WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Florida congressman’s decision to run for governor Tuesday put another Democratic U.S. House of Representatives seat at risk, as the party braces for possibly losing the majority next year and with it the ability to pass President Joe Biden’s agenda.
Representative Charlie Crist, elected in 2016 to what previously had been a Republican-held seat, on Tuesday launched a challenge to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, seen as a contender for his party’s presidential nomination in 2024.
Crist joined an exodus of prominent House Democrats from competitive districts as the party fights to keep its narrow six-seat majority in next year’s midterm congressional elections.
Republicans are trying to build on their 2020 gains to win back a majority in the House and possibly in the 50-50 Senate next year. Winning a majority in either chamber could allow Republicans to block Biden’s legislative agenda.
The Republican Party on Tuesday added 10 House Democrats to their target list of 57 seats they plan to focus on in next year’s House elections.
That’s almost triple the 21 Republican-held seats that the Democrats’ congressional campaign arm is taking aim at.
Historically, the party in the White House loses seats in midterm congressional elections.
“Republicans are on offense all across the country,” Representative Tom Emmer, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party’s House campaign arm, said in a statement announcing the 10 additional targets.
All 10 are in states such as New York and California that are expected to lose House seats when the once-a-decade process of redrawing electoral maps based on new population data takes place next year.
Population gains for states such as Texas, North Carolina and Florida, where Republicans control the legislatures, could boost their chances of recapturing the House via redistricting.
Redistricting helped Crist win his seat in 2016, but now the Republican-run Florida legislature will redraw the map.
“It may be changed in such a way to make it less Democratic. I’d imagine redistricting factors in Crist’s decision to run for governor,” said Kyle Kondik, an election analyst at the University of Virginia.
Last week, Representative Cheri Bustos, former chief of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, said she would be retiring from the House at the end of her term. She represents a northwestern Illinois district that voted for former President Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020.
Bustos had advised Democrats on how to win over Trump voters, and moderate Democrats from Trump districts helped the party to victory in the House elections of 2018. But several of the same moderates lost re-election last year, when Democrats lost 13 House seats, and Bustos’ own margin of victory narrowed to just four percentage points.
Two other Democrats from battleground districts, Representatives Filemon Vela of Texas and Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, are also retiring, and Representative Tim Ryan is running for the Senate seat from Ohio now held by retiring Republican Senator Rob Portman. Three Republicans from solidly Republican districts are also retiring.
Democrats missed a chance over the weekend to grow their House majority when they were shut out of the runoff in a special election for the House seat formerly held by Representative Ron Wright of Texas, who died of COVID-19.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Scott Malone and Andrea Ricci)