Nine of the 10 seats in the U.S. House targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as fundraising priorities in the 2022 midterms were won by the highest fundraiser in each race, suggesting that superior fundraising, like incumbency, remains a strong predictor of victory in House elections.
One week before election day, the DCCC put out a “Red Alert” for five Democratic incumbents in the U.S. House who urgently needed funding to prevent their seats from being flipped by Republicans. All five of the “Red Alert” Democrats – Reps. Mike Levin (D–Calif.), Chris Pappas (D–N.H.), Pat Ryan (D–N.Y.), Susan Wild (D–Pa.) and Matt Cartwright (D–Pa.) – outraised their Republican challengers and won reelection.
All five incumbents had represented their current districts in the House for one to two terms. Three of the five ran against the same Republican opponents they defeated in the 2020 election, in each case winning reelection by a narrower margin than their victories in 2020.
The DCCC’s list also included five “Red to Blue” Democratic candidates seeking to win House districts that were toss-ups or leaned Republican. Three of the five “Red to Blue” seats were won by Democrats and two by Republicans, with most of the winners leading in fundraising.
While Republicans narrowly took control of the U.S. House, the “red wave” did not come to pass in part because seven of the 10 Democratic candidates had a fundraising advantage that they used to win seats, some by a razor-thin margin. In one outlier in Illinois’ 17th Congressional District, Democratic challenger Eric Sorensen won despite trailing the Republican nominee, Esther Joy King, by more than $2 million in fundraising.
Democratic incumbents outraised GOP challengers to defend key seats
Fundraising for each of the five “Red Alert” members ranged from $3.9 million to more than $6 million, significantly more than the average of $2.8 million for incumbents in the House seeking reelection this cycle.
The five “Red Alert” races also attracted significant outside spending, with all five being among the top 30 in outside spending in the House. Among House races, New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District was ranked eighth in outside spending, with more than $21.5 million total. Among House candidates, only seven House candidates attracted more outside spending than Wild, who saw nearly $10.9 million in outside spending opposing her compared to $496,000 supporting her in Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District. While Wild won, that race was also among the closest, with Republican challenger Lisa Scheller losing by just 2%.
Of the 10 races targeted by the DCCC in battleground districts, the three Republican candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump – Karoline Leavitt, Madison Gesiotto Gilbert and Jim Bognet – lost their bids, calling into question Trump’s influence in the GOP since his defeat in 2020.
Democratic Rep. Mike Levin was first elected to California’s 49th Congressional District in 2018. The incumbent Democrat raised nearly $4.7 million in the 2022 cycle, ahead of his victory against Republican challenger Brian Maryott, who raised about $4.5 million, including $2.5 million in self-funding. In outside spending, liberal groups spent more than $8 million opposing Maryott, while conservative groups opposing Levin spent $6.1 million.
President Joe Biden headlined a campaign rally for Levin on Nov. 3 in the city of Oceanside, telling the crowd that the Nov. 8 election would “determine the direction of the country for at least a decade or more.” Levin defeated Maryott by about 5%, a closer margin than Levin’s victory over Maryott for the same seat in 2020.
Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas raised $4.6 million for his reelection bid in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, which covers multiple counties in the eastern and southern portion of the state. Pappas was first elected in 2018 to the seat, which was open after the retirement of Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D–N.H.).
Pappas’ Republican opponent was Karoline Leavitt, a conservative member of Generation Z who previously worked as an assistant press secretary in the White House for former President Donald Trump. Leavitt, who was also endorsed by Trump, raised just over $3 million.
Leavitt was defeated by Pappas by a margin of almost 25,000 votes, or about 8%. Outside groups spent $9.4 million supporting Pappas and opposing Leavitt while outside spending supporting Leavitt and opposing Pappas totaled $9.8 million, making this one of the most expensive House races of the 2022 election cycle.
During the Republican primary, the Congressional Leadership Fund – a Carey committee aligned with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) – spent $1.3 million boosting Leavitt’s more moderate opponent, Matt Mowers, before pivoting to support Leavitt following her victory over Mowers in September.
The National Republican Congressional Committee spent $3.4 million opposing Pappas, while the Congressional Leadership Fund spent $5.1 million opposing Pappas.
Rep. Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.), a former Ulster County executive, narrowly won a special election in New York’s 19th Congressional District in August, defeating former Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro in an upset. The seat was open after Rep. Antonio Delgado (D–N.Y.) resigned to become lieutenant governor of New York.
Due to redistricting, Ryan chose to run in the newly-drawn 18th Congressional District against Republican state assemblyman Colin Schmitt. The 18th District, which consists of suburbs and exurbs of New York City, now encompasses all of Orange County and Putnam County as well as parts of Dutchess County and Westchester County.
Ryan narrowly defeated Schmitt by just over 2,600 votes, with Ryan receiving 50.5% of the vote compared to 49.5% for Schmitt.
During the 2022 cycle, Ryan raised nearly $4 million, while Schmitt raised about $1.9 million. The Congressional Leadership Fund spent $4.3 million opposing Ryan and the NRCC opposed Ryan with $1.2 million, while the DCCC spent $1.9 million opposing Schmitt.
In 2018, Pennsylvania’s state supreme court struck down the boundaries of the state’s 18 congressional districts, deeming them to be gerrymandered to benefit Republicans in violation of the state constitution. That year, Democrat Susan Wild was elected to Pennsylvania’s redrawn 7th Congressional District, replacing retiring Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), whose district had previously been the 15th.
The redrawn 7th District, which is located in the eastern part of the state, contains all of Lehigh County, Carbon County and Northampton County and parts of Monroe County.
Wild narrowly won reelection with 51% of the vote. With the addition of heavily Republican Carbon County to the district, Republican nominee Lisa Scheller performed better than she had in an unsuccessful 2020 bid to unseat Wild.
Wild raised $6.3 million during the 2022 cycle, while Scheller, a former Lehigh County commissioner, raised $4.78 million. Wild was targeted by more than $10.8 million in outside spending opposing her, including $8 million from the Congressional Leadership Fund, compared with just $4.8 million from liberal outside groups opposing Scheller.
Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright represented Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District from 2013 to 2019, when it was redistricted to become Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District. Located in the northeastern part of the state, Cartwright’s district includes Pike County, Wayne County and Lackawanna County, as well as parts of Luzerne County and Monroe County.
Cartwright won reelection in his bid against Republican Jim Bognet, who he also narrowly defeated in 2020. Bognet, who Trump endorsed during the primary, raised $2.4 million compared to Cartwright’s $4.9 million.
The DCCC spent nearly $3 million million opposing Bognet, with an additional $2.5 million in opposition to Bognet from the House Majority PAC, a Carey committee aligned with Democratic House leadership.
“Red to Blue” House races
An additional five Democratic congressional candidates were part of the DCCC “Red to Blue” program seeking victories in swing districts. Four of the five “Red to Blue” Democrats ran in districts with open seats due to retirements and redistricting in Illinois, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Another Democrat challenged an incumbent Republican in Nebraska.
Democrats won three “Red to Blue” seats, while one Republican flipped a formerly Democratic seat and one incumbent Republican won reelection. In four of the five “Red to Blue” races, the winner was the top fundraiser.
Democratic candidate Eric Sorensen defeated his Republican opponent Esther Joy King by a margin of about 8,000 votes in Illinois’ 17th Congressional District. The seat opened early in the 2022 cycle when incumbent Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) announced she would retire at the end of the 117th Congress.
The district, in northwestern Illinois, is anchored in the Quad Cities metropolitan area. Sorensen, who will become the first openly gay member of Congress from Illinois, won despite being outraised by more than $2 million.
Outside groups spent $7 million opposing Sorensen, most of it from the Congressional Leadership Fund. Outside groups also spent about $7 million opposing King, including $3.6 million from the House Majority PAC.
In another historic election for LGBTQ candidates, Republican George Santos defeated Democrat Robert Zimmerman in New York’s 3rd Congressional District, which was vacated by Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi last year. The district includes parts of Long Island as well as parts of the New York City borough of Queens.
The race between Santos and Zimmerman was the first in which two openly gay candidates for Congress competed in a general election. Santos, who will be the first openly LGBTQ Republican elected to Congress as a non-incumbent, narrowly outraised Zimmerman by about $63,000.
In Ohio’s 13th Congressional District, Democratic nominee Emilia Sykes defeated Republican Madison Gesiotto Gilbert. The boundaries of the district in northeastern Ohio were described as resembling “a jigsaw puzzle piece” in a 2018 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging Ohio’s congressional districts as gerrymandered.
The district is currently represented by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who chose not to run for reelection to pursue a seat in the U.S. Senate that he ultimately lost to Republican J.D. Vance. Sykes, an Ohio state representative, raised about $2.1 million compared to $1.9 million by Gesiotto Gilbert, who had Trump’s endorsement.
In Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District, Democrat Chris Deluzio edged out Republican Jeremy Shaffer by more than 6%. The district in the northwestern suburbs of Pittsburgh has been represented since 2019 by Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb, who chose not to run for reelection in 2022 to make an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate. Deluzio raised about $2.8 million, edging out Shaffer, who raised about $2.5 million.
Another Democrat, Tony Vargas, lost in a bid to unseat a Republican incumbent in Nebraska. Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) was reelected by about 3% in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, which consists of the Omaha metropolitan area. Bacon outraised Vargas by about $580,000.
Vargas was opposed by almost $5.2 million in outside spending, compared to $3.6 million in outside spending opposing Bacon. Outside groups spent nearly $2 million supporting Bacon, while only $6,700 in outside spending supported Vargas.