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At the Races: The Wave Is Still Coming

Our weekly newsletter on congressional campaigns


Welcome to At the Races! We want to hear what you think. Email us at with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. — Simone Pathé, Bridget Bowman and Stephanie Akin

This week: New members navigated the Capitol, Texas Democrats eyed more House battlegrounds, and we looked at what was happening behind the scenes as Democratic groups worked together to win back the House.


Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema crossed the Capitol this week to learn how to be a senator. On Monday the Associated Press called the Arizona Senate race in Sinema’s favor, making her the first Democrat to win a Senate seat there in 30 years. Sinema will become the first elected female senator from Arizona. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema crossed the Capitol this week to learn how to be a senator. On Monday the Associated Press called the Arizona Senate race in Sinema’s favor, making her the first Democrat to win a Senate seat there in 30 years. Sinema will become the first elected female senator from Arizona. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Starting Gate

Remember the Suburbs: Democrats’ midterm successes extended to Texas, where they flipped two GOP-held seats. (The 23rd District has still not been called.) Democrats won in the suburbs, but also came closer than expected in other races previously thought to be safe Republican seats. Were the narrow margins due to Beto O’Rourke’s coattails or more of a fundamental shift in these districts? Both parties are trying to figure that out.

*Bookmark* New members are wandering around the Capitol this week, learning how to legislate. Catch up on the freshman class with Roll Call’s list of new lawmakers. (And you can learn more about what New Member Orientation is all about in this week’s Political Theater podcast with Jason Dick and Katherine Tully-McManus.)

Air Traffic Control: Democratic outside groups spent over $200 million in more than 70 House races, overwhelming Republicans and helping deliver a Democratic majority. At the helm of that massive coordination effort, ensuring there was no duplicative spending in any one district at any time, was House Majority PAC, which was led by Charlie Kelly. 

Musical Chairs: For the first time, Democrats are competing in an open race to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. All four contenders are members of the class of 2012 and the New Democrat Coalition. Meanwhile, Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer ran unopposed for the top job at the National Republican Congressional Committee. In a letter to his peers Wednesday, Emmer called for a “renewed emphasis on teamwork.” Senate Republicans elected Indiana Sen. Todd Young to chair their campaign arm for the 2020 cycle. And on Thursday, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto was named the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, becoming the first Latina to lead the committee.

Year of the (Democratic) Woman: Among all the new women elected to the House, only one is a Republican. Meet Carol Miller, the majority whip in the West Virginia state House and daughter of a former Ohio congressman, who will be the new representative from the Mountain State’s 3rd District. (California’s Young Kim could still join her; that race has not yet been called.) There were 23 female Republicans in the House during the 115th Congress, and it now looks like there could be as few as 13 in the next Congress. 

#Ojeda2020: Think losing a House race will stop someone from running for president? Think again! Democrat Richard Ojeda announced this week that he was launching a presidential run despite losing his race to Miller. A brash Army veteran who voted for Trump in 2016, Ojeda garnered national attention for his House campaign. And some staffers from his congressional run — who weren’t your typical campaign operatives — are helping him run for the White House.

The Count: 8

Yep, votes are still being counted! There are still one Senate race and seven House races unresolved (here’s looking at you, California and New York). Griffin Connolly breaks down the races still unclear.

Nathan’s Notes

Nathan writes in his latest column that both parties can look at last week’s election results like a buffet — picking the most positive takeaways and ignoring some broader warning signs. Come for the political analysis, but stay for Nathan’s description of his famous (infamous?) buffet creation: the condiment salad.

Candidate Confessions

Some candidates attended New Member Orientation this week not knowing whether they had won their races as several elections remained too close to call. On Tuesday night, Democrat Josh Harder found out that it was a good thing he came to Washington — the AP called Harder’s race against California GOP Rep. Jeff Denham in his favor.

Swarmed by reporters leaving a Democratic meeting Wednesday afternoon, someone remarked to Harder how he had recently won the race. “How many hours has it been? Less than 12? 16 hours? Who’s counting?” Harder said as he tried to navigate his way out of the Capitol Visitor Center. Harder said he was taking a tour of the Capitol on Tuesday night when he found out he had won. “It was interesting being in the Capitol building and feeling like we’d done everything we could to get there for good,” he said.

Reader’s Race

It looks like Maine Democrat Jared Golden has done something no one has done in more than 100 years: unseat an incumbent in Maine’s 2nd District. Golden earned more than 50 percent in the state’s tabulation of ranked-choice votes on Thursday afternoon, which is the requisite threshold for victory. But GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin, the last remaining New England Republican in the House, isn’t likely to give up the seat without a fight. He’s challenging the state’s ranked-choice voting system in federal court.

Photo Finish

A Navy veteran, a former CIA officer and an Air Force veteran walk into the Capitol… Women with service backgrounds were very successful last week, and this week they’re learning how to be members of Congress. After the freshman class photo, Virginia Rep.-elect Abigail Spanberger paused to take a selfie with fellow new Democrats, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey and Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Freshman Class Photo

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