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New election, same result: Most incumbents win 2022 rematches

Redistricting changed the landscape but, usually, not the victor

Rep. Andrew Garbarino, R-N.Y., saw his victory margin increase threefold this year compared to a race against the same opponent in 2020.
Rep. Andrew Garbarino, R-N.Y., saw his victory margin increase threefold this year compared to a race against the same opponent in 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House incumbents facing tough rematches with their 2020 opponents almost all prevailed again in this year’s midterms, with only one falling to a repeat challenger after redistricting made for a more challenging race.

With control of the House still uncalled as of Monday and expectations of a thin majority for the victorious party — handicappers say Republicans are favored — rematches largely avoided flips, even with some races expected to be more competitive than they were the first time around.

In Kansas, abortion politics helped propel Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids to a second victory over Republican Amanda Adkins, even after the Republican legislature redrew her 3rd District in an attempt to make it more GOP-friendly.

Davids beat Adkins by 10 percentage points in 2020, then beat her by an even larger margin — 12 percent — this year.

Davids ran on abortion rights, which seems to be a winning strategy in the Sunflower State. Earlier this year, Kansas became the first state to put abortion access up to a vote in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. In a referendum that Adkins supported and Davids opposed, Kansans rejected attempts to ban the procedure, agreeing with Davids’ position by a 59 percent to 41 percent margin.

“Serving in Congress right now, when we are facing such serious and huge threats to our institutions, to our rights and our future, it’s rough,” Davids told supporters on election night after The Associated Press called the race in her favor. “It does feel like we are watching history in the making right now.”

Kansas lawmakers changed the boundaries of Davids’ district, getting rid of more reliably Democratic areas such as northern Wyandotte County and adding more Republican areas of Franklin and Anderson counties. Yet the district continued to have a blue tinge. 

Davids is the only Democrat representing Kansas in the House and was the first lesbian Native American in Congress. 

Abortion politics also featured in Minnesota’s 2nd District, where Democratic Rep. Angie Craig again beat Republican Tyler Kistner, this time by over 5 points. The race in the suburban Minneapolis district was rated a toss-up prior to Election Day, and outside groups spent millions trying to sway the outcome.

Craig criticized Kistner for his support of former President Donald Trump and tried to paint Kistner as “too extreme” for the district during an October debate. Kistner is against abortion except in instances of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is at risk. Meanwhile, the right to an abortion is protected under the Minnesota constitution.

In 2020, Craig bested Kistner by just 2 points in a district President Joe Biden carried by over 7 points. Craig first won election in a 2018 blue wave when she flipped the seat.

In New York, Republican incumbents benefited from a new congressional map that did little to alter their races. After their victories, Reps. Nicole Malliotakis and Andrew Garbarino pointed to voters’ desire for change in Washington after the GOP incumbents posted bigger wins than they did in 2020.

Malliotakis handily won her rematch with Army veteran and former Democratic Rep. Max Rose in the Staten Island-based 11th District.

In 2020, Malliotakis ousted Rose, a freshman who had flipped the seat in 2018, by about 6 percentage points. When the AP called this year’s repeat election night, Malliotakis was leading by 24 points.

Rose jumped into the race after the New York legislature passed a new district map that made Malliotakis more vulnerable, but a court overturned that map, and its replacement kept her seat a safe place for a Republican to run. Trump won the district by 11 points in 2020, and in the new configuration he would have won it by 8 points.

Even in the face of a bigger loss, Rose projected confidence in Democrats’ agenda as he conceded. In his speech, he pledged to keep fighting and described the election result as the end of the first round of a fight, with the next just beginning.

Rose then thanked supporters and added, “I’ll see you at the bar.”

Malliotakis celebrated the decisive win, describing it in her victory speech as “an amazing, amazing mandate from the people of Staten Island and southern Brooklyn.”

On the south shore of Long Island, meanwhile, fellow New York Republican Garbarino notched his second defeat of Democrat Jackie Gordon, a retired Army reservist and former town councilmember.

Garbarino was leading by 22 points in the 2nd District as votes continued to be counted on Monday, compared to a 2020 win by almost 7 points. Democrats initially had hoped to make the race competitive, after redistricting changed it from a seat Trump won by 4 points to one he would have won by less than 2.

Garbarino said in a tweet that Americans had sent a message that they’re “sick of one party rule in Washington,” even as his party largely underperformed expectations. “They are sick of living through crisis after crisis brought on by failed policies,” he said.

Other incumbents saw smaller margins but still held on. Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright prevailed in another challenge from Jim Bognet, a political consultant and former Trump administration official. Cartwright won Pennsylvania’s 8th District by a 2.5-point margin, compared to a nearly 4-point win in 2020. He prevailed in his third straight election even though his district would have gone for Trump in both 2016 and 2020.

Democratic Rep. Susan Wild pulled off a win in a Lehigh Valley, Pa., district that became redder in redistricting. She eked out a 1.6-point win in the 7th District, according to the AP’s latest tally Monday, against manufacturing company CEO Lisa Scheller. Wild beat Scheller in 2020 by 3.6 points.

Democratic Rep. David Trone repeated his win against Republican Neil Parrott to represent Maryland’s 6th District, holding a nearly 4-point lead Monday. That’s down from a nearly 20-point win over Parrott in 2020.

Kean beats Malinowski

One incumbent facing a rematch didn’t pull off the win, as Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski fell to former state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. in New Jersey’s 7th District. Malinowski had bested Kean by just 5,329 votes, or 1.2 points, in 2020, but his district picked up more Republican-leaning areas this year. This time, Kean won by more than 4 points.

Other competitive rematches remained too close to call Monday but saw incumbents ahead with votes still left to be counted.

With an estimated 74 percent of the vote counted as of Monday night, Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., had a 9-point lead in the 27th District over his Democratic challenger, former state Assembly member Christy Smith. In their race in November 2020, Garcia won by just 333 votes.

And with an estimated 79 percent of the vote counted on Monday night, Democratic Rep. Mike Levin led Republican former San Juan Capistrano councilmember Brian Maryott in California’s 49th District by 5.2 points.  Levin had beaten Maryott by 6 points in 2020.

Repeat contests in Maine and Alaska had yet to be called. Both states use ranked choice voting, which kicks in if no candidate wins a majority of votes cast on the first ballot.

Democratic Rep. Jared Golden was leading Republican Bruce Poliquin in Maine’s 2nd District after ousting Poliquin from the seat in 2018. Neither candidate had a majority, however, so the winner could  depend on the second-choice votes of independent Tiffany Bond, who had about 7 percent on the first ballot. 

Alaska Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola was also leading, but under 50 percent, in her bid for a full term in the state’s at-large seat against two Republicans she beat earlier this year in a special election, former Gov. Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich. 

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