House Democrats unveil top 2020 targets

House Democrats unveil top 2020 targets
Will Mullery/CNN

House Democrats on Monday unveiled an initial 2020 battlefield map, targeting 33 Republican-held or open congressional seats with an emphasis on suburban districts — and Texas in particular.

The target list was released in a strategy memo from Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and DCCC executive director Allison Jaslow, who announced that the committee “is gearing up for an aggressive effort to fortify and expand” the majority won by House Democrats in 2018.

“As the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense, and we couldn’t agree more,” they wrote.

“2018 was just the tip of the iceberg for Democrats,” said Bustos. “Today we are announcing our plan to go on offense and grow our New Democratic Majority. We have a clear path to expanding our Democratic Majority, and by putting our plans in motion earlier in the cycle than ever before, we are demonstrating to Democrats across the country that the political arm of House Democrats is operating in high gear from the start.

Looking to build on their success targeting such seats in the recent midterms, the Democrats said that “many of the districts on our list have big suburban populations; many have also experienced rapid population growth in recent years — particularly in diverse communities” and described the districts as “ripe pick-up opportunities.”

That’s reflected in the committee’s focus on Texas, the state most heavily represented on the target list. The DCCC is targeting six Texas seats: the 10th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 31st districts located in suburbs outside San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Austin.

The party scored a couple of key wins in Texas in 2018: Rep. Colin Allred defeated veteran Republican Rep. Pete Sessions in the Dallas-area 32nd district and Rep. Lizzie Fletcher similarly toppled Republican John Culberson in the 7th district near Houston. A DCCC aide noted that the districts on the 2020 target list have trended Democratic in recent cycles and share characteristics like high population density as well as high or growing levels of education and diversity — key demographic factors for the party.

And these trends “aren’t exclusive to Texas,” per the memo, as the committee plans to target suburban districts near cities like Phoenix (Arizona’s 6th), Atlanta (Georgia’s 7th), Indianapolis (Indiana’s 5th), St. Louis (Missouri’s 2nd), and Charlotte (North Carolina’s 9th).

Democrats will confront a Republican electorate in 2020 that’s likely to be more energized by a presidential contest than they were in the recent midterms. In their strategy memo, however, the DCCC argued that President Donald Trump is “dragging his enablers in Congress down with him,” and that “presidential battleground states like Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania are shaping up to be treacherous terrain for House Republicans.”

Many of the districts have been top Democratic targets in recent cycles, including some near misses in the midterms, like in Illinois’13th (2018 margin under 1%), Kentucky’s 6th (under 4%), Minnesota’s 1st (under 1%), Nebraska’s 2nd (under 2%), and Pennsylvania’s 10th (under 3%). All were on the committee’s 2018 “Red to Blue” list. In total, the party identified 26 districts where Republicans won by 5 points or fewer in 2018.

The DCCC strategy memo pointed to retirements, a key factor in the 2018 midterms, as another significant 2020 variable. The committee highlighted that 20 of the 33 seats on the 2020 target list are held by incumbent Republicans who have never served in the minority, while noting the retirement of Rep. Tom Marino in Pennsylvania’s 12th district less than a month into his term.

Rep. Fred Upton in Michigan’s 6th district and Rep. Peter King in New York’s 2nd district are “at the top of the retirement watch list,” the DCCC wrote.

A number of high-profile Republican representatives were also on the target list: California Rep. Devin Nunes (22nd district), the controversial former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee; Iowa Rep. Steve King (4th district), whose recent comments defending “white supremacy” earned him the condemnation of his own party; and Reps. Chris Collins (New York’s 27th) and Duncan Hunter (California’s 50th), who won close 2018 contests in deep red districts despite being indicted on ethics and campaign finance violations, respectively, amid their reelection campaigns. The 9th district in North Carolina, where 2018 results still haven’t been certified amid litigation over allegations of election fraud by a Republican operative, is also on the list.

Pointing to corruption and health care as “key motivating factors for voters in 2018,” the committee previewed similar messaging themes for the party in 2020. The memo touted House Democrats’ package of campaign finance and ethics reforms, and described the House majority as “the single check on the Trump Administration’s lawsuit to gut the Affordable Care Act.”

“If 2018 was the new 2006, then we’re already on course for 2020 to shape up as the new 2008, where Democrats expanded the House majority they had just won,” Bustos said. “Similar to the 2008 cycle, Democrats go into 2020 with a House Majority and a battlefield with a clear path taking shape to win more seats.”

Here’s the full list of targeted districts:

AZ-06 — Dave Schweikert CA-22 — Devin Nunes CA-50 — Duncan Hunter CO-03 — Scott Tipton FL-15 — Ross Spano FL-18 — Brian Mast GA-07 — Rob Woodall IA-04 — Steve King IL-13 — Rodney Davis IN-05 – Susan Brooks KY-06 — Andy Barr MI-06 — Fred Upton MN-01 — Jim Hagedorn MO-02 — Ann Wagner NC-02 — George Holding NC-09 — OPEN NC-13 – Ted Budd NE-02 — Don Bacon NY-01 — Lee Zeldin NY-02 — Peter King NY-24 — John Katko NY-27 — Chris Collins OH-01 — Steve Chabot PA-01 — Brian Fitzpatrick PA-10 — Scott Perry PA-16 – Mike Kelly TX-10 — Mike McCaul TX-21 — Chip Roy TX-22 — Pete Olson TX-23 — Will Hurd TX-24 — Kenny Marchant TX-31 — John Carter WA-03 — Jaime Herrera Beutler