House Round-up: 6/8

Introduction

Last night had its fair share of surprises, from runoffs in Mississippi to pathbreaking results in California. Since voters in 7 new states have chosen nominees for the House of Representatives, Split Ticket feels compelled to break down the key results as they currently stand. A series of important ratings changes will accompany this primary analysis.

California

*Results are incomplete as of this writing, so the numbers reported below are subject to change*

In the 3rd district, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley advanced to the general election against Democrat Kermit Jones. He bested Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, who finished third with 17%. This seat, located in the Gold Country, voted for Trump by 2 points in 2020. Republicans lead the combined primary vote 54-46% with 50% reporting, but the GOP margin should increase as the rest of the election day vote is tabulated. Most of the outstanding vote is also from Placer County, the primary Republican base in the seat. Safe Republican

Democrat Josh Harder appears set to face off against County Supervisor Tom Patti in the 9th, a Biden +13 district. Harder switched districts after long-time Congressman Jerry McNerney retired. With 62% in, the GOP leads 49.5 to 49.4% in terms of primary composition. Although it is probably being heavily-affected by low minority turnout, that close tally suggests that it is justified to have this San Joaquin County-based seat on the edge of the board. Likely Democratic

In the 13th, a majority-Hispanic Central Valley seat, Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray will face Republican businessman John Duarte in the general election. By primary composition, Democrats have a 52-48% lead with 66% of the vote reported. That tally could grow more favorable for the GOP as the remaining election day ballots are counted. This Biden +11 district could soon find itself in the Tossup column, but for now Split Ticket is keeping it in place because poor regional minority turnout is likely skewing primary results toward the Republicans. Gray has a record of outrunning the top of the ticket in Merced & Stanislaus counties, but Duarte is also a formidable candidate with an efficient fundraising apparatus and strong local connections. Leans Democratic

Kevin Mullin, Jackie Speier’s chosen successor, will advance to the general election as a favorite in the San Mateo County-based 15th district. Fellow Democrat David Canepa seems like his most probable opponent. Safe Democratic

In the nearby 16th district, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo will advance to the general election against Rishi Kumar. This will be a rematch of 2020, when Kumar took about 37% of the vote in a D vs. D race. Safe Democratic

The Fresno-based 21st district will probably be the scene of a race between veteran Democrat Jim Costa and Republican businessman Michael Maher. Maher was previously a candidate in the 22nd district special election, and enters the general election in this Biden +20 seat as a longshot. Safe Democratic

California’s old 22nd district also had a special election last night. Placeholder Republican Connie Conway is currently leading Democrat Lourin Hubbard 60-40%, outrunning the 2020 performances of both Trump and Devin Nunes. Combined GOP turnout in the first round was 67-33, so the drop in Republican vote share between the 1st and 2nd rounds appears rather small based on the numbers currently available. This district was abolished in redistricting, but it was originally rated Safe Republican.

The new 22nd district is home to Republican David Valadao, a traditional beneficiary of crossover support from otherwise-Democratic voters. Before breaking down this race, it should be noted that only 32% of the vote is reporting as of this writing – far from enough to make certain conclusions. Although Central Valley Hispanic turnout is typically low in primaries, the current 53-47% GOP composite lead should increase as the remaining 2/3rds of the vote are counted.

If Valadao wants to be in a strong position for November, Republicans will probably need to have a combined vote advantage of 15 points or more. (There was a 26 point leftward shift in the old seat in 2018) Our reasoning also assumes that Valadao ends up making the general election. Right-wing challenger Chris Mathys currently trails him just 26-19%. Had primary opposition to the incumbent been more concentrated, he would likely be in 3rd place right now.

Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas is a strong recruit who could very well win despite a poor national environment for his party, although it remains to be seen if poor fundraising will handicap him. Tossup

In Raul Ruiz’s 25th district, councilor Brian Hawkins seems like the most likely Republican to advance to the general election. Combined Democratic turnout is currently 60-40% with 61% of the vote reporting, though that advantage can be expected to shrink slightly as remaining votes are counted. Likely Democratic

Julia Brownley’s 26th district, based in Ventura County, is being targeted by the NRCC as a reach seat this year. Chances of victory for Matt Jacobs are fairly slim despite his credible campaign, but he could knock Democratic margins down from Biden’s +20 threshold to the realm of No Recall +14. Democrats currently lead the composite vote 55-42%, in line with our expectations. The old 26th was one of the seats where Republicans actually exceeded their combined primary vote in the general election, so Split Ticket feels comfortable keeping the new district at Likely Democratic.

The other top target for California Democrats is Mike Garcia’s 27th district, a seat that has evaded them twice under the old lines. To make the seat as hostile to the GOP as possible while still keeping it competitive, the Simi Valley was removed in redistricting. Had the new map been in place during the 2020 cycle, Congressman Garcia would have lost. Garcia’s opponent this year will once again be ex-Assemblywoman Christy Smith.

It should first be noted that if Garcia holds on, this is the year he would have the highest chance of doing so given the national environment. That said, the Democratic fundamentals of his redrawn seat could be enough to buck presumed political conditions altogether.

There is precedent for incumbents to lose in wave years that otherwise benefit their parties. In 2014, for instance, Republicans Lee Terry and Steve Southerland both lost Romney-won districts despite a national Democratic performance so abysmal that Dan Bongino was almost elected to Congress. Both of their failures had to do with personal flaws and campaign issues rather than redistricting, but the point still stands.

As of this writing, the Republican composite vote in the 27th is a little over 53%. That number will probably increase as the rest of the vote comes in, but a +/- 10 point advantage would still not be enough to bring Garcia completely out of the woods. Final results will be the only instructive metric for just how strong the November GOP vote can be estimated to be, so the ideal rating here remains Tossup.

A rematch seems set in the 34th district, pitting Congressman Jimmy Gomez against fellow Democrat David Kim once again. Koreatown is still in the new district, but large swathes of heavily-Hispanic Los Angeles were also added out east. Gomez should have no difficulty winning in November pursuant to the modifications. Safe Democratic

In the Los Angeles-based 37th district, where Congresswoman Karen Bass is retiring to run for Mayor, state Senator Sydney Kamlager appears to be a general election favorite. It is currently unclear which of the other Democrats, Jan Perry or Daniel Lee, will take the second place spot. Safe Democratic

Republicans currently have 60% of the combined vote in the 40th district, a marginal Biden seat predominately-based in Orange County. Congresswoman Young Kim advanced to the general election, where she will face Democrat Asif Mahmood. Conservative Greg Raths finished behind both candidates, quelling fears from Washington Republicans that he could threaten the incumbent. This is the type of district where ticket-splitting is a serious electoral factor that should be bolstered by Kim’s brand. There will be no ratings change here for now, but it would not be surprising if Republicans ended up holding this seat comfortably. Likely Republican

The 41st district was only Trump +1 in 2020 and was not originally on our board of competitive races. But Congressman Ken Calvert is now expected to have a serious race on his hands against self-funder Will Rollins. Republicans only have 48.3% of the combined vote as of this writing, so it may have been presumptuous to assume that the GOP would win by more than 15 points even if the final R share increases like we expect. Calvert is still favored to win comfortably once he gets his head into the game, but he will have to work harder for it than he initially expected. Safe Republican to Likely Republican

In the 42nd district, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia seems poised to advance to the general election in this safe seat. Congresspeople Lucille Roybal-Allard and Alan Lowenthal both retired to avoid a double-bunking. Results are far from finalized here, but Republican John Briscoe currently appears to be the most likely 2nd place contender.

The 45th district is a marginal Biden seat lying between Orange and Los Angeles counties. It is currently represented by Michelle Steel, a Republican who does not quite have the ticket-splitting record of someone like Kim or Valadao but still shouldn’t be counted out in a red wave. With roughly half of the vote cast, Republicans lead with around 59% of the combined vote. This is a race that will soon find itself at Leans Republican, even with a solid Democratic recruit like Jay Chen contesting it. Until we have more data on Vietnamese and Hispanic turnout, though, our rating remains the same. Tossup

Districts 47 and 49 are the other competitive Democratic-held seats that had closely-contested primaries last night. Both districts have similar Biden +11 partisanships, and both are viable SoCal targets for the GOP despite Leans Democratic ratings. In the 47th, perhaps the harder carry for Republicans of the two seats, Congresswoman Katie Porter will face off against former Huntington Beach Assemblyman Scott Baugh. Just south in the 48th, fellow Democrat Mike Levin is set to face Brian Maryott in a contentious rehashing of their 2020 matchup.

New Jersey

In the districts 3 and 4, establishment Republicans Bob Healey and Chris Smith defeated right-wing opponents Ian Smith and Mike Crispi. Healey advances to a Likely Democratic race against Andy Kim in his Biden +14 seat. Smith moves on to another safe reelection, putting him into position to become Dean of the House within the next few years. His relatively-weak 58-37% showing against Crispi can be primarily explained by redistricting, which added new parts of Ocean County into his seat while removing his native Hamilton Township in Middlesex.

The line appears to have failed in districts 5 and 11, where Republicans Frank Pallotta and Paul DeGroot are poised to advance to the November general election. Pallotta beat the Bergen line in 2020, but was not exactly expected to defeat frontrunner Nick De Gregorio this year. In terms of candidate quality and financial capability, both Pallotta and De Gregorio are on a level playing-field. The race against Josh Gottheimer in the new Biden +12 seat stays at Leans Democratic and is probably going to be the closest contest in the state by raw margin. District 11 also remains on the corner of the board at Likely Democratic, though it would be an exceedingly tougher seat to win for Republicans than the 5th.

In the 7th district, Tom Kean bested his right-wing challengers with 45% of the vote. His final figure was a bit lower than Split Ticket expected, but it does not generate any general election concern. (i.e. Jack Ciattarelli) For the same reasoning that we expressed in our Likely Republican ratings change, Tom Kean’s general election appeal against embattled incumbent Tom Malinowski is not expected to be dampened by his rightward shift in the primary. In his victory speech, Kean also seems to have wisely begun shifting his campaign’s directionality back toward the center.

Iowa

Iowa’s 3rd is an incredibly-marginal Trump seat that takes in Des Moines, its suburbs, and the surrounding southwestern rurals. The Republican nominee in this district is Polk County state Senator Zach Nunn, a candidate who should have no trouble generating downballot reversion for the GOP in and around the Hawkeye State’s central city. In 2020, Democratic Congresswoman Cindy Axne narrowly won with a plurality of the vote. She outperformed Biden in the rural hinterlands of the old 3rd, but underran expectations in Polk County itself. Districts like these are exactly the types of seats that Republicans stand to win if they take a comfortable House majority. Tossup to Leans Republican

Mississippi

In Mississippi, two Republican incumbents have been forced into runoffs that will occur on June 28th – less than three weeks from now.

The 3rd district, home to Michael Guest, was not really on anyone’s radar. Weapons instructor Michael Cassidy from Lauderdale County (Meridien) swept the counties along the Alabama border and held down Guest’s margins in and around his Rankin County (Brandon) base. His performance was good enough for a 48-47% lead going into the second round. It appears that Guest’s pro-January 6th commission vote had a much larger impact on the race than had been expected.

Results in the 4th district were less shocking. After all, congressman Palazzo has had numerous ethical problems over the years and was almost forced into a runoff in 2014. He took just 31.6% of the vote last night and seems like a definite underdog going into the 2nd round against Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell. Both of these seats are Safe Republican.

Montana

Former Congressman Ryan Zinke was given a bit of a scare in last night’s GOP primary for Montana’s new 1st district. Al Olszewski’s base in Flathead came in strong as early results trickled in, suggesting danger for the former Interior Secretary’s comeback bid. Missoula and Gallatin (Bozeman) ended up giving Zinke a renewed lead, but not by much. As of this writing, he appears to have secured the nomination by a slim 41-40% margin. Democratic nominee Monica Tranel is an excellent candidate, but contesting this Trump +6 seat in a Biden midterm seems like poor strategy. Safe Republican

My name is Harrison Lavelle and I am a political analyst studying at the College of New Jersey. As a co-founder and partner at Split Ticket, I coordinate our House coverage. I write about a variety of electoral topics and produce political maps. Besides elections, my hobbies include music, history, language, and fitness.

Contact me at @HWLavelleMaps or harrisonwlavelle1@gmail.com

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