We’re less than 60 days away from the 2018 midterm elections, which will be held on November 6. (Is that date in your calendar yet? Pause now and do that.)
The stakes are particularly high for this round of midterms, the first to be held under President Donald Trump. Right now, Republicans control all three branches of the federal government, and we’ve seen how that’s created a terrifying marathon of conservative policy enactments—from the Trump administration’s ongoing assaults on the rights of LGBTQ citizens to aggressive attempts by Republicans in Congress to repeal Obamacare to the Supreme Court threat on reproductive rights. But if Democrats can take back control of Congress in November, they can seriously slow the Trump agenda and make sure that the next two years are less hellish than the last two years.
The Democrats could potentially regain power in both chambers of Congress, though they will have a tough battle to fight in both. Most analysts agree that there is a slim likelihood of flipping the Senate, but a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives is within reach. Progressives have been fired up since the 2016 presidential election, taking to the streets in mass numbers to stage protests and demonstrations against the direction that Trump is moving the country. And many analysts believe that this fervor may translate into a “blue wave” in November. Democratic turnout at the primaries suggests as much, jumping up a whopping 78 percent compared to the 2014 midterms.
Here’s what you need to know about the November 2018 races, including which ones will matter to those of us rooting for a big blue surge in Washington this fall.
House races: Currently in the House, there are 193 Democrats (plus five vacant seats previously held by Democrats) and 237 Republicans. Democrats need to win 23 seats in November to gain control of the chamber. Considering that there are 67 highly competitive seats in play, that’s doable. Of those 67 seats that could go either way, 63 are now held by Republicans, which means they have a lot to lose. There are also 25 Republican incumbents trying to hold onto their seats in states that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Predicted Democratic gains: Several major election rating sites agree that certain Congressional districts—Arizona’s 2nd, Florida’s 27th, California’s 49th, New Jersey’s 2nd, New Jersey’s 11th and Virginia’s 10th—are likely to flip from red to blue. Michigan’s 11th and Minnesota’s 8th districts are also likely contenders, according to predictions from Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia. RealClearPolitics adds Pennsylvania’s 5th, 6th, 7th and 17th districts as well.
Predicted Republican gains: RCP identifies just one district, Pennsylvania’s 14th, as likely to change from blue to red.
Toss-ups: The Cook Political Report identifies 30 races that are presently too tight to predict. See those races listed below, along with the names of current incumbents vying to keep their seats. Importantly, 28 of those seats are now held by Republicans, suggesting that Democrats are putting up a strong fight.
CA-10: Denham (R)
CA-25: Knight (R)
CA-39: Open seat (R)
CA-45: Walters (R)
CA-48: Rohrabacher (R)
CO-06 : Coffman (R)
IL-06: Roskam (R)
IL-12: Bost (R)
IA-03: Young (R)
KS-02: Open seat (R)
KS-03: Yoder (R)
KY-06: Barr (R)
ME-02 : Poliquin (R)
MI-08: Bishop (R)
MI-11: Open seat (R)
MN-01: Open seat (D)
MN-02: Lewis (R)
MN-03: Paulsen (D)
MN-08: Open seat (R)
NJ-03 MacArthur (R)
NJ-07: Lance (R)
NY-19: Faso (R)
NY-22: Tenney (R)
NC-09 : Open seat (R)
OH-01: Chabot (R)
TX-07: Culberson (R)
TX-32: Sessions (R)
VA-02: Taylor (R)
VA-07: Brat (R)
WA-08: Open seat (R)
Axios highlights five Congressional districts in particular—California’s 48th, Florida’s 26th, Iowa’s 3rd, Maine’s 2nd and Texas’ 23rd—as highly contentious races, and all of them are Republican-held seats.
Take a moment to peruse the full list of the 67 competitive races to check if your district or a neighboring district is one of them.
Senate races: In the Senate, the blue wave faces quite a few hurdles. There are currently 49 Democrats and 51 Republicans in the chamber, so Democrats need just two more seats to take the majority. That’s possible, but it won’t be easy: While 35 Senate seats are up for grabs in November, 26 of those seats are currently held by Democrats (and the two Democratic-leaning independents) who also need to defend their seats. Therefore, not only would ALL 26 of those senators need to keep their seats, but also at least two Democratic candidates would need to win Republican-held seats. To make things worse, 10 of those 26 Democrats playing defense are doing so in states that voted for Trump in 2016.
Toss-ups: At the moment, RCP isn’t pinpointing any races that will be clear gains for Democrats. But there are nine toss-ups to watch, listed below with the names of current incumbents.
AZ: Open seat (R)
FL: Nelson (D)
IN: Donnelly (D)
MO: McCaskill (D)
MT: Tester (D)
NV: Heller (R)
ND: Heitkamp (D)
TN: Open seat (R)
TX: Cruz (R)
Nevada is one of the Democrats’ biggest targets. The Silver State voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, so it’s certainly possible for voters to push out Republican incumbent Dean Heller from his Senate seat. He faces off against Rep. Jacky Rosen, a current Democratic House member. Recent polls show the two running neck and neck.
Arizona shows some potential for a Democratic House win. Recent polls show Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, beating Republican candidate Rep. Martha McSally by about four percent.
Likewise, in Tennessee, the Democratic candidate Phil Bredesen (the state’s former governor) looks to be beating Republican candidate Rep. Marsha Blackburn by just over one point.
Vox thinks Texas, Mississippi and Nebraska could also be blue wave players.
RCP predicts that Arizona, Nevada and Tennessee will flip red, while Florida, Montana and North Dakota will change to blue. If so, the net result will be no change in party power in the Senate.
Governor races: State-level elections matter just as much as the federal ones. Some would argue that they’re even more important. Substantive policy change can be frustratingly hard to achieve on the national level because of how timid U.S. policymakers can be about making a big splash and how slowly the policymaking process moves. But policymakers at the local level don’t need to wait for an entire country of people to get on board. They just need to pay attention to the demands of their own constituency. When things in Washington are looking grim, states can take charge in moving the needle forward themselves. States also control congressional redistricting, which can heavily influence national elections via gerrymandering.
Right now, there are 33 Republican governors, 16 Democratic governors, and one independent. That’s a significant conservative tilt. But 36 of those governorships are up for grabs this November.
Predicted Democratic gains: Illinois will likely flip from red to blue in the governor’s race. Maine, Michigan and New Mexico look like they might vote in Democratic governors as well, according to RCP’s projections as of this writing.
Predicted Republican gains: Alaska may go from independent to red in the governor’s race, according to Crystal Ball.
Toss-ups: Republican-held governorships in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin are up in the air right now, according to RCP. Crystal Ball adds governorships in Colorado (D), Connecticut (D) and Iowa (R) to that list.
Here are nine particularly juicy governors’ races to watch, courtesy of The Week.
What you can do: Above all, make sure that you vote on November 6. Historically, America has had notoriously low voter turnout in non-presidential elections. This time around, we can’t afford to be lazy and skip it. Make a plan for Election Day. Research has found that people who make an Election Day plan in advance are much more likely to actually show up to the polls. So plan your voting day now: Check that you’re properly registered to vote (even if you think you were a few months ago, check again—voter purges have been rampant this year, particularly in Republican-dominated states). Figure out where your polling place is and what time you’re planning to vote there on Election Day. If you’re working, will you go in the morning before work, during lunch, or after you get off? Should you let your boss know in advance you might be coming in late that day or leaving early? Get your shit together ASAP. Tell your friends to do the same.
If you’re in one of the competitive districts (here’s a handy list from the Cook Political Report), get involved with your local Democratic campaign. Check out the websites for specific candidates to see if you can volunteer with them, or literally just Google your state plus the word “Democrats” to see how to get involved with general get-out-the-vote efforts. Organizations like Swing Left, Indivisible, and many others are ramping up their efforts to help support blue candidates. Sign up, and they’ll help you get involved with initiatives like canvassing neighborhoods, distributing election materials, or even calling residents in swing districts that you don’t live in. Just a single afternoon spent volunteering with one of these groups can make a huge difference. Don’t have the time? Donate money instead to any of the above-mentioned candidates or groups.
If we are serious about fighting Trump and the anti-LGBTQ Republican stranglehold over this country, we all need to do our part to help Democrats win this November. Your vote matters. Every voice counts.