At the Races

At the Races: We have 2020 vision

By Stephanie Akin, Bridget Bowman and Simone Pathé

Welcome back to At the Races! We are relaunching just as the campaign cycle gets interesting. Each week we’ll bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call team that will keep you informed about the 2020 election. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here.

Georgia's Tom Graves won’t run for reelection in 2020
Graves’ departure will open up a safe Republican seat

Georgia Rep. Tom Graves said he is retiring to spend more time with his family. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Georgia Rep. Tom Graves, a Republican serving his fifth full term, is not running for reelection in 2020, leaving behind a solid red district.

“As we all do, I’m entering a new season in life. An exciting season,” Graves said in a statement Thursday, in which he said the holidays have been a “time of reflection.”

Duncan Hunter’s expected exit could be a relief for GOP
Republicans are confident they will hold Hunter’s seat without him on the ballot

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When California GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter announced he would plead guilty to using campaign funds for personal purposes, he also indicated he wouldn’t run for reelection. That’s likely welcome news for Republicans looking to hold on to his seat. 

“We’re going to pass it off to whoever takes this seat next, and we’ll make sure that that’s a seamless transition,” Hunter told KUSI News on Monday. “I think it’s important to keep the seat a Republican seat.”

North Carolina’s George Holding left with few options for 2020
This is the second time redistricting has altered GOP congressman’s district

North Carolina Rep. George Holding’s new district lines are less favorable to Republicans. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

North Carolina Rep. George Holding has been here before, facing a district that doesn’t look like the one he currently represents. 

But unlike in 2016, when court-mandated redistricting moved his seat across the state and he choose to run in a different district closer to home, the partisan composition of his current 2nd District has now changed significantly, becoming virtually unwinnable for a Republican. 

Washington Democratic Rep. Denny Heck not running for reelection
Heck said investigating Russian election interference and impeachment ‘have rendered my soul weary’

Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., is not running for reelection. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Denny Heck announced Wednesday that he is not running for reelection. The Washington Democrat, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, cited the impeachment investigation as part of the reason for his retirement.

“The countless hours I have spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary,” Heck wrote in a Medium post.

Kamala Harris drops out of 2020 presidential race
Harris had been lagging in the polls and struggling to gain traction

California Sen. Kamala Harris, seen in Iowa this summer, is ending her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.  (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

California Sen. Kamala Harris announced Tuesday that she is suspending her presidential campaign, citing a lack of financial resources. 

“I’ve taken stock and looked at this from every angle, and over the last few days have come to one of the hardest decisions of my life,” Harris wrote in a letter to supporters Tuesday.  “It is with deep regret — but also with deep gratitude — that I am suspending my campaign today.”

Democratic lawmakers slowly take sides in 2020 primary
30 percent of congressional Democrats have endorsed, with most backing Joe Biden

From left, Massachusetts Reps. Lori Trahan, Ayanna S. Pressley, and Katherine M. Clark have all endorsed their home-state senior senator, Elizabeth Warren. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

More than two-thirds of Democratic lawmakers have yet to take sides in the presidential primary, a sign that the race remains in flux. But the campaigns that have nabbed congressional endorsements so far could benefit from shows of support, particularly from high-profile freshmen.  

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to back Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna S. Pressley’s endorsement of her home-state senator, Elizabeth Warren, grabbed national headlines. But support from lawmakers with lower profiles can still help presidential campaigns generate local media attention, demonstrate support from key constituencies and provide a team of surrogates who can be deployed across the country. 

Georgia governor defies Trump with appointment to Isakson Senate seat
Gov. Brian Kemp has chosen Kelly Loeffler, but Rep. Doug Collins may run anyway

Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson is resigning at the end of the year. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is expected on Wednesday to appoint financial executive Kelly Loeffler to the Senate seat that Sen. Johnny Isakson is vacating at the end of the year.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which broke the news that Loeffler would be Kemp’s pick, reported the timing of the appointment. Isakson is scheduled to deliver his farewell address to the Senate on Tuesday.

Democrats could pick up at least 2 seats with new NC districts
Congressional elections will likely go forward under new map drawn by NC’s GOP-controlled legislature

Former state Rep. Deborah Ross, who lost a 2016 Senate bid, has filed to run in North Carolina’s 2nd District. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

North Carolina’s congressional elections will go forward under the new maps that the GOP-controlled legislature drew last month, a panel of state judges ruled Monday.

Democrats are likely to pick up two seats under the new configuration, which they’d been challenging in court for not adequately remedying the 2016 maps, which the court had already found to be an unlawful partisan gerrymander.

Garland Tucker drops Senate primary challenge to North Carolina’s Thom Tillis
Self funding candidate had forced Tillis to spend money early

A self-funding primary challenger to North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis is dropping his challenge to the first-term senator. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Retired businessman Garland Tucker is not filing for Senate with the state Board of Elections on Monday, dropping his primary challenge to North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, one of the most vulnerable Republicans up for reelection in 2020.

Through a combination of loans and contributions, Tucker had given his campaign about $1.3 million by the end of September, which had forced Tillis to spend money early to build up his name recognition and base of support with conservatives. Tillis reserved more than $2 million earlier this year in TV advertising. Trump endorsed Tillis, but the first-term senator was still booed at the president’s most recent rally in the Tar Heel State.

House ratings changes: A dozen races shift toward Democrats
Combination of self-inflicted wounds, slow recruiting and suburbs continuing to shift against Trump diminish GOP chances

Minnesota Rep. Angie Craig is among the Democrats whose reelection chances have improved, according to the latest ratings by Inside Elections. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Most Republicans believe their party has weathered the 2018 storm and brighter days are ahead in 2020. But that perspective doesn’t mean the GOP’s chances of retaking the House are particularly good.

Even if the national political environment isn’t as bad for the GOP as the midterms when they suffered a net loss of 40 House seats, there’s little evidence that President Donald Trump will dramatically improve his 2016 performance in key competitive districts next year.

McConnell questions Pompeo on Hong Kong, Myanmar in Louisville visit
‘What’s your take on Aung San Suu Kyi?’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., welcomed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the University of Louisville on Monday. (University of Louisville/screenshot)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was in his element Monday morning as he welcomed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the University of Louisville.

The Kentucky Republican served as interviewer for an onstage discussion with Pompeo, who is widely known to be the preferred candidate of McConnell and other senior Republicans for the Senate seat in Kansas being opened by the pending retirement of GOP Sen. Pat Roberts.

Bullock ends presidential campaign, not running for Senate in Montana
Montana governor’s campaign says he will work to elect Democrats in the state and across the country — but not as a Senate candidate

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, shown here at a American Federation of Teachers town hall in Washington in September, announced Monday he was ending his run for president. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock on Monday dropped out of the Democratic presidential race and his campaign said he won’t run for the state’s Senate seat next year.

Bullock failed to convince Democratic voters that he could beat President Donald Trump in red states. He polled at 0 percent in both CNN and Quinnipiac polls released last week.

GOP women’s group backs 13 non-incumbents for 2020
Winning for Women's affiliated super PAC plays in primaries

Former GOP Rep. Karen Handel has secured the backing of Georgia’s Republican governor and two senators in her bid to reclaim the 6th District. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Winning for Women, a nonprofit political group that supports Republican women, is backing 13 House candidates on Wednesday in its initial round of 2020 endorsements. 

The group is also backing all Republican women in Congress who are seeking reelection. That includes the five of the eight Republican women in the Senate who are up for reelection next year and 11 women in the House. Two of the 13 GOP women currently serving in the House have announced they won’t be running in 2020.

Elise Stefanik’s rise tests new GOP fundraising platform WinRed
After initial concerns, Stefanik has been using WinRed to capitalize on newfound fame

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., has been in the spotlight as one of the Republicans’ strongest questioners during impeachment hearings. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

On Fox News Thursday night, Rep. Elise Stefanik made sure to tell viewers about a website where they could “step up” and donate to her campaign. After her appearance, the New York Republican announced she raised a staggering $500,000 in less than two hours.

Stefanik’s fundraising push is an early test of whether House Republicans, using a new online fundraising platform Stefanik once questioned, can capitalize on national attention to bring in campaign cash.