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No shortage of House members who are vulnerable this year

Redistricting and primaries put members in danger of losing seats

Reps. Brandon Williams, R-N.Y., right, and Mike Garcia, R-Calif., are both on the latest ranking of the most vulnerable House members up for reelection this year.
Reps. Brandon Williams, R-N.Y., right, and Mike Garcia, R-Calif., are both on the latest ranking of the most vulnerable House members up for reelection this year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Less than six months out from Election Day, the 10 most vulnerable House members are a mix of Republicans and Democrats, including two progressives facing tough primary challenges.

The other eight members to make the list will be battling to keep their seats in November. Taking over the No. 1 spot — after its occupant in our November ranking was expelled from the House — is New York Republican Rep. Brandon Williams. His district saw some of the greatest changes after New York’s Democratic-controlled state legislature approved new maps in February. 

Fellow New Yorkers Anthony D’Esposito and Mike Lawler remain on the list, as does California Rep. John Duarte. Returning is fellow California Rep. Mike Garcia. And joining the list for the first time this cycle are Democrats Don Davis of North Carolina and Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania. 

With 22 members representing districts that would have voted for the opposite party’s presidential nominee in 2020, there are members who narrowly missed this list but could find themselves on it as the campaign progresses. Arizona GOP Rep. Juan Ciscomani is sure to have a competitive rematch against Democrat Kristen Engel. Ciscomani had significantly more outside support than Engel did in 2022, according to OpenSecrets, but Democrats have signaled that could change this year. On the other side, Republicans hope that Alaska’s ranked-choice voting system won’t be a roadblock again to ousting Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola in a state that then-President Trump won by 10 points in 2020. 

Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush, both progressives, join the list at the fifth and sixth spot due to the competitive primaries each face. Bowman and Bush, who are both aligned with Justice Democrats, face Democratic candidates who have outraised them. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee also endorsed both George Latimer in New York and Wesley Bell in Missouri, as did the Democratic Majority for Israel, and progressives are bracing for outside spending by pro-Israel groups in both races.

But there are other members facing serious primary challenges. In Texas, Rep. Tony Gonzales is in a runoff election later this month. Virginia Rep. Bob Good, the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, appears to be in serious trouble. Cardinal News reported Wednesday that an internal poll taken by his primary challenger, state Sen. John McGuire, showed him with a 14-point lead over Good. In both Gonzales’ and Good’s cases, there are Republican House colleagues backing their opponent, a somewhat unusual twist in the campaign.

In New Jersey, freshman Rep. Rob Menendez faces a June Democratic primary challenge from Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla. Menendez has maintained institutional support that his father, Sen. Bob Menendez — who tops our list of the most vulnerable Senate incumbents — lost after he was indicted last year. But after a federal judge barred the state’s primary ballot design, which gave preferential placement to candidates who had the support of county chairs as the younger Menendez did, he could have a more difficult path to securing renomination. 

Another member who could join the list in the coming months is Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, who was indicted last week alongside his wife on charges that he took $600,000 in bribes from the government of Azerbaijan and an unnamed foreign bank headquartered in Mexico City. 

National Republicans could take another look at Cuellar’s seat in the 28th District, which he won by 13 percentage points two years ago. Republicans Jay Furman and Lazaro Garza are the two candidates in a runoff election later this month after no candidates reached a 50 percent threshold during the March primary. 

And to reiterate, this list only looks at incumbents and not at open seats that could flip and affect party control. Here’s a rundown of the 10 most vulnerable:

Williams always had a tough path to reelection in a district Joe Biden would have won in 2020, but the way the 22nd District was redrawn, it picked up even more Biden voters and the Democratic presidential nominee’s margin now would have been 11 points, according to Inside Elections. Williams will learn who he’ll face in November next month, when voters will choose between Dewitt Town Councilor Sarah Klee Hood and state Sen. John Mannion. He ended the first quarter with $1.1 million in his account, more than double either of the Democrats.

D’Esposito is likely to have a rematch with Laura Gillen, a former Hempstead town supervisor, who he defeated two years ago. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently named Gillen a “red-to-blue” candidate, but Republicans feel good about their standing on Long Island after Rep. Tom Suozzi flipped the neighboring 3rd District in a special election earlier this year. D’Esposito had more cash on hand at the end of March with $1.4 million to Gillen’s $880,000, but he’ll want to bounce back from raising less than half of the $560,000 she took in during the first quarter of this year in an expensive media market.  

Duarte, a farmer from Modesto, beat Democratic former Assemblyman Adam Gray by 564 votes in 2022, and the two men are battling again. In a district where Democrats hold a nearly 13-point voter registration edge over Republicans, Duarte has portrayed himself as a moderate focused on agriculture and water, two issues of importance to the San Joaquin Valley. But Democrats say he’s a GOP hard-liner, pointing to an interview with Punchbowl News in which Duarte said in a fiscal sense, “I’m not that far from a lot of these Freedom Caucus guys.” The freshman had $1.8 million on hand, compared to $1.2 million for Gray.

Gluesenkamp Pérez is emphasizing blue collar issues as she seeks a second term in a GOP-leaning district in southwest Washington. The co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition, she was one of two Democrats to reject Biden’s student loan relief plan. Republicans have sought to cast doubt about her working class roots, questioning her claim that she fixed cars at her family’s auto body shop. Joe Kent, who rejected Biden’s 2020 win and narrowly lost to Gluesenkamp Pérez in 2022, is trying again. He trailed Gluesenkamp Pérez in fundraising, with $633,000 on hand to her $3 million. Another Republican, former prosecutor Leslie Lewallen, has struggled to keep pace; she had $217,000 in her campaign account.

Davis, a freshman, represents North Carolina’s sole competitive House seat this year after state Republican lawmakers redrew the map, leading three other House Democrats to opt not to run at all. Davis will face Laurie Buckhout, a retired Army colonel and businesswoman who was the preferred pick of Washington Republicans in the March 5 primary. Davis had a cash advantage on Buckhout as of March 31, but he didn’t face a primary challenger. Buckhout has already loaned her campaign $1.3 million. 

In 2022, Bush easily defeated her Democratic primary opponent and won reelection with more than 70 percent of the vote. This year, she faces a strong challenge from Bell, a fellow Democrat. The war in Gaza is playing an outside role in the run-up to the Aug. 4 Democratic primary, with pro-Israel groups backing Bell over Bush, who has been vocal in her support of the Palestinians. Bush also faces a federal investigation for her use of campaign funds for security. But Bell, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, has largely focused his attacks on other issues, such as Bush’s vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Bush had $529,000 on hand; Bell had $1.1 million.

Bowman’s vulnerability is in the June 25 primary, as Latimer, the Westchester County executive, has mounted a credible challenge. A Mellman Group poll in March found Latimer up 17 points on Bowman, although a poll earlier that month by Bowman’s campaign showed a much closer race with Bowman leading by 1 point. Latimer has outraised Bowman and had $3 million on hand at the end of March, compared to Bowman’s $1.5 million. Justice Democrats PAC and the Working Families Party National PAC have already begun outside spending to boost Bowman with direct mail and texting, with an expectation that AIPAC’s campaign arm will start spending in the race. 

Seeking his third full term in a battleground district north of Los Angeles, Garcia is facing a well-funded challenge from political newcomer George Whitesides. In fact, Whitesides, the former CEO of the space tourism company Virgin Galactic, ended the first quarter with $3 million on hand to Garcia’s $1.8 million. Democrats plan to hit Garcia on ethical issues relating to a stock trade and point to an internal poll that they say puts Whitesides up by 3 percentage points. But the GOP says Whitesides is too liberal for the district and that Garcia, a former Navy fighter pilot, is a better fit.

Lawler joined the House last year after narrowly ousting the House Democrats’ campaign chair and he’s become a well-known freshman lawmaker. He’s built a war chest that he’ll need to hold on to the seat against former Rep. Mondaire Jones, who cleared the Democratic primary field and previously represented parts of the district. Jones had $3.1 million on hand at the end of March to Lawler’s $3 million. Lawler’s appearance last year at an event with President Joe Biden where the president praised him remains helpful in a district that Biden would have won by 10 points. 

Cartwright is one of the five House Democrats representing districts that Trump would have won in 2020 and his district will be tough again this year, especially with Pennsylvania’s status as a presidential battleground. As he seeks a seventh term, Cartwright faces Rob Bresnahan, the CEO of a construction company who national Republicans consider a stronger candidate than Jim Bognet, their nominee in 2020 and 2022. Still, Cartwright enters the last six months of the campaign with a major cash advantage. He had $3.2 million on hand as of April 3, while Bresnahan had $835,000. 

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