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January 23rd , 2024            Len’s Political Note #616 Taking Stock and Looking Ahead

2024                                          General Election

 As most readers will have noticed, I identify the most vulnerable Democratic and Republican House members through a ranking system I devised. I discovered that Daily Kos uses a similar quite simple ranking system.  Often, I refer to Daily Kos’s ranking of a candidate’s vulnerability as well as my own ranking of that candidate.

As I was contemplating which candidates to write about next, I looked at the Cook Report which rates candidates rather than ranks them.  The Cook Report identifies the seats/candidates they rate as Toss Ups (Toss ups in Democratically held seats and Toss ups in Republican held seats).  The Cook Report also identifies seats/candidates that Lean Democrat or Republican and those that are Likely Democrat or Republican.  All others area Solid for one part or the other.

The Cook Report suggests that there are 170 solidly Democratic seats, 18 likely Democratic seats, and 13 seats that lean Democratic.  Consider that a total of 201 blue and blueish seats.

The Cook Report suggests that there are 191 solidly Republican seats, 11 seats that are likely Republican, and 8 seats that lean Republican.  That is a total of 210 red and reddish seats.

A majority of the House of Representatives is 218 seats.  If the Cook Report is accurate and all the red and reddish seats are won by Republicans and all the blue and bluish seats are won by Democrats, to gain a majority from the Toss ups, Democrats have to win 17 of the 24 Toss up seats.  Republicans, on the other hand, only have to win 8 of the Toss ups.

Let’s look.

The Cook Report shows Ten Democratic Toss Up Seats.  Can the Democrats hold all of them? 

A few do not look particularly vulnerable.

Jared Golden of Maine 02 is #17 on Len’s list of vulnerable Democratic incumbents and #10 on Daily Kos’s list.  If there is a Republican wave, even a wavelet, the Democrats are done for even if the wavelet does not get as far as the 17th most vulnerable Democratic incumbent.

Golden will probably face retired NASCAR driver and state rep Austin Theriault in the general. On September 30, the last reporting date, Theriault had not yet raised any money.  Golden reported having almost $900,000.  He’ll need every bit of that and a lot more.  I certainly urge people to donate to Jared Golden.  Theriault has the capacity to raise plenty.

Relying on Maine’s ranked choice voting system, Golden has won three elections in ME 02.  The people of that enormous, rural district show no sign of tiring of him.  Golden keeps demonstrating he is more conservative than other Democrats and is, nevertheless, authentically a Democrat and authentically a Mainer.  See Len’s Political Note #575

Don Davis of North Carolina 01 is #19 on Len’s list of vulnerable Democratic incumbents and tied for #22 on Daily Kos’s list.  His probable general election opponent will be Sandy Smith again.  She has too many scandals and not quite enough money ($300,000 to Davis’s $500,000 on September 30) to defeat the retired Air Force officer, sometime faculty member and administrator at Eastern Carolina University, and mayor of his tiny hometown.  Of course, the first term Democrat does not have enough money either.  Donate to him.  See Len’s Political Note #577

Emilia Sykes of Ohio 13 is #24 on Len’s list of vulnerable Democrats and #15 on Daily Kos’s list. She also has some money for her campaign — $750,000 reported on September 30, while town councilor Chris Banweg had $100,000.  The money situation can change on January 31, but as of now this young, energetic, and successful former state legislator and first term Member of Congress from a family where either her father, her mother, or both represented Akron in the state legislature for years and years seems unlikely to be defeated in the general.  See Len’s Political Note #591

That’s three.  Let’s look at some of the other seven on the list.

Yadira Caraveo of Colorado 08 is #2 on Len’s list of vulnerable Democratic incumbents and #3 on Daily Kos’s list.  That’s scary. A pediatrician who had a low-income case load and was a state rep before being elected to Congress, had $900,000 available for her campaign on September 30.  Two Republicans have announced.  Each had about $100,000 and they have to spend their money on the June 25 primary. I am feeling confident, but not so confident I would skip asking you to give her money.  So long as she keeps her lead in resources, Yadira Caraveo should be able to win, vulnerable as she may be.  See Len’s Political Note #537

Susan Wild of Pennsylvania 07 is #6 on Len’s list of vulnerable Democratic incumbents and #5 on Daily Kos’s list.  Now in her third term, she won narrowly in 2022.  She earned her nomination based on the integrity with which she handled an investigation of the town for which she was the solicitor.  She has served as chair of the ethics committee when the Democrats had a majority. She had $1.1 million on September 30.  The most any of the several possible opponents she could face had was $130,000.  So long as Susan Wild keeps a lead in resources, she should be able to win.  See Len’s Political Note #546

Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania 08 is #7 on Len’s list of vulnerable Democrats and #3 on Daily Kos’s list. First elected to Congress in 2012, he won narrowly in 2022.  He met his wife in law school, joined his father in law’s practice, and became known in the community answering questions about the law on his own television program.  He had $1.4 million available on September 30.  The businessman who appears to be his opponent had not yet raised any money.  Matt Cartwright does keep winning and should win again in 2024 – so long as he gets the support he needs.  See Len’s Political Note #547

Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington 03 is #4 on Len’s list and #2 on Daily Kos’s list.  A graduate of Reed College (the Oberlin of the northwest?), she and her husband ran an auto repair garage and were involved in local politics.  She carved out a moderate Democratic position as a genuine small business owner. Though she was an amateur politician, she was able to raise money.  On September 30, she had $1.6 million.  She is facing Joe Kent, who she defeated in 2022.  He is so extremist a right winger he can seem like a fantasist.  He can raise money and had $450,000 on September 30.  No other Republican has emerged.  Marie Gluesenkamp Perez should beat Kent again. Remember, the support is important. See Len’s Political Note #543

That makes seven Democratic incumbents on the Cook Report’s Toss up list who I believe will be reelected.  Donate money to as many of them as you can.  They do not get reelected automatically.  Now let’s look at the remaining three to consider whether there is a likelihood that one would lose.

Curtis Hertel of Michigan 07 is running to replace Elise Slotkin who is running for the US Senate to replace the retiring Deb Stabenow.  Had Slotkin been running, she would have been #29 on Len’s list.  Daily Kos adjusted for the new circumstances and declared Hertel was defending the Democrats’ most vulnerable seat. A state rep, former House Speaker, and liaison between the Governor and the legislature, he is a pro.  He will be running against another State rep.  Dan Barrett is a MAGA Republican. This campaign has the potential to be one of the big spending campaigns even though on September 30, Hertel had only $600,000 and Barrett had only $400,000.  Hertel will need every dollar he can raise. See Len’s Political Note #601

Kristen McDonald Rivet of Michigan 08 announced at the beginning of January.  She is one of three Democrats running.  The Republicans have three candidates running as well.  The August 6 primary is both a big deal and a long way off.  None of the six candidates had any money to speak of on September 30.

When state Senator McDonald Rivet announced, one headline said the Democrats got the candidate they wanted.  Previously, she worked for the State Superintendent of schools focusing on early education policy and next as the Skillman Foundation’s vice president for program and policy.  She began her political career on the  Bay City Charter Commission and then became a member of the City Commission. Later she was a state rep, and is now a state senator.   This daughter of a construction worker who did snow removal in the winter, she is the first in the family to go to college. She looks like a winner.

Gabe Vasquez of New Mexico 02.  Like an old fashioned metronome, this district has swung from Democrat to Republican, back and forth.  Gabe Vasquez was a city councilor and blue-collar conservationist before being elected to Congress in 2022.  He is #1 on Len’s list of vulnerable Democrats, #9 on Daily Kos’s List.  He will face Yvette Herrell in November, the Congresswoman he defeated.  She had $500,000 on September 30; he had $900,000.  More important, the Republicans lost a lawsuit.  They claimed redistricting had gerrymandered NM 02 away from the Republicans.  The Court said the changes were insufficient to be considered gerrymandering.  Nevertheless, those changes may prove to be enough to stop the metronome. See Len’s Political Note #536

Now for the Republicans in Toss up Seats

If Vasquez, Hertel, and Rivet all win in November and join the other seven Democrats the Cook Report lists as Toss ups, Democrats will still have to win half the 14 Toss up seats that are in Republican hands.

Look at those races.

Begin in California. The Republicans have four seats the Cook Reports considers to be Toss ups.

Will Rollins of CA 41 is challenging veteran Congressman Ken Calvert again.  Rollins is a former prosecutor, counterterrorism attorney, and an advocate for the LGBTQ community.  Calvert, who won with 51.7% of the vote, has attempted to smooth over his past anti-gay views.  Calvert is #17 on Len’s list of vulnerable incumbent Republicans, tied for #19 on Daily Kos’s list.  This is going to be a big money race.  On September 30, Calvert had $2 million, Rollins had $1.5 million.  If Rollins can win the money race, he might turn a toss up race into a victory.  See Len’s Political Note #588.

George Whitesides of CA 27 is challenging Republican incumbent Mike Garcia.  Whitesides is the former CEO of Virgin Galactica and a former Chief of Staff to the Director of NASA.  Garcia defeated a Democratic school board chair, Christy Smith, in one special and two general elections. Will this ex Navy aviator do less well against a leading advocate of flying in space?  Garcia is #19 on Len’s list and is tied at #7 on Daily Kos’s list of vulnerable incumbent Republicans.  This will be another big money race.  On September 30, Whitesides had $1.7 million, Garcia had $1.6 million.  The same question applies to Whitesides as to Rollins.  Can he win the money race and turn a toss up into a victory?  See Len’s Political Note #608

Rudy Salas in CA 22 is again challenging six term incumbent Republican David Valadao.  Valadao is perpetually considered vulnerable in a district with more Democrats than Republicans. He is #7 on Len’s list of vulnerable Republican incumbents, #3 on Daily Kos’s list. Rudy Salas, Bakersfield’s first Latino elected city councilor, went on to be an assemblyman who focused on bringing resources to his district.  He would be the same type of representative if elected to Congress from this district for which Bakersfield is the southern anchor.  To be elected, though, he will need to raise more money.  He had filed papers for reelection in December, 2022, but did not really announce his candidacy until well into 2023.  He had only $150,000 on the September 30 report while Valadao had $1.2 million.  We will see where they are both financially on January 31.  See Len’s Political Note #602.

Adam Gray in CA 13, is far enough north to be east of San Jose. He is challenging first term Congressman and family agribusiness executive John Duarte, to whom he lost an extremely close race in 2022.  Duarte is #2 on Len’s list of vulnerable Republicans, #1 on Daily Kos’s list (before it was adjusted to place Curtis Hertel at the #1 spot).  Adam Gray is a former assemblyman with work experience on his family dairy supply store and familiarity with agricultural issues.  He had $200,000 on September 30 to Duarte’s $1.2 million.  We will see where the two of them are financially on January 31. See Len’s Political Note #586

 Brief thoughts #1

This is why they are toss ups.  It is hard to predict the winners in these four races.  Though ordinarily in elections, the close races shift in one direction together, I can’t see it here.  Instead, I suggest the Democrats will win two of these four races.  I just don’t know which two.

There are three more western seats held by Republicans that the Cook Report considers to be Toss ups.  Two are in Arizona.  One is in Oregon. Look at these.

O’Callaghan.                  Horne.                       Cherny.                           Shah                                Galan-Woods

Six Democrats in AZ 01 are eager to run against Dave Schweikert who is #8 on Len’s list of vulnerable Republican incumbents and tied for #7 on Daily Kos’s list. His vulnerability is enhanced by virtue of having been criticized by the ethics committee.   While Schweikert had $800,000 on January 3, one of the Democrats, Conor O’Callaghan, had $950,000.  Orthodontist Andrew Horne had just under $800,000.  Former Party Chair and ex CEO Andrei Cherney had $700,000. Two others had around $400,000 – Physician and State Rep Amish Shah and former TV anchor Marlene Galan-Woods.   We will want to see where they all stand on January 31 when all the financial reports are due.  We may have to wait until the primary on August 6 to know who the Democratic candidate is.

Kristen Engel in AZ 06 will have a rematch against freshman Congressman Juan Ciscomani.  He won with 50.7% of the vote, is #10 on Len’s list of vulnerable Republicans and #15 on Daily Kos’s list.  She had $650,000 on September 30; Ciscomani had $1.8 million.  Consider their differences.  She is not from Arizona; he is a local, a child of immigrants.  She went to national colleges and law school.  He went to school locally. She can overcome those differences by telling a story that rests on her understanding of the implications of the climate crisis, its impact on a desert state, and the remedies that are possible as well as those that are not.  She will need resources to do that.  See Len’s Political Note #558.

Janelle Sojourner Bynum in OR 05 will probably be the Democratic opponent of first term Congresswoman Lori Chavez DeRemer, the former mayor of Happy Valley who was elected with 51.2 of the vote in 2022.  She is #12 on Len’s list of vulnerable Republicans, #6 on Daily Kos’s list.  She is prepared for the contest.  On September 3 Chavez DeRemer had $1.3 million.  Bynum had $200,000.  What’s more, Bynum will have to get past the 2022 Democratic nominee – Jamie McLeod Skinner.   Skinner’s campaign is coming apart a little. Former staffers are complaining they were afraid she would hit them, let alone yell at them.  If Bynum does win the May 21 primary and if she has enough resources, she will have a decent chance to defeat DeRemer.  She has done that twice – defeating DeRemer by 2 points for an open state House of Representatives seat in 2016 and successfully defending that seat against DeRemer in 2020 by 8 points.

Brief thoughts #2

As with the California Toss ups, I find it extremely hard to make predictions for each contest.  And as with the California toss ups, I suggest anticipating Democrats win one of the three races.  That would bring us to considering the New York toss ups.

Tom Suozzi of NY 03 is the Democratic candidate for the special election scheduled for February 13th.  If you want to help out, do it now.  Tom Suozzi is attempting to reclaim his former seat.  He left his Long Island district to run for governor in 2022 and lost in the primary.  He was replaced in Congress by George Santos who was recently expelled from Congress creating an immediate vacancy.  In New York, Party leaders choose the candidate for special elections.  The Democratic state and county party leader Jay Jacobs chose his friend, a moderate Democrat, former county executive and former congressman, son and nephew of mayors of Glen Gove. The Republicans chose Mazi Pilip.  Born in Ethiopia, she and her family were airlifted to Israel in Operation Solomon bringing Ethiopian Jews there.  She grew up in Israel, served in the army as the gunsmith for a unit of paratroopers, went to school to be an occupational therapist and more school for international studies.  International is right.  She married a Ukrainian-American Jew, moved to the United States, and was elected to the county legislature. She seems not to be ready to go to Congress.  Her handlers closed her off from questions at her opening announcement.  They and she were unprepared to clarify that she was not actually a paratrooper or to explain the lawsuit against her husband for failure to pay rent for his medical office or to explain why she was still registered as a Democrat – though she had run for the county legislature on the Republican line.  She does behave like a Republican – blaming Joe Biden for Israel being unprotected against the October 7 attack rather than the man most Israelis blame – Benjamin Netanyahu.  If Tom Suozzi wins the special election, he will be the favorite to win the June 25 primary and the general election.   See Len’s Political Note #607

Laura Gillen of NY 04 will be the Democratic nominee against first term Congressman Anthony D’Esposito.  He is #15 on Len’s list of vulnerable Republican Members of Congress, #4 on Daily Kos’s list.  A former New York City cop and operative for local Republicans, he had $1.1 million on September 30 to Luara Gillen’s $400,000.  She initially tried Broadway as an actress, an agent, and a set designer with some success. Before going to law school she traveled the world, taking people scuba diving and briefly working with Mother Teresa.  She practiced law locally and then was elected Supervisor (Mayor) of Hempstead – the largest town in the country.  Will she catch up financially?  Will the tweaks that the legislature makes in redistricting help her and the other New York Toss ups win their election?  The redistricting is required by the state’s highest court which ruled that the court’s intention allowing a special master to redistrict for 2022 was that those district lines would be temporary, just for that one term.  See Len’s Political Note #596

 Mondaire Jones of NY 17 is another Democratic Congressman seeking to regain his seat.  He is running against first term Congressman and former Assemblyman Michael Lawler who was elected with 50.41% of the vote.  Lawler is #4 on Len’s list, #2 on Daily Kos’s list.  Even without redistricting tweaks, Lawler is quite vulnerable.  He had defeated Sean Patrick Maloney, the Chair of the DCCC, then the Congressman from NY 18.  After the redistricting before 2022 Maloney decided to run in a district more favorable to Democrats. His new district saw him as an interloper.  Jones, however, had acceded. He ran and lost in a primary in Manhattan.  Now he has returned to where Members of Congress are most likely to be successful – home.  The current DCCC (with Maloney gone) points out that Lawler voted in support of several anti-abortion proposals and pro-gun proposals.   Lawler had $2 million on September 30.  Jones had $850,000.  We will see where things stand on January 31.  See Len’s Political Note #579

Josh Riley of NY 19 is running in a rematch against Marc Molinaro, a first term Member of Congress and former County Executive who defeated Riley in 2022 with 50.7% of the vote.  He is #9 on Len’s list of vulnerable Republicans in Congress, tied for #7 on Daily Kos’s list.  Molinaro had $1.3 million on September 30; Riley had $1 million.  Riley is a local who has traveled and returned.  When he was a very young man, he was a staffer for the local Congressman, Maurice Hinchey.  Later, he was general counsel for Minnesota Senator Al Franken.  Josh Riley is persistent pointing out that Molinaro voted for Jim Jordan for Speaker.  Len’s Political Note #580

Sarah Klee Hood of NY 22 is the likely Democratic nominee, but not the only possibility, in a run against first term incumbent Brandon Williams. Williams is #6 on Len’s list of vulnerable Republicans, #4 on Daily Kos’s list.  He is retired from the Navy and had no particular ties to the Syracuse area in 2008 when he bought a farm for growing lavender and truffles, and for raising bees. Explaining that he is wealthy, he declined his salary if the government were to shut down.  He changed his story to explain that even if there were a shutdown, Congress would still be hard at work.  What’s more, he said, he is not that wealthy. On September 30, for his campaign, he had $850,000.  Sarah Klee Hood had only $250,000 – more than the other Democrats, but well behind Williams.  She grew up in a working class family and is still paying off student loans.  She is an Air Force vet, a town councilor, and, based on what she learned from her work in the navy, a consultant on environmental issues.  See Len’s Political Note #557

 Brief thoughts #3

You could well imagine the Democrats winning all five of these seats in November, especially if there are even small tweaks in their favor through redistricting.  Using my calculus, which someone might question, winning all five New York Toss ups would give the Democrats one seat to spare in getting control of the House.

Two more Republican held seats that Cook describes as toss ups.

Susan Altman in NJ 07 is running against first term incumbent Tom Kean Jr.  Kean is #14 on both Len’s list and Daily Kos’s list of vulnerable Republican incumbents in the House.  Kean has a financial advantage.  On September 30, he reported having $1.8 million for his campaign.  Susan Altman had $350,000.  Kean is a former state legislator and son of a highly regarded former Republican governor.  His 2022 victory is testament that rematches can be won by the candidate who lost in the previous campaign.  Altman was head of New Jersey’s Working Families Party.  See Len’s Political Note #578


Republican Julia Letlow in LA 05 has no opposition at this moment. She is completing her first full term in Congress, having won a special election in 2021. Most recently, Louisiana is trying a plurality Black district in LA 06.  They may be thinking they can keep LA 06 district white and Republican.  Otherwise, she has no opposition.

Brief thoughts #4

If Democrats win all the seats that Cook Reports see as Blue or Bluish and Republicans win all the seats the Cook Reports see as Red or Reddish, and the Toss ups got tossed as predicted in this Note, Democrats would have 219 votes in Congress and a teeny majority.  Don’t count on it.  Give money to vulnerable Democrats and Democrats who are running against vulnerable Republicans.

I will look another time at the Leaners and the Likely.  Some of those seats will not conform to their placement.  I will not look right away, though.  Perhaps after the financial reports are out at the end of the month.