Balance of Power: Democrats Maintain Control of the House, Despite Losing Seats in 2020

Updated as of December 3, 2021

What is the balance of power in the House?

House Democrats held onto their majority but lost seats to Republican challengers.

More than a dozen incumbent Democrats lost re-election bids, despite earlier projections they could gain up to 15 seats.

Democrats took the chamber after they netted 41 seats in the 2018 midterm elections, their largest single-year pickup since the post-Watergate midterms of 1974. But some of those new Democrats were among the party’s losers in 2020.

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What was the outlook prior to the 2020 election?

Republicans needed to get to 218 seats to win back the majority they lost in 2018. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans, in early 2019 identified dozens of Democratic-held districts to target. They included 30 Democrats who were elected or re-elected in 2018 in districts that voted for President Donald Trump in 2016. All but one – Dave Loebsack of Iowa – sought re-election. Most were first-term members who defeated or succeeded Republicans in the 2018 election. Republicans won some of these “Trump Democrat” districts but needed to unseat most to win back control of the House.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of House Democrats, identified more than 40 “Frontline Democrats” it expected to have very competitive re-election campaigns. Many of these members represented suburban districts that have diversified their populations in recent years. In most of these districts, Democrats were running for re-election for the first time. The Frontline Democrats amassed large campaign funds.

[For more BGOV coverage of the 117th Congress, explore our resources page here.]

Democrats also identified more than three dozen Republican-held districts they intended to target, including seven in Texas.

A top takeover opportunity for Democrats was Texas’ 23rd District, a border district stretching from San Antonio to El Paso and held by Republican Will Hurd, who retired. Texas’ 23rd was one of just three districts that, along with New York’s 24th District and Pennsylvania’s 1st District, voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 and for a House Republican in 2018. Democrats fell short, however, and Republican Tony Gonzales claimed victory after a tight race.

Democrats also made a play for the suburban Texas districts of retiring Republican Reps. Pete Olson of the 22nd District and Kenny Marchant of the 24th District. They lost the 22nd District, but the 24th is currently too close to call, with Republican Beth Van Duyne leading.

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