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NRCC Goes After Blue-Collar Districts in 2018

GOP campaign arm releases list of 36 initial targets

Rep. Tim Walz speaks with guests during a campaign event in Duluth for fellow Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan last fall. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Tim Walz speaks with guests during a campaign event in Duluth for fellow Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan last fall. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The National Republican Congressional Committee’s initial list of offensive targets for 2018 includes 36 Democrat-held districts, many in blue-collar areas of the country.

If Democrats are targeting the well-educated suburbs (see New Jersey’s 11th District, for example), where Donald Trump either barely won or underperformed, Republicans are going after many rural districts where Hillary Clinton underperformed the congressional ticket. 

Three Minnesota Democrats from rural parts of the state are on the GOP House committee’s target list. Democratic-Farmer-Labor Rep. Rick Nolan has been a top target for the past two cycles, and his 8th District race is consistently among the most expensive House race in the nation. Nolan won re-election by less than a point in his sprawling Iron Range district last fall, while Trump carried it by 16 points. 

Next door in the 7th District, DFL Rep. Collin C. Peterson again finds himself on the GOP hit list after being targeted heavily in 2014 and then getting away without national Republican attention in 2016. But despite bragging before last year’s election about his underfunded challenger, who received no national assistance, Peterson only won re-election by 5 points in a district Trump carried by more than 30 points. 

In the southern part of the state, DFL Rep. Tim Walz also had a surprisingly close re-election last November, despite not being a national GOP target. He won by less than a point in the 1st District, where Trump won by 15 points. This cycle, he’s on the NRCC list.

Republicans are targeting nine other Democrats in districts where Clinton lost. Those include Rep. Cheri Bustos in Illinois’ 17th District, Rep. Tom O’Halleran in Arizona’s 1st District, Rep. Dave Loebsack in Iowa’s 2nd District, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire’s 1st District, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in New York’s 18th District, Rep. Josh Gottheimer in New Jersey’s 5th District, Rep. Matt Cartwright in Pennsylvania’s 17th District, Rep. Jacky Rosen in Nevada’s 3rd District and Rep. Ron Kind in Wisconsin’s 3rd District. 

Seats that Clinton narrowly won, like New Hampshire Rep. Ann McLane Kuster’s 2nd District, are also on the list. Others include Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney’s 2nd District, Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Esty’s 5th District, Florida Rep. Charlie Crist’s 13th District, Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee’s 5th District, Nevada Rep. Ruben Kihuen’s 4th District, Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio’s 4th District and Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader’s 5th District.

Republicans are also targeting some districts that Clinton carried more comfortably. In Florida’s 7th District, the NRCC is on the offensive against freshman Democrat Stephanie Murphy, who knocked off longtime GOP Rep. John L. Mica last fall in a redistricted seat.

California Rep. Ami Bera was one of the NRCC’s three main Democratic targets last cycle, and he’s once again on its list this cycle. Clinton won his district by 11 points, but expect Republicans to double down on the congressman’s father’s guilty plea for making illegal contributions to his son’s campaigns.

The NRCC will again contest New York’s 3rd District, which Democrat Tom Suozzi won last fall after Rep. Steve Israel’s retirement. Clinton won the Long Island district by 6 points. The NRCC is also targeting Rep. Raul Ruiz in California’s 36th District, a seat with a slight GOP advantage but one that Clinton won by 9 points.

In two Midwestern districts, Republicans are targeting Michigan Rep. Sander M. Levin and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, whose districts Clinton carried by 8 and 7 points, respectively. 

The NRCC is also going after a handful of Democrats in districts that Clinton won by double digits, some by as much as 22 points. Those include Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona’s 9th District, freshman Rep. Salud Carbajal in California’s 24th District, Rep. Scott Peters in California’s 52nd District, Rep. Ed Perlmutter in Colorado’s 7th District, Rep. William Keating in Massachusetts’ 9th District, Rep. John Delaney in Maryland’s 6th District, Rep. Derek Kilmer in Washington’s 6th District and Rep. Denny Heck in Washington’s 10th District.

In New Mexico, the NRCC is targeting the 1st District seat being vacated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham at the end of the term and the 3rd District seat held by Democratic Congressional Campaign Chairman Ben Ray Luján