Rating Update: Marchant Seat Already Considered Competitive

by Nathan L. Gonzales August 5, 2019 · 12:04 PM EDT

Another day, another Republican retirement. 

It might seem like there’s a flood of Members announcing they will not seek re-election, but we’re still not close to historical levels. And the location of the open seats matters more than the timing.

It's remarkable that Rep. Kenny Marchant is the fourth Texas Republican in less than two weeks to announce he will not seek reelection. And it’s remarkable that nine of the 11 House Members overall to announce their retirements thus far this cycle are Republicans, especially since Democrats outnumber them in Congress. 

But we're still at less than half of the historical average. Going back to 1976, an average of 23 House members have not sought reelection or another office each cycle. So despite the flurry of recent activity, there will be more retirement announcements to come. 

The question continues to be where those retirement announcements happen. The consequences of Marchant’s decision are similar to the fallout from fellow Texas Rep. Pete Olson’s decision. 

Both Olson’s 22nd District and Marchant’s 24th District were rated as competitive before the incumbents announced their retirements, so there is no change in the number of vulnerable GOP seats. Texas Rep. Will Hurd’s 23rd District has also been rated as competitive, but his retirement decision puts Republicans in a tough spot, given Hurd’s unique appeal as a candidate who can assemble a winning coalition in a majority-minority district. So the rating of that race changed from Toss-up to Lean Democratic. Rep. Mike Conaway is not seeking re-election in Texas’ 11th District, and the race for that seat remains rated Solid Republican for now.

Similar to other districts and states around the country, your view of the competitiveness of Marchant’s Dallas-Fort Worth-area district depends on whether you think the 2016 and 2018 election results were the new foundation for Democratic performance or a high-water mark.

For example, on one hand, you might think Donald Trump carried the 24th District by “just” 6 points in 2016, a narrow margin that foreshadows vulnerability for the GOP; or, on the other hand, you could believe that, in spite of all his negatives, including the infamous Access Hollywood tape, Trump “still” won the district by 6 points, according to Daily Kos Elections, proof that Republicans have a fundamental advantage even with a flawed candidate. Democrat Beto O’Rourke carried the district by more than 3 points in the 2018 Senate race, according to Inside Elections Contributing Analyst Ryan Matsumoto. But the congressman also spent $80 million statewide to do it and got to run against a polarizing incumbent, Sen. Ted Cruz. Republican candidates also carried the 24th District in six of the other seven statewide races, even though 2018 was a great year for Democrats nationally.  

In short, the 2020 election results will give us a larger sample size to judge the 2016 and 2018 results.

Marchant had a close race in 2018 (he won by 3 points), but there’s also a chance that Republicans find a candidate who will be a fresher face and run a better campaign.

The 24th District remains competitive and Republicans certainly can’t feel comfortable about GOP performance in the suburbs with President Trump anywhere near the ballot. But we’re maintaining our Lean Republican rating as the fields of candidates and national political environment start to take shape.