Gonzales

Election analysis from Nathan L. Gonzales

Ratings Changes: 15 Races Shift Toward Democrats, 1 Toward Republicans
Democratic chances have improved beyond Pennsylvania

From left, Democrats Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Stephanie Murphy of Florida are looking more secure in their re-elections this fall, while, from right, Republicans Ted Budd and Mimi Walters may be more vulnerable. (Bill Clark/Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photos)

Less than eight months before Election Day, the midterm landscape is still taking shape. It’s still not clear whether Democrats will have a good night (and potentially fall short of a majority) or a historic night in the House that puts them well over the top. But mounting evidence nationally and at the district level points to a Democratic advantage in a growing number of seats.

Democratic prospects improved in a handful of seats in Pennsylvania, thanks to a new, court-ordered map. And the party’s successes in state and local elections over the last 14 months demonstrate a surge in Democratic voters, particularly in blue areas, that could be problematic for Republican candidates in the fall. GOP incumbents in districts Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 might be particularly susceptible to increased Democratic enthusiasm.

New Pennsylvania Map, New Pennsylvania House Ratings
Six races shift in Democrats’ direction, two in GOP’s favor

Under the new lines, Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick’s district shifted from one carried narrowly by President Donald Trump to one carried narrowly by Hillary Clinton. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

If you’ve been wondering what political handicapping is like in a redistricting cycle — or it’s been long enough for you to forget — the Pennsylvania Supreme Court offered a good reminder.

With newly drawn districts, misplaced incumbents and new district numbers, confusion is inevitable. But the bottom line for Pennsylvania is that Democrats had a half-dozen takeover opportunities with the old map and they have a half-dozen takeover opportunities with the new map, although they have a distinctly better chance at gaining those seats.

This Is Why Republicans Can’t Get Women Elected to Higher Office
GOP keeps throwing up roadblocks in front of credible candidates

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., speaks at the 2016 Republican National Convention in 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

I’m starting to wonder why any Republican woman would attempt to run for higher office.

Last year, GOP Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri all but announced her challenge to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill before getting the cold shoulder from GOP strategists in Washington and the Show Me State who preferred a candidate who wasn’t even hustling to get in the race.

Rating Change: Nolan Announcement Shifts Minnesota Open Seat to Toss-Up
But past results not good news for GOP

Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan has announced he is retiring. And that leaves Democrats vulnerable in Minnesota’s 8th District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan announced his retirement Friday, leaving Democrats with a vulnerable open seat to defend in a cycle when they need to gain 24 seats for a majority.

On one hand, the open seat looks like a gift to Republicans considering Donald Trump carried the district by nearly 16 points in 2016. Nolan is one of just 12 Democrats who represent a district that Trump carried in 2012, according to Daily Kos Elections, and won two close and expensive re-election races.

Rating Change: New Jersey Open Seat Shifts to Toss-Up
Trump carried Frelinghuysen’s 11th District by 1 point in 2016

House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen will retire at the end of his current term, leaving behind a competitive seat. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s retirement makes his 11th District of New Jersey even more vulnerable for his party. 

While the congressman had some of his own baggage — an employee at a local bank landed in hot water with her employer when the congressman alerted the CEO that she was a Democratic activist — and it was unclear whether he was ready for a difficult re-election fight, his family has been a staple of New Jersey politics for generations and Frelinghuysen outperformed Donald Trump in the district in 2016. 

Pennsylvania’s 7th: How Do You Rate a Race for a Seat That Doesn’t Exist?
Keystone State district lines likely to change with new map

Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Meehan announced his retirement under a cloud of sexual misconduct allegation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The deep, dark secret of political handicapping is that there isn’t a singular equation that can project the winner of each congressional race. It is helpful to know who is running and where they are running. But thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court throwing out the Republican-drawn congressional map and GOP incumbent Patrick Meehan’s retirement, we barely know anything about this year’s race in the 7th District.

On Thursday evening, Meehan finally announced his decision not to seek a fifth term after allegations of sexual misconduct with a former staffer and a futile attempt to explain away his conduct.

Rating Change: Special Election in Ohio’s 12th Likely to Get Closer
Enthusiasm advantage could give Democrats a shot at Tiberi’s seat

Former Rep. Pat Tiberi’s resignation to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable opened up Ohio’s 12 District for the first time since 2000. (Bill Clark/Roll Call file photo)

In a time of political uncertainty, there appears to be one constant: Special elections in Republican districts and states are neither boring nor safe. Right now, there’s no reason to believe the race in Ohio’s 12th District will be any different.

GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi’s resignation to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable opens up the central Ohio seat for the first time since 2000, when Republican Rep. John R. Kasich left Congress to run for president. The district hasn’t elected a Democrat since the early 1980s, but the minority party has demonstrated an enthusiasm advantage over the last year that could boost an unlikely candidate once again.

Rating Change: Meehan Seat More Vulnerable for GOP
Pennsylvania Republican faces sexual misconduct allegations

Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Meehan’s swing district is even more risk of a Democratic takeover, Nathan L. Gonzales writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican Rep. Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania is the latest lawmaker hit with allegations of sexual misconduct, putting his suburban Philadelphia seat at even more risk of a Democratic takeover.

GOP leadership removed Meehan from the House Ethics Committee within hours of the initial New York Times report that he used funds from his personal office to settle a sexual harassment complaint with a former member of his staff. The congressman has denied any wrongdoing.

Old Photos That Current Candidates Might Not Want You to See
A Throwback Thursday to four familiar faces

Nevada Republican Danny Tarkanian campaigns door to door with his daughters in Las Vegas in May 2010 in his ultimately unsuccessful race against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Since the internet has deemed Thursday the appropriate time to turn back the clock, I dug through Roll Call’s extensive photo archives for some old photos of current candidates who previously ran for another office. Not only is there a little more gray hair this time around, but it’s a good lesson in perseverance.

Back in 2006, Texas Republican Van Taylor received national attention as an Iraq War veteran running for Congress as the war was becoming increasingly unpopular. He lost in the blue wave to Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards. But Taylor was subsequently elected to the state Legislature and is now the prohibitive favorite for Texas’ 3rd District seat, which is open because Republican incumbent Sam Johnson is not seeking re-election.

Rating Update: Race for Issa’s Open Seat Remains a Toss-Up for Now
California’s 49th District rejected Trump in 2016

California Rep. Darrell Issa is not be seeking a tenth term. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A new day, a new Republican retirement, but a similar story. On Wednesday, GOP Rep. Darrell Issa announced he will not seek re-election to his Southern California district, leaving Republicans to defend another open seat that Hillary Clinton carried.

Similar to California’s 39th District, where GOP Rep. Ed Royce just announced his retirement, Issa’s 49th District has in recent history usually voted for Republican candidates but rejected Donald Trump for president in 2016. Voters there also nearly threw out Issa, who had become known for his Benghazi investigations.

Ratings Change: Open Seat Shifts California Race to Toss-Up
Rep. Ed Royce’s retirement gives Democrats a shot

California Rep. Ed Royce announced Monday he would not run for re-election. That gives Democrats an opportunity take over a seat without having to defeat an incumbent, Nathan L. Gonzales writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats have been targeting California’s 39th District ever since Hillary Clinton carried it over Donald Trump in the last presidential race. But Republican Rep. Ed Royce’s retirement announcement Monday gives them an opportunity to take over a seat without having to defeat an entrenched incumbent who had $3.5 million in his campaign account at the end of September.

The scope of the Democratic opportunity in Southern California depends on whether Clinton’s performance is the new normal (she carried the district 52 percent to 43 percent) or whether 2016 was an aberration. The 39th District could still be fundamentally Republican, considering 2012, when Mitt Romney carried it 51 percent to 47 percent and Republican Elizabeth Emken outperformed Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein 51 percent to 49 percent, even though she lost statewide by 25 points.

Rating Change: Virginia Senate Race Moves to Solid Democratic
GOP prospects dim in race against Tim Kaine

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine is looking like a solid bet for re-election, Nathan L. Gonzales writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Just a dozen years ago, Virginia sent two Republicans to the United States Senate. Now the GOP is at risk of losing its fifth consecutive Senate election.

In 2006, Democrat Jim Webb knocked off GOP Sen. George Allen 49.6 percent to 49.2 percent in the Democratic wave. Two years later, Democrat Mark Warner drubbed former GOP Gov. Jim Gilmore 65 percent to 34 percent to take over retiring Republican Sen. John W. Warner’s seat. In 2012, Democrat Tim Kaine defeated Allen 53 percent to 47 percent when Webb decided not to seek re-election. And in 2014, Warner appeared to be caught off guard during a Republican wave but still defeated Ed Gillespie 49 percent to 48 percent.

Ratings Change: Culberson’s Texas Seat Creeps Closer to Toss-Up
7th District shifts from Leans Republican to Tilts Republican

Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, doesn’t have the financial advantage typically held by incumbents. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Every cycle there is a member of Congress who fails to modernize his campaign and adapt to new challenges, whether it’s Florida’s John Mica last cycle or George Gekas of Pennsylvania from further back. Texas Republican John Culberson might be the newest addition to the club.

He was re-elected in 2016 with 56 percent in an uneventful race, but Hillary Clinton narrowly carried the district (49-47 percent), making Culberson one of 23 Republicans representing districts won by the Democratic presidential nominee, and a Democratic takeover target.

The Curious Case of the Club for Conservatives, Part Two
Club grows harder to track with new emails, names and addresses

A woman wears a sticker supporting Roy Moore during a ‘Women for Moore’ rally in support of Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Judge Roy Moore on Nov. 17 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Roy Moore suffered a historic defeat in Alabama, but it’s unclear whether a political action committee that formed to help his campaign will carry on the fight — and continue to do it in mysterious ways.

On Dec. 1, I published an article about the newly-formed Club for Conservatives PAC and a confusing web of fundraising screeds, mailing addresses, URLs and a mysterious treasurer who doesn’t appear to have an online profile despite averaging over 1,000 words in each request for money. Treasurer Brooke Pendley and other members of the Pendley family did not return emails, phone calls and Twitter messages when contacted for clarity about the group.

Ratings Change: Pennsylvania Seat More Vulnerable in Special Election
18th Districts shifts from Solid Republican to Likely Republican

Rep. Tim Murphy, center, R-Pa. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

While the dust has barely settled on Democrat Doug Jones’ historic victory in Alabama, the next special election is just three months away. Republicans normally wouldn’t have trouble winning a district like Pennsylvania’s 18th, considering Donald Trump carried it by nearly 20 points in 2016. But the 2017 slate of special elections demonstrated Republicans’ ability to turn every race into a struggle, even in favorable territory.

Earlier this fall, GOP Rep. Tim Murphy publicly admitted to having an extra-marital affair, text messages surfaced in which he urged his mistress to have an abortion and a separate memo that alleged a toxic work environment in his office went public. The congressman eventually resigned, effective Oct. 21.