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Democrats Identify Vulnerable Members for 2018

DCCC names 19 incumbents to Frontline Program

New Hampshire Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, chairwoman of the DCCC’s Frontline Program, is herself a Frontline member heading into 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
New Hampshire Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, chairwoman of the DCCC’s Frontline Program, is herself a Frontline member heading into 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Monday is naming 19 members to the Frontline Program for its most vulnerable incumbents in 2018.

The initial Frontline roster, obtained first by Roll Call, is about half freshman members. Eight members won in districts President Donald Trump carried last fall. And all of them, save for one, are National Republican Congressional Committee initial targets.

Seven of the members on this year’s list were also on the DCCC’s initial 2016 Frontline list. Out of the 12 Frontline members on the 2016 list who sought re-election last fall only Nebraska Rep. Brad Ashford lost.

“Each of these Democrats knows how to win tough races — proven by their success in a difficult national environment in 2016,” DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján said in a statement.

“The Frontline Program will help these members again build strong campaigns, maximize resources and take advantage of the energy from the grassroots, so that they can continue to fight on behalf of the hardworking people in their districts,” Luján added.

Democrats need to gain 24 seats to win control of the House next year, which makes protecting their incumbents a high priority during a midterm year when turnout is typically less favorable for the party.

The NRCC named 10 members to its incumbent protection program last month. 

Here are the 19 members on the Frontline roster, which is subject to change as the cycle develops:

  • California Rep. Ami Bera was one of just a handful of Republican targets last cycle. He won re-election by 2 points against a challenger who faced allegations of unwanted sexual advances. Hillary Clinton won the 7th District comfortably, but Bera’s vulnerability will likely stem from his father’s guilty plea for making illegal contributions to his campaigns.
  • California Rep. Salud Carbajal, a freshman, won by 7 points in a district Clinton carried by 20 points.
  • California Rep. Raul Ruiz won by 24 points in a district Clinton won by 9 points. President Barack Obama won this district, too, but by narrower margins in 2012 and 2008. 
  • California Rep. Scott Peters also sits in a Clinton district, which he won by 13 points. Like his fellow California representatives Bera and Ruiz, Peters was in the 2016 Frontline program. 
  • Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, another 2016 Frontline member, won re-election by 21 points last fall. But Trump narrowly carried her district, and it represents the kind of rural seat Republicans would like to pick off.
  • Florida Rep. Charlie Crist, a freshman, only won by 4 points in a seat redistricted in Democrats’ favor. The former Republican governor has earned some negative press in his first few months and has already emerged as a favorite target of the NRCC.
  • Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy won her first term by 3 points last fall, defeating long-time Republican John Mica, who was caught unprepared to run a serious re-election campaign. She’ll likely be vulnerable against a different Republican.
  • Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Esty won a third term by 16 points last fall, but Clinton won less than 50 percent of the vote here.
  • New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer was one of Democrats’ success stories last fall, when he knocked off long-term GOP Rep. Scott Garrett after he ran afoul of national Republicans. But Gottheimer could have a tougher race in this Trump district against a Republican who’s not Garrett.
  •  Nevada Rep. Ruben Kihuen, another freshman, and Clinton both won the 4th District by low single digits. 
  • Nevada Rep. Jacky Rosen will likely have the tougher race of the two Silver State freshmen. She and Trump both narrowly won the 3rd District.
  • New Hampshire Rep. Carol Shea-Porter is in her fourth non-consecutive term representing this swing district, which Trump carried in November. 
  • New Hampshire Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, who chairs the Frontline program, was also on the incumbent-protection program in 2016, when she won by about 4 points. She represents the more Democratic of the two Granite State districts.
  • Iowa Rep. Dave Loebsack won a fifth term by 7 points last fall, but Trump carried his 2nd District by 4 points. 
  • New York Rep. Tom Suozzi’s Long Island district was a GOP target in 2016, but the Democrat won the open seat by 6 points. Clinton also won here, but with less than 55 percent of the vote.  
  • New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney won re-election by 11 points but sits in a Trump district. 
  • Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan, who’s considering a gubernatorial bid in 2018, was one of Republicans’ top targets in 2016. He won by less than a point, while Trump carried the 8th District by 16 points.
  • Arizona Rep. Tom O’Halleran, a freshman, represents a district that Trump — and Mitt Romney and John McCain before him — won. The former GOP state lawmaker won by 7 points last fall but that was against a scandal-plagued Republican who lost national support. 
  • Illinois Rep. Brad Schneider returned to Congress this year after defeating former GOP Rep. Robert J. Dold. His 10th District routinely flips parties in the midterms, but this is the one seat of the 19 that the NRCC has not included in its initial target list. Spotted on the House floor last month, Dold told Roll Call he hadn’t talked to the committee yet about running again. 

Republicans have identified 36 targets for 2018, a third of which are in Trump districts. But several of those members are absent from the initial Frontline roster. 

Trump carried Minnesota Rep. Collin C. Peterson’s 7th District by more than 30 points, which led Peterson to have a closer-than-expected re-election against an underfunded challenger. The same was true for fellow Democratic-Farmer-Labor Rep. Tim Walz, who won re-election by less than one point. Both seats could be strong pick-up opportunities for Republicans if open. But Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales currently rates them both Lean Democrat.

Republicans also have their sights set on Pennsylvania Rep. Matt Cartwright, whose 17th District Trump won by 10 points. Inside Elections rates his seat Democrat Favored. Trump more narrowly won Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind‘s district. His seat is also rated Democrat Favored but could present a stronger opening for Republicans if Kind runs for governor.  

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