Jeff Singer

Washington Republican who voted to impeach Trump earns challenge from far-right extremist

Far-right ex-cop Loren Culp announced Thursday that he would challenge Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, who is one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump in January. Culp, who was the GOP's 2020 nominee for governor, made it very clear he'd be making his campaign all about that vote: After accusing the incumbent of having a "spine made of jelly," Culp, without offering any evidence, accused Newhouse of making "some kind of deal" with Democrats.

Newhouse was already facing intraparty challenges on his right from state Rep. Brad Klippert and businessman Jerrod Sessler in next year's top-two primary, and more could still join. It's possible that a crowded field of opponents could split the anti-Newhouse GOP vote in the 4th District and allow the congressman to advance to a general election with a Democrat, but that's far from assured. This 58-40 Trump seat is red enough that Newhouse went up against a fellow Republican in both 2014 and 2016, and this eastern Washington seat will almost certainly remain very conservative turf after redistricting.

Culp may also be prominent enough to emerge as Newhouse's main foe, especially since Klippert did not report raising any money in the time between his January launch and the end of March. (Sessler entered the race in early April.) Culp himself served as the small community of Republic, which is located in the neighboring 5th District, in 2018 when he made news by announcing he wouldn't enforce a statewide gun safety ballot measure that had just passed 59-41.

Culp's stance drew a very favorable response from far-right rocker Ted Nugent, who posted a typo-ridden "Chief Loren Culp is an Anerican freedom warrior. Godbless the freedom warriors" message to his Facebook page.

Culp soon decided to challenge Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, and he quickly made it clear he would continue to obsessively cultivate the Trump base rather than appeal to a broader group of voters in this blue state. That tactic helped Culp advance through the top-two primary, an occasion he celebrated by reaffirming his opposition to Inslee's measures to stop the pandemic, including mask mandates.

Inslee ended up winning by a wide 57-43, but Culp responded by saying he'd "never concede." Instead, he filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a fellow Republican, that made allegations of "intolerable voting anomalies" for a contest "that was at all times fraudulent."

The state GOP did not welcome Culp's refusal to leave the stage, though. Some Republicans also openly shared their complaints about Culp's campaign spending, including what the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner described as "large, unexplained payments to a Marysville data firm while spending a relatively meager sum on traditional voter contact."

Culp also gave himself a total of $48,000 for lost wages and mileage reimbursement, a sum that Brunner said "appears to be the largest-ever for a candidate in Washington state." Republicans also griped that Culp had spent only about a fifth of his $3.3 million budget on advertising, a far smaller amount than what serious candidates normally expend.

Culp's attorney ultimately withdrew the suit after being threatened with sanction for making "factually baseless" claims. Culp himself responded to the news by saying that, while the cost of continuing the legal battle would have been prohibitive, "It doesn't mean that the war's over … It just means that we're not going to engage in this particular battle through the courts."

Newhouse, for his part, responded to Culp's new campaign by reaffirming that he'll be running for a fifth term next year. Newhouse brought in $288,000 during the first quarter for his campaign, and he ended March with $528,000 to defend himself.

Notorious ex-Democrat launches GOP primary challenge to Georgia governor

Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Trump-obsessed Democrat-turned-Republican, announced Thursday that he would oppose Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in next year's GOP primary. Jones' challenge comes as Kemp is also preparing for a widely anticipated rematch against Democrat Stacey Abrams, whom Peach State political observers universally expect to run again.

Jones used his kickoff Friday to once again repeat the lie that Trump would still be in the White House if Jones had been governor in 2020. Joe Biden, of course, would still have earned an electoral college majority if Trump had carried Georgia, but that's hardly stopped Trump from targeting his one-time ally Kemp for refusing to go along with his efforts to try and steal the state's electoral votes.

That hasn't changed in the last month even though Kemp has attracted plenty of gratitude in conservative circles for signing the new voter suppression bill, a development that led Major League Baseball to move the All-Star Game from the Atlanta suburbs to Colorado. Trump instead responded earlier this month by labeling the new law "far too weak and soft" and claiming, "Kemp also caved to the radical left-wing woke mob who threatened to call him racist if he got rid of weekend voting."

Jones, as we'll discuss, has been an ardent Trumpest throughout the last year, but Kemp is already trying to make his Democratic past a liability. The incumbent's team greeted Jones' arrival into the race by noting that the then-Democrat opposed a 2019 bill that effectively banned abortion just six weeks into a pregnancy, legislation that has since been struck down by a federal court. Jones, who agreed during his 2008 U.S. Senate campaign that abortion should be legal, tried to get ahead of Kemp's attacks by tweeting on Monday, "Life begins at conception - period."

The governor may also have plenty of other material to work with from Jones' long time in Democratic politics, a career that was defined by several failed attempts to win higher office. After a stint in the state House in the 1990s, Jones became the first African American to lead DeKalb County following his 2000 victory for CEO of this large Atlanta-area community. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that during his tenure, he "drew intense scrutiny for angry outbursts and an accusation of rape that he said was a consensual act between three partners." Jones, however, was never charged.

Jones, who had voted for George W. Bush twice, tried to use his high-profile post as a springboard to statewide office by seeking Team Blue's nomination to take on Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss in 2008. However, the CEO earned plenty of negative attention during the nomination contest after Barack Obama took him to task for creating a mailer that made it appear that the two were campaigning together. Jones lost the primary runoff 60-40 to Jim Martin, who went on to lose to Chambliss.

Jones then challenged Rep. Hank Johnson in the 2010 primary for the 4th Congressional District and lost 55-26. In 2013, a grand jury probing his time leading DeKalb County recommended he be investigated for what the AJC calls allegations of "bid-rigging and theft." The following year, his campaign for county sheriff ended in a landslide 76-24 primary defeat.

Jones, though, resurrected his political career when he won the 2016 primary to return to the state House in a safely blue seat. Months later, DeKalb District Attorney Robert James announced that he wouldn't be charging a number of figures, including Jones, for lack of evidence.

Jones spent the next few years often voting with Republicans and tweeting favorably of Trump, but he only burned his last bridges with his party in 2020 when he endorsed Trump's re-election campaign. The state representative, who was already facing a competitive primary, ultimately retired from the legislature (albeit after initially saying he'd be resigning), and he spent the rest of the campaign as a prominent Trump surrogate. Jones spent his time after Election Day headlining Trump rallies alleging nonexistent voter fraud, and he finally switched parties in January.

This notorious party-switcher is eying a GOP primary challenge to Georgia governor

Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, an ardent Trump fan who left the Democratic Party in January, tweeted Monday that he was "looking closely" at a GOP primary bid against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.

Jones, unsurprisingly, echoed his patron's lies about election fraud by insisting, "If it weren't for Brian Kemp, Donald Trump would still be President of these United States." Joe Biden, of course, would still have earned an electoral college majority if Trump had carried Georgia, but that's hardly stopped Trump from targeting his one-time ally Kemp.

Jones had a long career in Democratic politics, though he'd struggled to win higher office under his old party. After a stint in the state House in the 1990s, Jones became the first African American to lead DeKalb County following his 2000 victory for CEO of this large Atlanta-area community. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that during his tenure, Jones "drew intense scrutiny for angry outbursts and an accusation of rape that he said was a consensual act between three partners." Jones, however, was never charged.

Jones tried to use his high-profile post as a springboard to statewide office, but he lost the 2008 primary runoff for Senate 60-40 to Jim Martin, who went on to lose to Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss. Jones then challenged Rep. Hank Johnson in the 2010 primary for the 4th Congressional District and lost 55-26.

In 2013, a grand jury probing Jones' time as DeKalb County CEO recommended he be investigated for what the AJC calls allegations of "bid-rigging and theft." The following year, his campaign for DeKalb County sheriff ended in a landslide 76-24 primary defeat.

Jones, though, resurrected his political career when he won the 2016 primary to return to the state House in a safely blue seat. Months later, DeKalb District Attorney Robert James announced that he wouldn't be charging a number of figures, including Jones, for lack of evidence.

Jones spent the next few years often voting with Republicans and tweeting favorably of Trump, but he only burned his last bridges with his party in 2020 when he endorsed Trump's re-election campaign. Jones, who was already facing a competitive primary, ultimately retired from the legislature (albeit after initially saying he'd be resigning), and he spent the rest of the campaign as a prominent Trump surrogate.

Jones finally switched parties in January, and he's been eyeing another statewide bid over the last few months. Jones has been mentioned as a prospective Senate candidate, and he reportedly eyed a primary campaign for secretary of state against Brad Raffensperger as recently as last week. Trump, though, has touted former NFL running back Herschel Walker as a prospective Senate candidate and endorsed Rep. Jody Hice's bid against Raffensperger on Monday (see our GA-SoS item), which may be why Jones is now talking about taking on Kemp instead.

Missouri's Roy Blunt becomes the fifth Republican senator to retire in 2022

On Monday, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt became the fifth Republican senator to announce that he would not seek reelection in 2022. Blunt's decision came as a surprise as his spokesperson had said in November that the senator would be seeking a third term, though Blunt himself sounded a bit less sure the following January.

Blunt's decision will set off an open seat race in a former swing state that has swung hard to the right during the 21st century. Donald Trump took Missouri last year 57-41, while Republican Gov. Mike Parsons won reelection by that very same margin against the only Democrat who holds statewide office: state Auditor Nicole Galloway. Blunt himself only scraped by in 2016 49-46, but Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill lost reelection to Republican Josh Hawley two years later 51-46 despite the 2018 blue wave.

It remains to be seen if Blunt's departure will entice national Democrats to take a harder look at the Show Me State. Democrats already had a notable candidate, former state Sen. Scott Sifton, running before Blunt retired, and it's possible others will get in now.

This suburban St. Louis district hosted one of the closest presidential contests we've ever seen

Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 House seats nationwide tours Missouri, which was home to what will almost certainly be the closest district-level presidential outcome in the nation. You can find our detailed calculations here, a large-size map of the results here, and our permanent, bookmarkable link for all 435 districts here.

The site of that election was Missouri's 2nd District in the St. Louis suburbs, which Donald Trump won 49.18-49.16―a margin of just 115 votes. This represented a giant crash for Trump from his 53-42 performance in 2016, but it still wasn't enough for Democrats looking to unseat Republican Rep. Ann Wagner. Like a number of Republican House candidates running in ancestrally red suburban seats, Wagner ran well ahead of the top of the ticket and defeated Democrat Jill Schupp 52-46.

This extremely narrow victory is the tightest presidential result we've found for all of the 404 congressional districts we've released 2020 data for so far, and we'd be very surprised if it gets displaced when we wrap up our remaining three states (Alabama, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania). The second-closest seat in last year's elections was Iowa's 3rd, which Trump claimed 49.15-49.02, a gap of 567 votes. Four years ago, the most competitive seat was Oregon's 4th, which Hillary Clinton edged out Trump by 554 votes, or 46.14-46.0. (Joe Biden took it 51-47 this time.)

As it happens, our preliminary calculations suggested that Biden had won Missouri's 2nd, but the closeness of the results sent us on a rigorous hunt for more accurate data that even involved researching election system software manuals to determine whether such data might be available at all. Fortunately, it was.

In St. Louis County, which makes up about three-quarters of the district, official election returns assigned every vote to a precinct, and no precincts were split between districts. We could therefore be certain that we could correctly assign every vote to its proper congressional district because we know which precincts belong to which districts.

However, official results from the other two counties in the district, Jefferson and St. Charles, only assigned Election Day votes to precincts. Absentee votes, which were almost a third of all votes cast in both counties, were only reported countywide in both cases.

In such situations when we have no other choice, we can use techniques to estimate how we should divvy up unassigned votes like these between districts, which is how we arrived at those extremely tight preliminary numbers that showed Biden just ahead. But we couldn't settle for an estimate in this case given the narrowness of the margin.

Thankfully, we learned that the software used in both counties was capable of producing reports that break down election results by congressional district—in other words, they could automatically execute the very task we almost always have to perform manually. After weeks of pursuit, and with the help of friendly local officials willing to work with us, we obtained these breakdowns for both Jefferson and St. Charles. We're extremely glad we went the extra mile, because the final results differed from our initial estimate and ended in an extraordinarily narrow win for Trump.

We should note that even with these more accurate reports from Jefferson and St. Charles, about a dozen votes (mostly absentees) remain unassigned. But since Trump's margin was more than 100 votes, we can say with certainty that he carried Missouri's 2nd Congressional District—just barely.

Zooming out statewide, Trump won Missouri 57-41, which wasn't much of a change from his 57-38 victory four years ago in what used to be a fiercely contested swing state. The Show Me State's remaining House seats were also anything but competitive. Biden took Rep. Cori Bush's 1st District in the city of St. Louis 80-18, while he carried fellow Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver 5th District in Kansas City at the other end of the state 59-40.

Trump, meanwhile, won the other five GOP-held seats with more than 63% of the vote. Republicans will have their chance to protect Wagner, and possibly make life more complicated for Cleaver, though, as they'll have complete control of the redistricting process.

Republican senator's surprise retirement could give Democrats a pickup opportunity in Ohio: analysis

In a big surprise, Republican Sen. Rob Portman announced Monday that he would not seek a third term next year in Ohio. Portman, who is 65, had not shown any obvious interest in retirement, and he had a large $4.6 million war chest at the end of September of 2020. The senator, though, explained his decision by saying, "I don't think any Senate office has been more successful in getting things done, but honestly, it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision."

Portman's departure will likely give Democrats a better shot at his Senate seat, but Ohio's rightward drift over the last few years will still make it difficult for Team Blue to score a win in this traditional swing state. Joe Biden targeted the Buckeye State hard in 2020, but Donald Trump still defeated him 53-45. However, Ohio still isn't a place that Republicans can take victory for granted: Portman's Democratic colleague, Sen. Sherrod Brown, earned reelection 53-47 in 2018, and last year, Democrats won an officially nonpartisan race for the state Supreme Court.

Portman's retirement also ends a long career in state and national politics. Portman got his start interning for his local GOP congressman, Cincinnati-area Rep. Bill Gradison, and working on George H.W. Bush's unsuccessful 1980 presidential campaign. He went on to serve as a White House associate legal counsel in 1989 after Bush won on his second try. Portman, who became close to the president, quickly rose to become head of the Office of Legislative Affairs, and he returned home in 1991 a year ahead of Bush's defeat.

Portman soon got his own chance to run for office in 1993 when Gradison resigned to lead the Health Insurance Association of America and asked his former intern to run in the special election to succeed him. Portman also benefited from support from former First Lady Barbara Bush, who, as Politico would recount in 2012, "recorded a radio ad name-dropping Cincinnati's Skyline Chili and Portman in the same sentence." Portman won the primary by beating former Rep. Bob McEwen, who had lost renomination in 1992 after redistricting pitted him against a fellow incumbent, 36-30, and he had no trouble in the general election for the conservative 2nd District.

Portman quickly became entrenched in the House, but he resigned in 2005 to become United States Trade Representative under George W. Bush. (Portman's departure set off an unexpectedly competitive special election between Republican Jean Schmidt and Democrat Paul Hackett that Schmidt ended up winning just 52-48.) Portman later served as head of the White House's powerful Office of Management and Budget from 2006 to 2007, and he played Barack Obama in 2008 during John McCain's debate practice sessions.

Portman got another chance to run for office in early 2009 when Republican Sen. George Voinovich announced his retirement. Portman quickly launched his campaign and proved to be a very strong fundraiser from the jump, something that helped the political insider avoid any primary opposition even as the emerging Tea Party declared war on other party establishment figures.

Ohio had backed Obama 51-47 in 2008 and this looked like it would be a top tier Senate target for much of the cycle, but that's not how things turned out. Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher won the Democratic nomination after a costly primary campaign, and he never was able to come close to matching Portman's financial resources. The Republican took a lead during the summer as the political climate got worse and worse nationally for Team Blue, and Democratic outside groups ended up concentrating on other races. Ultimately, Portman beat Fisher 57-39.

Portman's wide win in this battleground state made him an attractive vice presidential prospect in 2012, and Mitt Romney seriously considered him before opting instead for Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan; while the senator wasn't on the ticket, he did reprise his role as Obama as Romney prepared to debate the real president. Portman later considered his own White House bid, but he announced in late 2014 that he'd instead seek reelection to the Senate.

National Democrats soon recruited former Gov. Ted Strickland, who had narrowly lost reelection during the 2010 wave, to take on Portman, and this again looked like it would be one of the most competitive races of the cycle. Unfortunately for Strickland, though, he suffered a similar fate in 2016 as Fisher had six years ago.

Portman and his allies spent heavily during the summer on ads blaming Strickland for job losses that took place during the Great Recession, when every state experienced painful job losses that had nothing to do with who was governor. Strickland didn't have the resources to fight back in time. Portman once again built up a clear lead in the polls months before Election Day, and national Democrats pulled out of the state in mid-October. Portman ended up winning his final term 58-37 as Trump was carrying the state 51-43.

Ohio's decade-old gerrymander still performed exactly as the GOP intended in 2020

Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide goes to O-H-I-O. You can find our complete data set here, which we're updating continuously as the precinct-level election returns we need for our calculations become available.

Despite Democratic hopes, Donald Trump's 53-45 win in Ohio matched his 52-44 performance in this one-time swing state four years ago. Trump also carried the same 12 congressional districts that he took last time, while the remaining four Clinton seats also went for Biden. Likewise, all the Trump districts remained in GOP hands, while the four Clinton/Biden districts once again elected Democratic members. You can find a larger version of our map here.

Democrats were optimistic that Biden could flip the 1st District in the Cincinnati area, and the seat did move to the left. However, while Trump's 51-48 showing this time was notably weaker than his prior 51-45 performance, veteran Republican Rep. Steve Chabot still rode to a 52-45 victory over Democrat Kate Schroder.

Trump secured single-digit victories in three other seats. The 10th District in the Dayton area supported him 51-47, which was a slip from his 51-44 win last time. Longtime Republican Rep. Mike Turner, though, again ran well ahead of the ticket and beat Democrat Desiree Tims 58-42.

The 12th District in the Columbus suburbs, meanwhile, went for Trump 52-46, which was quite a bit narrower than his 53-42 performance in 2016; Republican Rep. Troy Balderson, though, won 55-42 against Democrat Alaina Shearer. Trump also prevailed 54-45 in the 14th District in the Cleveland suburbs, which was down a little from his prior 54-42 win, though Republican Rep. David Joyce racked up a strong 60-40 win over Democrat Hillary O'Connor Mueri.

Biden, by contrast, lost ground in the 13th District, ancestrally blue turf in the Youngstown area with a large white working class voting bloc. This constituency had already moved dramatically to the right: Barack Obama carried it 63-35 in 2012 but Clinton won it just 51-45, and Biden hung on by an even narrower 51-48 margin. Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan beat former Republican state Rep. Christina Hagan by a stronger 52-45 spread, but it was by far the narrowest victory in his 10 House campaigns.

These results owe much to the extreme gerrymander that Republicans passed in the last round of redistricting, which has locked in a 12-4 congressional majority for the GOP every single year, even when Obama won Ohio in 2012. There's a good chance the coming decade will see something similar.

Voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2018 that theoretically puts congressional redistricting in the hands of a commission that includes members from both parties. However, if the commission's proposals don't achieve the bipartisan support the amendment requires, the Republican-led legislature would be able to just pass its own maps again. Those maps would only be good for four years instead of the usual 10, but the process would just repeat itself. In other words, anyone who wants to gerrymander just needs to pass new maps more often.

North Carolina set to have another competitive Senate race — and this time it'll be an open seat

Republican Sen. Richard Burr said he would not seek a fourth term all the way back in 2016, and it's very unlikely he'd be able to change his mind now that he's under investigation for the large stock transactions he made just before the markets tanked in mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic worsened. There are a number of North Carolina Republicans who could run to succeed Burr in this light red state, and multiple media organizations reported Thursday that Lara Trump, who is the wife of Eric Trump, is considering.

Trump, a Tar Heel State native who worked as an adviser for her father-in-law's failed reelection campaign, was mentioned last year as a possible contender for New York's 2nd Congressional District on Long Island, and she initially didn't rule the idea out. Trump, who didn't end up making the race, currently lives in Westchester County, New York, which is quite far from both the Long Island-based 2nd District and especially North Carolina.

Several other Republicans could also compete here. Outgoing Rep. Mark Walker decided not to run for anything this year after court-supervised redistricting turned his gerrymandered seat reliably blue, recently reaffirmed that he was interested in a Senate bid. Outgoing Rep. George Holding, who also decided to retire for the same reason as Walker, didn't rule out a bid for the upper chamber last year, though he doesn't appear to have said anything since then.

Oh, that's not all. Former Gov. Pat McCrory, who lost reelection in 2016, also said in late 2019 that he was mulling a campaign to succeed Burr. In September, McCrory said he was interested in seeking office again, though he added that he was "having fun" pursuing other activities.

A few other GOP politicians are also reportedly thinking about it. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who resigned from Congress earlier this year, doesn't seem to have said anything about his 2022 plans, but the New York Times' Annie Karni writes that he's "widely expected to move back home and run for the seat as well." (Update: Meadows announced Friday that he wouldn't run.) Karni adds that outgoing Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who lost this year's gubernatorial contest to Democrat Roy Cooper 52-47, is "expected to be in the field." State House Speaker Tim Moore was also name-dropped as a potential contender, though there's no word on his interest.

The Democratic field is taking longer to develop. Outgoing state Sen. Erica Smith told the News & Observer's Brian Murphy on Friday that she was running for the Senate again, but few national Democrats will want to see her as their nominee. Earlier this year, Republicans spent nearly $3 million on an unsuccessful effort to help Smith, who had raised very little money herself, win the primary against Democratic establishment favorite Cal Cunningham. Democratic groups spent heavily to push back on the GOP meddling, and Cunningham beat Smith 57-35 before narrowly losing this month to Republican Sen. Thom Tillis.

Months later, Smith endorsed Republican Sonja Nichols' campaign against one of her colleagues, Democratic state Sen. Jeff Jackson. When Smith was asked about her decision on Facebook, she responded by telling the poster, "[Y]ou cannot see beyond your sexist male privilege. Funny that you are not attempting to deal with the real issues." Jackson ended up prevailing 55-41.

Bright sign from Georgia: Democrats flip House seat in Atlanta's long-Republican suburbs

The Associated Press called the open seat race for Georgia's 7th District for Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux on Friday, which gives House Democrats a welcome pickup after an unexpectedly rough cycle. Bourdeaux flipped this longtime Republican-held constituency in the northwest Atlanta suburbs by beating Rich McCormick 51-49 in a contest that attracted millions in outside spending from both sides. Bourdeaux's win comes two years after she lost a surprisingly tight race to Republican incumbent Rob Woodall, a showing that helped prove that Georgia's 7th was no longer safely red turf.

Gwinnett County, which dominates this seat (82% of the district is located here, with the balance in Forsyth County), spent decades as a GOP stronghold up and down the ballot. The suburb decisively voted for Ronald Reagan even as he was losing statewide in 1980 to Georgia's former governor, President Jimmy Carter; Gwinnett County also backed Mack Mattingly 68-32 that year in his narrow victory over Democratic Sen. Herman Talmadge, a contest that made Mattingly the Peach State's first Republican senator since Reconstruction.

Gwinnett County would continue to overwhelmingly support every Republican presidential nominee well into the first decade of the 21st Century, and the rapidly growing community was also a major source of strength for Team Red's gubernatorial and Senate candidates during this time. The county also soon became very friendly turf for Republican congressmen. Woodall spent years working as an aide to local Rep. John Linder, who never had any trouble winning reelection during his nearly two decades in Congress, and Woodall himself faced no serious general election opposition when he ran to succeed his boss in 2010.

Gwinnett County became more competitive during the 2000s, with John McCain carrying it just 55-45 four years after George W. Bush overwhelmingly won it 66-33, but that didn't seem to matter much for Woodall. Republican mapmakers did all they could to make sure the 7th District remained safely red when they redrew the maps in 2011, and he was left with a redrawn seat that included just over 70% of Gwinnett County as well as the same portion of Forsyth County, a smaller but far more conservative area. (About 22% of Gwinnett County, including its more Democratic areas, was assigned to the safely blue 4th District, while the balance went to the dark red 10th District.)

For a time, the GOP gerrymander worked exactly as intended. The new 7th District backed Mitt Romney by a strong 60-38 margin even as he was carrying all of Gwinnett County only 54-45, which was Team Red's weakest showing in a presidential race since Carter won it back in 1976. National Democrats also didn't make any serious effort to unseat Woodall, who seemed completely safe.

However, things dramatically changed during the Donald Trump era in this well-educated and diverse suburb. Trump outright lost Gwinnett County 50-44, and while he did win the 7th District, his 51-45 showing in 2016 was a big drop from what the GOP was accustomed to. Woodall himself easily turned back an underfunded Democratic foe that year in a contest that attracted no outside attention, and he seemed ardently convinced that he would remain safe despite Trump's drop. In May of 2017, Woodall even glibly said of his own race, "It's gerrymandering that makes these things noncompetitive, right?"

That obliviousness to his seat's changing politics almost cost him reelection in 2018. Bourdeaux, a Georgia State University public policy professor, won the Democratic nomination after a crowded primary, and she proved to be a strong fundraiser. Woodall, though, didn't run any ads for most of the campaign or even do many advertised campaign events. However, he got something of a wake-up call late in the campaign when Independence USA, a super PAC funded by former New York City Mayor and gun safety advocate Michael Bloomberg, dropped $913,000 on him in the final days of the race. Finally, on the Friday before Election Day, Woodall finally went up with his first TV spot.

Bourdeaux ended up losing to Woodall by just 433 votes in a performance that shocked both parties. It wasn't an outlier, though: Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, despite the taint of Republican voter suppression that marred her election, performed well in Gwinnett County and other Atlanta suburbs, and she even won the gerrymandered 7th District by a 50-49 margin.

Bourdeaux quickly made it clear that she'd be running again, and this time, both parties were aware that they'd have a fight in the 7th. Republicans reportedly weren't keen on having Woodall stick around after he almost sleepwalked to victory, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in early February of 2019 that some unnamed GOP officials were pressuring him to "consider his options" for the cycle. Woodall seems to have gotten the message, and he announced his retirement days later.

A number of candidates from both parties soon entered the race to succeed Woodall, but neither primary ended up going to a runoff. Bourdeaux's opponent this time was Rich McCormick, an emergency room physician who received serious support from the far-right anti-tax Club for Growth. The general election also proved to be a very expensive affair, with the DCCC and House Majority PAC spending a total of $6.5 million on the Democratic side compared to $5 million from the NRCC and Congressional Leadership Fund.

Ultimately, while House Democrats didn't make the gains in the suburbs they were hoping for, Bourdeaux pulled off a victory. This pickup came as once solidly Gwinnett County continued to move hard to the left: Joe Biden has dramatically improved on Hillary Clinton's showing from just four years ago, and Democrats will also be looking for a strong performance here in January as they try to win as many as two U.S. Senate runoffs.

Republicans are growing anxious about losing a Senate seat in Texas — once again

The final two weeks of the 2020 election are upon us, and with the political climate continuing to favor Democrats overall, Daily Kos Elections is moving our race ratings in 11 more contests—nine shift to the left, while two move towards the GOP. We also now have a total of 11 GOP-held Senate seats rated as Lean Republican or better for Democrats. You can find all our Senate, gubernatorial, and House ratings at each link.

TX-Sen (Likely R to Lean R): Democrat MJ Hegar not only swamped Republican Sen. John Cornyn 2:1 in fundraising over the last quarter, she just got a big vote of confidence from the Senate Majority PAC, which announced it would invest almost $9 million to support her bid—the first time outside Democratic groups have spent money on a Texas Senate race in forever. (Yep, even Beto didn't get that kind of love.)

All polls still have Cornyn ahead, and Texas is still Texas. But the gap has narrowed, and with presidential polling showing a near-tie, the once unthinkable is now a whole lot more thinkable. Cornyn himself also seems to be feeling the heat: After spending four years positioning himself as nothing but an ardent Trump ally, the senator insisted to reporters over the weekend that he'd disagreed with the White House plenty of times but kept his dissent private.

CO-Sen (Lean D to Likely D): With reports that the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and the Senate Leadership Fund have both drastically scaled back their spending in Colorado's Senate race, Republicans have now all but abandoned Cory Gardner. Confirming the development, the top Democratic super PAC, Senate Majority PAC, has also cut seven figures from its planned advertising. Every single poll of this race has shown Gardner trailing Democrat John Hickenlooper, most by double digits. At this point, Colorado is simply too blue for a Republican with no real ability to distance himself from Donald Trump—like Gardner.

VT-Gov (Likely R to Safe R): Despite Vermont's deep blue hue, the state has continued its long history of electing Republican governors, and Phil Scott has remained exceedingly popular, in part because of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Limited polling has shown him crushing his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, and there's been no indication that outside groups plan to get involved here in the final weeks.

CA-21 (Lean D to Tossup): Democrat TJ Cox narrowly unseated Republican Rep. David Valadao in one of the biggest upsets of 2018, and he faces a difficult campaign to stop Valadao from reclaiming California's 21st Congressional District this year.

The only recent poll we've seen out of this southern Central Valley seat was a mid-September American Viewpoint internal for the pro-Republican Congressional Leadership Fund that found Valadao ahead 49-38. It may seem implausible that Valadao could have a huge lead in a district that Trump lost 55-40, but Democrats have not responded with better numbers, and Politico also recently reported that this was one of only a few seats that Team Blue is "growing increasingly nervous" about.

There are some other factors that could complicate Cox's chances even in a good year for his party. National polls show Trump running better with Latino voters than he did four years ago, which could help him make up some ground in this heavily Latino district. And Valadao has always run ahead of the GOP ticket in past years, sometimes quite dramatically. Cox may still be the slight favorite to hang on, but a Valadao win would no longer be a surprise.

FL-18 (Safe R to Likely R): Republican Rep. Brian Mast looked secure after he beat a well-funded opponent by a convincing 54-46 during last cycle's Democratic wave, but he faces another credible challenge this year from Navy veteran Pam Keith in Florida's 18th Congressional District.

A mid-September survey from St. Pete Polls found Mast ahead by a wide—but not insurmountable—50-42 margin even as respondents narrowly favored Biden in a district that had backed Trump 53-44 four years earlier. An early October Keith internal from Clearview Research then showed her ahead 45-43, and Mast's allies haven't responded with alternate numbers. There has been no notable outside spending so far in this seat, which includes the Palm Beach area and the Treasure Coast to the north, but an upset is possible if Nov. 3 is a strong night for Team Blue.

IL-13 (Lean R to Tossup): We had thought that Betsy Dirksen Londrigan's near-miss against Republican Rep. Rodney Davis in 2018 might have been a high-water mark for Democrats in central Illinois' 13th Congressional District, which isn't necessarily the most favorable sort of turf from Team Blue. But a recent survey for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) found her leading Davis by five points in her rematch after prior polls showed the race neck-and-neck, and we haven't seen any sort of GOP response.

The D-Trip has backed up its data with hard dollars: Along with the House Majority PAC, they've matched spending with the big outside Republican groups. This one is looking very close once again.

MI-03 (Likely R to Lean R): Michigan's 3rd Congressional District hasn't been competitive in a general election in some time, but outside groups from both parties are spending serious amounts of money in the contest to succeed Republican-turned-independent-turned-Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash, who is retiring after a tumultuous career.

The few polls we've seen have shown an unsettled contest in this Grand Rapids-based seat between Democrat Hillary Scholten, an immigration attorney, and Republican Peter Meijer, whose family owns an eponymous retail chain with almost 200 locations. A mid-September internal from Global Strategy Group for Scholten's allies at House Majority PAC showed a 41-41 tie as Biden led 49-41 in a district that backed Trump 52-42 in 2016; weeks later, the Democratic nominee released numbers from ALG Research that had her ahead 44-42. Meijer did get better news, though, when a late September survey from the conservative firm We Ask America had him leading 48-41 as Biden and Trump deadlocked 47-47.

This seat is still red enough that Meijer remains the frontrunner, but Scholten's chances are as strong as they've ever been.

NC-08 (Likely R to Lean R): While Republican Rep. Richard Hudson is still the favorite against Democrat Pat Timmons-Goodson, a former justice on the state Supreme Court, major outside groups on both sides have begun spending serious amounts of money late in the contest for North Carolina's 8th Congressional District.

The only two polls we've seen in recent weeks have both come from Democrats, and they've each shown a close race. A late September internal from Brilliant Corners for Timmons-Goodson showed Hudson up 44-42 as Trump led only 47-44 in a seat he took 53-44 four years ago. An early October DCCC Analytics poll was even more favorable: It found Timmons-Goodson and Biden up 42-39 and 47-43, respectively. Republicans have yet to release contradictory numbers.

There's also one other factor that could complicate Hudson's path in this seat, which includes Fayetteville and some of Charlotte's suburbs: Because of court-supervised redistricting, the Republican is seeking reelection in a seat where a quarter of all residents are new to him, which could prevent him from enjoying the full benefits of incumbency.

SC-01 (Tossup to Lean D): Freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham won South Carolina's coastal 1st Congressional District in one of the bigger upsets of 2018, but he's the frontrunner going into the final weeks of his bid for reelection.

An early October DCCC internal from GQR found Cunningham leading GOP state Rep. Nancy Mace by a wide 55-42 margin as respondents backed Biden 48-47 in a district that Trump took 53-40 last time. Mace responded the following week with a Strategic National survey that showed her ahead 47-45 as Trump led 47-44, but even fellow Republicans don't seem to believe she's actually doing that well: Last week, Politico recently reported that Republicans privately believe Mace's prospects are "dimming."

Major outside groups on both sides are still spending heavily here, and a Mace win is still very possible, but Cunningham, for perhaps the first time in his political career, is the favorite.

TX-32 (Lean D to Likely D): Freshman Democratic Rep. Colin Allred flipped Texas' 32nd District after a very expensive 2018 battle, but it will be hard for businesswoman Genevieve Collins to reclaim it for her party.

This historically red suburban North Dallas seat swung from 57-41 Romney to 49-47 Clinton, and diverse and well-educated constituencies like this have only become more hostile to the GOP over the last four years. Major outside groups also aren't acting like this will be close: While both parties are pouring millions into the neighboring 24th District, they've steered clear of this race so far. Collins still has the resources to run a credible campaign on her own, but it would be a big surprise if she emerged victorious.

WA-03 (Likely R to Lean R): Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler is still the frontrunner against Democrat Carolyn Long, whom she defeated 53-47 in 2018, but their rematch for southern Washington's 3rd Congressional District has been looking more competitive recently.

In late September, Long released an internal from GQR that found Herrera Beutler up 49-47 as Trump led just 48-47 in a district he took 50-43 in 2016. That's the only survey we've seen here in some time, but major outside groups are acting like this seat is very much in play. The National Republican Congressional Committee and Congressional Leadership Fund went on the air on Oct. 13 to aid the congresswoman, the very same day the DCCC released its first anti-Herrera Beutler ads. Altogether, national GOP groups spent almost $900,000 during the week of Oct. 12, while the DCCC dropped $470,000 during that time.

Herrera Beutler still has the advantage, though, in this conservative seat. The incumbent pulled off a healthy win last cycle, and even Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell narrowly lost the 3rd District 51-49 that year while she was winning statewide in a 58-42 landslide. However, if 2020 turns out to be a stronger year for Team Blue than 2018 was, Long will have an opportunity to notch an upset.

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