House Changes

House Ratings Changes: 10 Districts Move, Mostly in Democrats' Direction

This week, we're updating our ratings in ten districts, mostly in Democrats' direction. We rate 58 seats as competitive (54 GOP-held, four Democratic-held), including 24 Toss Ups (22 GOP-held, two Democratic-held). Most notably, GOP Rep. Dave Brat (VA-07) joins the Toss Up column four years after taking out House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. And GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) moves from Toss Up to Lean Republican.

If the 24 Toss Ups were to split evenly between the parties, Democrats would gain 18 seats, five short of a majority. But that doesn't take into account that there are 26 GOP-held seats in Lean Republican with strong potential to become Toss Ups, and an additional 28 GOP-held seats in Likely Republican with the potential to become more competitive. In other words, there's still a lot of upside for Democrats.

The next big test for the parties will be the August 7 special election in Ohio's 12th CD, where GOP state Sen. Troy Balderson is facing off against Democratic Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor in the northern Columbus suburbs. Overall, our November outlook is a Democratic gain of between 20 and 35 seats (again, Democrats need 23 for a majority). View our full House ratings here.


Ratings Changes:

AZ-01: O'Halleran | Lean D to Likely D 
AZ-09: OPEN (Sinema) | Likely D to Solid D ←
CO-03: Tipton | Solid R to Likely R ←
CT-05: OPEN (Esty) | Likely D to Solid D ←
MT-AL: Gianforte | Likely R to Lean R ←
NY-11: Donovan | Lean R to Likely R →
NY-25: VACANT (Slaughter) | Solid D to Likely D →
PA-01: Fitzpatrick | Toss Up to Lean R →
PA-16: Kelly | Likely R to Lean R ←
VA-07: Brat | Lean R to Toss Up ←

Bottom Lines:

AZ-01: Tom O'Halleran (D) - Northeast: Flagstaff, Navajo Nation, Casa Grande
Likely Democratic. This sprawling Northern Arizona seat voted for President Trump 47 percent to 46 percent, but Republicans haven't been able to crack the code at the congressional level. Part of it is that O'Halleran, a former police detective who served as a moderate Republican in the state legislature, is a good fit for the district. But part of it is that Republicans can't seem to recover from divisive late August primaries.

In 2016, physical abuse allegations engulfing GOP nominee Paul Babeu helped hand O'Halleran the seat. This year, the GOP field remains divided between state Sen. Steve Smith, attorney and farmer Tiffany Shedd and Air Force veteran/perennial candidate Wendy Rogers. Seven weeks before the August 28 primary, no one's broken out and O'Halleran looks likely to win a second term.

AZ-09: OPEN (Sinema) (D) - East Phoenix: Tempe, parts of Scottsdale
Solid Democratic. As Rep. Kyrsten Sinema's Senate odds have brightened, so have Democrats' chances of retaining her highly college-educated Tempe seat, which voted for Hillary Clinton 54 percent to 38 percent. Former Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, who resigned his office in May to run, is unopposed in the Democratic primary and is an overwhelming favorite against Republican physician Steve Ferrara.

CO-03: Scott Tipton (R) - Western Slope: Grand Junction, Pueblo
Likely Republican. This Western Slope district is increasingly fractured between conservative ranch country and liberal ski resort towns, which makes it difficult to traverse politically. Democrats' ideal candidate here would be a Blue Dog who could appeal to ranchers and Hispanic voters in Pueblo. But since Tipton ousted moderate Rep. John Salazar in 2010, Democrats have had a hard time broadening their base.

State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a social policy professor from wealthy Steamboat Springs who grew up in Minnesota, won the June 26 Democratic primary with 64 percent. She emphasizes her ranch conservation efforts, but may have a hard breaking out of the liberal stereotype. Still, Tipton didn't crack 55 percent in 2016 (President Trump took 52 percent here), and it's worth watching in a wave.

CT-05: OPEN (Esty) (D) - Northwest: Danbury, Waterbury, New Britain
Solid Democratic. Esty announced she wouldn't seek reelection in early April, and three months later the field has taken shape. The August 14 Democratic primary is a two-way race between former Simsbury First Selectman (mayor) Mary Glassman and 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes, who was encouraged by Sen. Chris Murphy to run. It's a battle of experience versus a powerful personal narrative.

Glassman is regarded as the "establishment" pick: she was a top aide to state House Speaker Moira Lyons and ran for lieutenant governor in 2006 and 2010. In May, she narrowly won the party convention endorsement by running on experience. Hayes, who grew up in public housing projects in Waterbury and was a single mother, is running as the progressive and has Sen. Kamala Harris' endorsement.

This seat voted for Hillary Clinton 50 percent to 46 percent, her narrowest margin in the state. But the GOP's top choice, home invasion victim and state Rep. William Petit, declined to run. The GOP primary is coming down to former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos and manufacturing businessman Rich DuPont, who has former Rep. Nancy Johnson's backing. Neither looks likely to buck a pro-Democratic tide.

MT-AL: Greg Gianforte (R) - At Large: Entire State
Lean Republican. In a bit of an upset, Bozeman area state Rep. Kathleen Williams won the June 5 Democratic primary over two much better-funded opponents with 34 percent. Williams had the advantage of being the only credible woman in the contest against two men, but some credit her bio video about being a caregiver to her mother who had early onset Alzheimer's and her stance on pre-existing conditions.

Gianforte won last May's special election by six points a day after infamously leveling a reporter, but Democrat Rob Quist had his share of flaws and most ballots were cast before the incident. A June Gravis Marketing poll found Williams leading Gianforte 49 percent to 43 percent, similar to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester's lead atop the ballot. Republicans beg to differ with those numbers, but at a minimum it's competitive.

NY-11: Dan Donovan (R) - Staten Island, Brooklyn: Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst
Likely Republican. With a strong endorsement from President Trump, Donovan crushed convicted felon and former Rep. Michael Grimm 64 percent to 36 percent in the June 26 GOP primary. Just as important, Donovan locked Grimm out of the Conservative Party primary, ensuring that Grimm won't appear anywhere on the fall ballot and Donovan will have Republican voters to himself.

Democrats, who nominated Army veteran and healthcare executive Max Rose with 65 percent, had been hoping Grimm would win at least one ballot line, badly splitting GOP voters in this Staten Island district that gave President Trump 53 percent. Instead, Rose ($1 million raised) will have an uphill fight against Donovan, a popular former prosecutor who broke with his party on repealing Obamacare last year.

NY-25: VACANT (Slaughter) (D) - West Central: Greater Rochester
Likely Democratic. Nearly four months after iconic Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter passed away, Gov. Andrew Cuomo still hasn't called a special election to replace her, and most Empire State aficionados say it's doubtful he will. After all, Democrats don't want to risk having to defend this Rochester seat in a low-turnout special when the November general is right around the corner.

State Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle won the June 26 Democratic primary for the full term with 46 percent, and his name ID after 27 years in Albany was an advantage in the sprint to an unexpected open seat. Local TV reporter Rachel Barnhart, who ran against Albany corruption, came in second with 20 percent. Morelle is now the heavy favorite in November, but the race may not be totally over.

A month before the primary, Morelle was forced to apologize for a 2001 comment casting doubt on the rape allegations of a female assembly staffer against Assembly Democrats' chief counsel. The staffer, Elizabeth Crothers, endorsed Barnhart and lambasted Morelle, but Barnhart simply lacked the resources to go on air attacking him. After all, Morelle raised $631,000 to Barnhart's $18,000.

By contrast, GOP neurosurgeon Jim Maxwell has the resources to paint Morelle as a 27-year Albany insider: he's loaned his campaign $470,000. Hillary Clinton won by 16 points here, but in the last midterm, Democratic turnout plummeted and Slaughter came within a point of a shocking defeat. 2018 is a better year for Democrats to say the least, but Morelle's potential liabilities and Maxwell's wealth make it worth keeping an eye on.

PA-01: Brian Fitzpatrick (R) - Southeast: Bucks County
Lean Republican. In February, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dealt Fitzpatrick a small setback when it slightly redrew this Bucks County seat, making it a point less Republican. But Fitzpatrick may have received an even bigger gift when multi-millionaire attorney and philanthropist Scott Wallace won the Democratic primary in May. Wallace has the ability to self-fund the race, but he's off to a very rocky start and may have problems money can't solve.

This Bucks County seat is a true swing district: it voted for Hillary Clinton 49 percent to 47 percent in 2016. It's the kind of seat that should be atop Democrats' target list in a wave. But Bucks also has a strong local identity, and the Fitzpatrick family has succeeded in building a strong, moderate brand (Fitzpatrick was just endorsed by Gabby Giffords and the AFL-CIO). It's also the kind of place where Wallace's wealth, elite pedigree and out-of-state addresses could backfire.

Wallace is the grandson of former FDR vice president Henry Wallace. He grew up in Bucks County, and his bio video notes he grew up "flipping burgers" there. But he hasn't lived there in decades, and until recently he was a registered lobbyist for non-profits who lived in Maryland. His Maryland homestead exemption claim and his ties to exclusive South African country clubs is ready-made for attack ads geared towards Bucks's parochial, blue-collar electorate.

Until recently, Wallace ran his family philanthropy, the Wallace Global Fund, which lists $140 million in assets and supports environmental causes and women's reproductive rights. In a 2016 blog post entitled "Why I am a Patriotic Millionaire," Wallace explains that he split his time between the DC area and South Africa, where he fought corporate influence and nurtured a young democracy. In the post, he's pictured on an expedition to Antarctica.

Plenty of DC Democrats have expressed excitement about Wallace's potential to spend whatever it takes to win, especially in the expensive Philadelphia market. In the primary, he loaned his campaign $2.5 million and crushed 32-year old Navy veteran Rachel Reddick on the airwaves, winning 57 percent to 36 percent. Reddick only raised $363,000 and was shunned by most party strategists, and Wallace attacked her for being a registered Republican in the past.

But Reddick might have made a much stronger general election nominee. Reddick had also only recently moved back to the district. However, her profile as a young, female JAG corps officer could have made her more difficult to attack as a carpetbagger (after all, Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent, moved back from California to run for his brother's seat). And, her status as a former Republican might have made her more appealing beyond the Democratic base.

Instead, Wallace's general election efforts have gotten off to a very rough start. The day after the primary, the Forward published a piece documenting that the Wallace Global Fund gave $300,000 to groups supporting the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement against Israel. Wallace says he didn't control the expenditures and disavows BDS, but it took a month for one local Jewish Democratic group to reinstate its support for him.

On June 21, the Republican Jewish coalition began running a brutal ad attacking Wallace for owning "mansions in Maryland and South Africa" and "donating $300,000 to anti-Semitic organizations that promote boycotting Israel." The final tag line? "At home in South Africa, too radical for us." The ad forced Wallace to respond with an almost unheard-of June damage-control ad noting that he "lives in the house he was born in" and is a "strong supporter of Israel."

Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick has had no problem winning allies. He's garnered support from unlikely places: his support for additional gun safety measures earned him former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords's endorsement, and the AFL-CIO just endorsed him over Wallace. Moreover, as the only suburban Philadelphia Republican who isn't retiring or resigning, Fitzpatrick is sure to be the GOP's top priority in the region and will have the resources to defend himself.

In a year when other suburban Republicans are being lumped in with the Trump brand, Fitzpatrick is a genuine moderate with a good story to tell. He'll highlight his advocacy on behalf of Navy veteran Matt Bellina, a constituent who was diagnosed with ALS in 2014 at age 30, as the lead House sponsor of the Right to Try legislation signed into law earlier this year. He'll also benefit from residual goodwill from his brother and predecessor, former Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick.

A Monmouth University Poll taken in early June showed Fitzpatrick leading Wallace among all potential voters 49 percent to 42 percent, with a tighter contest among the most interested voters. Given the year and the new map, Fitzpatrick should be in more trouble. But even in waves, candidates still matter, and there's a wide path for Fitzpatrick and Republicans to disqualify Wallace as out of touch. The race moves from Toss Up to the Lean Republican column.

PA-16: Mike Kelly (R) - Northwest: Erie, Butler
Lean Republican. Kelly hasn't had a competitive race since he unseated Erie Democratic Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper in 2010, and that's partially because Republicans split Erie in half in 2011 redistricting and added more of Kelly's Butler County base. But this year's new court-ordered map reunites Erie, dropping President Trump's 2016 share from 61 percent to 58 percent and giving Democrats hope they can capitalize on the seat's Democratic registration edge.

Local Democrats are excited Erie attorney Ron DiNicola, 61, is running. This isn't DiNicola's first rodeo: he took 49 percent of the vote here in 1996, nearly beating then-GOP Rep. Phil English. DiNicola, a former Marine Corps boxer, served as Muhammad Ali's personal attorney for several decades and has most recently served on the board of a non-profit geared towards establishing a community college in Erie.

An early June poll taken by Normington Petts for the DiNicola campaign found Kelly leading 50 percent to 44 percent, and a May PPP poll found Kelly ahead 48 percent to 43 percent. Despite Trump's breakthrough in this corner of the state, the combination of a district redrawn favorably for Democrats, a credible Democratic contender and a pro-Democratic national environment make this a competitive race.

VA-07: Dave Brat (R) - Central: Richmond suburbs, Culpeper
Toss Up. In 2014, Brat turned the political world upside-down when he upset House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the GOP primary by taking a hard line on illegal immigration. But four years later, he's at risk of getting swept out by a Democratic wave in a rapidly moderating district anchored by the professional Richmond suburbs. After courts redrew the 7th CD in 2016, President Trump took just 50 percent here, down from Mitt Romney's 56 percent in 2012.

In June, former undercover CIA operative Abigail Spanberger crushed a well-funded Democratic primary opponent with 73 percent of the vote in an impressive display of grassroots support. Spanberger grew up in Henrico County (the 7th CD) writing a diary in code. As a pragmatic woman with a non-political resume, she could offer a problematic contrast for Brat, a Freedom Caucus member who complained last year about women "in my grill" at town halls.

The top of the ticket could also be a big problem for Brat. Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine is highly popular in the Richmond suburbs, while ultra-conservative GOP Senate nominee Corey Stewart is a highly polarizing figure who lost the 7th CD 61 percent to 33 percent in his primary. In 2017, well-funded GOP gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie carried the 7th CD by four points, but Stewart isn't competitive and Brat could suffer if Republicans stay home.

Brat, who has shied away from questions about Stewart, has never had to run in a competitive general election before. He's mended fences with GOP leadership and is running with the NRCC's active help. Spanberger has enjoyed help from EMILY's List and raised $903,000 by May. Ironically, the white collar Republicans in the West End Richmond suburbs who long supported Cantor could be the swing voters in this race. It's a Toss Up.