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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and run somewhere else

Comeback trail for 2020 candidates sometimes means running in a different district — or state

Rep. Susie Lee won Nevada’s 3rd District last fall after losing the Democratic primary in the 4th District two years earlier. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Susie Lee won Nevada’s 3rd District last fall after losing the Democratic primary in the 4th District two years earlier. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A handful of House candidates this cycle aren’t letting previous losses — or geography — get in the way of another congressional run. Dozens of members of Congress lost races before eventually winning, but some politicians are aiming their aspirations at different districts, and in some cases different states, to get to Capitol Hill.

In Arizona, Democrat Hiral Tipirneni lost two races to Republican Debbie Lesko in the 8th District last year, including a special election. This cycle, she is seeking the Democratic nomination in the neighboring 6th District to take on Republican incumbent David Schweikert.

In California, Republican Carl DeMaio lost a 2014 race to Democratic Rep. Scott Peters in the San Diego-area 52nd District — and is now being mentioned as a potential candidate in 50th District to the west, if GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter doesn’t seek re-election.

Another Republican, former Rep. Darrell Issa, narrowly won a ninth term in the 49th District in 2016 and decided not to seek re-election last year (when he probably would have lost). He’s now looking at the 50th as well.

UNITED STATES - MARCH 7: Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., walks up the House steps for final votes of the week in the Capitol on March 8, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Former Rep. Darrell Issa could be eyeing a comeback from another southern California seat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

And in Pennsylvania, former Republican Rep. Lou Barletta is considering a bid in the 8th District against Democratic incumbent Matt Cartwright after leaving the House for an unsuccessful Senate run last cycle.

The strategy is not unprecedented.

Nevada’s Susie Lee finished third in the 2016 Democratic primary in the 4th District. Two years later, she ran in the neighboring 3rd District and defeated Republican Danny Tarkanian in the open-seat race.

Other recent attempts to relocate haven’t gone as well.In 2016, Virginia GOP Rep. J. Randy Forbes tried to pre-empt a loss in his newly redrawn 4th District by running in the neighboring 2nd District, which was open and more Republican. But Forbes lost in the GOP primary to state Del. Scott Taylor by a dozen points.

Barletta could benefit from representing part of Cartwright’s district before the new lines came into effect. But other politicians are making bolder calculations.

Former Illinois GOP Bobby Schilling, who was unseated by Democrat Cheri Bustos in 2012, lost a bid to reclaim the seat two years later by 10 points. He is now considering a run in Iowa’s 2nd District. And former Florida GOP Rep. Allen B. West lost re-election to Democrat Patrick Murphy in 2012, but he’s a potential candidate in Texas’ 32nd District next year.

Attempting to switch states isn’t without precedent. Republican Patrick Morrisey lost a primary in New Jersey’s 7th District in 2000 before getting elected West Virginia attorney general in 2012. That might be the best-case scenario for Schilling, West or anybody else thinking about making a move. At a minimum, they better hope it goes better than former Sen. Scott P. Brown, who lost re-election in Massachusetts by 8 points in 2012 and a comeback attempt in New Hampshire by 3 points two years later.

Correction 4:24 p.m. | An earlier version of this story misstated the year former Rep. Bobby Schilling lost re-election. 

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