6/21 Recap & June House Update

Primary Recap

Virginia

In Virginia 2nd’s district, state Senator Jen Kiggans comfortably won the GOP nomination with 56% of the vote. She defeated three opponents running to her right, including Navy veteran Jarome Bell.

Her strongest district-wide margin came from Virginia Beach County, where she took 63%. She performed worst in Accomack County, which Bell carried by 12 points. Kiggans advances to the general election against Democrat Elaine Luria, a two-term incumbent whose Biden +2 district is now the nation’s median seat. Leans Republican (flip)

The 7th district yielded a far more interesting result. In a mild upset, Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega won the GOP nomination to face Democrat Abigail Spanberger in this Biden +7, Youngkin seat. PWC, which Vega carried 52-18, pulled her over the line amid a crowded field, enough for 29% of the vote district-wide.

Derrick Anderson finished second with 24%, running better than expected on the whole. Stafford native Crystal Vanuch finished fourth overall but unsurprisingly won her home county 38-21.

The biggest shock was the failure of state Senator Bryce Reeves, who lost out to Anderson and Vega in Spotsylvania, Culpeper, and Orange – all in his district. His showing was good enough for third place in the combined vote. Tossup

Districts 5 and 10, also on the Split Ticket watchlist, decided their nominees through the convention process. The 5th is only Trump +8, but that is far too red a partisanship for Democrats to overcome in this environment. Conservative incumbent Bob Good was easily renominated and should win handily in the fall. Safe Republican

The 10th is a Biden +18, McAuliffe +2 seat located in northern Virginia. Most of this territory has been represented by Democrat Jennifer Wexton since she unseated moderate Republican Barbara Comstock in 2018. NOVA is still more Republican down-ballot despite leftward trends, a reality that Glenn Youngkin proved in 2021.

GOP nominee Hung Cao, a decent candidate, is by no means favored to beat Wexton, whom we still expect to win by 5-8 points while outrunning McAuliffe’s baseline. This race moved onto our board earlier this year simply because it is the type of reach seat that Rs can make closer than expected under ideal conditions. Likely Democratic

Georgia

Three Republican House runoffs took place in the Peach State last night. Two of those races featured Trump-endorsed challengers, both of whom lost handily to conservative frontrunners. In one lower-profile race, an NRCC-backed rising star lost to a little-known attorney with stronger local support.

After statewide failures by David Perdue and Jody Hice last month, saying that Georgia Republicans don’t care much for the Trump endorsement would be an understatement. The former President’s most embarrassing House loss occurred in Georgia’s 10th district, a safe seat based around Athens, the southeastern Atlanta suburbs/exurbs, and the outlying rurals.

There, frontrunner Mike Collins demolished ex-Democrat Vernon Jones 75-25%. Collins had previously lost the 2014 runoff to Hice, who retired to run for Secretary of State. Trump had backed Jones to get him out of the primary against Governor Brian Kemp. Safe Republican

The other Trump-backed candidate, Jake Evans, lost a lopsided contest to favorite Rich McCormick in the 6th district, a suburban/exurban seat stretching north from Fulton and Cobb counties up to Cherokee and Forsyth. McCormick benefitted from residual name recognition from his narrow 2020 general election loss to Carolyn Bourdeaux in the old 7th district.

He also had a larger warchest than his opponent, equipping him with the necessary campaign infrastructure to dominate the airwaves. Furthermore, J. Miles Coleman of Sabato’s Crystal Ball cleverly characterized McCormick as “having campaigned like the incumbent”. Given the partisan lean of his open seat in this national environment, that still seems like a good strategy. Safe Republican

In the 2nd district, NRCC favorite Jeremy Hunt was beaten 51-49% by Thomasville resident Chris West. Hunt, a black American, won Muscogee County (Columbus) and performed well in the rural black-majority counties, but still came up short in the overall count.

West faces Sanford Bishop this fall, a parochial lawmaker accustomed to turning out blacks and generating crossover from whites. The former part of the equation is not in question with Raphael Warnock and Stacey Abrams at the top of the ticket, but the latter might be in doubt when one considers current political conditions and the decline of split-ticket voting.

Bishop almost lost to GOP challenger Mike Keown in 2010, and there’s reason to believe he will only post a single-digit victory this cycle too. Leans Democratic

Alabama

In Alabama, the “establishment” certainly carried the night. Former CoS to retiring Senator Richard Shelby, Katie Boyd Britt, defeated ex-Trump endorsee Congressman Mo Brooks in a 65-35% blowout.

The controversial Brooks had struggled to compete statewide in the initial vote, even in his Huntsville-based 5th district. Like McCormick, Britt didn’t have to augment her coalition much to win the runoff. She is poised to succeed comfortably this November, and should have a long Senate career thereafter. Safe Republican

The 5th district, currently held by Brooks, will also see a change of tone next year following its primary runoff. In that contest, Madison County Commission Chair Dale Strong beat Casey Wardynski, his right-wing challenger, 63-37%.

Compared to the acerbic Brooks, Strong seems like a more parochial, workhouse type void of statewide ambition. That could make him more like his future colleague Robert Aderholt, the Congressman from AL-04. Safe Republican

Ratings Changes

*Two Nevada changes were removed from this write-up following the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, which could have a greater-than-average impact in the pro-choice Silver State*

VA-02 Tossup to Leans R – In the Hampton Roads-based 2nd district, a Biden +2 seat, we now favor state Senator Jen Kiggans to defeat two-term Democrat Elaine Luria. The 2nd is the new median House district according to research conducted by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, so we would expect it to vote to the right of its baseline partisanship in a GOP environment. This is the type of seat that Republicans must win to take back the House, and Glenn Youngkin’s 10 point 2021 margin here suggests that any non-Trump Republican has the appeal in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake counties to do it.

GA-02 Likely D to Leans D – NRCC-recruit Jeremy Hunt’s runoff loss does not change our long-running plan to move Georgia’s 2nd district to Leans Democratic. Veteran Democrat Sanford Bishop survived a 2.5 point race in 2010, and could face a similarly-spirited challenge this cycle. Primary victor Chris West may be more extreme than Hunt in the rhetorical sense, but he probably has similarly low levels of appeal to traditionally-Democratic black voters in this district. The incumbent is still favored to win since Georgia’s black turnout is generally respectable in midterms, but probably only by mid-single digits if polarization limits his white crossover appeal in a district that became slightly redder post-redistricting.

RI-02 Likely D to Leans D – Since 2001, western Rhode Island has been represented by retiring Democrat James “Jim” Langevin. His open, Biden +14 seat will be more competitive than usual this year because of the strong GOP nominee: ex-Cranston Mayor Allan Fung. Republicans have generally been stuck at 42% of the vote in statewide races here, but the observed swing from 2016 President to 2018 Governor suggests that Fung could still outrun fundamentals in and around Cranston. Adding to his perceived strength is an uncertain Democratic primary and the wildcard WWC vote, which could behave awkwardly in a Republican environment if the nominee is someone like Seth Magaziner.

CT-05 Likely D to Leans D – Connecticut evaded the Republican grasp in 2010 and 2014 despite competitive races in the 5th district on both occasions, and it looks like that Democratic streak in the state’s northwest will hold up this cycle. At Biden +11, the 5th is a seat that history, fundraising, and partisanship currently suggest incumbent Democrat Jahana Hayes is favored to win. But former state Senator George Logan is a credible candidate who should be able to hold Hayes to a single-digit margin, so we feel most comfortable with a Leans Democratic rating.

NY-18 Leans D to Tossup – Hudson Valley ticket splitting has historically given Republicans a strong down-ballot foothold in this part of New York. The 18th started at Leans Democratic because of its Biden +8 partisan lean, but we now realize that that figure is an inadequate gauge of its partisanship in 2022. In 2018, for example, the 18th would have been Gillibrand +18/Molinaro +1. While we admit that much of that ticket splitting stemmed from disgraced Governor Andrew Cuomo’s upstate unpopularity and Marc Molinaro’s being a Dutchess County native, we still consider the divide instructive of why the GOP should not be underestimated here with the wind at its back. Tossup seems like the ideal rating for the developing race between Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and Assemblyman Colin Schmitt.

PA-10 Likely R to Safe R – This is a Trump +4 seat that simply does not belong on the board in a Biden midterm. A Freedom Caucus member like Scott Perry is not what the typical analyst would associate with a nominal swing district based around Harrisburg and York, but the incumbent has proved his electoral viability by turning back spirited challenges in both 2018 and 2020. National Democrats have shown no interest in this contest because they have three highly-vulnerable Pennsylvania districts to defend: the 7th, 8th, and 17th.

CA-40 Likely to Safe R – As of this writing, Republicans lead the combined vote share in the 40th district 59-41%. California Democrats tend to overperform primary baselines in general elections, but that margin is probably too big to overcome in terms of making the November truly race competitive. Congresswoman Young Kim, who represents a Biden +2 district accustomed to Orange County ticket splitting, probably will not be a top Democratic target in the fall. Because Kim could feasibly win by 15 points or more, Safe Republican seems like the proper rating.

CA-45 Tossup to Leans R – Another district with strong Orange County connections is the 45th, home to Kim’s Korean-American colleague Michelle Steel. While we initially viewed Steel as vulnerable in a similar vein as fellow Republicans Mike Garcia and David Valadao, the recent primary composition numbers in her Biden +6 seat suggest otherwise. As of this writing, Democrats trail the combined Republican share 57-43%. The Democratic candidate, Jay Chen, is a capable fundraiser who will almost certainly post a close performance in November, but those numbers suggest Steel has a better-than-even shot at winning. For now, Leans Republican is a more appropriate classification.

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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