Election 2020

Democrats Projected to Win House, But Lose Some Key Foreign-Policy Races

There wasn’t any blue wave for House Democrats looking to pad their majority.

This article is part of Election 2020: America Votes, FP’s round-the-clock coverage of the U.S. election results as they come in, with short dispatches from correspondents and analysts around the world. The America Votes page is free for all readers.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) speaks during news conference discussing the "Shutdown to End All Shutdowns (SEAS) Act" on January 29, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) speaks during news conference discussing the "Shutdown to End All Shutdowns (SEAS) Act" on January 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Democrats appear on track to retain control of the House of Representatives, but rosy projections about adding seats faltered as election results from across the country showed they wouldn’t be getting the blowout over President Donald Trump’s Republican party that they had hoped for.

In early returns, Democrats—who were expected by analysts to gain anywhere from five to 20 seats—failed to pick off any Republican incumbents in battleground districts and lost six of their own, making inroads in just two redistricted North Carolina seats. In Texas, where the Democrats eyed several pickups by backing candidates with strong national security credentials, for instance, the party ended up losing ground in key races.

Here are results from the House races that Foreign Policy was tracking most closely:

Texas 10th: Michael McCaul, the top-ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, managed to defeat progressive challenger Mike Siegel on Tuesday night in the suburbs of Houston and Austin. McCaul—who has been a backer of Trump’s calls for a wall on the southern border—also is a major backer of U.S. security assistance. He spoke out against the 2019 House resolution to end American involvement in Yemen.

Texas 22nd: In the Houston area, former foreign service officer Sri Kulkarni was defeated in his second run for Congress, a seat that Democrats had hoped to flip by driving up turnout among Asian-American groups such as voters of Chinese and Indian descent. Troy Nehls, a sheriff in nearby Fort Bend County, scored the win.

Texas 23rd: In the sprawling 23rd district of Texas, one that spans about a third of the U.S.-Mexico border, Democrats were hoping to capitalize on Trump’s harsh anti-immigrant policies and turn a historically deep red district blue, as part of their push to transform Texas into a swing state. But those hopes were dashed when Republican Tony Gonzales, a Navy veteran, beat out former Air Force intelligence officer Gina Ortiz Jones for the seat.

Michigan 8th: Democrat Elissa Slotkin appears to have won her re-election bid against Republican Paul Junge. Slotkin is a former CIA and Defense Department official who holds seats on the Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, and was a lead sponsor of a bill in Congress to rein in Trump’s ability to use military action against Iran.

New Jersey 3rd: Rep. Andy Kim, a former State and Defense Department official during the Barack Obama administration, managed to hold off a challenge from Republican David Richter to keep his south-central New Jersey seat that had been targeted as a pickup by the GOP.

But the Republicans did score a win on the House Armed Services Committee, on which Kim sits, unseating New Mexico Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, a first-term member who served as a co-chair of the House Democratic National Security Task Force founded after the 2018 midterms. Texas also sent former White House physician Ronny Jackson to Congress to replace Mac Thornberry, the one-time chairman of the committee, who is retiring.

New Jersey 7th: In this district that extends from the Pennsylvania border to the Newark suburbs, former senior State Department official Tom Malinowski has won a second term. A member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Malinowski pushed back strongly against the Trump administration’s close ties with Saudi Arabia, including U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen and the White House’s defense of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Virginia 7th: This slice of the Richmond, Virginia suburbs is still too close to call on Wednesday morning, with the Democratic incumbent and former CIA official Abigail Spanberger trailing U.S. Army veteran Nick Freitas with more than 10 percent of the vote left to be counted. Spanberger, a freshman, was one of the first six Democrats in the House to call for an impeachment inquiry for Trump last year.

Jack Detsch is Foreign Policy’s Pentagon and national security reporter. Twitter: @JackDetsch

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

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