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11 Almost, Probably, Most Likely Members of the 116th Congress

These candidates in open seats are all but assured of joining the next Congress

The hopes of some congressional candidates have come to a head early. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The hopes of some congressional candidates have come to a head early. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It’s spring in Washington, but for several candidates it may as well be fall. With six months left in their campaigns, these 11 candidates are already virtually assured of becoming new members in the 116th Congress — and the roster of such virtual freshmen could get three times bigger, or more, before Election Day.

Members of this unusual political class have the luxury of running for open seats in places where — thanks to demographics and past election results — locking down one party’s ballot line is tantamount to winning in November.

The five Democrats and six Republicans listed here can probably start packing for Washington because they’ve won primaries (or are prohibitive favorites to be the nominee) for such safe seats.

Kelly Armstrong won his party’s endorsement at North Dakota’s GOP convention. (Courtesy of Kelly Armstrong)

Kelly Armstrong

North Dakota Republican, At-Large District

  • Before his candidacy for the House, the state senator was North Dakota’s GOP chairman and helped try to oust vulnerable Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.
  • He won his party’s endorsement for Congress at a party convention, though the official nomination will wait for a June 12 primary.
  • Rep. Kevin Cramer (who is leaving for a Senate bid) has won the seat by 10 or more points in the last three elections.
Jim Baird
Jim Baird has raised more than five times his general election opponent. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Jim Baird

Indiana Republican, 4th District

  • The state representative topped two opponents in Indiana’s primary Tuesday and will run in a seat that has consistently elected outgoing GOP Rep. Todd Rokita since 2010.
  • He has raised more than five times his general election opponent.
  • An Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient, he runs a home health care business with his wife and has loaned over $200,000 to his campaign.

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Veronica Escobar is looking to fill the seat of Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is running for Senate. (Courtesy Veronica Escobar)

Veronica Escobar

Texas Democrat, 16th District

  • The former El Paso County judge is a fixture with El Paso’s Democrats and took the nomination with a 39-point margin in a March primary.
  • She’s looking to fill the seat of outgoing Democratic ally Rep. Beto O’Rourke in an 80 percent Hispanic district to become the first Hispanic woman from Texas in the House (alongside another House hopeful, Sylvia R. Garcia, who has an inside track in Texas’ 29th District).
  • She spent years on immigration issues during her public service career and is campaigning alongside O’Rourke for his Senate bid.
Jesús ‘Chuy’ García is an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Jesús “Chuy” García

Illinois Democrat, 4th District

  • The Cook County commissioner picked up the Democratic nomination with 66 percent of votes in this highly Democratic district, where outgoing Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez ran uncontested in 2016.
  • Though the longtime local politician won over a crowded field, he has experience in running aggressive campaigns — he forced Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to a runoff in 2015’s Chicago mayoral elections.
  • An ardent supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, he may bring a more progressive stance with him to the House.
Sylvia R. Garcia won her primary by a wide margin. (Courtesy Sylvia Garcia)

Sylvia R. Garcia

Texas Democrat, 29th District

  • The state senator won her primary with 63 percent of the vote; she ran for this seat in the 1992 Democratic primary of the 29th District’s first-ever race and came in third. (Only one member of the current Congress, Minnesota Rep. Jason Lewis, has been elected after such a gap, 26 years, since first seeking office.)
  • Retiring Rep. Gene Green endorsed Garcia’s bid to replace him.
  • Garcia, who once served as the president of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, looks to be the first Hispanic representative of the 29th’s majority Hispanic district and the first Hispanic woman to represent Texas in the House (alongside fellow candidate Escobar).
Chrissy Houlahan is running in a court-ordered new district. (Courtesy Chrissy Houlahan)

Chrissy Houlahan

Pennsylvania Democrat, 6th District

  • She is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination in May 15 primary; would-be opponent GOP Rep. Ryan A. Costello announced he would not run for re-election in March.
  • This a court-ordered new district that would have favored Clinton by 10 points in 2016.
  • A former athletic apparel CEO with experience in nonprofits, she looks to be a voice for women in a state that doesn’t currently have a female in the House.
UNITED STATES - MAY 3: Carol Miller, who is running for the Republican nomination in West Virginia's 3rd Congressional District, is seen at a National Day of Prayer event in Point Pleasant , W.Va., on May 3, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Carol Miller beat out six others for her spot on the ballot in the fall. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Carol Miller

West Virginia Republican, 3rd District

  • State delegate and bison farmer Carol Miller beat six others in a Tuesday primary for a spot on the November ballot for outgoing Rep. Evan Jenkins’ district, which favored the GOP candidate by more than 60 percent in 2016.
  • She outraised her Democratic opponents and is endorsed by several PACs to elect conservative women, including Winning for Women, Susan B. Anthony List and Value in Electing Women.
  • Miller’s father is former Ohio Rep. Samuel L. Devine.
COLUMBUS, IN - MAY 08: Greg Pence, Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, speaks to the press at a primary-night watch party on May 8, 2018 in Columbus, Indiana. Greg Pence is the older brother of Vice President Mike Pence. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Greg Pence has help from his younger brother’s fundraising PAC. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Greg Pence

Indiana Republican, 6th District

  • Older brother to Vice President Mike Pence, he’s an established businessman and is running for the VP’s former seat (which the younger Pence held by a wide margin throughout his House tenure).
  • The elder Pence is supported by the Great America Committee, a fundraising PAC the vice president chairs.
  • He looks to fill the seat that Rep. Luke Messer left for a failed Senate bid.
UNITED STATES - MARCH 15: Former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Conference Center at National Harbor, Md., on Friday, March 15, 2013. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Mitt Romney can draw on funds left over from his 2012 presidential bid. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Mitt Romney

Utah Republican, Senate

  • The former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential candidate seeks to replace longtime Sen. Orrin G. Hatch and brings a plethora of campaign resources, including funds left over from his 2012 presidential bid.
  • While Romney failed to beat out Utah state Rep. Mike Kennedy in a fast-track bid to secure the nomination at Utah’s GOP convention, the two will face off in a June primary that Romney is favored to win.
  • It is thought that Utah Republicans — many of whom don’t fully embrace Trump’s policies — will welcome him as a shift from Hatch, a supporter of the president.
Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton sailed into his current office in 2015 with 65 percent of the vote. (Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)

Greg Stanton

Arizona Democrat, 9th District

  • The mayor of Phoenix, which is partially in the district, is term-limited to 2019 and won re-election in 2015 with 65 percent of the vote.
  • Outgoing Rep. Kyrsten Sinema won 60 percent of the vote in her 2016 re-election bid.
  • Republicans are concerned about lower turnout in Arizona.


Business owner Van Taylor has contributed more than $1 million of his own money to his campaign. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Van Taylor

Texas Republican, 3rd District

  • The state senator secured the Republican nomination with 84 percent of votes; the Democratic nomination moved to a runoff.
  • Republican Rep. Sam Johnson’s retirement after 13 full terms makes way for Taylor to run in the 3rd District’s Solid Republican race.
  • A business owner who has millions through separate firms, he’s self-funding part of his campaign with more than $1 million in personal contributions.

Inside Elections editor and Roll Call elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales contributed to this report.

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