The first big primary night of 2018 is in the books.
It was tough going for some Republican House members looking for a promotion. But it also might cause a little heartburn for Republicans who are hoping to return to the chamber, or join it for the first time.
Based on Tuesday’s results, CNN is moving four races to a more competitive ranking – all in favor of the Democrats. In three of those contests, Republicans remain strong favorites to hold the seat, but Democrats landed candidates they feel are good fits for the districts. That also is true in the fourth race on the list, which moves to the Toss-Up column. Of the 22 races now rated as Toss-Ups, 20 are currently held by Republicans.
As a reminder, Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats in order to win control of the House.
NC-09: GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger became the first incumbent to lose a renomination contest this cycle, creating an open seat opportunity for Democrats where the party had already landed a strong challenger. Democrat Dan McCready, a Marine Corps veteran and clean energy entrepreneur, received nearly 38,000 votes Tuesday – roughly 4,000 more than Pittenger and GOP primary winner Mark Harris combined. McCready heads into the general election with $1.2 million in the bank compared to about $70,000 for Harris, a former pastor. This district went for Donald Trump by 12 points in 2016, but Democrats hold a clear edge in enthusiasm at this stage of the race. Race moves from Lean Republican to Toss-Up.
WV-03: State Sen. Richard Ojeda scored a convincing victory in the Democratic primary Tuesday night, receiving 52% of the vote against three challengers. Ojeda received nearly 30,000 votes in the primary, which came close to matching the total combined votes for the top four vote-getters in the GOP primary. State Del. Carol Miller won that seven-person contest with 24% of the vote. Democrats will face an uphill climb is this southern West Virginia seat. Donald Trump carried the 3rd District by 50 points in 2016 while Mitt Romney carried it by 32 points. But Ojeda’s populist platform combined with his background as a decorated Army veteran who voted for Trump could appeal in a district that was represented by former Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall until he lost his 2014 re-election bid. Race moves from Solid Republican to Likely Republican.
IN-02: Three-term GOP Rep. Jackie Walorski will face off against Democrat Mel Hall in November. Hall, a former minister, received 42% of the vote in Tuesday’s crowded six-candidate Democratic primary. Walorski won her last two races with comfortable margins after earning a narrow victory in 2012 to the seat vacated by current Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly. Donald Trump won this district, home to South Bend and Elkhart, by 22 points. That was a dramatic swing from 2008, when Barack Obama and John McCain were separated by about 700 votes. Walorski enters the general election as a clear favorite, with a little more than $1 million in the bank as of mid-April. Hall starts off with $236,000 cash on hand, but he’s shown an ability to stay competitive in fundraising the last two quarters. Race moves from Solid Republican to Likely Republican.
IN-09: This is another Hoosier State race with a heavily-favored GOP incumbent and a Democratic nominee who could pose a challenge. Democrat Liz Watson, a former congressional staffer, eclipsed two other candidates with 66% of the vote in Tuesday’s primary. She’ll face off against first-term Rep. Trey Hollingsworth in November. Watson has outraised Hollingsworth the past two fundraising quarters, although the Republican holds a cash-on-hand advantage of $432,000 to $297,000. Hollingsworth, whose net worth is in excess of $50 million, has the ability to help his own cause if necessary. In 2016, he spent $3.1 million of his own money on his campaign. The district includes some Indianapolis and Louisville suburbs, as well as Bloomington, home to Indiana University. Hillary Clinton won Monroe County, where the school is based, by 23 points in 2016. Race moves from Solid Republican to Likely Republican.