The next election is about a year away, and speculation has already begun about which party will have control of the House and Senate. Aside from being a presidential election, 2020 is important because many state legislatures will draw new congressional maps for the next 10 years.

Thanks to some of those map changes and shifting demographics throughout the country, there are several places where next fall’s election winner is a true toss-up. Here are a few of the races we’re watching as we look to next November:

North Carolina

There’s perhaps no state more indicative of our current political moment than North Carolina. The state was solidly Democratic through the 1970s, then became reliably Republican from 1980 through 2016. 

Heading into 2020, the number of Republican and Democratic voters in the state is more even than ever, which has implications for both House and Senate races. 

Republican Senator Thom Tills is up for reelection. In 2014, he defeated Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan by less than 2 percent of the vote. While in office, nearly 95 percent of his votes have aligned with President Trump.

Perhaps most notably, Tillis was one of 22 Senators who encouraged President Trump to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord. He’s also rated an “A+” candidate by the NRA. 

The question heading into the next election is whether there are enough Democrat voters and left-leaning independents in cities like Raleigh-Durham, Charlotte, and Asheville to overtake conservatives in more rural parts of the state. 

North Carolina will also hold elections for its 13 U.S. House seats next fall. Thanks in part to gerrymandered districts, Republicans currently hold eight of the state’s 13 congressional seats. In September, the state’s maps were deemed unconstitutional, and new maps are in the process of being drawn.

Depending on how the lines shake out, the state could pick up a few more Democratic House seats next year.

Texas

Following Beto O’Rourke’s narrow loss to Ted Cruz in 2018, Texas Democrats see an opportunity to unseat Republican Senator John Cornyn next fall. 

Ten candidates have already entered the race to challenge him, but Cornyn is ready. According to Politico, he’s already amassed nearly $6 million in funding for his re-election campaign. 

Cornyn won with more than 60 percent of the vote in 2014 but is still seen as vulnerable thanks to changing demographics. Much like North Carolina, cities like Dallas and Houston have become more Democratic, while suburbs have moved from red to purple.

Those demographic changes could also impact the state’s House races. Republicans currently hold 23 of 36 House seats, but Democrats are already emerging to challenge Republicans incumbents in suburban districts. 

It’s also expected that Republicans will challenge Democrats like Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher and Rep. Veronica Escobar, two women who rode the “blue wave” to election in 2018.

Another factor in the Lonestar State’s U.S. House races is the phenomenon that’s becoming known as “Texodus.” Six of the state’s Republican representatives are not seeking re-election, which potentially opens up those districts to be overtaken by Democrats.

Arizona

The story in Arizona is a little more complicated than it is in Texas and North Carolina, particularly when it comes to the Senate.

In 2018, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema narrowly defeated Republican Martha McSally by less than 100,000 votes. However, McSally ended up making her way to the Senate anyway. 

In December 2018, she was appointed to fill the seat originally held by John McCain. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey appointed former Senator John Kyl to fill the seat, but Kyl stepped down the end of the year. Ducey chose McSally as his replacement. 

A special election will be held next November to determine who will fill the seat until the next general election in 2022. Three Democrats and two Republicans have already stepped up to challenge McSally. Perhaps most notable is Democrat Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut and husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords.

Arizona has long been seen as a moderate state, and that holds true when looking at its House delegation. Of the state’s nine seats, five are held by Democrats and four are held by Republicans.


Grassroots Pulse covers public policy and political issues aimed at engaging highly-active policy makers, donors, and grassroots leaders at the forefront of the political process in America today.

Image Credit: Photo by Katie Drazdauskaite on Unsplash