One key sign of strength in their strategy came in the special election for a state legislative seat outside Houston, where a Democrat gained the most votes and heads into a runoff election as a possible favorite. This comes in a region where early last decade a GOP enforcer, then-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), carved up the state’s map to bolster the Republican majority on Capitol Hill, only to now see that terrain slip away.
“This ain’t Tom DeLay’s Fort Bend County anymore. Fort Bend is blue. Tonight’s result is yet another indicator that Texans are demanding change and Texas Democrats are poised to do big things in 2020,” Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a statement.
Democrats are targeting six Texas congressional districts where the Republican incumbent won in 2018 with a margin of fewer than five percentage points, including the seat once held by DeLay, the former House majority leader, in the Houston suburbs. Any additional gains in Texas will serve as a buffer against the expected losses in some of the 31 districts that Democrats now hold where Trump won in 2016. The party is bracing for some defeats with the president back on the top of the ticket.
Another sigh of relief for Pelosi’s allies came in Kentucky, where the very unpopular Republican governor, Matt Bevin, tried to turn his reelection bid into a referendum on the House impeachment inquiry.
Trump campaigned for Bevin and urged Kentucky voters to rally against impeachment, but while Bevin closed a big gap, he still appears to have lost to state Attorney General Andy Beshear. That defeat will help stiffen the spines of some nervous Democrats who fear the impeachment effort, into Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to launch investigations helping his 2020 campaign, is imperiling their majority.
Indeed, during a Tuesday evening conference call convened by Pelosi, House Democrats reviewed the latest news on impeachment and spent most of their time discussing updates on a proposed new North American trade deal.
Even before the results were in, Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) told her Democratic colleagues that in her swing district she had received overwhelming support since coming out in support of the impeachment inquiry, according to Democrats familiar with the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly.
The Virginia elections, Luria told her colleagues, would serve as a referendum on Trump and their impeachment strategy.
A few hours later, Luria’s Virginia Beach region delivered for Democrats and helped them claim the majority in both the state Senate and House of Delegates, giving the party full power in Richmond for the first time since the early 1990s.
More importantly for Pelosi, Democrats now control the redrawing of district lines in the Old Dominion. Just four years ago, the state sent eight Republicans and three Democrats to the U.S. House, a margin that has flipped to seven Democrats and four Republicans.
Virginia Democrats now expect to be able to draw the districts, in 2021, in a manner that will fortify those seven seats, with a possible eighth seat competitive for Democrats.
Republicans found a silver lining in their otherwise successful campaigns for other statewide offices in Kentucky, where GOP candidates won by large margins, and the Mississippi governor’s race, which was thought to be competitive but turned into a comfortable Republican victory.
“An amazing sign of strength for Republican governance in Kentucky,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.
McConnell, up for reelection next year, is going to face a well-funded challenger because he is so despised by the left. And polls show that his national stature has had the reverse effect back home, making him less popular with independent voters.
But Trump remains very popular in a state he won by 30 percentage points in 2016, where impeachment is opposed by a huge majority, and McConnell’s path to winning is clear: Do not anger as many constituencies as Bevin did, and remind eastern Kentucky voters how much federal pork he has delivered to a region where the GOP governor underperformed.
Still, “Team Mitch” was alarmed by results across the nation and wondered what it meant for Trump’s own election chances and the long-term stability of the Republican majority in the Senate.
“GOP should be most concerned about what happened in local elections in Chester, Delaware and Bucks County, PA last night. That is genuinely alarming if you know the voting history,” Josh Holmes, one of McConnell’s closest advisers, tweeted.
Neighboring Montgomery County, which flipped to Democrats in 2011, delivered another overwhelming 2-to-1 margin of victory for incumbent Democrats.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) is the only GOP lawmaker left in the Philadelphia suburbs. He and his brother have won six of the last eight races for this seat, but Bucks County swung left in every countywide race Tuesday.
Again, they were not on the ballot Tuesday, but Pelosi’s Democrats feel like their strategy was validated.
“Congressman Fitzpatrick is vulnerable, and the district is trending in Democrats’ favor,” said Courtney Rice, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.