As the final votes are tallied and Democrats continue to notch midterm election victories this week, Republican incumbents were toppled in New Jersey and California by opponents who built campaigns focused on affordable and accessible health care.
Former Obama administration official Andy Kim was officially declared the winner in New Jersey’s 3rd district Wednesday, ousting Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ). MacArthur was one of the left’s biggest health care foes, and earned the label as “the face of the GOP’s health care repeal” by the health care advocacy group Protect Our Care, as Bloomberg noted.
Last year, MacArthur worked with Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows on an amendment to the GOP’s bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that would have allowed insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, which ultimately passed the House.
During the campaign, apparently feeling the heat, MacArthur claimed his bill did exactly the opposite, saying in a mailer in July that he would “protect health insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions who are trying to obtain affordable health care.”
“Congressman MacArthur is abusing our tax dollars to spread misinformation,” Kim said at the time, according to NJ.com. “He wrote the amendment that gutted pre-existing condition protections and he can’t run away from it. His name is on it — the MacArthur amendment.”
Several thousand miles west, Democrat Josh Harder claimed victory Tuesday in a race that he, too, worked to make about health care issues, ousting incumbent Rep. Jeff Denham (D-CA).
“Every person you will be talking to today has a loved one who would be affected and hurt by that vote,” he said of Denham’s vote in favor of ACA repeal at a campaign stop earlier this month. “For me, it would be my younger brother, David. He was born 10 weeks premature.”
As of the time Harder’s race was called, Democrats had gained more than 30 seats in the House and appear on track to gain between 35 and 40 once all the nationwide counting is complete.
A little further south, two other races are still close to call, including in the 45th district, where Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) faced Democratic challenger Katie Porter, a Medicare for All supporter, and in the 39th District, where Republican Young Kim faced another Medicare for All supporter, Democrat Gil Cisneros.
In the last weeks before the election, a number of vulnerable Republican incumbents who voted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) tried to convince voters that they supported protections for people with pre-existing conditions when it became clear that this was a pivotal election issue, as MacArthur did with his mailer in July. A number of Republican Senate candidates across the country tried to stake out this position, including Senator-elect Josh Hawley, who went so far as to release an extremely deceptive ad seeking to recast his record on health care. Notably, Hawley was also part of a lawsuit that, if successful, would have eliminated protections for pre-existing conditions.