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Eric Davis: Democrats eye control of House

Control of the U.S. House of Representatives will depend on the results in 80 to 100 of the 435 congressional districts. Most of the competitive districts are now represented by a Republican House member, where voters either cast a plurality of their votes for Hillary Clinton in November 2016, or where Donald Trump won the presidential vote by a small margin.
Democrats currently hold 193 of the 435 House seats. To organize the House, they would need to win at least 218 seats in November. To date, 38 House Republicans have announced that they will either be retiring, or running for another office such as governor or the U.S. Senate, at the end of their current terms. Many independent political analysts believe that the large number of Republican open seats, and an energized Democratic electorate, make it more likely that the Democrats will gain the 25 or more seats they need to organize the House as of January 2019.
If the Democrats organize the House, they would control all the House committees, and could use that control to hold oversight hearings on the activities of the Trump Administration. A Democratic-majority House might also initiate impeachment proceedings against President Trump. Removing the president through impeachment requires a majority vote in the House and a two-thirds majority in the Senate.
Vermont is not one of the congressional districts that will determine control of the House. Rep. Peter Welch is most likely to be re-elected to a seventh term. Welch had no major party opponent in 2016. In 2014, the last time a Republican filed for the Vermont congressional seat, Welch was re-elected with 64 percent of the vote.
Even though Vermont will not have a competitive election for the House this year, Vermonters can become involved in the House election without leaving the state. Developments in social media and technology allow voters all over the country to provide remote support for candidates running in competitive elections in all states.
Vermonters can use Facebook, Twitter and other social media to promote congressional candidates they like to their friends and followers nationwide. Candidates in competitive races increasingly use the Internet to connect with potential supporters wherever they live, particularly to seek small financial contributions. Almost all Democratic congressional candidates use Act Blue Express as a fundraising platform, so once someone has entered their information by making a contribution to one candidate, it is very easy to make future online contributions to the same, or other candidates.
Vermont’s U.S. Senators use their own lists of supporters to raise money for candidates in other states. Sen. Patrick Leahy tends to use his messages to encourage donations for his Senate colleagues in close re-election races, such as Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Sen. Bernie Sanders tends to use his messages to encourage donations to progressive Democratic challengers to incumbent House Republicans.
Politically active Vermonters who are on candidate supporter lists are also encouraged to make telephone calls on behalf of those candidates to voters in their home districts. With the notion of the “long-distance call” a thing of the past, Vermonters can now participate in telephone canvassing campaigns all over the nation from the comfort of their own homes. This sort of activity will likely increase over the next few months, as late-May or early-June primary or primary runoff election days approach in large states with many competitive House districts, such as Texas, California and New York.
Some candidates even hold fund-raisers in neighboring districts. For example, NPR reported last week on a fund-raiser held in Bristol on behalf of Katie Wilson, a candidate seeking the Democratic nomination to oppose Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik in New York’s 21st district on the other side of Lake Champlain.
Eric L. Davis is professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College.

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