Congressional Races to Watch and Why


There are 30 districts President Trump won in 2016 where a Democrat holds the House seat. Well, there were 31, but one Democrat switched parties.  Among those swing districts, let's look at some candidates who could be in line to serve on the House Education and Labor committees.

Susie Lee represents Nevada’s third district – the triangle of country south of Las Vegas. She is a bit of a rare bird.  Lee is already a member of the House Education and Labor Committee. Many of the Democratic members of Education and Labor are on the left side of the party spectrum.  Yet Lee is a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus – a bipartisan group stocked with moderates.  In early September, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed Lee over her Republican opponent former professional wrestler Dan Rodimer.  The business seal approval is important for someone wishing to project a moderate voice on the Education and Labor committee.  However, she’s also on the good side of the service unions of Las Vegas. And she voted for the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act earlier in the year – a bill which includes a dozen union policy preferences. 

Party switchers are not trusted by either side. The fate of the latest Congressional party switcher could be a battle of coattails – the incumbent president vs the Kennedy dynasty. Jeff Van Drew was a Democrat from New Jersey as the House vote on impeachment approached.  He switched parties and voted to protect the president.  It’s hard to imagine two more scorn-inducing actions for the Democrats.  It was enough for Amy Kennedy to challenge Van Drew in the southern New Jersey, toss-up district.  Kennedy is an educator and mental health care advocate.  If she is successful, her years working in public schools may slot her into the Education and Labor committee.  She also happens to be the daughter-in-law of the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and wife of former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI).  It will be interesting to see if the Garden State cares about the family legacy or Van Drew’s embrace of Trump.  

Another educator and school board member whose experience could land her on Ed and Labor is Candace Valenzuela.  The Texas Democrat is taking on Republican Beth Van Duyne in a Dallas suburban district. President Trump appointed Van Duyne to be a regional administrator for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2017.  The Republican is also the former mayor of Irving, Texas.  The district has moved from red to purple over the last few years.  Mitt Romney carried the district by 22 points in 2012.  But Trump won it by six percentage points in 2016.  Democrat Beto O'Rourke beat GOP Senator Ted Cruz by a bit more than three points in the district two years ago.  The race could be a harbinger for the Democrats’ ability to win other red suburban districts. 

In the coming weeks, I will share more on close races, swing seats, and policy makers to watch.