Republican-Held House Seats in the Electoral Crosshairs
By Matthew Reichbach
National Democrats announced Monday they will target New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District in the 2018 elections.
The move comes as part of an expansion of 20 more Republican-held House seats targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Already, Democrats announced 59 other seats are in their electoral crosshairs. With this second round of targets, Democrats are targeting nearly one-third of all seats currently held by Republicans. (Four seats are currently vacant.)
Republicans said earlier this year that both of the New Mexico congressional districts held by Democrats are on their list of targets.
The newest list of Democratic targets includes the seat currently held by Republican Steve Pearce. Pearce, who is considering leaving Congress to run for governor, has held the seat for all but one term since being elected in 2002.
In 2008, Pearce left the House to run for U.S. Senate. During that gap, Democrat Harry Teague won during a wave election for Democrats due to, in large part, the unpopularity of President George W. Bush. Teague is the only Democrat to win election in the district since New Mexico gained a third district in the 1980s. Harold Runnels represented the district from 1971 to 1980 when New Mexico had just two congressional districts.
Two years later, in a more Republican-friendly election, Pearce ran for the House seat again and easily defeated Teague. In three elections since then, Pearce has averaged over 62 percent of the vote in reelection wins.
One of those representatives, Ben Ray Lujan of the 3rd Congressional District, is the chair of the DCCC. He predicted earlier this year that Democrats would gain seats in 2018.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, meanwhile, has raised a large amount of money. The group’s April haul was over $10 million for the fourth-straight month — a record for the group in the first third of a non-election year.
Nationally, many of the newly targeted seats have been safely Republican for years. One is Virginia’s 7th Congressional District held by Dave Brat. Brat defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in an upset in the 2014 Republican primary, a rare defeat of a sitting member of Congress in a primary, let alone a member of leadership.
Brat went on to easily win the general election in 2014 and then reelection in 2016.
According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, or Cook PVI, which measures how a district or state leans toward a party when compared to the nation as a whole, the 2nd Congressional District in New Mexico is R+6. All the seats in the DCCC’s second wave are more Republican than the nation as a whole. They range from R+4 in Michigan’s 6th Congressional District held by Rep. Fred Upton to the open 3rd Congressional District in West Virginia, which is R+23.
Races ranging from R+5 to D+5 are generally considered swing races.
New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District is D+7, while the 3rd Congressional District is D+8.
New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District also is one that goes Republican on the presidential level.
According to election results totaled by the progressive website Daily Kos, Republican Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton 50.07 percent to 39.88 percent in the district in 2016 even as Trump lost the state 48.26 percent to 40.04 percent. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama 51.7 percent to 44.9 percent in the district.
If the district voted under the lines after 2012 redistricting, John McCain would have defeated Obama 50.2 percent to 48.4 percent in the 2008 election.
Even still, Democrats are reportedly looking to emulate the 2006 elections when they won the majority largely on the back of an unpopular Republican president, in that case George W. Bush entering his final years in office.
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