ANALYSIS — While Republicans are on the march to the House majority in districts all across the country, there’s a dearth of opportunities in New England.
Currently, Republicans don’t hold any of the 16 districts across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. And just one of them (Connecticut’s 5th) is initially rated as competitive. That could change, particularly if the midterm cycle spirals out of control from Democrats or a unique opportunity develops (such as in Rhode Island’s 2nd). But Republicans are likely going to have to look elsewhere for districts within reach.
It might be easy to disregard Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island as blue states where Republicans have no chance at the federal level. But that wasn’t always the case.
The trio of states is somewhat of a microcosm of the shift in the region’s relationship with the Republican Party. After the GOP wave in 1994, Republicans controlled two of 10 seats in Massachusetts and three of six districts in Connecticut. But after the 2010 wave, when Republicans won the majority back again after a couple rough cycles with President George W. Bush in office, Republicans didn’t control any districts across the three states. New England simply was not a key part of that new GOP majority.
The same thing is true this cycle. Republicans could collectively pick up a seat or two in Connecticut and Rhode Island in 2022, but they will likely be adding to a new GOP majority in that scenario instead of those seats being part of the initial net gain of five seats Republicans need for control.
Typically, a bevy of races rated Solid Democratic can foster competition in primaries. But there’s not much of that either in these particular New England states. Even Democratic Rep. Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts, one of the rare self-proclaimed pro-life Democrats (although he’s backed away from the term a bit), doesn’t appear to have a serious challenge.
In Connecticut, Rep. John B. Larson faces a primary challenge from Muad Hrezi, a 27-year-old former staffer for Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy who is running to the congressman's left. But Larson starts with the advantage in that Aug. 9 race.
The key primary contest is on Sept. 13 in Rhode Island’s 2nd District, where Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin is not running for reelection. State General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, former Langevin staffer Joy Fox, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Sarah Morgenthau, refugee advocate Omar Bah and former state Rep. David Segal are running in the Democratic primary. Meanwhile, former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung is the GOP nominee front-runner. It’s a stretch for Republicans in a district Joe Biden would have won by 14 points in 2020. But the opportunity shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
The National Republican Congressional Committee also put Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney and Connecticut’s 2nd District on its target list. Donald Trump lost it by 4 points in 2016 and a wider 12 points four years later. But Republicans think it could be competitive in a great GOP year.
Connecticut's 5th District (Jahana Hayes, D)
The geography of the 5th District didn’t change much and Hayes is on the outskirts of the initial House battlefield. In 2018, GOP gubernatorial nominee Bob Stefanowski would have won the newly drawn district by 2 points, even though he lost statewide. And in 2020, Biden would have carried the 5th by more than 10 points, putting it within reach if Democrats’ underperformance in key 2021 races is an indication of where the party might be headed this fall.
The likely GOP nominee is former state Sen. George Logan, who was the only Black Republican in the state legislature. He is the son of Guatemalan immigrants, and plays in a Jimi Hendrix tribute band. Hayes will be ready for the challenge with $1.6 million in the bank on March 31, compared to Logan’s $214,000. But this race is a good test of how far Republicans can reach into Democratic territory. Initial rating: Likely Democratic
Seats rated Solid Republican
Seats rated Solid Democratic
- Connecticut's 1st District (John B. Larson, D)
- Connecticut's 2nd District (Joe Courtney, D)
- Connecticut's 3rd District (Rosa DeLauro, D)
- Connecticut's 4th District (Jim Himes, D)
- Massachusetts’ 1st District (Richard E. Neal, D)
- Massachusetts’ 2nd District (Jim McGovern, D)
- Massachusetts’ 3rd District (Lori Trahan, D)
- Massachusetts’ 4th District (Jake Auchincloss, D)
- Massachusetts’ 5th District (Katherine Clark, D)
- Massachusetts’ 6th District (Seth Moulton, D)
- Massachusetts’ 7th District (Ayanna S. Pressley, D)
- Massachusetts’ 8th District (Stephen F. Lynch, D)
- Massachusetts’ 9th District (William Keating, D)
- Rhode Island's 1st District (David Cicilline, D)
- Rhode Island's 2nd District (Open; Jim Langevin, D)
Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.