When Republican Rep. Mike Garcia’s race against Democrat Christy Smith was called for him last November, a week after Election Day, Republicans officially won the majority in the U.S. House.
Voters in California’s 27th Congressional District, located north of Los Angeles, elected Garcia to his second consecutive term. Two years prior, though, President Joe Biden won over voters in the southern California district, along with the state by over 60%.
Garcia’s district is one of 18 rare purple areas across the country where Biden won in 2020, but a Republican candidate either held or flipped the House seat in last year’s midterm elections. Most of these areas are “toss ups” headed into 2024, according to the Cook Political Report, meaning their race is expected to be competitive and offer either party the chance for victory.
And with control of the House still far from decided, these 18 races could be key in determining whether Democrats take back the chamber in 2024 or Republicans defend their slim majority.
California, New York, Arizona: Where are these 18 districts?
Along with the 27th district, there are four other districts in California that elected Biden in 2020 and a Republican representative in 2022, including the 13th District located between San Jose and Fresno. Voters there elected freshman Rep. John Duarte in the state’s closest House race in 2022. Duarte won by less than 600 votes.
New York has the biggest share of these districts, with six spanning much of the state from Long Island to Syracuse.
Arizona claims two: their 1st Congressional District in the northeast Phoenix area and the 6th District located in the southeast corner of the state, including parts of Tucson.
The remaining five districts are in Nebraska near Omaha; northern New Jersey; south of Portland, Oregon; eastern Pennsylvania and southeastern Virginia, including Virginia Beach.
Long Island went to the Republicans, but George Santos struggles to hold his own district
If not a toss-up, these districts currently either lean or are likely slated for Republicans, according to the Cook Political Report.
Republican Rep. George Santos’s district, which covers parts of Long Island and Queens, leans towards Democrats.
While a Democratic nominee has yet to be named in the area, the district’s rating is likely less to do with support for the left and more the fallout from the embattled congressman’s lies and scandals. The Republican lawmaker earlier this year pleaded not guilty to 13 federal charges, including fraud and lying to Congress.
He allegedly transferred money from political donors into personal bank accounts during his campaign, using the money for personal expenses. The Department of Justice also alleges that he committed unemployment insurance fraud by applying for benefits when he was employed, among other charges.
He has also admitted to lying about his job experience and college education during his campaign for his House seat.
Santos formally announced in April that he would run for reelection. Several Democratic candidates have entered the race to for his House seat, and just as many Republicans have announced plans to challenge the freshman representative in a primary next June.
Republicans swept Long Island’s four congressional districts in the 2022 midterms. In addition to Santos, fellow freshmen Republican Reps. Nick LaLota and Anthony D’Esposito won their races in districts that voted for Biden two years earlier.
Who will control the House after 2024? It’s still up in the air
Over a year out from next November’s elections, neither party has a clear upper hand for control of the House.
The 18 split districts represent some of the most competitive races for House seats and are among the 33 districts that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has set their sight on targeting to swing left.
On that list is the home district of GOP Virginia Rep. Jen Kiggans, who defeated Democratic incumbent Elaine Luria and flipped the seat for Republicans.
Democratic activist and founder of the COVA Coalition, a reference to the name short for coastal Virginia, Heidi Dragneff lives in Kiggans’ district. She said part of the reason her purple district went for Biden, and then Kiggans, was voters’ hesitation to reelect Donald Trump in 2020, not voters having a real shift towards Democrats.
“People who saw Trump for who he was and voted to get him out went back to voting Republican for other offices,” Dragneff said.
Andrew Taban, chair of Santa Clarita Valley Democrats and a resident of Garcia’s California district, said voters in his area had a similar “mission” in 2020.
“A lot of people in general came out to vote against Trump, Democrat (or) Republican,” he said.
Taban said he expects next fall’s race to be close, in a district where Garcia has won two terms but Democrats still hold a 12-point voter registration advantage.
“It is going to be tighter,” he said. “Come presidential (elections), we have greater turnout.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Who controls the House after 2024? These NY, CA districts could decide