With the number of House open and vacant seats continuing to grow, we update the status of each and begin to project where the most competitive incumbent-less districts might lie in 2022.
Adding the most recent retirement announcements or declarations for a different office, we see 16 districts that will introduce freshman members from their next election, eight from the Democratic side and an equal number of Republican seats. Of the 16, five are vacant and in special election cycles.
First, we look at the Democratic open seats and tomorrow, the Republicans. The eight Democratic seats come from six states with another potential candidacy announcement coming shortly, at least based upon reading the Florida political tea leaves in association with this week’s gubernatorial race declaration from Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL).
Three of the five vacancies are on the Democratic side and will be filled in elections conducted from June 1st through January 11th of next year. The other five Democratic openings result from retirement decisions (3) and members seeking a different office (2) with an additional open seat announcement apparently coming imminently in Florida as all indications suggest that Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando) will soon announce her gubernatorial bid.
Ann Kirkpatrick - retirement
Rep. Kirkpatrick had represented the 1st District for three non-consecutive terms beginning in 2009. She then ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2016 and returned in 2018 with a victory in the 2nd District. She was re-elected in 2020 with 55% of the vote. In March, Ms. Kirkpatrick announced that she would retire at the conclusion of the current Congress.
The reapportionment picture drastically changes the 2nd District political outlook. Originally, Arizona was projected to gain a seat, but did not once the official population figures were announced. Therefore, the Tucson anchored CD-2, expected to significantly change, is likely to remain closer to its current configuration.
If so, then the re-draw process will likely keep the 2nd in the Democratic column. The two leading early contenders to replace Rep. Kirkpatrick are state Representative and surgeon Randy Friese (D-Tucson) and state Sen. Kirsten Engel (D-Tucson). President Joe Biden carried the 2nd with a 54-44% margin.
Val Demings – potential Governor’s race
When Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) announced his gubernatorial campaign early last week, Orlando Rep. Val Demings simultaneously released a video about her career and resume. The production was financed through her congressional campaign committee, so it didn’t obviously refer to the impending 2022 Governor’s race, nor did it contain a re-elect message. Therefore, we can soon expect an official announcement that Rep. Demings will enter the Governor’s campaign and leave her Orlando district as an open seat in the next election.
Currently, Rep. Demings’ 10th District has become safely Democratic, but without her in the 2022 congressional picture the whole Orlando area, which is projected to gain the state’s new seat, could be drawn differently. Therefore, the 10th could possibly again become a more competitive political district.
Already, state Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) has said he will abandon his own campaign for Governor if Rep. Demings enters the statewide race. He would then run for the open congressional seat. President Biden carried the 10th last November with a 62-37% vote spread.
Charlie Crist – running for Governor
The 13th District, wholly contained within Pinellas County on the western Tampa Bay peninsula, is a competitive district. With incumbent Crist now embarking on his third gubernatorial campaign, watch for the Republican map drawers, who will control the 2022 redistricting process, to make this seat more to their liking. It will always remain competitive, but a couple of percentage points moving the Republicans’ way could well change the outcome.
Two candidate announcements were made upon Rep. Crist declaring for Governor. Anna Paulina Luna, the 2020 GOP nominee who held the Congressman to a 53-47% re-election margin, said she will enter the open seat campaign. So did former Obama Administration Defense Department official Eric Lynn. We can expect crowded primaries in both parties. President Joe Biden captured the 13th with a 51-47% margin.
Alcee Hastings – passed away April 6 – special election
Rep. Hastings’ death from pancreatic cancer vacates this South Florida district that occupies much of the area between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has set a long special election cycle, with a partisan primary scheduled for November 2nd and the special general on January 11, 2022.
A total of 11 Democrats have announced their candidacies, including three sitting state legislators and two Broward County Commissioners. This will be a highly competitive Democratic primary with the winner easily claiming the seat in January. President Joe Biden took the 20th District with 77% of the vote.
Cheri Bustos – retirement
The surprising retirement decision from five-term Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline) leaves this western Illinois district in a state of flux. Her 52-48% November re-election victory over Republican Esther Joy King was indicative of the competitive potential under the current draw. President Biden actually lost the district, 48-50%. The Democratic map drawers will attempt to strengthen the CD, but with the state losing a seat in reapportionment such a task might be easier said than done.
Ms. King has already announced that she will return for an open seat race. No Democrat has yet declared, obviously waiting to see how redistricting will affect this Quad Cities anchored congressional district.
Deb Haaland – Interior Secretary – special election
Rep. Deb Haaland’s (D-Albuquerque) appointment as Interior Secretary vacates New Mexico’s 1st District that now has become decidedly Democratic. The two political parties nominated their candidates in caucuses, and the deciding special election is scheduled for June 1st.
The Democratic nominee, state Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-Albuquerque), is the clear favorite to capture the special election. Her opponent is Albuquerque Republican state Sen. Matt Moores, but the seat, which was once competitive, now appears well out of the GOP’s range. President Biden scored a 60-37% win here in November, well beyond his 54-44% statewide victory margin. We can expect Ms. Stansbury to win the seat on June 1st in the high 50s.
Marcia Fudge – HUD Secretary – special election
The second of President Biden’s House cabinet picks will see her Cleveland-Akron based congressional district filled on November 2nd. The key vote, however, will be in the Democratic primary on August 3rd.
Ten Democrats are running in the special election, including five ex-state legislators and a Cuyahoga County Councilwoman. The leading candidate appears to be former state Senator and Bernie Sanders’ campaign national official Nina Turner, who has captured key endorsements and raised over $2.2 million through the end of March.
The seat is safely Democratic and will remain in the party’s column after the election. President Biden secured 80% of the vote here in November, and Ms. Fudge’s recorded the same percentage in her last re-election campaign.
Tim Ryan – running for Senate
Redistricting will be a key determining factor here. With Rep. Ryan opting for the Senate race, and his district needing more people coming from Akron simultaneously with the 11th CD, the least populated seat in the state, needing even more residents from the same city, the 13th CD could well become the eliminated district in reapportionment. The district also includes the Youngstown and Warren areas. Ohio lost one seat in the Census Bureau’s April 26th apportionment announcement.
Rep. Ryan was re-elected in November with a 52-45% margin over moderate competition and President Biden eked out a 51-47% win. Therefore, should the 13th remain as a district on the new map the chances increase that it will become more competitive. This campaign will evolve slowly as redistricting will largely determine which potential candidates see the greatest opportunity.
Filemon Vela – retirement
The Texas-Mexico border congressional districts returned surprising 2020 results. In two long established Democratic seats, Rep. Vela was re-elected with a closer-than-expected 55-42% victory margin, and adjoining 15th District Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen) scored only a 50.5% win. Moving to the west, Republican Tony Gonzales won an open border district that most analysts had predicted as a Democratic conversion seat once incumbent Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) decided not to seek re-election in 2020. President Biden carried the 34th with only a 51-47% vote split.
In March, five-term Rep. Vela announced that he will retire at the end of the current Congress. With the increased Republican performance in the border area, and the situation deteriorating even further since the election, the region’s redistricting prospects becomes very interesting.
The 34th, anchored in Brownsville, will certainly remain, but weather one of the two Democratic border districts becomes more favorable to the GOP remains to be seen. Don’t expect any candidate movement here until the new map is adopted.
Next, we analyze the eight Republican open seats from six states. Two of the House’s five vacancies are currently Republican held and will be filled in special elections conducted from late June through November 2nd. The six regular cycle Republican openings result from retirement decisions (2), and members seeking a different office (4).
Mo Brooks – running for Senate
Rep. Brooks (R-Huntsville), with former President Donald Trump’s endorsement that has proven extremely strong in other Republican primaries, is running for the Senate. Now that we know Alabama is not losing a seat in reapportionment, the open 5th District will elect a new member, and the 2022 Republican primary becomes the key focus. Ex-President Trump carried this district in November with a 63-36% victory margin. Madison County Commission chairman Dale Strong (R) looks like the strongest candidate making an early announcement. Madison County encompasses half of the 5th District.
Jody Hice – running for Secretary of State
In late March, Rep. Hice (R-Greensboro) announced that he will challenge Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in the 2022 Republican primary. Mr. Raffensperger has come under heavy attack for his handling of the 2020 election, which makes him very vulnerable in a Republican primary.
As with all 14 of Georgia’s congressional districts, the 10th will be re-drawn as part of redistricting, but the GOP is in control of the process so we can count on this seat remaining safely Republican. We can expect a crowded GOP primary followed by a two-person runoff. The eventual Republican nominee then becomes a prohibitive favorite to the hold the seat in the 2022 general election.
Lee Zeldin – running for Governor
With Rep. Zeldin (R-Shirley) in the Governor’s race, the open eastern Long Island 1st District will likely host a competitive general election campaign. Already, one of the 2020 Democratic candidates, Suffolk County legislator Bridget Fleming, has announced her candidacy for the open seat. Nancy Goroff, the 2020 Democratic nominee who lost a 56-44% race to Rep. Zeldin, confirms that she is considering returning for a second campaign. We can expect NY-1 to be a hotly contested open seat next year and will be at least a moderate Democratic conversion opportunity race.
Tom Reed – retirement
Rep. Reed (R-Corning) has already announced that he will not seek a seventh term, having taken a six-term limit when he first ran in 2010. With New York losing a seat in reapportionment and the 23rd having the lowest population figure according to the 2019 Census Bureau estimate, and the neighboring 22nd being the second lowest, chances are good that these two seats will be combined. If that happens, 22nd District Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) will likely run in this region. She can expect Republican primary competition, however, but the post-redistricting seat will likely heavily favor the GOP nominee in the general election.
Ted Budd – running for Senate
Rep. Budd (R-Advance) has already announced for the Senate where he faces an uphill challenge to win the Republican Senatorial nomination. His open 13th District that occupies much of the area between Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Charlotte, will certainly see significant change in redistricting. The seat is likely to remain heavily Republican, so the true open seat battle will come in the post redistricting Republican primary.
Steve Stivers – resigning May 16
Rep. Stivers (R-Columbus) has already announced that he is resigning from the House on May 16th to accept a position as President and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. The special election to replace the Congressman will occur with a partisan primary on August 3rd and the succeeding special general November 2nd. Four sitting Republican state legislators and one local official have already announced their congressional candidacies. The real battle will likely occur in the Republican primary. The eventual GOP nominee becomes a prohibitive favorite for the special general in a district ex-President Trump carried 56-42%.
Vacant – runoff election cycle
The special election to replace the late Congressman Ron Wright (R-Arlington) who succumbed to cancer and COVID in February is well underway. The special May 1st primary rather surprisingly yielded a double Republican runoff that will occur when Gov. Greg Abbott (R) schedules the vote after the canvass returns official results.
The Congressman’s widow, Susan Wright, faces freshman Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie) in the runoff election. Republicans are assured of holding the seat and redistricting will likely make this seat more to the GOP’s liking during the decade’s remaining years.
Kevin Brady – retirement
Texas US Rep. Brady (R-The Woodlands), the ranking Republican on the House Ways & Means Committee, announced in mid-April that he will not seek a 14th term in 2022. This opens the sixth safest Republican seat in the state (’20: Trump 71-28%) and we can expect a multi-candidate GOP primary when the Montgomery County anchored district is re-drawn. The eventual 2022 Republican nominee should be a lock to win the general election.