Members of the Blue Dog Democrats, a centrist wing of the party, fared better in the midterm elections than expected, with a majority in the most competitive districts winning reelection or outpacing their Republican opponents in the races that have yet to be called.
The fiscally conservative, pro-national security caucus within the Democratic Party has 19 members on Capitol Hill now. So far, 10 have been reelected, and three are ahead in uncalled races. Additionally, three are not seeking reelection, and two were defeated in their primaries. Many of the members were facing an uphill battle in their reelection bids with redistricting, a growing progressive base, and the political headwinds of the president’s slumping approval ratings against them.
So far, it appears Arizona Rep. Tom O’Halleran, the co-chairman for administration, is the only member who has lost his seat in the general election. The three-term lawmaker was considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country after redistricting made his district much more friendly to a Republican candidate.
“It’s a loss — Tom O’Halleran has brought an incredible perspective. He was tireless, working for that district. The guy just never stopped and talked to people in every corner,” said Blue Dog Coalition Executive Director Andy LaVigne. “It’s a loss for the district as much as anything else.”
Others in swing districts fared much better. Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger narrowly held on to her seat in Virginia, a contest both parties saw as an early bellwether in the battle for the House. Spanberger has vocally criticized progressives’ strategy and made waves after the 2020 election blaming losses in the House on calls from her Democratic colleagues to “defund the police.”
Rep. Sanford Bishop, Georgia’s longest-serving member of the U.S. House, won reelection in the state’s only toss-up congressional district.
Rep. Henry Cuellar will hold on to his seat in Texas’s 28th District for a 10th term. The congressman survived a close Democratic primary after the FBI raided his home and after he cast the only Democratic vote against a bill that would codify federal protections for access to abortions.
Rep. Vicente Gonzales won a hotly contested race in Texas’s 34th District, one that Republicans targeted as pivotal in their push to recruit Latino voters.
Additionally, Maine Rep. Jared Golden is pulling ahead in a toss-up rematch against Republican ex-Rep. Bruce Poliquin.
“Voters want somebody who is going to focus on them, someone who is going to focus on getting things done for their district ahead of partisanship, and the Blue Dog candidates that ran that way had great success,” LaVigne said.
The caucus was created in the mid-1990s and had 54 members after the 2008 elections. But the group went from 54 to 26 after the 2010 cycle when Republicans picked up 63 seats and regained the House majority.
LaVigne said he’s happy the group did not suffer those kinds of losses and sees them as essential in the lower chamber, regardless of which party is holding the gavel.
“The folks in the middle are going to play a massive role. Both parties are going to have to talk to each other, and we are going to have to find ways to work together to get things done. It’s going to put members that approach things from a pragmatic perspective center stage,” he said.