How Vulnerable are House Districts Clinton Won? Preliminary Analysis of AZ-2, CO-6 & WA-8 By Paul Joyce
The Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research has been analyzing congressional districts controlled by Republicans that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, targeted by the Democratic Party as it attempts to regain a majority in the House. We have looked at 20 of 23 such districts. Although these districts are considered some of the most vulnerable in the upcoming midterm, the dominance of incumbency advantage in House elections and historical voting patterns in these districts suggest some of these representatives may not be in as much peril as conventional wisdom suggests. Our analysis concludes with three districts from the West: AZ-2, CO-6, and WA-8.
AZ-2 is comprised of Cochise County, and some of Pima County, including a large chunk of Tucson. Hillary Clinton won the district by nearly five percent in 2016. The district has flipped between parties in recent years.
Republican Trent Franks served from 2003 to 2013, surviving a wave election in 2006, before being redistricted to the eighth district as a result of the 2010 census. Democrat Ron Barber was the representative of AZ-8, till he was redistricted into the second district, and lost his reelection bid in 2014 to Republican Martha McSally, the current incumbent.
Congresswoman McSally ran against Barber in 2012, but lost in one of the closest congressional races that year. She got the better of an even closer rematch in 2014. McSally was reelected last fall with 57 percent.
CO-6 contains parts of Douglas, Adams and Arapahoe Counties, including the city of Aurora. The district went for Clinton by nearly nine points in 2016 and has become more Democratic over the years. That said, Republicans have controlled the district since its creation in 1982.
Dan Schaefer served from 1983 to 1999, and Tom Tancredo succeeded him, surviving the wave election of 2006, and holding office until his retirement in 2009. His replacement, Mike Coffman, is the current incumbent. Coffman has won reelection four times, with the stiffest challenge coming in 2012 and just a two point victory.
WA-8 is made up of portions of Chelan, King, Kittitas and Pierce counties. Hillary Clinton won the district by three points in 2016. Like CO-6, Republicans have controlled the district since it was created in 1982. Current incumbent Dave Reichert was elected in 2004 and survived 2006 in his first reelection, before winning each subsequent election decisively.
Each of these members of Congress have navigated the Trump presidency differently. McSally voted in favor of the AHCA, while Coffman and Reichert voted against it. All three were critical of the timing of James Comey’s firing. Coffman called for an independent investigation, while Reichert vocalized concern over Trump’s sharing of classified information with Russia.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball classifies WA-8 as “likely Republican,” but AZ-2 and CO-6 as “toss-ups.” Cook Political Report has CO-6 as a “toss up,” AZ-2 as “leaning Republican,” and WA-8 as “likely Republican.”
Martha McSally (AZ-2) appears to be the most vulnerable of the three representatives, given the weaker Republican history of her district, and her support of the AHCA. Mike Coffman (CO-6) and Dave Reichert (WA-8) look to benefit from long records of serving in consistently Republican districts and putting some distance between themselves and President Trump.
Paul Joyce (PJoyce_13) is an MPA candidate at the University of Albany.