Apr 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Midterm matchups between House members offer 2024 preview

Illustration of binoculars with “I Voted Today” stickers in the lenses.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Voters in four states are getting a window into the future of their parties: new congressional districts drawn after the latest census have set up rare member-vs.-member primary showdowns this year.

Why it matters: The common denominator in five contests across the country is a battle between the more moderate and extreme wings of the Republican and Democratic parties. The results will give a preview of potential dynamics at play in the 2024 presidential race.

  • The first of these tests will play out May 10 in West Virginia's primary. The other contests are in Georgia, Michigan and two districts in Illinois.

On the Republican side, races in Illinois and West Virginia will test former President Trump's influence.

Voters will be picking between a Trump-backed candidate and a more moderate one.

  • In Illinois' 15th Congressional District, Trump-endorsed Rep. Mary Miller will face off against fellow Republican Rep. Rodney Davis. He voted to certify the 2020 election and create a Jan 6. commission.
  • In northern West Virginia's new 2nd Congressional District, the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill has become a wedge issue.
  • Rep. David McKinley is touting his help passing the bill, while Trump-backed Rep. Alex Mooney is condemning that support.

What they're saying: "I think a lot of what's happening could be a potential preview of the 2024 presidential primary if Trump doesn't run," Republican strategist Alex Conant told Axios about the incumbent vs. incumbent contests.

  • "If Trump runs, then 2024 is literally all about whether anyone can take him down."

For Democrats, three unique races are pitting moderate, progressive and Congressional Black Caucus segments of the party against one other, to the degree they've chosen to weigh in.

The make-or-break primaries come as the members involved introduce themselves to the constituents of their new district.

  • As Democratic strategist Josh Schwerin told Axios, "There’s rarely a clear and best choice in the eyes of the Democratic Party. It's never fun."

In Georgia, Democratic Reps. Lucy McBath and Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, two rising stars who both flipped GOP-held seats in 2018 and 2020, respectively, will face-off for a new seat in the 7th Congressional District in the Atlanta suburbs.

  • That'll force voters to choose between the more moderate Bourdeaux, who already represents many of the voters in the new district, and McBath, a Black woman known for her gun-control advocacy.

In Michigan's new 11th Congressional District, Democratic Reps. Andy Levin and Haley Stevens are on track for a bitter clash that's already caught the attention of many of their congressional colleagues.

  • Levin, deputy whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has been endorsed by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the Caucus chair.
  • Stevens, a member of the moderate New Democrat Coalition, is supported by Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

In Illinois, Reps. Sean Casten and Marie Newman have been engaged in a contest for the Democratic nomination in the 6th Congressional District.

To date, the contest has been focused more and more on scandal than ideology.

  • The House Ethics Committee is investigating a complaint Newman used the offer of a high-level staff position to keep a challenger from running against her during the 2020 Democratic primary.

But, but, but: Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson cautions against extrapolating too much from these races.

  • "In a lot of ways," he said, the member-on-member races "are a bug, not a feature, of the system after this redistricting."

Flashback: During the 2012 midterms that followed the 2010 census, there was far more potential discord.

  • There were 13 districts — not five — featuring incumbents running against each other.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the Republican members jousting over the bipartisan infrastructure bill: Rep. David McKinley is touting his help passing the bill, while Trump-backed Rep. Alex Mooney is condemning that support.

Go deeper