Luria, Spanberger Among Cook’s Most Vulnerable Democrats

With a Presidential race on the ballot (and a U.S. Senate race here in Virginia), House races are going to play second-fiddle this year, unlike 2018 where anticipation overwhelmed observers on both sides. Still, control of the House is up for grabs, and Republicans need to flip almost 20 seats to win back control.

To that end, Cook Political Report is up with their list of vulnerable districts for both parties. Their initial rankings were posted back in December, but today’s update gives a race-by-race analysis of what are currently the most likely to be competitive.

It’s not surprising that all but three of the districts for Democrats are freshmen who won in 2018. This includes two of the three Democratic freshmen in Virginia: Elaine Luria (VA-2), who defeated Scott Taylor 51% – 49%, and Abigail Spanberger (VA-7), who defeated Dave Brat 50% – 48%.

President Trump won both districts in 2016: winning 48%-45% in the 2nd, and 50%-44% in the 7th. If those numbers hold in 2020 (which is obviously no sure thing), it means Luria and Spanberger will have to draw in split ballots and heavily outperform the Democratic nominee for President in order to win re-election.

Here is Cook’s analysis of the two seats:

VA-2:

Elaine Luria (D) – Southeast: Virginia Beach, Eastern Shore

Toss Up. Luria, a former Navy nuclear engineer, unseated former Navy SEAL and GOP Rep. Scott Taylor 51 percent to 49 percent after Taylor’s campaign was found to have forged petitions to seek to get an independent on the ballot to drain votes from Luria. Taylor hasn’t decided on a comeback, but Republicans would probably be better off with a new candidate, perhaps a member of Virginia Beach’s influential Stolle family.

VA-7:

Abigail Spanberger (D) – Central: Richmond suburbs, Culpeper

Toss Up. Spanberger, a former CIA undercover operative, took advantage of the rapidly changing Richmond suburbs to unseat Freedom Caucus Rep. Dave Brat 50 percent to 48 percent. Spanberger raised an impressive $7.2 million, but now sits in a district President Trump won by six points. Brat is unlikely to run again, but one possibility could be GOP Del. Nick Freitas, who narrowly lost the 2018 Senate primary but handily carried the 7th CD.

It’s worth noting that Virginians have an incredibly important election before the 2020 ballot, with General Assembly and local races on the ballot this November, especially since the names of potential Republicans listed here (Stolle, Freitas) will have to win re-election first before considering a run. As such, I don’t expect to write much about 2020 until after the 2019 elections. Still, it’s noteworthy which races are included on the list of the most vulnerable seats … and which ones are not.

You can read Cook’s analysis of all the vulnerable seats at this link.