Fate of ‘national security Democrats’ provides key to House majority

GOP hopes for impeachment backlash; these races tell a different story

From left, Democratic Reps. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan pose for a selfie taken by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania in February 2019 after group photo of House Democrats wearing white at the State of the Union address to promote women's issues. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
From left, Democratic Reps. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan pose for a selfie taken by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania in February 2019 after group photo of House Democrats wearing white at the State of the Union address to promote women's issues. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 28, 2020 at 1:01pm

Four months ago, seven freshmen Democrats accelerated the impeachment process with an op-ed in The Washington Post. With less than a year before Election Day, their electoral fates are a microcosm of Republicans’ challenge to win back the House majority.

For much of the impeachment discussion and process, Republicans have been emboldened. They believe Democrats will be held accountable for the time spent investigating President Donald Trump and experience a backlash similar to the one Republicans faced in the late 1990s when President Bill Clinton was impeached.

While the national narrative paints one scenario, an individual look at each race reveals a difficult road ahead for Republicans. The seven “national security Democrats” all represent districts recently represented by Republicans. All were elected in 2018 — four of them in districts Trump carried and three in districts Hillary Clinton carried — with 53 percent or less of the vote.

Not only have the seven Democrats not shied away from impeachment, one of the freshman, Colorado’s Jason Crow, is one of the seven House impeachment managers.

Based on the partisanship of the districts now, the national political environment, along with the strength of the incumbents and challengers, the outlook is not good for the GOP. The best case scenario for Republicans, at this stage, is knocking off two or three of these incumbents out of seven. It’s also plausible that they are shut out — with no wins out of the seven races.

They are not all “must wins” for Republicans, but since they were part of the previous majority, Republicans will have to find other seats to win around the country if they don’t win enough of these seven. And the story in many of these races is similar, where Republican candidates are getting lapped by Democrats in fundraising.

Here’s a look at each race:

Gil Cisneros (California’s 39th District): The good news for Republicans is that former state Assemblywoman Young Kim kept pace with the incumbent in cash on hand through Sept. 30 ($658,000 for the incumbent to $638,000 for Kim). The bad news is that Cisneros is a lottery winner with personal money to spend and Clinton won the San Gabriel Valley/northern Orange County district with 52% in 2016, and there’s little evidence the district has shifted away from Democrats. Kim came within 2 percentage points in 2018, but it’s still a tough environment. Current rating: Likely Democratic.

Jason Crow (Colorado’s 6th District): Less than a year into his first term, the congressman was chosen as one of the impeachment managers. Crow represents a previously competitive district in the Aurora area but Clinton’s 50% win in 2016, Crow’s 10-point victory in 2018 and the lack of a credible challenger in 2020 fuels Democratic confidence that impeachment won’t be a liability. Crow had $1.1 million in the bank on Sept. 30 while the next closest Republican candidate had $191,000. Current rating: Solid Democratic.

Chrissy Houlahan (Pennsylvania’s 6th District): Mid-decade redistricting solidified the district’s turn from competitive to Democratic. Clinton would have received 53% in 2016. In addition, the congresswoman had $1.8 million in her campaign account at the end of September compared to $133,000 for Republican John Emmons. Current rating: Solid Democratic.

Elaine Luria (Virginia’s 2nd District): Republicans believe they’re got a top-tier challenger with former GOP Rep. Scott Taylor in the Virginia Beach district that Trump won with 49%. Taylor lost to Luria by 2 points in 2018 and started the cycle running against Democratic Sen. Mark Warner. After switching races a few weeks ago, Taylor is playing catch-up to Luria in fundraising. On Sept. 30, she had $1.1 million while he had $167,000 in his Senate account that could be transferred. Current rating: Lean Democratic.

Mikie Sherrill (New Jersey’s 11th District): Sherrill took over a Morris County-area seat that had been in Republican hands for generations, and the GOP will have a hard time winning it back in 2020. Trump won it with 49 percent in 2016. The congresswoman is one of Democrats’ best fundraisers and she had $1.7 million on hand on Sept. 30. Republican Rosemary Becchi, who recently switched from the 7th District race to run here, had $267,000 at the end of September. Current rating: Likely Democratic.

Elissa Slotkin (Michigan’s 8th District): The Republican National Committee tried to pressure the congresswoman into rejecting an impeachment inquiry, and Trump won the Lansing/exurban Detroit district with 51% in 2016, but defeating Slotkin won’t be easy. She raised a considerable $1.27 million in the last three months of the year and finished 2019 with $2.8 million in the bank. Republican state board of education member Nikki Snyder, who is supposed to be Slotkin’s top challenger, entered the race in early October and is playing catch up in fundraising. Current rating. Lean Democratic.

Abigail Spanberger (Virginia’s 7th District): The top tier GOP challengers only recently entered the race while Spanberger had $1.5 million in her campaign account on Sept. 30. Trump won the suburban Richmond district by 7 points in 2016, but state Delegates Nick Freitas and John McGuire won’t likely be able to ramp up their fundraising until Republicans select a nominee in the spring. Non-profit co-founder/director Tina Ramirez has been running since April and had $52,000 at the end of September. Current rating: Tilt Democratic.

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