How Vulnerable are House Districts Clinton Won? Preliminary Analysis of IL-6, KS-3 & MN-3 By Paul Joyce
The Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research has been analyzing Republican-held House districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016 to evaluate the prospects of reelection for incumbent officeholders.
So far, we have found that the vulnerability of these representatives likely depends in part on the electoral history of each district and their abilities to navigate the presidency of Donald Trump. Our research has included districts in California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Virginia. The series now provides analysis of three more seats in three more states: IL-6, KS-3, and MN-3.
Illinois’s sixth district is made up of parts of McHenry, Lake, Kane, Cook and DuPage counties. Hilary Clinton won the district by seven points in 2016, but the district has been red since 1973. Incumbent Peter Roskam was elected in 2006, replacing long-time Republican Representative Henry Hyde, who served for 32 years prior to retirement. 2006 was a wave election and this was an open seat, but Roskam defeated Tammy Duckworth, who went on to become a U.S. Senator from Illinois. Roskam has comfortably won reelection ever since.
Kansas’s third district contains Kansas City and some of the surrounding areas, including all of Johnson and Wyandotte counties. Hillary Clinton won the district by just one point in 2016. It has been mostly controlled by Republicans in the modern era, though the seat was held by a Democrat from 1998 to 2010. Incumbent Representative Kevin Yoder served in the state legislature from 2003 to 2010 prior to being elected to Congress.
Yoder was reelected 2012 and 2014 with over 60 percent of the vote. In 2016, Yoder faced a stiffer than expected challenge from Democratic candidate Jay Sidie, though he still won by 11 points. Sidie attempted to connect Yoder to unpopular Republican Governor Sam Brownback and Donald Trump, who Yoder stated he was going to support “no matter what crazy things he says.”
Minnesota’s third district is comprised of Minneapolis suburbs in Hennepin County. Hilary Clinton won the district by nine points in 2016, though this has also been a historically Republican district. A Republican has held the seat since 1961. Incumbent Representative Erik Paulsen was elected in 2008 and he has been reelected with over 55 percent of the vote each time.
All three representatives supported The American Healthcare Act (AHCA), while each has navigated the Russian investigation a bit differently. Representative Paulsen advocated for an independent investigation into Russian interference after James Comey’s firing and supported the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel. Paulsen had been critical of Trump prior to the election and withdrew his support for him.
In contrast, Yoder consistently supported Trump and did not think Comey’s firing inhibited the Russian investigation. Roskam was surprised at the timing of Comey’s dismissal but did not publicly criticize the move. Later, Roskam was alarmed that Trump may have shared classified information with Russia and has criticized Trump for “lack of civility,” particularly on social media.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball observed that “Democrats thought that Trump could drag down incumbents like Reps. Erik Paulsen (R, MN-3) and Kevin Yoder (R, KS-3)” last cycle. While “Trump did badly underperform Romney in each district” that “didn’t prevent either incumbent from posting double-digit wins.” They categorize both districts as “leaning Republican” and label Roskam’s seat as “likely Republican.” The Cook Political Report categorizes all three seats as “leaning Republican.”
Roskam and Paulsen are a little better positioned than Yoder thanks to the more advantageous electoral history of their districts and their ability to put some distance between themselves and Trump. Yoder appears to be a bit more vulnerable, though Clinton narrowly won his district, and Trump is more popular in Iowa (over 40 percent approval), than Minnesota and Illinois (below 40 percent). The way he chooses to navigate the Trump presidency in the next year or so will play a major role in his reelection bid.
Public reaction and liberal mobilization surrounding the healthcare votes of all three will also be a pivotal factor. The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University has documented how the AHCA is the most unpopular bill in 30 years. It remains to seen how successful relevant critics will be in holding these representatives accountable.
Paul Joyce (@PJoyce_13) is an MPA candidate at the University of Albany