Democrats projected to retain House majority

Bonnie Cash

Democrats are projected to maintain their House majority in Tuesday’s elections, but so far appear to be falling short of expectations that they would significantly expand upon their gains in the suburbs from two years ago.

Most of the competitive House races had not yet been called as of midnight Wednesday.

But multiple networks projected that Democrats would keep the lower chamber on Tuesday night.

At the same time, the first competitive House races to be called indicated that Republicans were managing to defend seats in top battlegrounds and unseat numerous Democratic incumbents. House Democratic leaders, meanwhile, had predicted a net gain of as much as 15 seats in recent days.

The presidential race does not yet have a clear winner either, with multiple swing states like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan and Wisconsin still finalizing their vote counts.

Democratic hopes of a blowout have also fallen short in the race for the Senate. Only two GOP Senate incumbents have been ousted so far, while Republicans held off Democratic challenges in red states like Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina.

Democrats have so far flipped two open House seats in North Carolina, which were expected to turn blue due to redistricting.

But five first-term Democrats who had flipped seats from red to blue in 2018, Florida Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala, as well as Reps. Kendra Horn (Okla.), Joe Cunningham (S.C.) and Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.) were expected to lose reelection.

Mucarsel-Powell and Shalala had both had been favored to win reelection heading into Tuesday, but both appeared to have narrowly lost to their GOP challengers in their southern Florida districts that Hillary Clinton had handily carried in 2016. Horn, Torres Small and Cunningham faced uphill battles in traditionally GOP districts that President Trump won four years ago.

And in another blow to Democrats, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) was projected to lose reelection after 15 terms to Republican Michelle Fischbach in a district that Trump had carried by 30 points.

Numerous GOP lawmakers in races considered highly competitive ultimately prevailed on Tuesday night, including Reps. Rodney Davis (Ill.), Steve Chabot (Ohio), Ann Wagner (Mo.), Michael McCaul (Texas) and French Hill (Ark.).

Democrats also fell short in some open seat races in Virginia and Texas that had been considered competitive.

In addition, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was locked in a tight race in a district that Trump carried in 2016.

Democrats currently hold 232 seats, while Republicans hold 197. The one independent currently serving in the House, Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), is not seeking reelection.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to be reelected to another term leading House Democrats after becoming Trump’s chief antagonist over the past two years.

It’s a contrast from two years ago when Democrats regained the House after eight years of GOP control. Pelosi was still favored to continue leading House Democrats at the time, but a number of candidates in competitive districts had distanced themselves from her or even declared that they wouldn’t back her for Speaker.

A small group of Pelosi detractors tried to prevent her from taking the Speaker’s gavel but were unable to recruit a challenger. Only 12 Democrats ultimately voted for candidates for Speaker besides Pelosi in January 2019, while three voted “present.”  

Pelosi has led House Democrats since 2003 and is one of just seven Speakers in history to regain the gavel after serving a period in the minority.

If Democrats also take control of the Senate, they will have unified control across the Capitol to pursue legislative priorities such as health care, infrastructure, police reform and gun control. 

House Democrats had passed a variety of bills over the past two years reflecting the party’s platform, including to expand background checks for gun sales, raise the minimum wage to $15 and establish a path to citizenship for certain immigrants without legal status.

Those bills were all ignored by the GOP-controlled Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) embraced calling himself the “Grim Reaper” and blocking Democrats’ agenda.

If Trump wins reelection, the House will continue to serve as a counterbalancing branch of government that pursues investigations into his administration and blocks his legislative priorities.

Democrats are set to build upon the historic diversity from the class of lawmakers that propelled the party into the House majority in 2018. The 2018 class included a record 36 women and 24 racial minorities.

For the first time, it’s expected there will be openly gay Black members of Congress: incoming New York Democratic Reps.-elect Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres.

The so-called “Squad” of four progressive congresswomen who first won election in 2018 — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) — will have additional allies when the new session of Congress begins in January.

Three progressive Democrats who won primary challenges this year over sitting Democratic incumbents — Cori Bush of Missouri, Marie Newman of Illinois and Jamaal Bowman of New York — are expected to take office in January. Jones also had initially launched a primary challenge against House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who eventually announced her retirement last year.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Ann Wagner Ayanna Pressley Cheri Bustos Collin Peterson Debbie Mucarsel-Powell Donald Trump Donna Shalala French Hill Hillary Clinton House majority Ilhan Omar Joe Cunningham Justin Amash Kendra Horn Michael McCaul Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Nita Lowey Rashida Tlaib Rodney Davis Steve Chabot
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