Comments about the importance of this year’s midterm election have been on repeat for months, but with so much going on, it can be difficult to know what exactly to look out for on Tuesday. Aside from which party wins control of the House and Senate, there are a handful of 2018 midterm races to watch on Nov. 6.
Midterm elections are always viewed as a barometer of how the nation feels about the current president, so this week’s congressional elections will reflect directly on POTUS. While polling data isn’t always 100 percent accurate (hello, 2016 presidential election), FiveThirtyEight predicts that Democrats will win control of the House, while Republicans will keep a hold over the Senate. But regardless of how each party fares, what happens in specific races will speak volumes about which issues are most important to voters and how they feel about their current representatives on Capitol Hill.
Across the country, veteran members of Congress are fighting for their jobs in close races against political newcomers. At least 29 House seats and nine Senate seats are a toss up, according to The New York Times’ predictions, and at least a dozen Republican seats are expected to turn blue.
Here are nine races worth keeping an eye on.
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s retirement left an open Senate seat for Arizona, and his flip-flopping on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation brought more attention to the women vying to replace him. Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Rep. Martha McSally — who have served in the House since 2013 and 2015 respectively — are in a neck-and-neck race to be Arizona’s next senator, though Sinema has a slight lead in recent polls.
Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren has represented Illinois’ 14th District since 2011, but a new challenger has a shot at unseating him. Democratic candidate Lauren Underwood, a 32-year-old nurse and former Obama administration staffer, is appealing to Midwestern voters with a moderate Democratic platform. While FiveThirtyEight says the district still leans slightly to the right, The Times says the race is a toss up.
A 29-year-old state lawmaker is vying to unseat Rep. Rod Blum, a self-described Tea Party Republican, in Iowa’s 1st District. If she wins on Tuesday, Abby Finkenauer could become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, along with New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Both The Times and FiveThirtyEight predict she’ll win.
Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder has served in Congress since 2011, but Democratic candidate Sharice Davids is expected to beat him in the midterm. The lawyer and MMA fighter could help make up the first class of Native American women in Congress, as well as increase LGBTQ representation on Capitol Hill.
“Native women are left out of the conversation,” Davids told Bustle in May. “And when you think about just size of a group, we make up a small portion of the population. That means that what ends up happening is there’s just nobody in the room who knows anything about Native issues.”
Amy McGrath caught the nation’s attention over a year ago with her first campaign ad that highlighted how she fought for women’s right to serve in combat from a young age. The former fighter pilot has run a tough campaign to unseat Republican Rep. Andy Barr, and polls show the election could sway in either direction.
Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen is attempting to oust Republican Sen. Dean Heller in a state that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. The race is crucial to which party will have control of the Senate come 2019, and FiveThirtyEight and The Times predict a victory for Heller.
Democratic challenger Liuba Grechen Shirley made a name for herself by successfully petitioning the Federal Election Commission to allow political candidates to use campaign funds for child care. Her campaign against veteran Republican Rep. Peter King, who’s held office for 25 years, has focused on getting a fresh perspective on the issues facing Long Island families. It’s a fairly close race, though recent estimates put King ahead.
“So many average Americans, our voices are not being heard,” Grechen Shirley told Bustle last month. “That’s what I think is the most exciting thing about this political election cycle, that so many working Americans from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, from different career backgrounds, have said, ‘Enough is enough.'”
Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke shook up Texas politics by entering a contentious battle for Republican Ted Cruz’s Senate seat. After a failed presidential bid, Cruz fell in line with President Trump’s agenda and has backed him on immigration, health care, and just about every other issue. An O’Rourke win would be huge for Democrats hoping to take back the Senate — but regardless of who has control of Congress, it would signal that Texas isn’t a Republican stronghold.
Rep. Barbara Comstock is one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress, according to Politico. The Times and FiveThirtyEight anticipate a victory for her Democratic challenger, Jennifer Wexton, a lawyer and state senator. Though Comstock has tried to distance herself from the president, critics of her proposed immigration bill argue that it would allow racial profiling and weaken due process, as The Washington Post reports.
As election results stream in on Tuesday, keep an eye out for these nine races. They’ll help determine which party wins control of Congress, as well as signal what may happen in 2020.