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At the Races: Washington Doesn’t Have to Suck

Our weekly newsletter on the latest in House and Senate races

“I won’t stop,” West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III said this week in announcing — just four days before the filing deadline — his decision to seek re-election to the Senate. With moves like this (from his 2010 race), it can’t suck that bad can, it? (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ file photo)
“I won’t stop,” West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III said this week in announcing — just four days before the filing deadline — his decision to seek re-election to the Senate. With moves like this (from his 2010 race), it can’t suck that bad can, it? (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ file photo)

Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter. Subscribe here. We want to hear what you think. Email us at at with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. — Simone Pathé and Bridget BowmanThis week … a three-day shutdown ended, Pennsylvania districts were thrown out the window, and Manchin spared Democrats a heart attack.

Starting Gate

Holler Back: Manchin’s decision to seek re-election is good news for Senate Democrats, of course. But it’s also probably a relief to Democratic candidates looking to flip two of the state’s House districts. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting WV-02 (Trump +36) and WV-03 (Trump +49). Yes, you read those numbers right.

Democrats know both are reaches. They see the 3rd District as a better opportunity since it’s an open seat. In the 2nd District, they want another shot at unseating two-term GOP Rep. Alex X. Mooney, who’s been trying to overcome carpetbagging charges since he first moved from Maryland to run for the seat. There are interesting personalities on all sides in both races, including a Trump-voting Democratic state senator and a Sorbonne-educated former state GOP chairman.

*BOOKMARK* The West Virginia filing deadline is Saturday, and the primary is May 8. Keep track of all the key midterm dates with Roll Call’s guide to every 2018 race.

Keystone Chaos: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed out the state’s congressional map on Monday, ruling that it violated the state’s constitution. The plaintiffs had argued the map was an extreme gerrymander, pointing out that Republicans held 13 of the state’s 18 House seats, even though Pennsylvania is evenly divided politically. The ruling throws some chaos into the 2018 midterms, with the state government facing a mid-February deadline to draw new lines. More on what this ruling means here.

 Catch up on two other campaign stories you might have missed this week in our three-minute video.

Another One: GOP Rep. Patrick Meehan is facing allegations of harassment and impropriety following a New York Times report that he used taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment case with a former staffer. He denied any wrongdoing following the report. Meehan told local media outlets this week that he expressed affection for the former staffer and told her he thought they were soul mates, but that he did not pursue a physical relationship with her.

 Meehan said he’s still running for a fifth term in the 7th District, which is being targeted by Democrats this cycle. The Democratic field experienced its own shakeup, with state Sen. Daylin Leach recently suspending his campaign when faced with sexual harassment allegations. But Meehan’s situation could help Democrats take back the suburban Philadelphia seat, which Hillary Clinton carried by 2 points. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales shifted the race rating from Likely to Leans Republican.

Test Message: All of the red-state Democrats up for re-election this year voted Monday for the continuing resolution to reopen the government — except Montana’s Jon Tester. The former chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is running for a third term in a state Trump won by 20 points. Republicans were quick to attack him for putting immigrants above the military and children. But Tester, a working farmer in the state, seems comfortable doing his own thing on this issue. “It’s never been about DACA for me,” he said after the vote, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. He’s the only Democrat left in the Senate who voted against the 2010 DREAM Act. Read more about his vote and how it could play in his race here.

Five’s a Crowd: GOP Rep. Darrell Issa’s decision not to run for re-election opened up a competitive seat in southern California. This week San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar became the fifth Republican to jump into the race. Four Democrats are also running. Eric Garcia with more.

The Count: 10

Even though the shutdown ended, Republicans are still hoping to tie Democrats to the dysfunction. The National Republican Congressional Committee launched Facebook ads targeting 10 Democrats. All of them voted against the stopgap spending bill in the House last week, but seven of them did vote to reopen the government Monday.

Nathan’s Notes

The special election in Ohio’s 12th District could get competitive, Nathan writes this week. He’s changing the race rating from Solid to Likely Republican. Here’s why.

Candidate Confessions

Democrat Christina Hartman wasted no time capitalizing on Pennsylvania’s redistricting ruling, sending out fundraising emails with phrases like “Can you chip in now so we have the resources to get Christina’s message to every voter in our NEW district?” Hartman is hoping for a rematch after losing to GOP Rep. Lloyd K. Smucker in 2016. One fun fact from a candidate interview with her is that she has lived abroad, including in the United Kingdom. There, she worked for the Prince’s Trust, a charity aimed at helping disadvantaged young people founded by Prince Charles.

Reader’s Race

SC-05 was the forgotten special election in 2017 — the one that occured the same day as GA-06 and ended up sneaking up on people who wrote it off as a Solid Republican race. (Simone was there the weekend before the election and was the only reporter, local or national, trailing the candidates.) With the limited attention, GOP turnout was much lower, and Rep. Ralph Norman ended up winning by a smaller margin than Rep. Karen Handel did in Georgia.

 Democrat Archie Parnell is running again, hoping to avenge his 3-point loss to Norman. It wasn’t too long ago that a Democrat held this seat, and it’s true Parnell came closer to flipping a GOP House district than any other Democratic candidate in special elections last year. Alabama has emboldened the party about its chances of winning in the South and taught them some tactical lessons about turning out African-American voters.

 But the differences between a 2017 special election here and a 2018 midterm cannot be ignored. Democrats have many more districts to prioritize this fall before this one. Parnell has plenty of his own money he could bring to the race. He’s known for his quirky campaign videos (remember “House of Cards”?), but it’s not yet clear the Goldman Sachs alum can inspire the kind of African-American turnout and win over enough Republicans to flip the district. Inside Elections rates the contest Solid Republican.

For next week, let us know which race you want to know more about: Texas Senate or ME-02.

We’d Like 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.

Photo Finish

A group of bipartisan senators met to help end the shutdown, and Maine Sen. Susan Collins deployed a “talking stick” (which was a gift from North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp) to make sure no one talked over each other.



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