New House FEC Reports: Rating Changes in 7 Districts (Bottom Lines)

Bottom Lines are our most current take on a race. Here's our latest on the ratings we shifted in 7 districts.


Updated Bottom Lines

AR-02: French Hill (R) — Central: Little Rock
Lean Republican. Democrats haven't won a House race in Arkansas since 2010, but they're ecstatic about state Rep. Clarke Tucker's candidacy against former banker and two-term GOP Rep. French Hill. Tucker, a 37 year old attorney who represents close-in Little Rock suburbs, is regarded as a rising star in the party and plans to talk about his recent experience beating bladder cancer in the context of the healthcare debate.

This Little Rock district gave President Trump 52 percent in 2016, his weakest showing in the state. And at least one Democratic survey has found Tucker in a surprisingly competitive position against Hill. Tucker raised $505,000 in the first quarter of 2018, and will likely need to spend some of it to get past high school teacher Paul Spencer in the primary. Hill has $1.5 million and could also self-fund if necessary.

AZ-08: VACANT (Franks) (R) - Phoenix "West Valley:" Sun City, Peoria
Likely Republican. This week, the Emerson College Poll set off a frenzy when it released an IVR poll showing Democratic physician Hiral Tipirneni leading Republican former state Sen. Debbie Lesko 46 percent to 45 percent with a week to go before the April 24 special election. Tipirneni's campaign followed up with an internal poll by Lake Research Partners showing the race tied at 46 percent, erasing a 13 point deficit.

There's just one problem with the "late Tipirneni surge" story: almost 140,000 voters have already mailed in ballots, roughly two-thirds of the expected total. And although 64 percent of the voters Emerson sampled were college-educated and 51 percent were over the age of 55, the actual college-educated share of the voting age population here is 28 percent and the median voter age so far is 68.

So far, registered Republicans hold a healthy 49 percent to 28 percent lead in mailed-in ballots. Democrats cite Lesko's "surging negatives" and highlight disgraced former Rep. Trent Franks's contribution to her campaign. But Tipirneni isn't a flawless alternative: a report aired by Phoenix's ABC15 found Tipirneni, who has played up her credentials as an ER physician, stopped practicing medicine after a 2007 malpractice suit.

The RNC has spent about $500,000 bolstering Lesko and the NRCC has kicked in an additional $143,000 in the last week to link Tiperneni to Democrats' "radical agenda." The fact Republicans are spending at all in a district Trump won by 21 points shows just how spooked they are after their Pennsylvania loss. A Tipirneni upset is highly unlikely, but a showing in the mid-40s would still be good news for Democrats.

IL-14: Randy Hultgren (R) - Chicago north and west exurbs: Batavia, McHenry
Lean Republican. Hultgren hasn't faced a tough race since 2010, but he's a down-the-line conservative in a suburban Chicago district that's changing rapidly. In 2016, the 14th CD voted for President Trump by just 48 percent to 45 percent, despite giving Mitt Romney a 10 point edge in 2012. And, Hultgren's vote for the GOP tax bill could hand Democrats a potent issue in these high-property tax suburbs.

Democratic Lauren Underwood blew away the primary field with 57 percent on March 20. The 31-year old African-American nurse and former Obama HHS appointee grew up in Naperville and provides a sharp contrast to Hultgren, who has been in elective office for 20 years. With the help of EMILY's List, she outraised Hultgren $465,000 to $360,000 in the first quarter. Expect a competitive contest.

MI-01: Jack Bergman (R) - Upper Peninsula: Marquette, Traverse City
Likely Republican. The Upper Peninsula is unquestionably Trump country: the 1st CD was a 58 percent to 37 percent romp for the president in 2016. But as recently as 2014, Democrats came within seven points of winning this House seat. Freshman GOP Rep. Jack Bergman, a retired Marine lieutenant general, won this seat with 55 percent in 2016 after fending off attacks that he had recently lived in Louisiana.

This year, some Democrats believe Marine and Iraq War veteran Matt Morgan, 45, could have the right profile to match up against Bergman, 71, who voted for the GOP healthcare and tax bills. Morgan grew up in central Illinois and his roots in the 1st CD are mostly his wife's. But he did finish March with more cash on hand than the incumbent, $316,000 to $307,000, in an inexpensive media market. It's worth watching.

OH-14: David Joyce (R) - Northeast: Lake County, Ashtabula
Likely Republican. Joyce, a former county prosecutor, is a moderate in the mold of his predecessor, the late Rep. Steve LaTourette. Last May, he was one of a handful of Republicans who voted against the healthcare repeal bill. That's helped earn him a third straight primary challenge from conservative former state Rep. Matt Lynch, whom he beat with 55 percent in 2014 and 65 percent in 2016.

Lynch ended 2017 with $27,000 on hand and doesn't appear to be a threat to Joyce in the primary. But, President Trump took just 53 percent here, and Democrats are looking at this district as a long-shot in a wave. Democrats are poised to nominate civil rights lawyer Betsy Rader, who outraised Joyce $277,000 to $244,000 in the first quarter. Joyce took 63 percent in November 2016, so it's still a Democratic long shot.

SC-05: Ralph Norman (R) - North central: Rock Hill
Likely Republican. Ten months after winning a special election, Norman should have put this seat away. Instead, he appears to be doing his best to keep this 57 percent Trump seat in play. Two weeks ago, during a meeting with constituents organized by Moms Demand Action at a suburban diner, Norman laid a loaded .38 Smith & Wesson on the table to make his point that guns are only dangerous in criminals' hands.

This isn't a pro-gun control district, but the words "pulled out a loaded gun at a meeting with constituents" aren't what most politicians would want in their headlines and the move seemed unnecessary. Moreover, Democrat Archie Parnell, who held Norman to a 51 percent to 48 percent win last June, is running again and has outraised the incumbent. He had $415,000 to Norman's $407,000 on hand at the end of March.

A big reason the special was so close was that only 19 percent of eligible adults turned out, and Democrats used the race for a pilot program to turn out African-American voters (27 percent of 5th CD residents). Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs accountant, ran catchy ads playing up his wonky anti-politician personality. Norman, a state senator supported by the Club for Growth, had just endured a bruising primary and runoff.

This fall, turnout will be much higher owing to a competitive governor's race, which should help Norman. Also in Norman's favor: Parnell escaped without a barrage of GOP negative ads last June, but Republicans will surely spend to define him as a Goldman Sachs liberal this fall. Nonetheless, Norman's unforced errors and Parnell's continued fundraising success make this a race Republicans can't take for granted.

VA-05: Tom Garrett (R) - South central: Danville, Charlottesville
Lean Republican. Garrett, a libertarian-leaning freshman, should be much safer than he is. The 5th CD gave President Trump a 53 percent to 42 percent margin in 2016, and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam lost it by nine despite winning by nine statewide. But Garrett, a former small-town prosecutor, is still mostly undefined and apparently allergic to raising money. At the end of March, he had just $142,000 in the bank.

Garrett detractors also seize on a meeting he took in March 2017 with white nationalist leader Jason Kessler at his Capitol Hill office. Kessler later helped organize the infamous August 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville. Garrett later expressed regret, clarifying that he didn't know who Kessler and his associates were at the time. But the photo of the two together has rallied progressives against the congressman.

Democrats will choose their nominee at a May 5 party convention. At this writing, the frontrunner looks like Leslie Cockburn, a former correspondent for PBS's Frontline who may now be better known as the mother of famed actress Olivia Wilde. Cockburn lives on a farm in rural Rappahannock County and has been a progressive activist in local fights against uranium mines and energy pipelines.

Iraq/Afghan War veteran and tech entrepreneur Roger Dean Huffsetler is Cockburn's main competition and may be a better fit for the more conservative Southside end of the 5th CD. He's a close friend of Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton from their service in the Marines. He's also got $436,000 on hand to Cockburn's $300,000. But Huffstetler grew up in Georgia and only moved to Virginia in 2016.

Ordinarily, it would be pretty easy for a GOP incumbent to define Cockburn as a liberal elitist and coast to victory in a seat this Republican. But Garrett currently lacks the resources to build any kind of narrative in the fall, no matter what happens at the Democratic convention. The NRCC or Congressional Leadership Fund may eventually need to bail him out to keep this seat in their column.