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10 House Races To Watch

House Democrats hope to expand their majority in this election.
Mark Tenally
House Democrats hope to expand their majority in this election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leads a 232-to-197 Democratic majority in the House heading into the election. There are five current vacancies and one
Libertarian, former Republican Justin Amash, R-Mich., who left the party in 2019 in a clash over his plan to vote to impeach President Trump.

Democrats hope to keep, and possibly expand, their House majority in 2020 by riding a rush of anti-Trump sentiment surging in cities and suburbs across the country. Recent polls have prompted political analysts to shift a number of close House races in favor of Democrats, who have sustained a significant cash advantage this election cycle.

Republicans hope to win back some seats in 2020 by targeting the 30 Democrats representing districts where Trump won in 2016. Of those seats, 22 are held by freshmen Democrats who were part of the 2018 midterm wave that swept Democrats into power in the House.

Five top targets for Republicans:

Collin Peterson, D-Minn. — Peterson is one of the most conservative House
Democrats and has often faced difficult political challenges. He is the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, a job that carries a lot of weight in his farm-heavy district. But the area has grown increasingly Republican, with Trump winning 62% of the vote in 2016. Peterson has walked a fine line in attempt to fit his constituents. He voted against impeaching Trump but has voted with Democrats on most major bills.

Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M. — It's a 2018 rematch in New Mexico. Torres Small is again facing former state Rep. Yvette Herrell, who she narrowly defeated by less than 4,000 votes. Polling in this district is slim but Trump won here by 10 points in 2016. Republicans have tried to tie Torres Small to more liberal Democrats and the Green New Deal.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla. — Florida is always a major battleground in a presidential election and this swingy Miami-area district may be one of the hottest contests in the state. Mucarsel-Powell defeated Republican Carlos Curbelo in 2018, winning just 51% of the vote. Curbelo was a frequent Trump critic when he was in Congress but he could not outrun the Democratic wave. Mucarsel-Powell now faces Carlos Gimenez, the popular Republican mayor of Miami-Dade County. Mucarsel-Powell has a significant cash advantage but the area is awash with national political ads, making this race as much about broader trends as local issues.

Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y. —Brindisi is another freshman Democrat running for reelection in Trump country. This is also another rematch. Brindisi is facing former Rep. Claudia Tenney, who he defeated in 2018 in a New York District went for Trump by 15 points in 2016. Trump remains popular here and his influence could help Tenney's chances at regaining her seat.

TJ Cox, D-Calif. —It is a big year for rematches and Cox is one of them. He's running against former Rep. GOP David Valadao, who he narrowly defeated in a dramatic race in 2018. Cox was part of a major push by Democrats in 2018 to take over a string of GOP-held districts in Southern California. Cox initially planned to challenge a different GOP House member, Jeff Denham, but switched to run against Valadao.

Valadao initially declared victory after the Associated Press called the race in his favor but Cox took the lead and eventually won several weeks later after mail-in-ballots were counted. Polling here is slim but Valadao led Cox in at least one early poll.

Five top targets for Democrats:

Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J. — Van Drew won this seat as a Democrat in 2018 only to switch parties in December 2019 in opposition to impeaching Trump. Democrats think they can win again with the message that Van Drew put himself ahead of his constituents. His opponent Amy Kennedy, wife of former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy, has been raising lots of money and recent polls show her ahead in the race.

Don Bacon, R-Neb. — This is another rematch as Bacon faces Kara Eastman, a Democrat who he narrowly defeated in 2018. Eastman has benefitted from significant support from national Democrats and this district has been polling in favor of Joe Biden for president.

Mike Garcia, R-Calif. — Garcia won this seat in a special election in May to replace Democrat Katie Hill who resigned amid personal controversy last fall. Garcia won that special election but California Democrats are expected to show up in droves in this presidential year, particularly with California Sen. Kamala Harris on the ticket as Biden's vice presidential running mate.

Open Seat in Va. 5 —Once purpleVirginia has been on a steady march towards Democrats for several years and many see this seat as a chance for them to solidify their hold on the state. Incumbent GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman lost his primary bid to conservative challenger Bob Good, an associate athletic director at the conservative religious school Liberty University. Good is facing Democrat Cameron Webb, a political newcomer and physician who served as a White House Fellow under both Presidents Obama and Trump.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters this week that a win for Democrats in this race, which could come from one of the states with an earlier poll closing time, is considered a sign of a potential blue wave in the country.

Open Seat in Texas 22 —Democrats have invested big in Texas this cycle and they hope to win seats in suburban areas, like this district outside of Houston. Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni and Republican Troy Nehls are the top-polling candidates. Kulkarni has polled narrowly ahead and has been endorsed by by the Houston Chronicle and Biden. A pickup here would give hope to the longtime dream for Democrats of turning Texas blue.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.