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At the Races: Into the Badlands

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: Another House Republican was indicted, North Dakota Senate candidates kept their distance, and 32 House race ratings shifted.


North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, right, is banking on her personal appeal overcoming the Republican lean of the state, which is boosting GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer, left. The two Senate candidates both attended an informal deployment ceremony in Bismarck for National Guardsmen going to the Horn of Africa last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, right, is banking on her personal appeal overcoming the Republican lean of the state, which is boosting GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer, left. The two Senate candidates both attended an informal deployment ceremony in Bismarck for National Guardsmen going to the Horn of Africa last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Starting Gate

#Awkward: What happens when two lawmakers elected the same year to represent the same people run against each other? Heitkamp and Cramer, both in their official capacities, attended the same event last week. The congressman and the senator circled each other, sometimes so close they were back-to-back, but always finding anyone’s hand to shake but each other’s. Read more about the increasingly contentious Senate race in Simone’s dispatch from the Peace Garden State (yes, that’s actually its official nickname) and watch Cramer and Heitkamp avoid each other in this three-minute video.

*BOOKMARK* Heitkamp is arguably Democrats’ most vulnerable senator, with Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rating her race Tilts Republican. Catch up on all thelatest race ratings with Roll Call’s Election Guide.

Slam Dunc? Not so much for Democrats in California’s 50th District. Despite theindictment of Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter this week for allegedly misusing campaign funds, Inside Elections is keeping his race rated Likely Republican — for now. Democrats were already targeting this seat, and the indictment could certainly shake up the race. Nathan and Roll Call ethics reporter Katherine Tully-McManus dig deeper into the indictment and its legal and political ramifications in this week’s Political Theater Podcast.

Reminder: Hunter was among the first Republicans in Congress to endorse then-candidate Donald Trump for president. (The first, New York’s Chris Collins, was indicted earlier this month.) And just for fun, check out all the D.C. bars and pizza joints where Hunter allegedly spent campaign funds improperly.

What You Missed: Tuesday was a busy news day. (Here’s looking at you, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen.) But if it’s Tuesday, it’s also primary day! In Alaska, Democrats nominated independent Alyse Galvin to take on GOP Rep. Don Youngthe most senior member of the House. And in Wyoming, GOP Sen. John Barrasso easily fended off a primary challenge.

Get Excited for Next Week: That’s when primaries roar back into high gear. Voters go to the polls in Arizona and Florida on Aug. 28The Senate drama is in the Grand Canyon State, where GOP Rep. Martha McSally is favored but still has to fend off two other relatively high-profile Republicans for the nomination. While Republicans have been duking it out, Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema has had her side all to herself. As Bridget reports, Republicans are going to have to quickly shift gears to go after her in the next six weeks. McSally began that effort Thursday, launching an ad that attacks Sinema for protesting in a pink tutu. In Florida, keep your eye on primaries in a handful of open GOP House seats, as well as two primary challenges against Democratic incumbents.

In the Cage: Democrats are targeting Kansas GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder again after he won re-election in 2016 by 11 points. And this week, a poll for freshly minted Democratic nominee Sharice Davids showed her in the lead — narrowly. Davids, a former MMA fighter, would be among the first Native American women elected to Congress and the first openly-gay person elected from Kansas.

The Count: 32

Nathan shifted the race ratings for 32 House races, all but two of them in Democrats’ favor. Find out whose race moved and watch Nathan explain why.

Nathan’s Notes

Campaign ad season is here, and that’s either great news or terrible news depending on your tolerance for candidates attacking each other, or in some cases, just looking silly. Nathan watched some recent spots from Kentucky and Texas and shared his thoughts about what they mean for the midterms with Jason Dick.

Candidate Confessions

Former Montana state Rep. Kathleen Williams didn’t know she’d be seeing her opponent, GOP Rep. Greg Gianforteat Crow Fair last week on the Crow Reservation in eastern Montana. But when the Republican congressman strode into the grand entry hall, Williams — who was eating an Indian taco — put down her utensils. “This will be good,” she said, setting down her plate and marching up to the congressman. He was flanked by Arkansas Rep. Bruce Westerman, who was in Montana for a meeting of the Western Caucus and stuck around for a fishing trip and a chance to attend his first powwow. Williams and Gianforte, who’s up with a TV ad attacking her, exchanged very brief words, and she returned to her seat looking triumphant. That wasn’t the end of their interaction, though. The three politicians shared a lengthy dance, which is worth a watch. Stay tuned for more of Simone’s on-the-ground coverage of the at-large House race coming next week.

Reader’s Race

Florida’s 7th District was supposed to be an offensive target for Republicans this year. Democrat Rep. Stephanie Murphy is in her first term and came to office by knocking off a longtime Republican who was, by all accounts, asleep at the switch. (Speaking of, let us know which incumbent you think could be this cycle’s John Mica.) Next week’s primaries will determine which Republican will take on Murphy this fall, but Inside Elections currently rates the race Leans Democratic. Businessman Scott Sturgill has raised the most money on the GOP side ($532,000), followed by state Rep. Mike Miller ($440,000). Both candidates loaned their campaigns six figures. Miller ended the pre-primary reporting period with more cash on hand ($233,000), but that’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the $1.6 million Murphy has amassed. She’s running for re-election in a district that Hillary Clinton carried by 7 points in 2016.

For next week, email us at and let us know which race you want to know more about: Michigan Senate or Massachusetts’ 1st District.

Photo Finish

Happier times … Hunter shows off his vaporizer pen in his Rayburn office in January 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)hunter002_011316

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