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At the Races: Get Ready for Another Special Election

Our weekly newsletter on congressional campaigns


Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter by subscribing here. We want to hear what you think. Email us at with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. — Simone Pathé and Bridget Bowman

This week … candidates geared up for a special election in Arizona, we took a trip to Greg Pence’s antique mall and Charlie Dent called it quits.


Fine China, old tools, Jesus statues. There’s lots to see at the Exit 76 Antique Mall in Edinburgh, Indiana. But no Greg Pence, at least not when the campaign tipped off the mall staff to our presence. Still, there was lots to learn about the 6th District Republican candidate at the mall, which, along with another one nearby, is worth between $5 million and $25 million. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Fine China, old tools, Jesus statues. There’s lots to see at the Exit 76 Antique Mall in Edinburgh, Indiana. But no Greg Pence, at least not when the campaign tipped off the mall staff to our presence. Still, there was lots to learn about the 6th District Republican candidate at the mall, which, along with another one nearby, is worth between $5 million and $25 million. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Starting Gate

#AZ08: At least one thing is certain about next week’s special election in Arizona’s 8th District: Congress will gain another female lawmaker. GOP Rep. Trent Franks resigned his seat amid allegations of sexual harassment last year, sparking the special election in the Phoenix suburbs. Former GOP state Sen. Debbie Lesko will face Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, a cancer research advocate and former emergency room physician. This is a traditionally Republican seat, and Republicans are confident they’ll hang on to it. But Tipirneni sees a path to victory, even if other Democrats are more cautious about her chances. Catch up on the race here. And you can also catch up with this three-minute video.

*Bookmark* Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race for Arizona’s 8th District as Likely Republican. Check out other race ratings on Roll Call’s Election Guide.

A Pence for Your Thoughts: Greg Pence, the vice president’s brother, is likely about to be a congressman. He’s running on a national name, but he doesn’t speak to national press. So Simone went looking for him, or at least for signs of him, at one of two antique malls that represent Pence’s largest assets.

A Dent in PA Elections: Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Charlie Dent announced this week that he’ll be resigning at some point in May. He had already announced he would be retiring, but it turns out he’s had enough. Gov. Tom Wolf plans to announce a special election, although it’s not clear when that would happen. Wolf has 10 days after Dent officially steps down to declare when such an election would take place. Adding another layer of complication: Pennsylvania has a new congressional map for the November midterms, but a special election would take place under the old lines.

Want to know more about the open seat race for Dent’s new district? Lucky for you, Bridget made a quick trip up to Allentown last week. Tom Steyer’s group NextGen America hosted the first of its candidate forums in the new 7th District, and it’s no coincidence their first event was in the Keystone State. The 7th is also hosting a crowded Democratic primary where candidates are in part battling over the soul of the party.

Year of the Woman? Leah Phifer (who entered Minnesota’s 8th District race to challenge Rep. Rick Nolan) received the most delegate votes at Saturday’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor convention. But she’s decided against running in the August primary. (Normally, the convention would result in an endorsement, but she didn’t receive the required 60 percent of delegate votes. Nolan’s preferred candidate, former state Rep. Joe Radinovich, came in second in Saturday’s balloting.) Phifer ended the first quarter with just $19,000 in the bank, and didn’t have a path to victory without the endorsement. For now, she’s declining to back any of the other candidates, but one line in an email to supporters suggests she’s not eager to support the establishment-backed man in the race. “I was once told there is a very close relationship between how people treat women and how they treat the earth — we’ve seen that play out very clearly the past several months,” she wrote.

Take Five: The DCCC unveiled its fifth round of Red to Blue candidates, which includes two candidates who have explicitly said they won’t back Nancy Pelosi for House Democratic leader. But an error on the Wednesday morning press release sparked more drama in the already dramatic runoff for Texas’ 7th District since it listed Lizzie Pannill Fletcher as a member of Red to Blue. She isn’t, and the DCCC quickly issued a corrected press release with 38, not 39, total candidates. Remember that the DCCC isn’t a fan of the other woman in the runoff, Laura Moser, who, by the end of the day, had used the incident in a fundraising email.

The Count: 20

The Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with House GOP leadership, announced this week it was making TV reservations in 20 districts — 19 held by Republicans and one open seat held by a Democrat. The group is also making digital investments in 30 districts.

Nathan’s Notes

Thirty-six states are holding governor’s races this year (which will have consequences for the next round of redistricting.) Nathan has shifted the race ratings in six contests — three in favor of Democrats and three in favor of Republicans.

Candidate Confessions

Democrat Deb Haaland will make history if she’s elected to represent New Mexico’s 1st District. An enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, she would be the first Native American woman elected to Congress. The district’s Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham is running for governor. Haaland, 58, moved around a lot as a kid since her father was a Marine and her mother was in the Navy. She attended 13 public schools before graduating from high school in Albuquerque. Prior to attending law school, she had her own salsa company called “Pueblo Salsa.” Her first foray into politics was volunteering for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. The New Mexico primary is June 5, and the winner of the Democratic primary will be in a strong position in the general election. Inside Elections rates the race Solidly Democratic.

Reader’s Race

The dynamics in Utah’s 4th District shifted after Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams announced in October that he would challenge two-term GOP Rep. Mia Love. Nathan shifted the race rating from Solid Republican to Leans Republican after McAdams got in. As Nathan wrote, McAdams already represents about 85 percent of the 4th District.

Love made an unsuccessful run for Congress in 2012 against Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson. After Matheson retired, she won the open-seat race in 2014 by 5 points, becoming the first African-American Republican woman elected to Congress. She was re-elected in 2016 by a 12-point margin, with Trump carrying the seat by 7 points.

Democrats see McAdams as a formidable challenger, and he was added to the DCCC’s Red to Blue program. He has been endorsed by the Blue Dog PAC for fiscally conservative Democrats, and the moderate NewDemPAC. Four other Democrats filed to run for the seat, but none have raised significant funds. The primary is June 26.

McAdams outraised Love in the final fundraising quarter of 2017, and has since narrowed Love’s cash on hand advantage. In the first quarter of 2018, McAdams raised $516,000 and had $834,000 on hand. Love raised $789,000, but spent more than half of that money, ending the quarter with $915,000 in the bank.

For next week, email us at to let us know which race you want to know more about: AZ-01 or TN-06.

Photo Finish

Word is that Dent is pursuing a TV gig. But maybe he’s got another contract up his sleeve? (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Charlie Dent

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