House Democrats had a great election last year. They picked up 40 seats from Republicans and won the majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in nearly a decade.
Right now, both sides say data points to them having a strong election. Democrats’ House campaign arm is outraising Republicans’, and a key indicator of which party will control the majority, the generic ballot question, favors Democrats. Democrats also say they see signs of enthusiasm right now that mirror the ones that preceded the 2018 election. They think they can add to their majority. At the very least, it’s an uphill battle for Republicans to try to take it back.
But Republicans are intent on taking back seats they think should be rightfully theirs, in districts that Trump won by double digits. It’s those seats that make up the bulk of our list of House races most likely to flip parties in 2020. There are at least a dozen more competitive races across the country, and things could change because there are so many unknowns in the current political landscape.
Here are The Fix’s first rankings of which seats are most likely to change hands in 2020. No. 1 is the most likely to flip.
10. Georgia’s 7th (Republican held but will be OPEN in 2020). This seat outside Atlanta is ground zero for Democrats’ attempts to own suburban America. The once-conservative district is no longer majority-white, and even though it voted for Trump in 2016, a Democrat nearly won it last year — and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams did win there. After that close encounter, Rep. Rob Woodall (R) is retiring. His 2018 challenger, Carolyn Bourdeaux, has the most name recognition so far in a crowded Democratic primary.
9. Illinois’ 14th (Democratic held). Rep. Lauren Underwood’s (D) reelection is shaping up to be a test case for whether supporting an impeachment inquiry will cost vulnerable Democrats their jobs. She ran an impressive race to oust a long-term Republican congressman last year in this conservative-leaning suburban Chicago district. Now she is just one of two Democrats representing a district that voted for Trump to support the House’s impeachment inquiry. Half a dozen Republicans are running for the nomination to challenge her, so we’ll keep an eye on how this field shapes up.
8. New York’s 11th (Democratic held). There’s no question that Rep. Max Rose (D), an Afghanistan war veteran, is a talented campaigner, having unseated a Republican last year in a district Trump won by 10 points. Now he’s dropping the f-word in media interviews (which Democrats say is very Staten Island) and raising a lot of money, expecting a strong challenger himself. Leading that field — and with national Republicans cheering her on — is GOP Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, though big questions loom over that candidacy: How much of a hang-up is it that she said she regrets voting for Trump? And could felon and former GOP congressman Michael Grimm run, again? This race may come down to: Four years later, how do the blue-collar voters of Staten Island feel about the president?
7. Pennsylvania’s 10th (Republican held). Rep. Scott Perry (R) is on this list in large part because of redistricting, which moved the House Freedom Caucus member into a slightly more moderate district (though it still leans Republican). He narrowly won reelection last year. Democrats say they have a uniquely strong candidate, Eugene DePasquale, who proved he can win statewide (and in this district) in his successful 2016 campaign for state auditor.
6. Texas’s 23rd (Republican held but will be OPEN). Democrats’ top pickup opportunity comes in a seat they’ve long desired, this vast border district in Texas. They haven’t been able to knock out Rep. Will Hurd (R), but now they won’t have to. Hurd recently surprised everyone in politics by announcing his retirement, after criticizing Trump’s racist “go back” tweets. This majority-Hispanic district voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. It’s one of three remaining that Democrats haven’t picked up since. Among the three open seats in Texas that Democrats are trying to flip, thanks to GOP retirements, this is by far their best chance. Iraq War veteran Gina Ortiz Jones, who came close to beating Hurd last year, is the bold name in the primary.
5. New Mexico’s 2nd (Democratic held). Now we get to the group of newly Democratic-held seats that Republicans feel they should be able to wrest back. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D) won last year by meeting the rural district where it is (for example, airing an ad of her firing her gun). This is shaping up to be a rematch of 2018, with state Rep. Yvette Herrell running again — but with a potential twist: A former congressman who held this seat, Stevan Pearce, could get in, reports Cook Political.
4. New York’s 22nd (Democratic held). Was Rep. Anthony Brindisi’s (D) 2018 win, in a district Trump won by 15.5 points, a fluke or the manifestation of the realignment of political power in Upstate New York toward Democrats? The answer may come in 2020. Brindisi outperformed the Democratic governor here to knock off a Republican, but some argue it was in part because he was up against a weak incumbent. If that former congresswoman, Claudia Tenney, is the GOP nominee again, this seat could get less competitive, but for now it’s a top Republican pickup opportunity.
3. South Carolina’s 1st (Democratic held). Rep. Joe Cunningham (D) became the first Democrat to win this Charleston district in nearly 30 years by running on local issues. Also helpful to him was a nasty Republican primary in which, after a tweet from Trump, GOP voters ousted Rep. Mark Sanford in favor of a more pro-Trump choice. Republicans are excited about two Republicans running, state Rep. Nancy Mace and a local councilwoman, Kathy Landing. Trump won this district by 13 points, but like all the Democrats on this list, Cunningham is doing what he needs to make it a fight for Republicans. He has raised $1.3 million so far.
2. Oklahoma’s 5th (Democratic held). Political analysts say Rep. Kendra Horn’s (D) win in this Oklahoma City district was the one of the biggest surprises for Democrats in all of 2018. She is just the third woman Oklahoma has sent to Congress, ever. This is another district that Trump won by double digits (13.5 points) and another case in which Republicans like their potential nominees, such as state Sen. Stephanie Bice and entrepreneur Terry Neese.
1. Utah’s 4th (Democratic held). It’s a sign of what a good election Democrats had last year that Rep. Ben McAdams (D) won this seat in Utah, one of the most Republican states in the nation. The former mayor of Salt Lake County barely beat out former GOP congresswoman Mia Love in this suburban district Trump won by seven points. The Republican field is still shaping up to challenge him, but suffice it to say Republicans are putting a priority on recruiting candidates to take back this red district next year.
Correction: This post has been edited to more accurately convey why Rep. Will Hurd said he is retiring and that Rep. Ben McAdams was mayor of Salt Lake County, not the city.