Mar 5, 2024 - Politics

How the Pacific Northwest could decide control of the House

Animated illustration of the United States with checkmarks coming from Washington and Oregon and spreading over the rest of the country.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

At least two races in Washington and three in Oregon could prove pivotal in the battle for control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Why it matters: With Republicans holding a narrow 219-213 House majority, five competitive Pacific Northwest races could tip the scales in one party's favor.

Zoom in: Both major parties are laser-focused on the 3rd Congressional District in Southwest Washington, where first-term incumbent Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Skamania County) is defending her seat.

  • Gluesenkamp Perez is one of only five House Democrats nationwide who represent districts that voted for Donald Trump in 2020.
  • Before her 2022 win, the district — which includes Vancouver and other communities within commuting distance of Portland — had been in Republican hands for more than a decade.

State of play: The race is listed as a toss-up by both the Cook Political Report and Sabato's Crystal Ball, a publication of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

  • Kyle Kondik, Sabato's Crystal Ball managing editor, told Axios he considers the WA-03 race among the top 20 or so U.S. House races to watch this year, out of 435 on the ballot.

The intrigue: This year's race may end up as a rematch between Gluesenkamp Perez and Republican Joe Kent, who made it to the general election ballot in 2022 after defeating a more moderate GOP incumbent, then-Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, in the 2022 primary.

  • This year, Republican candidate Leslie Lewallen is also competing for a spot on the ballot, arguing she'll be more competitive against Gluesenkamp Perez in November.

Another toss-up race is Oregon's 5th Congressional District, where Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer is defending her seat.

  • The newly redrawn district includes suburbs southeast of Portland and stretches southward to include Linn County and most of Clackamas and Deschutes counties.

What they're saying: Erin Covey, a U.S. House analyst for the Cook Political Report, told Axios that Chavez-DeRemer is "one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the country" this year.

Yes, but: For now, most eyes are focused on the district's contentious Democratic primary, where state Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Happy Valley) is competing against Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who narrowly lost to Chavez-DeRemer in 2022.

  • McLeod-Skinner edged out then-Rep. Kurt Schrader in the 2022 primary to become the Democratic candidate in that year's general election.

The big picture: Three other races — in Washington's 8th, Oregon's 4th and Oregon's 6th congressional districts — are all in play, although Democrats appear to have the edge, per the Cook Political Report and Sabato's Crystal Ball.

What we're watching: Democrats hope to flip Eastern Washington's 5th Congressional District seat, which is coming open with the retirement of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Spokane) — although races there haven't been especially close in recent years.

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