Both parties have endured upheaval in wave elections in the past
A Democratic “wave” this November, should one materialize, could result in the departure of as many as five senior House Republican appropriators, which would mark the biggest wipeout of major players from one side of the dais in 26 years.
Three subcommittee “cardinals” are facing tough re-election fights this November: Commerce-Justice-Science Chairman John Culberson and Military Construction-VA Chairman John Carter, both of Texas, and Homeland Security Chairman Kevin Yoder of Kansas.
Meanwhile, full committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., who in his 12th term had been facing difficult electoral conditions, is retiring after this session. Former Military Construction-VA Subcommittee Chairman Charlie Dent, R-Pa., didn’t want to wait that long; he resigned in May.
House Republicans last had five senior members leave Appropriations after the 1992 elections, three due to retirements.
Culberson and Yoder’s seats are listed as “in play” by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. Culberson is in the danger zone “tilt Republican” category, while Gonzales has Yoder in the slightly safer, but not out of the woods, “lean Republican” column. Carter’s seat is considered much safer, but he faces a strong challenger who could surprise in a wave year.
“I think Republicans, especially moderate Republicans, have to walk a very tight line,” said former Rep. James T. Walsh, R-N.Y., a veteran appropriator who retired after the 2008 elections, which saw Democrats pad their House majority by 21 seats. “Moderate Republicans cannot embrace President [Donald] Trump for a number of reasons. On the other hand, they represent tens of thousands of people who absolutely do embrace President Trump.”
In Culberson’s district, which includes the Houston suburbs, Hillary Clinton beat Trump in 2016 by 1.4 percentage points. Culberson won that district with 58 percent of the vote during 2016 — a stark decline from the 73 percent he received during his first general election in 2000.
Culberson also manages one of the more perennially difficult spending bills, with the Justice Department budget in particular a likely target for Democratic messaging amendments. House GOP leaders appear likely to keep the $62.5 billion fiscal 2019 Commerce-Justice-Science measure (HR 5952) off the floor until after the midterms, which could help Culberson keep his campaign focus on his district rather than Trump’s Twitter feed.