At the Races

At the Races: Walking and chewing

By Bridget Bowman, Simone Pathé and Stephanie Akin

Michigan Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens reminded a group of reporters yesterday, “It’s sort of the metaphor of walking and chewing gum at the same time that everybody likes to use around here.”

These Democrats helped launch the impeachment inquiry. What’s their next move?
Pelosi called for probe after op-ed by seven freshmen with national security backgrounds

From left, Reps. Abigail Spanberger, Chrissy Houlahan and Elissa Slotkin face Mikie Sherrill at a meeting in September. The four among a group of freshman Democrats who called for an impeachment inquiry that month. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Two months ago, seven freshman Democrats in the House published an op-ed column in The Washington Post that helped launch the impeachment inquiry. Now that the inquiry’s over, the freshmen are not saying what they will do next.

The op-ed made clear the writers, who all have national security backgrounds, thought it would be “an impeachable offense” if reports were true that President Donald Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate a political rival while withholding aid to the country.

National Democratic groups litigate 2020 in the courts
Party committees are trying to expand the electorate by challenging state voting laws

DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos says some GOP state legislators were trying to “keep African Americans away from the ballot box.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

More than in previous election cycles, national Democratic groups are making litigation over election and voting laws a key part of their 2020 strategy. 

A handful of Democratic groups are currently litigating about a dozen cases over what they see as unfair election laws and maps across the country. 

Pelosi endorses Christy Smith in race to replace Rep. Katie Hill
Democrat has been racking up endorsements from the California delegation

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has endorsed Assemblywoman Christy Smith in the special election for California’s 25th District. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is taking sides in the race to replace former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill in California, endorsing Assemblywoman Christy Smith over liberal talk show host Cenk Uygur.

“I am proud to endorse Christy Smith because she will work to fight corruption, lower the cost of prescription drugs, fully fund public schools and build a strong middle-class economy that works for all Americans,” Pelosi said in a statement shared first with CQ Roll Call. 

Florida Republican Ted Yoho announces he won’t seek a fifth term
Tells radio station he is honoring term limits pledge

Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., said Tuesday he will not seek another term. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Florida Republican Ted Yoho said Tuesday on a local radio show that he would not run for reelection in 2020, honoring a pledge that he would not seek more than four terms in Congress.

Yoho, a large-animal veterinarian, made his announcement on Florida’s WSKY radio, according to the station’s website. His departure brings the number of retiring House and Senate members to 25, all but six of them Republicans.

Democrats plan campaign health care push ahead of House vote
DNC, state parties view health care as a winning issue in 2020

Democrats in battleground states plan to go on offense on health care this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats in battleground states are using an expected vote this week on a prescription drug bill to shift the focus on the campaign trail to health care, an issue they believe helped them win the House in 2018 and will help them defeat President Donald Trump in 2020. 

The effort comes as GOP super PACs and Trump have been working to portray Democrats as focused on a politically driven impeachment vendetta rather than legislation and policies that would help voters who gave them control of the House last November.

North Carolina ratings changes offer a taste of redistricting to come
After seats held by Holding and Walker lean more Democratic, one retires with the other deciding

North Carolina GOP Rep. George Holding announced his retirement after the makeup of his district changed dramatically. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Ten years is long enough to forget the chaos of covering campaigns during redistricting. But North Carolina, bless its heart, was kind enough to offer us an early taste of the upcoming craziness of a redistricting cycle.

First, new congressional lines can put new pressure on members.

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.