Members of Congress Weigh Re-Election Bid Ahead of Midterms
For members of Congress weighing if another run is worth the hassle, the time to decide is fast approaching.,
For members of Congress weighing if another run is worth the hassle, the time to decide is fast approaching.
It’s crunchtime in the campaign world.
With states wrapping up the redistricting process and filing deadlines approaching for candidates, lawmakers are running out of time to decide whether they want to spend another term in Congress — and whether they have the energy to run the kind of race that would get them re-elected in their newly drawn districts.
In the House, up to 435 members must face the voters every two years; and so far, nearly 40 have opted out.
But the announcement on Friday by Representative John Katko of New York, who said he won’t seek re-election, is especially newsworthy for what it says about the modern Republican Party. Katko is one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, which infuriated the former president. With New York’s new congressional map in limbo, he chose to retire without even knowing what his new district might look like. He was an influential moderate who was willing to work with Democrats, including his failed attempt to broker a bipartisan committee to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
In California, one Republican candidate’s decision to run for re-election is probably the G.O.P.’s only chance of holding on to one of its few seats in the state. And in New Jersey, a Democrat who has everything working against him is trying to hold on rather than cede his new district to Republicans.
Given Democrats’ razor-thin majorities, each of these decisions could help determine control of Congress in November. And even if Republicans were never truly at risk of losing a Senate seat in South Dakota, Senator John Thune’s decision to run for re-election after some hesitancy sent an important signal this week about Trump’s hold on their party.
A Republican’s vote to impeach Trump could help his party
Presidential candidates don’t “win” individual congressional districts. They win states, along with their Electoral College votes. But political analysts have for years calculated candidates’ performance in counties and congressional districts for the sole purpose of measuring the partisan balance.That’s how we know there are two Republican House impeachers who represent districts that Biden carried: Katko and David Valadao.
Unlike Katko, Valadao decided to run again. He has held California’s 21st District, in the state’s Central Valley, for the better part of the last decade, with a brief hiatus when he was swept out of Congress in the 2018 Democratic wave. Two years later, he won his seat back, and now he’s running for re-election in the newly drawn 22nd District, which is even friendlier to Democrats.
Valadao’s vote to impeach Trump could be an asset for him in his district. That’s not the case for most of his G.O.P. colleagues who voted the same way. Valadao is one of just nine House Republicans who represent a district that President Biden carried in 2020. And while Republicans who are upset with his vote have already started to jump into the race to challenge him for the G.O.P. nomination, a right-wing candidate would be a hard sell in a general election.
A Democrat who drew the short straw is running anyway
First elected in the anti-Trump wave of 2018, Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey, has only ever run in competitive House elections. But 2022 might make his previous races look easy.
In the redistricting process, two of his Democratic colleagues also elected in the state in 2018 — Representatives Mikie Sherrill and Andy Kim — were drawn into safer seats. As David Wasserman, of The Cook Political Report, put it, Malinowski’s district “was more or less sacrificed” to protect other Democratic incumbents.
Malinowski is running in a tougher district in 2022, and likely in a tougher political environment than he’s faced in his previous races. There might be at least one factor that he’s familiar with, however: His G.O.P. opponent, Tom Kean Jr., who came short by just over 5,000 votes when he took on Malinowski in 2020, is running again.
Malinowski was one of a handful of Democrats who campaigned as moderates and who won in the 2018 wave. His re-election bid will test whether that kind of independent persona can withstand a potential Republican wave.
“That’s what people in the district like,” noted Sean Darcy, a New Jersey-based political consultant. “He’ll have five or six months to introduce himself to his new constituents while Republicans beat each other up.”
Republican senators brush off Trump
Given how red the state has become, there’s really only one way that a South Dakota race could get interesting: intervention by Trump. Concerned about that possibility, Senator John Thune had been waiting on making a decision to run again. After all, Trump threatened to support a primary challenger to Thune, the second-ranking Senate Republican, because he accepted the 2020 election results. And recent reporting suggests Trump hasn’t quite yet given up on Kristi Noem, who has already said she’s running for re-election as South Dakota’s governor, as a potential primary threat.
“I don’t think that Senator John Thune is intimidated by Donald Trump,” Dick Wadhams, a Republican strategist, told us.
Neither, apparently, is South Dakota’s other senator, Mike Rounds, who stood his ground this week after the former president called him a “jerk” for saying during an appearance on ABC News that the election was not stolen in 2020.
The filing deadline for Republican candidates in Thune’s Senate race is not until the end of March, leaving Trump plenty of time to cause trouble.
What to read
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Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
We’ll regularly feature work by Doug Mills, The Times’s longtime White House photographer and a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. Here’s what Doug had to say about capturing the shot above. He took it on Tuesday, after a joint appearance by President Biden and Vice President Harris at Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College:
Being on that campus, you feel the weight of history. Both Vice President Harris and President Biden made passionate remarks about civil rights and voting rights. When Biden finished speaking, Harris joined him onstage. As they departed, he put his arm around her and they shared a moment we don’t see that often. It reminded me of the time my colleague Steve Crowley captured President Obama in 2015 putting his arm around then-Vice President Biden after the Supreme Court endorsed the Affordable Care Act.
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