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A week out, here are 2022’s most vulnerable House and Senate members

Three House members move into top 10, while Senate list stays same

Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., remains the most vulnerable senator running this year.
Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., remains the most vulnerable senator running this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A week before Election Day, the list of the 10 most vulnerable House members includes a few new faces, while those on the Senate list remain the same, just in a new order. 

Both lists reflect the political climate, which has swung back to favor Republicans following a Democratic surge this summer after the party seized on abortion issues in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The economic issues on which Republicans have focused for much of the year seem to be resonating with voters.

Both parties have also tried to tie opposing candidates to their party leaders — President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. Many races remain close, and members of both parties are vulnerable, especially after redistricting made some districts more difficult for members. 

Three House members on CQ Roll Call’s September list have since fallen off. Democratic Reps. Mary Peltola of Alaska and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and GOP Rep. Mike Garcia of California are still in competitive races, but they appear less vulnerable than Republican Yvette Herrell of New Mexico and Democrats Angie Craig of Minnesota and Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, who join the list. Peltola, who won a special election in August using the state’s new ranked choice voting system, seems in better shape after one of her Republican opponents on next week’s ballot, former Gov. Sarah Palin, said she would rank Peltola after herself and before Republican Nick Begich. 

Slotkin, who faces a tough challenge from state Sen. Tom Barrett, is still vulnerable but appears slightly better positioned than some of her colleagues. Democrat Christy Smith is running against Garcia for the third time; this time, they are competing in the 27th District. Biden would have won the district by 12.4 points. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had not disclosed outside spending in the district as of Monday.

Like those three, many other members are vulnerable this cycle and could lose next week. 

The list does not include races in two districts in which incumbents are facing each other. Florida Democratic Rep. Al Lawson is running in the 2nd District against GOP Rep. Neal Dunn after Lawson’s current district was essentially drawn out of the state’s congressional map. Dunn is favored to win. GOP Rep. Mayra Flores, who won a special election this year in Texas’ 34th District, is facing Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who was elected in the 15th District in 2020. Gonzalez is favored to win the redrawn district, which Biden would have won by 15.5 points in 2020, but both parties have spent heavily there. 

Republicans, who need a net gain of five seats to win a House majority, could also find success with just open seats, for which there are more than two dozen competitive races not included on this list. 

On the Senate side, the list has stayed notably static throughout the cycle. The top half of the list includes five incumbents whose races are competitive and will help decide which party controls the Senate next year. Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock moves back to the No. 2 spot, as that race appears tighter than Sen. Ron Johnson’s contest in Wisconsin. 

The second half of the list, starting with Utah Sen. Mike Lee, includes incumbents who are less likely to lose but are vulnerable because of certain dynamics in their races. Take Lee, who is running against Evan McMullin, an independent and former long-shot GOP presidential candidate in a race that doesn’t include a Democratic candidate. Lee is still favored to win, but the polls have tightened.

Similarly, Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Patty Murray of Washington are both running serious campaigns against top GOP recruits but are still likely to win in blue states. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio moves down the list to No. 8, signaling his solid standing against Democratic Rep. Val B. Demings.

One incumbent whose race appears to have become more competitive, though, is Iowa GOP Sen. Charles E. Grassley. Though he’s not on the list, late polling indicates he may have a tougher-than-expected reelection, despite a midterm climate favorable to his party. His opponent, Democrat Mike Franken, raised more than $1 million from Oct. 1 to 19, while Grassley took in $490,000. However, the incumbent had more cash on Oct. 19. Grassley’s campaign launched an attack ad in recent days claiming Franken wants to turn Iowa into California. 

This list also doesn’t include key races in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Ohio, where  open seat contests may determine Senate control. 

House most vulnerable

Here are the 10 most vulnerable House incumbents.

1. Tom O'Halleran, D-Ariz.

A week out, the reality of O’Halleran’s race has not changed: He was redistricted into a district that would have voted for Trump by 8 points. The Democrat is well-known, even in some parts of his district that he had not previously represented in Congress from his time as a state senator, but the former Republican would be facing headwinds even in an environment more favorable to the Democrats. Challenger Eli Crane, a former Navy SEAL and “Shark Tank” contestant, has Trump’s endorsement and should benefit from the popularity of gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake with the former president’s base. 

2. Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J.

Malinowski has been one of the most vulnerable House incumbents all year, but he moves up to the runner-up spot with a week to go. He faces a rematch with Tom Kean Jr., a former state Senate minority leader and son of a popular former governor, in a redrawn district that is more friendly to Republicans. Republicans have slammed Malinowski for his failure to disclose stock trades made while in office, as required by House ethics rules. Malinowski has maintained a cash advantage over Kean and reported having $1.6 million on hand to Kean’s $849,000 on Oct. 19. 

3. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa

The race in Iowa’s 3rd District has become a referendum on Biden, with Republican Zach Nunn slamming Axne for walking in lockstep with the president, who held a virtual fundraiser for her last week. Axne, the only Democrat in the Iowa delegation, was first elected in 2018 and has emphasized her efforts to work across the aisle as well as her support for abortion access. The district was redrawn to include more of southern Iowa, an area that favors Republicans. Axne had $712,000 as of Oct. 19, while Nunn, a state senator, had $351,000. Outside groups have invested heavily in the race.

4. Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va.

Luria, who was first elected in the 2018 blue wave, faces a top GOP recruit, state Sen. Jen Kiggans. Luria, who sits on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, has sought to label Kiggans as an extremist, while Kiggans has criticized Luria for supporting Biden’s agenda and said she has fueled inflation. Luria reported having $2.7 million on hand as of Oct. 19, while Kiggans had $263,000. Outside groups, led by the Congressional Leadership Fund, have spent heavily to make up some of that difference. Kiggans has also campaigned with GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican who won the district in 2021. 

5. Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif.

Valadao has won, and lost, tough races before. He beat incumbent Rep. TJ Cox in a 2020 rematch, after losing to Cox in the 2018 blue wave. Valadao’s district became more Democratic, and his opponent, state assembly member Rudy Salas, appears to have less baggage than Cox, who was subsequently indicted on fraud charges. Valadao narrowly made it into the top two in a June all-party primary, prevailing over fellow Republican and military veteran Chris Mathys, who billed himself as more conservative than Valadao, who voted to impeach Trump. Republicans view Valadao as uniquely able to hold the seat. The party committees and chief super PACs have spent more than $15 million on the race. Valadao had more cash on hand — $800,000 to Salas’ $430,000 — as of Oct. 19. 

6. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio

A regular on House most-vulnerable lists over the years, Chabot even lost reelection in 2008, then made his return in 2010 during the tea party wave. The redrawn lines of the Cincinnati-area 1st District made his reelection this year tougher than in 2020, when he won with almost 52 percent. Democratic challenger Greg Landsman, a member of the Cincinnati City Council, held about $445,000 cash on hand as of Oct. 19, while Chabot reported $360,000. The party committees and outside groups have invested heavily in the race. Republicans are working to portray Landsman as too liberal for the district, while Democrats are quick to point out that Chabot was among the 147 GOP lawmakers who voted against certifying the 2020 election for Biden, who won the district. 

7. Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn.

Minnesota Democratic Rep. Angie Craig comes onto the list with a week to go. She faces a 2020 rematch with Tyler Kistner, a Marine veteran who she beat by 2.2 points last time. This year, the race is close again, and outside groups linked to both parties are spending heavily. A third candidate, Paula Overby, died last month, but her name will be on the ballot. Like other incumbents, Craig has a fundraising advantage over her main challenger, and she had $1.9 million on hand on Oct. 19 to Kistner’s $420,000. 

8. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-N.M.

Herrell, a former state representative, was elected to Congress in 2020, two years after losing her first bid for the 2nd District seat. A member of the House Freedom Caucus, Herrell has brought a number of high-profile Republicans to the state to campaign with her, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Her opponent, Gabe Vasquez, a first-generation American and a former member of the Las Cruces City Council, is running as a moderate, though he has been criticized for past tweets attacking the oil and gas industry and the U.S. justice system. Herrell had $683,000 on hand as of Oct. 19; Vasquez had $314,000.

9. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb.

Bacon, a retired Air Force brigadier general who was first elected in 2016, is locked in a tight race with state Sen. Tony Vargas. Trump narrowly carried the district, which includes Omaha and its suburbs, in 2016, but Biden won it in 2020. Vargas, a Democratic state senator, is seeking to become the first Hispanic member of Congress from Nebraska. The race is considered a bellwether of Republican competitiveness in the suburbs. Bacon had $432,000 on hand as of Oct. 19, and Vargas had $314,000.

Wild comes in at the final spot on the list. Like some other incumbents, she is facing a rematch with her 2020 opponent, Republican Lisa Scheller, who she beat then by nearly 4 points. But the 7th District got harder for Democrats in redistricting. Wild and Democrats have attacked Scheller, saying her business shipped jobs abroad, while Republicans have criticized Wild’s voting record, saying it helped fuel inflation. As of Oct. 19, Wild had $921,000 on hand, while Scheller had $320,000. 

Senate most vulnerable

Here are the 10 most vulnerable senators and how their ranking compares to where they were in September.

2. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga.

3. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.

4. Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz.

5. Sen Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.

6. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah

8. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

9. Sen Patty Murray, D-Wash.

10. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska

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