Midterm Elections 2018 – Races to Watch

November 3, 2018 by TWN Staff

Arizona Senate (open)

Current polling: Kyrsten Sinema (D) 51, Martha McSally (R) 47 (CNN, 10/29)

Why this race matters: With control over the Senate at stake, this is a must win for Democrats. Kyrsten Sinema, the Blue Dog Representative from Tucson, is running against Martha McSally, the retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, in what has become one of the most fiercely contested races in the country. Sinema has gained significant traction in recent weeks highlighting McSally’s voting record on healthcare, attacking the Republican for voting to eliminate protections for individuals with preexisting conditions. With numerous polls coming out daily with either candidate in the lead, one thing is for sure – it’s going to be tight. 

Texas Senate

Incumbent: Ted Cruz (R)

Challenger: Beto O’Rourke (D)

Current polling: Ted Cruz (R) 50, Beto O’Rourke (D) 47, (Emerson, 10/30)

Why this race matters: Conventional wisdom (and polls) suggest that Cruz is going to win in Texas, where Democratic candidates face almost insurmountable hurdles statewide. However, this year Democrat Beto O’Rourke has mounted a credible challenge to Ted Cruz, bringing in unprecedented fundraising hauls despite his refusal to take corporate PAC money. On paper, the numbers are not in O’Rourke’s favor, but there is no denying that he has inspired voters in the Lone Star State, so this will be one to watch on Election Day, with a Republican statewide lock uncertain in 2020 and beyond.

Arizona’s 1st Congressional district

Incumbent: Tom O’Halleran (D)

Challenger: Wendy Rogers (R)

Current Polling: No recent polling data available

Why this race matters: One of the largest districts in the country, this rural northeastern Arizona district has a large Native American population and agriculture roots. Although the district voted for Trump in the 2016 election, Democrat Tom O’Halleran, the Blue Dog Rural Task Force Chair, works hard to represent this deeply rural district. Ranked “likely Democrat” by both the Cook Political Report and Rasmussen report, O’Halleran’s bona fides in the district rest on his frequent presence in all parts of the district listening to constituent concerns.

california’s 7th congressional district

Incumbent: Ami Bera (D)

Challenger: Andrew Grant (R)

Current Polling: No recent polling data available

Why this race matters: Ami Bera won this district in 2016 by a little more than 6,000 votes, in a district that has stayed close to the center. Now Republicans have nominated CEO and Trump supporter Andrew Grant to turn this seat red. If this seat flips, Democrats would be in big trouble in their quest to flip the House.

california’s 25th congressional district

Incumbent: Steve Knight (R) 

Challenger: Katie Hill (D)

Current Polling: Steve Knight (R) 48, Katie Hill (D) 44 (NY Times/Siena, 10/28)

Why this race matters: In this crucial California seat that Clinton won by nearly 7 points, Steve Knight has remained popular since his election in 2015. Katie Hill, a non-profit executive focused on affordable housing, is counting on anti-Trump sentiment to carry her over the finish line.

florida’s 6th congressional district (open)

Current Polling: No recent polling data available

Why this race matters: The seat of Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, Democrat Nancy Soderberg is running against Republican Michael Waltz in this deep red Florida district encompassing the Jacksonville suburbs to Daytona Beach. Flying under the radar, this race could be an early indicator of larger Democratic trends in majority white, suburban districts across the country.

florida’s 7th congressional district

Incumbent: Stephanie Murphy (D)

Challenger: Mike Miller (R)

Current Polling: Stephanie Murphy (D) 47, Mike Miller (R) 46 (St. Pete Polls, 8/30)

Why this race matters: Although Hillary Clinton carried this district by more than 7 points, minimal polling is available in this Orlando district. The first term Congresswoman has the cash advantage, but early polls show a tight race. Since the the 2016 nightclub shooting and the 2018 Parkland shooting, Stephanie has made gun control a central issue in her campaign, while also focusing strongly on education funding. This is a must-win for Democrats to have a shot at taking back the House.

illinois’s 12th congressional district

Incumbent: Mike Bost (R)

Challenger: Brendan Kelly (D)

Current polling: Mike Bost (R) 48, Brendan Kelly (D) 39 (NYT/Siena, 10/30)

Why this race matters: A former U.S. Navy officer and State’s Attorney, Kelly is known for filing suit against major pharmaceutical manufacturers for maximizing profits while deceiving patients about the dangers of certain prescribed opioids. Kelly has make the opioid issue a cornerstone of his campaign, and the issue seems to be resonating with voters. Kelly recently welcomed former Vice President Joe Biden out on the campaign trail, and despite public polling numbers, Democratic insiders continue to be upbeat about this race.

kansas’s 2nd congressional district (open)

Current polling: Paul Davis (D) 41, Steve Watkins (R) 37 (NYT/Siena, 10/30)

Why this race matters: In deep red Kansas, this race has emerged as a potential bright spot for Democrats. Despite Republicans spending against Davis early and often, Paul Davis has maintained a slight lead over his Republican opponent. While Davis was ultimately unsuccessful as the Democratic candidate in Kansas’ 2014 gubernatorial election, he won the vote in this district by 6 points. Democrats are increasingly bullish about Davis’ race, and it will definitely be one to watch on election night.

michigan’s 8th congressional district

Incumbent: Mike Bishop (R)

Challenger: Elissa Slotkin (D)

Current Polling: Mike Bishop (R) 48, Elissa Slotkin (D) 45 (Target-Insyght/MIRS, 10/17)

Why this race matters: In 2016, Mike Bishop won this blue-collar district in southern Michigan by a whopping 17%, with Trump winning by a 6.7% margin. A solid republican district, New Democrat-endorsed candidate Elissa Slotkin has closed the gap. If this seat flips, it will demonstrate Democrats’ ability to win back some of the Obama-Trump voters in the Rust Belt.

minnesota’s 7th congressional district

Incumbent: Collin Peterson (D)

Challenger: Dave Hughes (R)

Current Polling: No recent polling data available

Why this race matters: This Republican-leaning district is decidedly pro-Trump, but Collin Peterson has effectively represented his constituents’ interests since 1991. Agriculture is the top issue with voters and as the Ranking member for the House Agriculture Committee, Peterson knows the issues and what his folks care about. Peterson won by only 5% in 2016, so this seat a must-win for Democrats.

north carolina’s 9th congressional district (open)

Current polling: Mark Harris (R) 45, Dan McCready (D) 44 (NYT/Siena, 10/30)

Why this race matters: In May, McCready celebrated an overwhelming victory in the North Carolina 9th District primary, earning more votes than every Republican candidate combined. The enthusiasm in this area of the state is palpable, and McCready’s race, which was rated “safe Republican” a year ago, has been upgraded three separate times to a “toss up.” There’s just something about this Marine Corps veteran that voters seem to identify with, and his significant fundraising hauls have allowed him to stay up on the airwaves.

new jersey’s 11th congressional district (open)

Current polling: Mikie Sherrill (D) 49, Jay Webber (R) 38 (NYT/Siena, 10/17)

Why this race matters: Sherrill, a woman whose star is quickly rising among her fellow Democrats, made waves earlier this year when she brought in a massive fundraising haul of nearly $1.9 million in the second quarter. The Naval Academy graduate, Navy Pilot and former federal prosecutor has the profile that will very likely put her over the top in this Congressional District, bringing the Democrats one step closer to winning the seats they need to take back control of the House.

new mexico’s 2nd congressional district (open)

Current polling: Xochitl Torres Small (D) 45, Yvette Herrell (R) 44 (NYT/Siena, 10/23)

Why this race matters: All eyes have been on this high profile race as Democrat Xochitl Torres Small battles it out with Republican Yvette Herrell to represent New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. The margin in this race is razor thin, with the most recent New York Times poll showing Torres Small at 46% over Herrell’s 45%. This race will come down to the wire, but Torres Small’s significant cash advantage should give her a boost in this GOP-leaning district that has been held by the Republicans since 2011.

new york’s 22nd congressional district

Incumbent: Claudia Tenney (R)

Challenger: Anthony Brindisi (D)

Current polling: Anthony Brindisi (D) 46, Claudia Tenney (R) 45 (Siena, 10/18)

Why this race matters: Known as a bipartisan consensus builder as a state legislator in the New York State Assembly, Brindisi has continued to be re-elected to his post with strong support across the political spectrum. In 2016, Donald Trump received 57% of the vote in Brindisi’s Assembly District, yet Brindisi bested Trump’s vote total by nearly 9,000 votes. A top pick up opportunity for Democrats, Brindisi continues to maintain a slight lead over incumbent Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney. Watch this East Coast race at the beginning of the night as an indicator of things to come.

pennsylvania’s 10th congressional district

Incumbent: Scott Perry (R)

Challenger: George Scott (D)

Current polling: Scott Perry (R) 45, George Scott (D) 43 (NYT/Siena, 10/26)

Why this race matters: Watch Scott to see what’s happening in Pennsylvania. This is a candidate whose strong bio has moved the needle with independent voters. Scott served in the U.S. Army for 20 years, deploying for Operations Just Cause, Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom, and retiring as a lieutenant colonel after commanding a battalion of 1,800 soldiers. Recent polling suggests this race is tightening, and we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Scott take this one back for the Democrats.

texas’s 7th congressional district

Incumbent: John Culberson (R)

Challenger: Lizzie Fletcher (D)

Current Polling: John Culberson (R) 46, Lizzie Fletcher 45 (NY Times/Siena, 10/25)

Why this race matters: First elected in this deep red Texas district in 2000, John Culberson has been a solid Republican throughout his tenure in the House. A wealthy and educated district that voted for Clinton by just 1 point, this is the kind of district Democrats want to flip as a reflection on Trump. Lizzie Fletcher, a political newcomer with the fundraising advantage, is a corporate attorney trying to win over anti-Trump Republicans with a focus on healthcare and the response to Hurricane Harvey.

utah’s 4th congressional district

Incumbent: Mia Love (R)

Challenger: Ben McAdams (D)

Current polling: Ben McAdams (D) 45, Mia Love (R) 45 (NYT/Siena, 10/26)

Why this race matters: Utah’s 4th Congressional District is typically considered safe territory for Republicans, but the perfect storm may be brewing for Democrat Ben McAdams to oust Republican incumbent Mia Love. McAdams is the twice-elected mayor of Salt Lake County, which makes up 85% of the district, and has become locally popular for his record of working across party lines to get things done. Add to McAdams’ popularity the fact that Trump holds a –37 point net negative job approval rating in the district and this ruby red district may very well turn blue.

virginia’s 7th congressional district

Incumbent: Dave Brat (R)

Challenger: Abigail Spanberger (D)

Current polling: Abigail Spanberger (D) 46, Dave Brat (R) 45 (Christopher Newport Univ., 10/27) 

Why this race matters: In the year of the woman, Spanberger has emerged as a star among stars. Spanberger, who is challenging Rep. Dave Brat in Virginia’s traditionally Republican 7th Congressional District, which has been held by that party for nearly 50 years. A former CIA officer, Spanberger has the profile and the cash – she brought in a whopping $3.6 million in the last quarter alone – to bring home a win on Tuesday. 

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