as R+6.

The Ohio situation is another where the odds of seeing a new map produced to replace a court mandated map are strong. Even if the Ohio map is not replaced, we will again see several competitive races develop.

Though it is extremely early in the 2024 election cycle, it is difficult to imagine a scenario where the aforementioned states are not focal points for the top tier races. Though the presidential race will set the tone for how the election year unfolds, the House outcomes in California, New York, North Carolina, and Ohio will likely again set the stage for determining a majority.

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