Fielding a Strong Defense

Successful football teams more often than not feature a good defense and protecting already won territory is likewise a necessary component for a winning political strategy. 

Therefore, for Republicans to achieve their hope of claiming a relatively substantial House majority in the coming election, they must keep incumbent and controlled open seat losses to a bare minimum.

The GOP, largely through unfavorable redistricting maps in several states, has a fair number of members who are in danger of losing this November even if the political winds ultimately blow their way. 

Let’s begin in South Texas where newly elected Rep. Mayra Flores (R-McAllen) converted a Democratic seat in a May special election. It was a big victory for the GOP in a current 34th District rated D+5 according to the FiveThirtyEight data organization. Post redistricting, the new 34th carries a D+17 rating with a partisan lean of 60.6-D to 36.9-R according to the Dave’s Redistricting App statistical unit. Paired with Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen), Ms. Flores is a clear underdog for re-election and is quite possibly the most vulnerable member of the Republican conference.

Turning to California, the state’s citizen redistricting commission generally did not favor GOP incumbents. First coming to mind is Rep. David Valadao* (R-Hanford). While he represents the most Democratic district in the country that a Republican holds, his new 22nd District (a number change from 21) is even more partisan. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates the district D+10 and the Dave’s Redistricting App partisan lean is 55.1-D to 42.3-R.

Just to the south, Rep. Mike Garcia* (R-Santa Clarita), who won the 2020 election with only a 333-vote margin in a southern California district that was rated D+5, now faces an electorate with a D+8 ranking and a partisan lean score of 53.6-D to 44.2-R.

While Iowa Democrat Cindy Axne (IA-3; Des Moines) remains a major Republican target because of the swing nature of her central-southwest district, the GOP must protect their own incumbent in the adjacent district who is in a similar position. 

In the new 1st District (formerly numbered 2), the closest 2020 US House election winner, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks* (R-Ottumwa) who clinched her seat with a margin of just six votes, again faces a stiff challenge. This time, her opponent is state Rep. Christina Bohannan (D-Iowa City). Rep. Miller-Meeks’ new district is rated R+4 with a tighter partisan lean of 49.7-R to 46.8-D. Though these numbers look slightly favorable for a Republican, her current basic district configuration, that actually produced seven consecutive wins for Democratic Rep. David Loebsack, is statistically more Republican than this new 1st CD.

Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer* (R-Grand Rapids), who lost his Republican primary election to former Trump Administration official John Gibbs, leaves a seat that is much more Democratic under the new redistricting commission’s draw than the district he won in 2020. The current CD-3 rates a R+9 score. The new 3rd, that now adds the Democratic city of Muskegon to replace more Republican territory near the Kalamazoo area, leans away from the GOP according to the 538 organization ratings. The new district earns a D+3 ranking with a partisan lean of 50.1-D to 46.5-R. 

Arizona Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills) is another of the vulnerable incumbents. He not only agreed that he violated multiple ethics rules and paid large fines for improperly using taxpayer money for political purposes, but he also sees his district decline in Republican support post-redistricting. He has drawn a promising Democratic opponent in the person of Jevin Hodge, a communications consultant who is raising substantial money and an individual who the Democratic establishment will heavily support.

Freshman New Mexico Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-Alamorgordo) is another redistricting victim. Her seat moves from a safely Republican rating of R+14 to a new district rated D+4. She faces Las Cruces City Councilman Gabe Vasquez (D). Reportedly, Rep. Herrell has greatly improved her campaign operation and is certainly competitive in this southern New Mexico CD, but the Democrats made their redistricting advantage count in this region and state.

Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon* (R-Papillion/Omaha), now recovering from emergency appendectomy surgery, is in another tough race. In a R+3 district, which is a slight improvement for Rep. Bacon over the current draw, the Congressman faces state Senator Tony Vargas (D-Omaha), who is getting strong support from Washington Democratic support groups.

Still others, such as Reps. Michelle Steel* (R-CA), Maria Elvira Salazar* (R-FL), Ashley Hinson* (R-IA), Nicole Maliotakis* (R-NY), Brian Fitzpatrick* (R-PA), and Steve Chabot (R-OH) all face competitive challengers in less favorable districts. Two open Republican seats, NY-22 (Rep. John Katko*) and WA-3 (Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler*), are also in the highly vulnerable category.

While Republicans believe they have the political wind at their back, wresting the majority away from the Democrats becomes a much more difficult exercise if the party fails to hold almost all of the defensive races mentioned above. Each of these contests are races to watch on election night.

* denotes the candidate has received an AGC PAC contribution during the 2021-2022 election cycle. 

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