Democrats managed to avoid getting blocked from the general election ballot in several key California races that could determine control of the House in November. The party also landed its top choices in four New Jersey contests, which could further help Democrats on their mission of flipping 23 seats to seize control of the House majority.
The lack of any major surprises leaves our ratings largely intact, although there are a few races where last Tuesday's results warrant a move.
Of the seven races we are moving, four are in the direction of the Democrats, while three shift toward Republicans.
CA-39: Democrat Gil Cisneros and Republican Young Kim are set to face off in what is expected to be one of the most closely-watched House races this fall. The path back to the majority for Democrats runs in large part through California, and the seven Republican-held seats that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. The 39th District, represented by retiring GOP Rep. Ed Royce, is among them. Clinton won here by eight points in 2016, a swing from Mitt Romney's four-point edge here four years earlier. Latinos, Asian-Americans and whites each make up roughly a third of the district's population. Cisneros, a Navy veteran and millionaire lottery winner, was the top choice of the DCCC. Kim, a Korean immigrant and former assemblywoman, could appeal to groups that typically favor Democrats. Race moves from Lean Democratic to Toss-Up.
CA-50: Embattled GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter will face public affairs consultant Ammar Campa-Najjar in this conservative district that backed Trump by 15 points and Romney by 22 points. The area is home to many veterans and military retirees, which had some Democrats thinking former Navy SEAL Josh Butner might have presented a tougher challenge to Hunter. Campa-Najjar, a former Obama administration official, is running on a progressive platform that includes tuition-free college and moving toward a Medicare-for-All health care system. At this point it seems the only thing stopping Hunter from re-election in November is if he is charged in the federal investigation into whether he misused campaign funds. Race moves from Likely Republican to Solid Republican.
NJ-11: Democrats are poised to flip this seat represented by retiring GOP Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen. Former federal prosecutor and Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill scored an overwhelming win in last week's Democratic primary and has $1.8 million in the bank at last check. State Assemblyman Jay Webber claimed the Republican nomination -- although there was lower turnout in the competitive GOP primary than there was on the Democratic side. His latest fundraising report showed about $225,000 cash on hand. In 2016, this Republican-leaning district backed President Trump over Hillary Clinton 48% to 47%. Mitt Romney won it with 53% four years earlier. Race moves from Toss-Up to Lean Democratic.
FL-25: The decision last month by former Miami judge Mary Barzee Flores to exit the Democratic primary in the 27th District and run in the 25th gives eight-term GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart a serious challenger. Diaz-Balart starts the race with a significant fundraising advantage, entering April with $1.2 million compared with $400,000 for Barzee Flores. Donald Trump narrowly clipped Hillary Clinton in this south Florida district 49% to 48%. Four years earlier Mitt Romney won the district 51% to 49% against Barack Obama. In a strong Democratic year, Diaz-Balart could be in danger, though he has proven he can withstand such political winds in previous cycles. Race moves from Solid Republican to Likely Republican.
TX-31: GOP Rep. John Carter has coasted to re-election since taking office more than 15 years ago, but he's facing a potentially competitive challenge from Democrat M.J. Hegar in this central Texas district north of Austin. Hegar is a former Air Force combat search and rescue pilot who helped rescue passengers after her helicopter was shot down by the Taliban in 2009. She received a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Device for her service in Afghanistan. Hegar won her Democratic runoff in May by 24 points and had $117,000 cash on hand at the beginning of the month. Carter started April with $350,000 in the bank, but was outraised by Hegar in the first quarter of 2018. Race moves from Solid Republican to Likely Republican.
WI-07: The sudden decision last month by Kyle Frenette to withdraw from the race leaves Democrats in search of a top challenger for GOP Rep. Sean Duffy in this northern Wisconsin district. Frenette, the manager of the band Bon Iver, raised $250,000 in six weeks after launching his bid, giving Democrats hope he might be able to stay competitive with Duffy and his $2.2 million war chest. Among the Democrats running are physician Brian Ewert, attorney Margaret Engebretson and Bob Look, a former radio host whose wife was killed in a shooting last year. For now, it appears Duffy's path to re-election is a little easier. Race moves from Likely Republican to Solid Republican.