Voices: Five places to watch in the 2022 midterms

·4-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

As we bear down on the final primaries of the year – to be held this week in New Hampshire, Delaware and Rhode Island – there are officially less than two months until this year’s midterm elections.

Most prognosticators say that Republicans are still favored to win back the House of Representatives. There’d be nothing unusual about that, given that three of the last four presidents – Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump – all saw their parties lose the House in their first midterms.

But the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v Jackson decision, which overturned Roe v Wade, has become a political albatross for Republicans, who have significantly underperformed in House special elections since then. Democrats still have huge hurdles to overcome as they try to preserve their perilously thin majority, but the picture is radically different than it was before the summer. Here are five places to watch two months from now.

Illinois’ 17th District: Democrats once considered Representative Cheri Bustos a phenomenon after she won a rural Trump district by double digits in both 2016 and 2018. But she barely hung on in 2020, also flopping as chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee when her party actually lost seats even as it won the presidency – and this time around, she’s retiring. Her putative successor, Democrat Eric Sorensen, is facing down Republican veteran Esther Joy King.

Thanks to redistricting, the 17th district now has a 4-point Democratic lean, according to FiveThirtyEight – but in a year where Republicans have the national advantage, they still stand a decent chance of flipping it. Last week, the Democrats’ House Majority PAC dropped a whopping $395,498 against King, according to California Target Book, but Republicans have been investing in the race since early on.

Kansas’ 3rd District: Former mixed martial artist Sharice Davids flipped this seat in the Blue Wave of 2018, in the process becoming one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress and the first openly lesbian member from Kansas. She held the seat in 2020 without losing much ground, though she ran slightly behind President Joe Biden.

But redistricting has shifted the seat’s partisan lean slightly in favor of Republicans — good news for Davids’ challenger, former Kansas GOP Chairwoman Amanda Adkins. In the wake of the spectacular defeat of a ballot measure that would have allowed state Republicans to restrict abortion, however, Davids will be hopeful that voters are fired up enough to propel her back to Washington.

Pennsylvania’s 8th District: Donald Trump won the district where Representative Matt Cartwright hopes to hang on, which makes it even more difficult for Democrats.

Cartwright is running in a rematch against Jim Bognet, whom he beat in 2020. Bognet has sought to paint the Democratic incumbent as a rubber stamp for Biden, while Cartwright has focused heavily on supporting labor unions. If Republicans can take this district, that’ll prove that they can still capture white working-class districts without Trump at the top of the ticket – and if Cartwright wins, he will prove that Democrats still have a case to make to what’s becoming a crucial segment of the GOP coalition. And with Democrats and Republicans both hoping that the race can boost their candidates for the state’s open governorship and Senate seat, expect plenty of money to start pouring in.

Texas’ 15th, 28th and 34th Districts: After Trump’s strong performance in the Rio Grande Valley in 2020, Republicans are running Latinas in all three of these Texas border districts. Progressives tried to knock off Representative Henry Cuellar of the 28th in the Democratic primary largely because of his opposition to abortion rights, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supported him and he narrowly won a runoff.

Republican Representative Mayra Flores pulled off a stunner when she won Texas’s 34th District in a special election after Democratic Representative Filemon Vela resigned early and the DCCC invested little in the seat. But Flores’s win came before the overturn of Roe v Wade. While many Catholic and evangelical Latinos alike – including many Democrats – are personally opposed to abortion, a survey from last month from Mi Familia Vota showed many oppose abortion restrictions, with 70 per cent saying it should be legal regardless of their personal beliefs.

Minnesota’s 2nd District: Josh Kraushaar of Axios has picked out this district as one to watch, and it’s hard to disagree. This is a classic suburban district just outside of the Twin Cities that Republicans would like to flip after losing because many voters found Trump repulsive.

Democratic Representative Angie Craig flipped it in 2018, trouncing Representative Erik Paulsen, but her margin shrank a little in 2020. However, her Republican opponent Tyler Kistner has struggled to walk a fine line since Dobbs; he has declared that abortion should be “left at the states to decide”, but also told a survey from Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life that he would support “incremental approach” bills to restrict abortion as part of “a strategic plan for creating a pro-life nation.”

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