8/2 House Primary Watchlist

Introduction

For the first time since June, Split Ticket will be providing full coverage of a nationwide primary date. This week’s races will occur across five states: Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington. Most of the attention thus far has been directed at competitive Republican primaries for Senate and Governor, but there is plenty of action on the House side that is also worth watching. As usual, we will offer predictions for each contest.

Arizona

Arizona’s 1st district (Biden +1.4) is located in northeastern Maricopa County, just outside of Phoenix. At its southern extent, the seat encompasses Democratic shell-communities like Scottsdale. Further north, it contains Republican-leaning suburbs such as Paradise Valley and Fountain Hills.

For more than a decade, this territory has been represented by Republican David Schweikert, an incumbent who won difficult elections in 2018 and 2020 despite ethical controversies. Schweikert’s new district is bluer than its 2012 iteration, but the GOP is still favored to win it because of the political environment.

It should be no surprise, then, that the 1st district’s Republican primary has drawn more attention than has its general election. In that contest, Schweikert faces outsider businessman Elijah Norton, a self-funder who outraised him 4:1. Norton has run a change-oriented campaign focused primarily on accusations of corruption levied against the Trump-endorsed Schweikert.

Schweikert is favored to win, but Norton has invested too much money in this race to be ignored completely. Likely Schweikert allows for the possibility of a better-than-expected performance by the challenger while making clear that the incumbent is favored. The Democratic nominee will probably be Jevin Hodge, a former County Supervisor candidate. Arizona’s 1st is currently rated Leans Republican.

Arizona’s 2nd district (Trump +7.9) takes in most of northeastern Arizona, including the Navajo & Hopi Reservations, Prescott, and Flagstaff. This seat also stretches into southern Maricopa County like its predecessor. Republicans benefitted from redistricting in the 2nd, which now includes all of Yavapai County.

That modification reduced the voting power of neighboring Coconino County, making three-term Congressman Tom O’Halleran one of the most endangered incumbent Democrats nationwide. Two Republicans have gotten the bulk of the attention in the GOP primary as of this writing: state Rep. Walter Blackman and former Navy SEAL Eli Crane.

Crane has received the Trump endorsement and has outraised Blackman by about $1 million. But Blackman’s legislative connections have united the Republican leadership in the State House behind his congressional campaign. Blackman also has stronger territorial association with the district, though that might not matter much on its own. He represents Flagstaff, Payson, and Snowflake, whereas Crane lives outside the 2nd.

A third candidate, business consultant Mark DeLuzio, has a formidable warchest and finished third in a July Moore Information Group poll that showed Crane narrowly leading the rest of the field. Split Ticket expects a close primary in this district, but feels compelled to say Leans Blackman. The general election is currently rated Likely Republican (flip).

Arizona’s 4th district (Biden +10.2) includes Tempe, Mesa, and Chandler. The redrawn seat is redder than its predecessor because it exchanged Scottsdale for Republican turf currently situated in Andy Biggs’s 5th.

Incumbent Democrat Greg Stanton, a former Mayor of Phoenix, is a Republican target this year because of the national environment. The 4th is currently rated Leans Democratic, but a flip would not be inconceivable.

The GOP’s primary battle in this district is taking place between ex-McSally staffer Tanya Wheeless and restaurant owner Kelly Cooper. Wheeless is supported by Elise Stefanik and Maggie’s List, while Cooper is backed by organizations like Gun Owners of America and the Republican Liberty Caucus. The two have raised nearly $2 million combined.

Other candidates include Councilwoman Rene Lopez, retired football player Jerone Davison, and businessman Dave Giles. Though he has struggled to fundraise, Giles was the nominee for the old 9th district in 2016 and 2020. It will be interesting to see if residual name recognition helps him at all in the primary. Leans Wheeless

Arizona’s 6th district (Biden +0.1) is predominantly based in Pima County in and around the city of Tucson. Incumbent Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick is retiring this cycle after three non-consecutive stints in the House. Largely because of that opening, Republicans are now favored to flip the 6th in a fall race that Split Ticket rates Leans Republican (flip).

The frontrunner for the GOP nomination is Juan Ciscomani, a former advisor to Governor Doug Ducey. His most visible opponents have been Brandon Martin, AZ-02 GOP nominee in 2018 and 2020, and former TV reporter Kathleen Winn. The Congressional Leadership Fund has spent for Ciscomani, one of Kevin McCarthy’s endorsees.

On the Democratic side, state Rep. Daniel Hernandez Jr. is running against former state Senator Kirsten Engel. Because the 6th is still competitive, national Democrats have watched this primary carefully. Engel has outraised Hernandez, but trailed him 36-20% in a May Impact Research poll. The Democratic caucus in Washington is divided when it comes to endorsements, though Kirkpatrick endorsed Engel. Both candidates have Tucson bases. Leans Hernandez Jr.

In the solidly-Republican 9th district, incumbent Paul Gosar faces primary challenges from Randy Kutz and Sandra Dowling. He has the Trump endorsement and is heavily-favored to win renomination despite having much of his current district moved into O’Halleran’s 2nd. Safe Gosar

Like in Georgia’s 14th earlier this year, Split Ticket is covering this race to analyze the protest vote strength against controversial lawmakers.

Kansas

Kansas’s 3rd district (Biden +4.5) will be the scene of the state’s sole competitive congressional race this November. The seat was made more favorable to Republicans in redistricting after taking in all of Miami, Franklin, and Anderson counties while simultaneously splitting Wyandotte (K-City). Most of the 3rd’s voting population comes from suburban Johnson County, recently the scene of rapid leftward trends.

If the environment continues to benefit Republicans, 2020 GOP nominee Amanda Adkins should be able to unseat Democrat Sharice Davids in this year’s rematch. While the favorable redraw could be enough to defeat a redoubtable and well-funded Democratic incumbent in 2022, it would not be sufficient to insulate Adkins from hostile political winds that are expected to continue developing in 2024 and 2026. Tossup

Michigan

Michigan’s 2nd district is a Republican seat represented by John Moolenaar. It runs south along Lake Michigan’s shoreline down to the Muskegon city limits before sweeping inwards across the central section of the state to Mount Pleasant and western Midland County. Moolenaar faces a right-wing challenge from veteran Tom Norton that he is expected to dispatch. Safe Moolenaar

Michigan’s 3rd district (Biden +8.5) is mostly based around the city of Grand Rapids. The seat also encompasses the Kent County suburbs, the northern half of Ottawa County, and lakefront-centered Muskegon. This part of the Wolverine State has historically-high rates of Dutch ancestry, particularly in Kent (suburbs, not GR metro) and Ottawa counties.

During the Trump-era, many of these conservative voters were turned off by the President’s style. Much of that disapproval stemmed from the 2016 primary, when the old version of the 3rd was Ted Cruz’s second strongest congressional district statewide.

As one might expect, apprehension to the top of the ticket on behalf of certain Republicans allowed the GOP to perform better down ballot in counties like Kent in 2020. Senate candidate John James, for instance, narrowly won the county while Trump lost it to Biden by 6 points.

The same pattern was reflected in the redrawn 3rd district, which voted D+8.5 for President but only D+2.3 for Senate. Republicans actually would have come within 0.3 of winning the new seat had these lines been in place during the 2020 House elections, per research by Michigan expert Jackson Franks.

Michigan’s 3rd is also the scene of a Republican House primary that will be one of tonight’s most-watched races. Incumbent Peter Meijer, elected 2020, is a mainstream conservative fighting for his political life after supporting ex-President Trump’s second impeachment last year.

His comfortable primary victory two years ago was due in large part to his receiving a majority of the vote in Kent. Meijer, who has a Dutch last name, is a scion of a wealthy family that has engendered both regional good will and name recognition by owning supermarkets.

This cycle, Meijer’s main intraparty challenger is John Gibbs. Formerly a member of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Gibbs is supported by Trump. Given the grim fates of other pro-impeachment Republicans like Tom Rice (SC-07), an aloof observer would probably predict Meijer’s demise.

But Split Ticket believes this incumbent could beat expectations in what would be a major rebuke of both Trump and the DCCC, the Democratic campaign committee that has spent money to boost Gibbs in the primary because he is perceived as a weaker general election nominee. The best evidence for this take besides Meijer is the 3rd district itself.

History shows that most of the primary electorate in this part of Michigan prefers moderate Republicanism to its more caustic counterpart, at least in the majority of cases. Both Meijer and Gibbs are from Kent County, but Meijer is more ideologically-similar to the median voter in the suburbs of Grand Rapids than is his opponent.

Although there has been a lack of publicly-released polling in this district as of late, the local bonds that Meijer has made using his personal brand could tip the race in his favor. A Gibbs victory is certainly a possibility, and the race will probably be close either way, but there is nonetheless reason to believe that Trump’s endorsement is most effective in seats where he is popular, like SC-07, and not in districts like MI-03. Leans Meijer

Regardless of the GOP nominee, the 3rd district will remain in the Tossup column for the foreseeable future. 2020 Democratic nominee Hillary Scholten is a formidable candidate attempting to defeat Meijer in a more favorable district, assuming he wins the nomination. In a Biden midterm, though, failing to nominate Meijer could be the difference between a win and a loss for the GOP in November. Tossup

Along with Michigan’s 7th and 10th, the 8th (Biden +2.1) is a prime target for Republicans this fall. This seat is mostly based in Genesee County (Flint) but stretches north through Saginaw and Midland. It is represented by Dan Kildee, a formidable incumbent who has outrun the top of the ticket in rightward-trending districts on multiple occasions.

Despite being drawn into a visibly-redder seat this cycle, Kildee has a legitimate shot at winning his Tossup reelection race. Former news anchor Paul Junge and businessman Matthew Seely appear to be the top two candidates on the GOP side since state Senator Ken Horn declined to run. Junge was the 2020 nominee in MI-08 against Elissa Slotkin and is generally considered an average candidate by pundits. Leans Junge

Split Ticket currently considers Michigan’s 10th district (Trump +0.9) the best Republican pickup opportunity in the state, rating it Leans Republican (flip). This Trump-Peters district, predominantly based in the southern half Macomb County, has no incumbent following redistricting.

The de facto GOP nominee in the 10th is John James, a two-time Senate candidate who has generally been considered a rising star within his party. In the competitive Democratic primary, polls have shown ex-County Circuit Court Judge Carl Marlinga to be the frontrunner.

Other candidates include Warren councilman Angela Rogensues, Rhonda Powell, Sterling Heights councilman Henry Yanez, and attorney Huwaida Arraf. Despite their being underdogs, both Rogensues and Arraf have outraised Marlinga. Likely Marlinga

Michigan’s 11th district is a Democratic seat based in southeastern Oakland County. It is the scene of the fifth double-bunking primary of the 2022 cycle, pitting Andy Levin (MI-09) and Haley Stevens (MI-11) against each other.

While baseline territorial advantages have proved somewhat misleading in double-bunkings this year, they still assist in the making of well-reasoned predictions. The new 13th is split three ways, with Stevens holding a technical geographic advantage. She represents a 38% plurality of the new seat’s Biden voters and probably has the best claim to the 32% that are currently affiliated with retiring Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence.

While Levin has adopted the more progressive lane during the campaign, Split Ticket expects Stevens to win comfortably. In each of the last two Democratic double-bunkings, one candidate won easily, suggesting a close race would be an exception to the norm. Stevens also led 58-31% in a recent Target Insyght poll, perhaps indicating a definite momentum shift in her favor. Likely Stevens

In Michigan’s 12th district, based in western Detroit and Dearborn, progressive incumbent Rashida Tlaib is favored to win renomination. She moved to this seat after Brenda Lawrence retired. Her opponents include Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, Lathrup Village Mayor Kelly Garrett, and former state Representative Shanelle Jackson. Split Ticket will be watching to see how strong the protest vote against Tlaib is. Safe Tlaib

The most competitive Democratic House primary in Michigan is taking place in the newly-drawn 13th district. This seat is primarily based in Detroit and is significantly less white than the neighboring 12th. Because Tlaib moved next door after Lawrence’s announcement, the 13th no longer has an incumbent. Michigan lost its 14th district following decennial reapportionment.

Because the Democratic primary nomination is tantamount to victory in any district including Detroit, it is unsurprising that nine candidates will be on tonight’s ballot. Top contenders include well-funded state Representative Shri Thanedar, ex-Detroit General Counsel Sharon McPhail, Portia Roberson, state Senator Adam Hollier, Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, and John Conyers III.

The most recent polling from Target Insyght showed Thanedar, who has raised over $5 million, leading Roberson and Hollier 22-17-16%. Previous polling from the same firm, along with Public Policy Polling, showed McPhail and Conyers with pluralities of the vote. Uncertain survey results are only natural in a closely-divided, highly-variable race like this one, but conclusions can still be made.

Split Ticket feels compelled to give a slight edge to Thanedar given his fundraising advantages and apparent polling momentum, though this race could conceivably go in another direction. Leans Thanedar

Missouri

In Missouri’s 1st district, based around St. Louis, polling suggests that incumbent Democrat Cori Bush is favored to win renomination. The progressive lawmaker upset long-time Congressman Lacy Clay in the 2020 primary and now faces a challenge from state Senator Steve Roberts in her plurality-black seat. Roberts is the youngest black state Senator in Missouri’s history and currently serves as Minority Whip in the chamber. Likely blighting his chances, Roberts has also recently been accused of sexual misconduct. Likely Bush

Republican Congresswoman Ann Wagner is the frontrunner to win renomination against multiple candidates in the 2nd district, a Trump+8 seat based in the St. Louis suburbs. Redistricting made this seat redder by stretching it westward into Franklin County. Such changes would normally hurt an incumbent like Wagner, but none of her opponents this cycle has raised enough money to seriously contend for primary victory. Safe Wagner

The 4th district is a solidly-Republican seat based in west-central Missouri, including the communities of Columbia, Sedalia, Warrensburg, and Lebanon. Since 2011, it has been represented by Vicky Hartzler. She retired to run for the Senate this cycle, opening up the floodgates for a competitive GOP primary to replace her.

There has been no polling for this contest since January, so fundraising should play a larger part in analyzing the race. The leader by that metric is former ice hockey player Jim Campbell. He is followed by former Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks. Another serious contender is Mark Alford, a former TV news anchor who led a Remington Research Poll from earlier this year. Other candidates include state Senator Rick Brattin, cattle farmer Kalena Bruce, Bill Irwin, and Kyle LaBrue.

Despite his warchest, Split Ticket does not see Jim Campbell benefitting from a significant geographic base tonight. Alford and Brattin both seem like formidable candidates for the opposite reason. Brattin represents a Senate district running along Missouri’s western border that includes Cass County. Alford is a known element in the Kansas City media market from his TV stint. Leans Alford

In the 7th district, a Republican seat located in the southwestern part of the state including Springfield and Joplin, Congressman Billy Long retried to run for Senate. His redrawn district is now being closely-contested between three conservative state Senators (two current, one former): Eric Burlison, Mike Moon, and Jay Wasson.

Since May, polling leads have oscillated between Wasson and Burlison with Moon nearby. All three candidates dwell in or near Greene County (Springfield). This is is another difficult race for Split Ticket to pick, but we feel inclined to rate this contest Leans Burlison. He is endorsed by the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks PAC.

Washington

In Washington’s 3rd and 4th districts, two Republicans who favored Trump’s second impeachment are fighting for their political lives against right-wing challengers. When all is said and done, the Evergreen State’s blanket primary system might be their saving grace.

The 3rd district (Trump +4.2) is based in the logging country of southwestern Washington and also includes the city of Vancouver. For over a decade, this territory has been represented by Republican Congresswoman Jamie Herrera-Beutler. Her top challenger this cycle is technology project manager Joe Kent.

Polling from the Trafalgar Group has generally shown Kent ahead of Herrera-Beutler, but the firm’s most recent release foreshadowed a more interesting possibility: an R vs. R general election. Perhaps enough Democrats will vote Republican in the first round, to oppose Kent, that a runoff of this sort will be necessitated in November. It is important to keep in mind, though, that this result would not be assured by any means given the unpredictability of the undecided vote.

The leading Democratic candidate since Brent Hennrich’s suspension is small business owner Marie Perez, and she has to compete with just one other Democrat on tonight’s ballot. Kent and Herrera-Beutler, meanwhile, must compete for general election slots one and two while minor GOP candidates like state Rep. Vicki Kraft and author Heidi St. John chip away at the combined Republican vote.

If Kent and Herrera-Beutler face off in November, Democratic and independent voters would probably be enough to supplement part of the Republican bloc in defeating Kent. Leans R vs. R

A similar dynamic is developing east of the Cascades (Yakima, Kennewick) in the redder 4th district, where fellow impeachment Republican Dan Newhouse faces a Trump-endorsed primary challenge from 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp. Other Republicans include state Rep. Brad Klippert and ex-NASCAR driver Jerrod Sessler.

Democrats stand a much higher chance of getting locked out of the November election in this seat than they do the general in the neighboring 3rd, though an R vs. R race is still not a certainty in the 4th. Only one Democrat, Doug White, is on tonight’s ballot.

Like Herrera-Beutler, Newhouse has trailed his opponent in the polls on the combined ballot but stands to benefit from a potential R vs. R race in November. He is also no stranger to such elections, having beaten conservative Republican Clint Didier in competitive 2014 and 2016 races. Leans R vs. R

The 8th district (Biden +6.7) is the best GOP House pickup opportunity in Washington state this cycle, currently rated Tossup. Located predominantly in King County, it has been home to Democrat Kim Schrier since 2019. Its partisanship remained similar after redistricting.

The leading Republican recruit for this district is Reagan Dunn, King County Councilor and son of ex-Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn. Other candidates include former AG candidate Matt Larkin and 2020 nominee Jesse Jensen. Primary polling has been non-existent in the seat this year, but fundraising totals indicate a competitive race. Leans Dunn

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

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: