In 2018, Democrats picked up key seats — many in suburban areas — that helped flip the House from Republican control to a Democratic majority. Democrats are expected to continue that trend this year.
“All around the country you see this enthusiasm,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday on MSNBC. “We feel very confident. I know that we will win the House and increase our numbers, even though the President is saying the Republicans are going to win the House.”
Democrats hold a 232-to-197 majority over Republicans. While Republicans are targeting freshman Democrats who were elected during the 2018 midterms, Democrats are also trying to flip key Republican strongholds, as the election remains close at the top of the ticket in the race between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.
Here are some other things to watch for Tuesday’s election:
More women could ascend to Congress
The 2018 midterms sent a historic number of women to the House. The more than 100 women who served in the 116th Congress marked the largest number of women serving in the House in U.S. history, making up nearly a quarter of its membership.
Nearly all of those gains were made by Democrats.
Republicans this cycle have aimed to break their own records. More than 200 GOP women filed to run this election and about 100 will face off against a Democratic challengers after winning primaries, a huge jump from the 52 female candidates Republicans had in the 2018 cycle.
But while the number of women on the ticket marked big strides, Republicans aren’t expected to see many gains in the House due, in part due to Trump’s own struggling poll numbers amid the COVID-19 pandemic and racial tensions that boiled over this summer.
Key House districts that flipped in 2018 among those to watch Tuesday
New Jersey’s 2nd congressional district: Rep. Jeff Van Drew has arguably one of the most fascinating House races of this cycle. A freshman, the now-Republican representing New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional district is in a tight race against Democrat Amy Kennedy, whose family is a political dynasty.
Van Drew gained widespread notoriety after switching from the Democratic party to join Republicans during Trump’s impeachment trial. The move was jarring given Van Drew helped flip the district, which Trump won by nearly 5 points, over to Democrats.
His switch garnered praise from Trump, who invited him to the White House where Van Drew promised Trump his “undying support.”
The story behind Van Drew’s decision:Here’s how partisan wrath over Trump’s impeachment changed the future of 2 lawmakers
North Carolina’s 11th congressional district: Madison Cawthorn, the young conservative who pulled off an upset in the race for Mark Meadows’ House seat in June, will face Democrat Moe Davis.
Cawthorn, who was in a car accident as a teenager that left him paralyzed from the waist down, has said his injury inspired him to enter politics. If elected, Cawthorn would become the youngest member in Congress, a title currently held by Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Cawthorn’s primary win was considered an upset, because Trump and Meadows endorsed another candidate. The seat became open after Meadows left to become Trump’s chief of staff.
Who is Madison Cawthorn?:RNC speaker would be youngest member of Congress if he wins in November
New York’s 16th congressional district: Progressive newcomer Jamaal Bowman is expected to sail to victory Tuesday after stunning the country by defeating Rep. Eliot Engel, a powerful House committee chair who served decades in Congress.
Since his primary win this summer, Bowman has become a vocal advocate for the progressive agenda and is likely to become a prominent voice in the House should he win Tuesday.
Engel’s defeat at the hands of a progressive Black man came at a moment when racial justice is at the forefront of the national conversation. It also came as progressives were looking for a win after the disappointment of Sen. Bernie Sanders again losing his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Minnesota’s 7th congressional district: Rep. Collin Peterson is facing the toughest race of his three-decade career in Congress as he attempts to fend of Republican Michelle Fischbach in Minnesota’s deep-red 7th Congressional district.
Peterson, who was first elected in the House in 1990, has seen his district move more and more to the right during his time in Congress. He was one of the only Democrats to vote against impeaching Trump, who won his district by 30 points in 2016.
Peterson chairs the House Agriculture Committee, an important panel for his agriculturally rich district, but it’s unclear whether he will be able to fend off Fischbach, the state’s former lieutenant governor.
California’s 21st congressional district: Rep. TJ Cox, the freshman Democrat elected to California’s 21st congressional district, is set for a rematch against Republican David Valadao.
The pair went head-to-head in 2018 and Cox came out on top, defeating Valadao by 862 votes. Cox will be facing Valadao in the aftermath of multiple scandals over business dealings and unpaid federal taxes.
The district was won by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton by double-digit margins.
New York’s 11th congressional district: Rep. Max Rose is facing a bitter race against Republican Nicole Malliotakis — a campaign that has included an assortment of cursing, accusations of lying and name dropping of New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio, who is unpopular in the district.
Rose, a freshman Democrat who represents New York’s 11th congressional district, is neck-and-neck with Malliotakis, a state Assemblywoman, in an area Trump won by 10 points.
New Mexico’s 2nd congressional district: Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, the freshman Democrat representing New Mexico’s 2nd congressional district, is in a close race against Republican Yvette Herrell.
Torres Small, one of many moderates facing tough re-election prospects, faced Herrell in 2018 and came out on top by about 2 percent points.
The district, which covers a huge swath of land and includes about 600,000 residents, sits along the U.S.-Mexico border and was won by Trump in 2016 by 10 points.
Georgia’s 14th congressional district: Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right GOP candidate with ties to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, is set to win her race Tuesday after the Democratic challenger left the race.
Georgia’s 14th congressional district is solidly Republican. The seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Tom Graves, who announced last year that he would not seek reelection.
Greene beat neurosurgeon John Cowan in the primary runoff despite several GOP officials denouncing her. Her Democratic rival, Kevin Van Ausdal, pulled out of the race in September, assuring Greene a victory.
Greene made headlines for her incendiary Islamophobic and anti-Semitic comments, as well as for claims that Black people aren’t discriminated against.
Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District: Freshman Rep. Kendra Horn is neck-and-neck in her race against off Republican challenger Stephanie Bice for control of Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District.
Horn, another prominent moderate, helped Democrats take control of the district for the first time in nearly 50 years in an area that Trump won by about 13 points.
Texas districts that could go blue: A number of Republican-held districts are up for grabs this cycle after incumbents announced they would retire, potentially allowing Democrats to pick up additional seats in Texas — which some analysts are forecasting could potentially shift to Democratic control.
Among the Texas districts up for grabs are the 23rd Congressional District currently held by Republican Rep. Will Hurd, a key moderate who is retiring. The district, which sits near the U.S.-Mexico border was won by Hillary Clinton by four points in 2016. Republican Tony Gonzalez is hoping to keep conservative control of the district by fending off Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, who narrowly lost to Hurd in 2018. This race has been rated as leaning Democratic by The Cook Political Report.
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Two other districts could be potential pickups for Democrats. Republican Rep. Kenny Marchant is retiring from Texas’ 24th Congressional district and Democrat Candace Valenzuela is aiming to best Republican Beth Van Duyne. This race has been rated as leaning Democratic by The Cook Political Report.
In Texas’ 22nd Congressional District, Republican Troy Nehls is attempting to keep the Houston suburban district in the GOP’s hands and fend off Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni after Rep. Pete Olsen announce he was retiring. Kulkarni came within reach of beating Olsen in 2018. This race has been rated a Republican toss up by The Cook Political Report.
One other race has gotten a lot of attention: Rep. Chip Roy’s campaign to keep the 21st Congressional District in the GOP’s hands. He is working to fend off Democrat and former state Sen. Wendy Davis in the district, which spans from Austin to San Antonio. This race has been rated a Republican toss up by The Cook Political Report.
Suburban surprises could be on tap again after shifts in 2016
The suburbs have historically leaned Republican. But after the 2018 midterms, Democrats are solidifying the gains they made in some suburban districts, and even expected to pick up some new seats in similar areas.
These races could continue a trend and might spell good news for Democrats not only in this election, but future ones if they continue to expand the map in the suburbs.
For example, Democrat Candace Valenzuela is one Democrat that could likely flip a Republican the Republican seat in Texas’ 24th congressional district located in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs. Democrat Sri Kulkarni in Texas’ 22nd congressional district, located in the suburbs of Houston, is also locked in a close battle where he could flip that typically Republican seat. Those are just two of possibly five seats that Democrats can pick up in the suburbs of Dallas and Houston.
In the midwest, GOP incumbent Rep. Don Bacon is locked in a tight battle with Democrat Kara Eastman. And Democrats are hoping they can pick up that seat.
Even in the typically Republican stronghold of Arkansas, Democrats are hoping to flip the state’s suburban 2nd congressional district. Republican Rep. French Hill, the incumbent, is in a tight battle with Democrat state senator Joyce Elliott. Cook Political Report on Monday changed their rating of the race from “Lean Republican” to “toss up,” meaning it could go for either candidate.