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At the Races: The Ghost of Midterms Yet to Come

GOP tax bill and sexual harassment allegations dominated the week

Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter. Sign up here. We want to hear what you think. Reply to this email with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. — Simone Pathé and Bridget BowmanThis week … Republicans passed their tax bill, another congressman retired due to sexual harassment allegations and former women lawmakers offered advice to aspiring candidates.


Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., was one of 12 Republicans to vote against the GOP tax plan. He is also one of the most vulnerable incumbents. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., was one of 12 Republicans to vote against the GOP tax plan. He is also one of the most vulnerable incumbents. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Starting Gate

Bracing for At-tax: (Get it? Because both parties are getting attacked on taxes?) OK, bad puns aside, Republicans passed a major tax overhaul along party lines this week. Republicans said passing this tax bill was vital ahead of the 2018 midterms to prove they can govern. Democrats wasted no time launching attacks against Republicans — but will the 12 Republicans who voted against the measure face a backlash from their own party? That doesn’t appear likely — at least not yet.

Republicans say Americans will start feeling the effects of their tax bill right away. But does that mean more money in voters’ pockets before the 2018 midterms? Senate reporter Joe Williams dives into that question here.

*Bookmark* Is that the Ghost of Midterms Yet to Come pointing ominously at a calendar? That’s right, 2018 is upon us! Come, and know your elections better, man! (We realize we’re mixing Dickens ghosts here. Humbug.) Keep track of all things 2018 — candidates, filing deadlines, primary dates — with this handy midterm guide from data reporter Sean McMinn.

Kihuen, Out: Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen announced over the weekend that he would not seek a second term following allegations of sexual harassment, which the Ethics Committee is investigating. Kihuen has rejected top Democrats’ calls for him to resign. So far, four women — a campaign staffer, a Nevada lobbyist, a woman in D.C. and a woman who works in Kihuen’s condo building in Nevada — have described unwanted advances from the first-term congressman. His exit opens up his competitive House seat in Nevada.

House Hopefuls Not Immune: Some congressional candidates are facing sexual harassment allegations. Democrat Daylin Leach, a top candidate in the primary to take on Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Pat Meehan, is facing allegations of inappropriate comments and touching from former staffers in his state Senate office. He said he will be “taking a step back” from his House campaign, though it’s not clear if that means he’s dropping out.

Andrea Ramsey, another top Democratic candidate, dropped her bid in Kansas’ 3rd District following sexual harassment allegations from her time in the private sector. Ramsey denied any wrongdoing and accused the DCCC of refusing to back her campaign after the allegations came out. Ramsey. 

Year of the Woman, Part 2? An unprecedented number of women have expressed interest in running for office this cycle. So what do women who’ve been there have to say about running for Congress? Heard on the Hill’s Alex Gangitano sat down with four former lawmakers and got their advice for aspiring candidates

What. A. Year. 2017 was not exactly quiet for an off year. We break down some of our takeaways from this year and what it will mean for 2018 in this three-minute video.

The Count: 2

Since Doug Jones won the Senate race in Alabama, Democrats now need to flip only two GOP seats to win back the Senate (and hold onto all of the seats they’re defending — a tall order in some states Trump won by double digits). Arizona and Nevada are the top targets for Democrats. As a refresher, here are the most vulnerable senators going into 2018.

Nathan’s Notes

Nathan Gonzales breaks down the next special election: “Republicans normally wouldn’t have trouble winning a district like Pennsylvania’s 18th, considering Donald Trump carried it by nearly 20 points in 2016. But the 2017 slate of special elections demonstrated Republicans’ ability to turn every race into a struggle, even in favorable territory.” Read more on why he switched this race to Likely Republican.

Candidate Confessions

Asked whether he’d support Nancy Pelosi for leader, Democrat Max Rose answered with one of the better dodges we’ve heard. After first saying he’d get behind anyone who agrees with his agenda (yawn), he argued that a leadership change may not be the silver bullet some Democrats are looking for. In other words, new leadership may not necessarily bring about needed change, and conversely, the party could do things to change if it wanted to, even with current leadership. Rose is the frontrunner for the Democratic nod in New York’s 11th District, where he expects to face former Rep. Michael Grimm or some combination of Grimm, on the conservative line, and current GOP Rep. Dan Donovan.

Reader’s Race

In North Dakota, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is running for a second term in a state Trump won by 36 points in 2016. Democrats point out that Heitkamp has her own brand in the Sioux State, where Heitkamp also served as attorney general. She has bucked her party by voting for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, and showed a willingness to work with Trump (who called her a “good woman” at an event in the state). But Heitkamp also stuck with her fellow Democrats as they united against the GOP health care and tax plans.

It’s not clear which Republican Heitkamp will face in 2018. State Sen. Tom Campbell is already in the race. Rep. Kevin Cramer, who represents the entire state as its at-large congressman, has been considering a run. Cramer is also a vocal supporter of Trump, who has been encouraging Cramer to challenge Heitkamp. One other candidate who could jump in the race is former Rep. Rick Berg, who lost to Heitkamp in 2012. The Club for Growth PAC has also floated state treasurer Kelly Schmidt as a potential contender. Geologist Kathy Neset and Tammy Miller, who runs an electric company, were both considering running but decided to pass on the race. The filing deadline isn’t until April 9.

We’re taking a holiday hiatus next week, but for our first newsletter of 2018, let us know which race you want to know more about: PA-17 or NJ-03.

We want to hear from you!

Talk to us. It’s easy. Reply to this email and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. As always, send us any race you think we should pay more attention to, and we’ll look into it. If you haven’t yet, sign up for our next update here

Photo Finish

Time for a swan song? Rep. Ruben Kihuen is retiring, and one woman alleged he harassed her at a karaoke fundraiser. (Photo by Bill Clark)

kihuen_BC_018_082317Correction, Dec. 21, 2017, 5 p.m. | An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the geologist who passed on the North Dakota Senate race. She is Kathy Neset.

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