How the Open Seats Are (or Aren’t) Creating Opportunities in the House
 

Four House Republicans have already this year announced plans to retire, continuing a trend that began in 2017. Roll Call elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales unpacks how the wave of GOP retirements could affect Democrats’ chances of flipping seats come November....
Rating Update: Race for Issa’s Open Seat Remains a Toss-Up for Now
California’s 49th District rejected Trump in 2016

A new day, a new Republican retirement, but a similar story. On Wednesday, GOP Rep. Darrell Issa announced he will not seek re-election to his Southern California district, leaving Republicans to defend another open seat that Hillary Clinton carried.

Similar to California’s 39th District, where GOP Rep. Ed Royce just announced his retirement, Issa’s 49th District has in recent history usually voted for Republican candidates but rejected Donald Trump for president in 2016. Voters there also nearly threw out Issa, who had become known for his Benghazi investigations.

Ratings Change: Open Seat Shifts California Race to Toss-Up
Rep. Ed Royce’s retirement gives Democrats a shot

Democrats have been targeting California’s 39th District ever since Hillary Clinton carried it over Donald Trump in the last presidential race. But Republican Rep. Ed Royce’s retirement announcement Monday gives them an opportunity to take over a seat without having to defeat an entrenched incumbent who had $3.5 million in his campaign account at the end of September.

The scope of the Democratic opportunity in Southern California depends on whether Clinton’s performance is the new normal (she carried the district 52 percent to 43 percent) or whether 2016 was an aberration. The 39th District could still be fundamentally Republican, considering 2012, when Mitt Romney carried it 51 percent to 47 percent and Republican Elizabeth Emken outperformed Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein 51 percent to 49 percent, even though she lost statewide by 25 points.

Rating Change: Virginia Senate Race Moves to Solid Democratic
GOP prospects dim in race against Tim Kaine

Just a dozen years ago, Virginia sent two Republicans to the United States Senate. Now the GOP is at risk of losing its fifth consecutive Senate election.

In 2006, Democrat Jim Webb knocked off GOP Sen. George Allen 49.6 percent to 49.2 percent in the Democratic wave. Two years later, Democrat Mark Warner drubbed former GOP Gov. Jim Gilmore 65 percent to 34 percent to take over retiring Republican Sen. John W. Warner’s seat. In 2012, Democrat Tim Kaine defeated Allen 53 percent to 47 percent when Webb decided not to seek re-election. And in 2014, Warner appeared to be caught off guard during a Republican wave but still defeated Ed Gillespie 49 percent to 48 percent.

Ratings Change: Culberson’s Texas Seat Creeps Closer to Toss-Up
7th District shifts from Leans Republican to Tilts Republican

Every cycle there is a member of Congress who fails to modernize his campaign and adapt to new challenges, whether it’s Florida’s John Mica last cycle or George Gekas of Pennsylvania from further back. Texas Republican John Culberson might be the newest addition to the club.

He was re-elected in 2016 with 56 percent in an uneventful race, but Hillary Clinton narrowly carried the district (49-47 percent), making Culberson one of 23 Republicans representing districts won by the Democratic presidential nominee, and a Democratic takeover target.

The Curious Case of the Club for Conservatives, Part Two
Club grows harder to track with new emails, names and addresses

Roy Moore suffered a historic defeat in Alabama, but it’s unclear whether a political action committee that formed to help his campaign will carry on the fight — and continue to do it in mysterious ways.

On Dec. 1, I published an article about the newly-formed Club for Conservatives PAC and a confusing web of fundraising screeds, mailing addresses, URLs and a mysterious treasurer who doesn’t appear to have an online profile despite averaging over 1,000 words in each request for money. Treasurer Brooke Pendley and other members of the Pendley family did not return emails, phone calls and Twitter messages when contacted for clarity about the group.

Ratings Change: Pennsylvania Seat More Vulnerable in Special Election
18th Districts shifts from Solid Republican to Likely Republican

While the dust has barely settled on Democrat Doug Jones’ historic victory in Alabama, the next special election is just three months away. Republicans normally wouldn’t have trouble winning a district like Pennsylvania’s 18th, considering Donald Trump carried it by nearly 20 points in 2016. But the 2017 slate of special elections demonstrated Republicans’ ability to turn every race into a struggle, even in favorable territory.

Earlier this fall, GOP Rep. Tim Murphy publicly admitted to having an extra-marital affair, text messages surfaced in which he urged his mistress to have an abortion and a separate memo that alleged a toxic work environment in his office went public. The congressman eventually resigned, effective Oct. 21.

10 Thoughts After the Alabama Senate Election
Republicans avoid one headache but the civil war isn’t over

One of the best parts about covering elections is that there is always a result. After all the prognosticating, projecting, discussing and arguing, there’s a winner. But determining the true meaning of victory and loss can be difficult.

There will be plenty of time to analyze the Alabama Senate special election (at least until the next special election on March 13 in Pennsylvania’s 18th District), but here are some initial postelection thoughts:

Ratings Change: Franken Steps Down Amid Allegations, Seat Starts Likely Democratic
Minnesota Senator resigns after colleagues call for his exit

Sen. Al Franken’s resignation puts another Democratic seat into the 2018 mix, but it’s still unclear whether his departure provides Republicans with a legitimate takeover opportunity.

To handicap a race, it’s helpful to know where the contest will take place and who is running. In this case, we know the place is Minnesota, where, despite Donald Trump’s surge in the Midwest, Hillary Clinton narrowly prevailed in 2016, 46-45 percent, and where Republicans haven’t won a Senate race since Norm Coleman’s 2-point victory in 2002.

Ratings Update: Tennessee Senate Remains Solid R for Now
Democrats may still have uphill battle, even with Bredesen

Democrats made a big splash this week with the entry of former Gov. Phil Bredesen into the Tennessee Senate race, but the party still has an uphill battle in a state President Donald Trump won convincingly, and it’s not even clear Bredesen gives Democrats the best chance of winning.

On the surface, having a former two-term governor running for an open seat (GOP Sen. Bob Corker is not running for re-election) looks like a great takeover opportunity for Democrats, but there are some signs that the race should still be considered a long shot.

No One Is Afraid of a Government Shutdown
Democrats nor Republicans while White House seems to encourage it

Call me crazy, but I don’t think we’ll see a compromise before the looming budget deadline. Why? Because no one in Washington is particularly afraid of a government shutdown.

Democrats aren’t afraid of a government shutdown because Republicans are in control of the legislative and executive branches, and they believe the GOP will get blamed for the impasse.

Hill Sexual Misconduct Could Muddy 2018 Wave Potential
 

Roll Call elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales gets specific on what a wave election really means while he also takes a look at Democrats’ realistic chances for such a phenomenon in the House in 2018....
Podcast: A Mystery PAC and the Rest of the Strange Alabama Senate Finale
The Big Story, Episode 82

A week before Alabama's special election, Roll Call election analyst Nathan Gonzales describes how he unearthed an obscure political action committee supporting Roy Moore — just one more twist in a campaign where his alleged preying on teenage girls is the main issue, and has created a deep rift among his fellow Republicans.

 

Who Is Running the Mysterious PAC Supporting Roy Moore?
Treasurer Brooke Pendley is a hard person to find

Brooke Pendley is a self-described “fire-breathing young female conservative patriot” out “to save Judge Roy Moore” with a newly formed political action committee, but good luck trying to find her beyond the fundraising emails.

On Oct. 17, Pendley filed a statement of organization for Club for Conservatives PAC with the Federal Election Commission, listing herself as the treasurer. Over the course of less than three weeks, Pendley has sent out at least 10 fundraising emails.

The Battle for Orange County in the Fight for the House
A handful of competitive races could decide the majority

YORBA LINDA, Calif. — Celina Estrada and Sam Zapata weren’t even born when Republican Ed Royce was first elected to Congress in 1992. Yet a year before the 2018 elections, the two students spent a recent evening knocking on doors in the hills of Orange County, California, to support the vulnerable congressman.

Royce hasn’t had a close race in years. In 2016, he won with 57 percent and outspent his Democratic opponent, $3.7 million to $77,000. This cycle, however, inspired to counteract the effects of a Donald Trump presidency, five of his Democratic challengers had over $100,000 in their campaign accounts at the end of September, and two of them are self-funders.

Rating Change: Alabama Senate Race Moves to Toss-Up
One month out, Moore allegations could cost GOP a Senate seat

Roy Moore is testing a once-hypothetical question: What would it take for a Democrat to win a statewide race in Alabama?

Under normal circumstances, Alabama would elect a Republican to the Senate, even a candidate as polarizing as the former state Supreme Court chief justice. But the situation changed when The Washington Post reported allegations of Moore’s past sexual misconduct. This is no longer a normal election.

9 Thoughts After Democrats’ Big Wins in Virginia
As with early GOP victories, resist reading too much into Tuesday’s results

Everyone take a deep breath. We’re all starving for tangible election results and now we have them. But just as earlier Republican wins in congressional special elections this year are no guarantee the party will have a good 2018, losses on Tuesday night don’t necessarily tell us a Democratic wave in the House has developed.

Democrats had to win the governorship in Virginia, and they did. After coming up short in every House special election this year in districts President Donald Trump carried last fall, Democrats didn’t have an excuse to lose a state that Hillary Clinton won by more than 5 points. And Ralph Northam responded with a resounding victory for Democrats. That being said, the win maintains the status quo considering Virginia already has a Democratic governor.

Rating Change: LoBiondo Retirement Makes GOP Seat More Vulnerable
South Jersey race moves from Solid Republican to Leans Republican

Republican Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo’s retirement gives Democrats a better opportunity to win New Jersey’s 2nd District. 

Democrats have had their eye on the South Jersey seat for years, particularly after President Barack Obama won the seat by 8 points in 2012. But the party has struggled to find a credible candidate against the congressman, considering his close ties to organized labor.

Key House and Senate Races Are in Distinctly Different Locations
Roll Call’s most vulnerable incumbents list is out, one year before midterms

There is a striking lack of overlap between the Senate and House battleground races taking shape. Over 70 percent of the competitive House races are in states without a key Senate race.

[Check out Roll Call’s coverage of the 10 most vulnerable House incumbents, and the 10 most vulnerable Senate incumbents from Simone Pathé and Bridget Bowman.]

Members Face Tough Odds in Races for Governor
Competitive primary, general elections await nine representatives running

There’s been plenty of media attention on the twelve members who have decided to call it quits and retire from the House, and another eight members are seeking a promotion to the Senate. But nine additional members are forgoing likely re-elections for uncertain and challenging races to become their state’s governor.

Many of them have to navigate crowded and competitive primaries (including knocking off an incumbent in one state), and the precedent for members getting elected governor isn’t great.