House Rematches: Second Time’s the Charm?

by Erin Covey July 10, 2023 · 2:30 PM EDT

A bevy of congressional candidates who lost competitive races in 2022 are waging comebacks, hopeful that they’ve learned from their mistakes last cycle and can close the gap next November.

Several repeat challengers announced their 2024 plans over the past week, though they’ve been gearing up for campaigns behind the scenes for months (the timing isn’t a coincidence; the beginning of a fundraising quarter is a prime time for candidates to announce). 

Candidates who’ve come close to winning have certain advantages on their second try — now they’re better known by voters, and they aren’t starting from scratch building their campaign infrastructure and fundraising networks. Repeat candidates may also be helped by a stronger top of the ticket compared to their previous run. But if they fall short again, they could run the risk of becoming perennial candidates, known for a track record of losses.

Since the beginning of July, five U.S. House candidates who were their party’s nominee in 2022 have announced 2024 campaigns: Republican Tom Barrett in Michigan’s 7th District, as well as Democrats Monica Tranel in Montana’s 1st, Tony Vargas in Nebraska’s 2nd, and Jamie McLeod-Skinner in Oregon’s 5th.

At least a dozen nominees from 2022’s competitive House races were already running. The Democrats include Kirsten Engel in Arizona’s 6th, Will Rollins in California’s 41st, Adam Frisch in Colorado’s 3rd, Laura Gillen in New York’s 4th, Josh Riley in New York’s 19th, Ashley Ehasz in Pennsylvania’s 1st, Shamaine Daniels in Pennsylvania’s 10th, and Michelle Vallejo in Texas’ 15th. The Republicans include Kelly Cooper in Arizona’s 4th, Scott Baugh in California’s 47th, Mark Robertson in Nevada’s 1st, and Joe Kent in Washington’s 3rd. 

And former Rep. Yvette Herrell, who won the 2020 election for New Mexico’s 2nd after losing in 2018, is running for a third time. She’ll face Democratic Rep. Gabe Vasquez, who defeated Herrell by just 1,350 votes last November.

Other candidates who lost their party’s primary in 2022 are also running again, including Republicans Kevin Dellicker in Pennsylvania’s 7th and Craig Riedel in Ohio’s 9th, and Democrats Sarah Klee Hood in New York’s 22nd, Rebecca Cooke in Wisconsin’s 3rd, and Mondaire Jones in New York’s 17th.* Both Cooke and Dellicker also announced campaigns this week.

Mixed Prospects
Among the candidates who announced this month, some may have easier paths to the nominations than others. 

In Oregon’s 5th District, McLeod-Skinner is facing two other serious Democratic candidates, Janelle Bynum and Lynn Peterson, each of whom has racked up impressive endorsements. Some Democrats have questioned McLeod-Skinner’s viability in a general election, after her successful ouster of Blue Dog Democrat Kurt Schrader cemented her progressive brand. But she’ll still have the edge in a three-way race. Her campaign commissioned a poll (conducted before any of the three candidates had announced) that showed McLeod-Skinner far ahead of her competition — though polls at this stage in the cycle are just a measure of how well-known the candidates are, and her lead is likely to shrink.

If McLeod-Skinner wins the primary, she’ll have a competitive race on her hands against GOP Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, who won by 2 points in 2022.

Jones, who represented New York’s 17th for one term, also has a primary on his hands. He’ll face Liz Gereghty, a Board of Education trustee who also happens to be Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s sister. But despite her family ties, Gereghty is the underdog against the former congressman, who is better known and has strong local Democratic support.

Jones was elected to Congress in 2020 after winning a crowded primary for the open 17th, based in the Hudson Valley. But in 2022, Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney decided to run in the newly-drawn 17th (which overlapped with his current district). Instead of running against Maloney, Jones decided to run in the open Manhattan and Brooklyn-based 10th and came in third place in the Democratic primary. Maloney lost the 17th to Mike Lawler, who’s now one of the most vulnerable Republican members in the country.

Vargas, seen as a top recruit last cycle, should have no trouble winning the Democratic nomination for Nebraska’s 2nd District next year. But GOP Rep. Don Bacon will be a difficult opponent — since he ousted a Democratic congressman in 2016, Bacon has survived three election cycles despite Democrats investing millions in defeating him. Last November, Vargas lost to Bacon by 3 points.

Tranel is the underdog in her race, though Montana’s competitive Senate race could give her a boost. She lost to GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke by 3 points in 2022, and Donald Trump would have won her district by 7 points in 2020.

Barrett probably has the easiest path to victory — he isn’t expected to face serious competition in the GOP primary for Michigan’s 7th, and his opponent in 2022, Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin, is running for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat. In the general election, Barrett’s likely opponent is former state Sen. Curtis Hertel, who announced his campaign today. Joe Biden barely won this district in 2020, and Republicans believe this is one of their best pick-up opportunities in the country.

Recent history shows a mixed record for repeat challengers. Of the congressional candidates who lost to incumbents in 2020 and ran again in 2022, only Tom Kean Jr. was successful. Of those who lost to incumbents in 2018 and ran again in 2020, Maria Elvira Salazar, Young Kim, and Herrell were successful. 

On the Horizon
A host of other 2022 nominees are still weighing 2024 bids. The list of potential Republican candidates includes Barbara Kirkmeyer in Colorado’s 8th District, Paul Junge in Michigan’s 8th, Mike Erickson in Oregon’s 6th, Jim Bognet in Pennsylvania’s 8th, Jeremy Shaffer in Pennsylvania’s 17th, and Mayra Flores in Texas’ 34th. Nick Begich, the Republican candidate who came in third place in the top-four primary for Alaska’s open House seat last cycle, also might run again.

On the Democratic side, Adam Gray (California’s 13th) and Rudy Salas (California’s 22nd) are expected to be their party’s nominees again in 2024, though they’ve yet to announce campaigns. Christina Bohannan in Iowa’s 2nd, Carl Marlinga in Michigan’s 10th, Rob Zimmerman in New York’s 3rd, and Brad Pfaff in Wisconsin's 3rd are also considering running again.

*Corrected 7/14/2023