In just a few months, voters head to the polls to elect their representatives for Congress, and all eyes are on a series of swing districts in places like Orange County, California and central Missouri. If Democrats are able to secure a majority in either the House of Representatives or the Senate--they would need 24 seats and 28 seats, respectively--it's conceivable that President Trump would have to rein in his agenda, as getting things passed would be more challenging.
For entrepreneurs, in particular, the loss of a conservative majority in either chamber could impact business legislation moving forward. And with major issues like minimum-wage laws, consumer privacy, and trade deals hanging in the balance, every vote counts.
"If there is a particular bill business owners need to get passed, the odds go down," says Bradley Tusk, founder and CEO of Tusk Holdings, which includes a political consultancy and venture firm. "A divided government means little gets done."
Even so, nothing is set in stone--yet. Here's a look at five races that potentially matter most for you.
1. The Missouri Senate race.
Claire McCaskill (D-MO,) is widely considered to be the most vulnerable Democratic senator up for re-election in 2018, and the loss of this seat would surely hurt the party's odds of securing a majority. Although a Republican candidate has yet to be named--voters head to the polls in a closely watched primary on August 7--analysts say Josh Hawley, the state attorney general recently commended by Vice President Mike Pence, is likely to secure the nomination. While McCaskill voted against the Obamacare repeal, as well as the recently passed tax cuts--which has had a mixed effect on businesses--Hawley aligns closely with Trump's legislative agenda. He has even received campaign funding from Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who reportedly wrote two checks totaling $5,400, the maximum contribution for a federal race.
At issue in this race is consumer privacy. If Hawley wins the Senate seat, he will likely be critical of tech giants such as Google. Last year, Hawley launched an investigation into the company's possible violations of Missouri antitrust and consumer protection law. The moves come as dozens of lawmakers are already calling for increased regulation on technology firms, particularly Facebook, which recently revealed that private information from more than 87 million users was harvested by the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. As Europe rolls out new GDPR rules to protect users across the pond, many speculate that something similar could be coming stateside. "We need to have a conversation in Missouri, and as a country, about the concentration of economic power," Hawley told Bloomberg in a recent interview.
2. California House race: 49th Congressional District.
The area of Southern California stretching the coast from San Clemente to La Jolla has received growing national attention, as longtime Republican Representative Darrell Issa vacates his seat. Should the Democratic nominee, Mike Levin, prevail against Republican tax attorney Diane Harkey, the left would move closer to clinching the overall majority.
Both Harkey and Levin have agendas that would impact businesses. The former recently told the San Diego Tribune she plans to improve the tax code for pass-through entities and other small businesses, which are losing their competitive advantage as corporations see reduced tax bills: "I'll be working on clean up language to the recently passed tax reform package, as it applies to some small businesses and property tax deductions," she said.
Levin, meanwhile, is fighting for an across-the-board $15 minimum wage, a move that could increase payroll expenses for entrepreneurs. Still, and as business proponents of New York's Democratic nominee Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently pointed out, an increased minimum wage could fuel investment in local neighborhoods, putting money back into the hands of small businesses. Levin is also a major proponent of clean energy, aiming to introduce new environmental regulations on oil and gas firms.
3. New York House race: 19th Congressional District.
In New York's 19th district, which encompasses the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, Democrat Antonio Delgado is campaigning to become the first African-American candidate to represent the region in Congress. He faces fierce competition, however, from incumbent Republican John Faso, a conservative who supported repealing the Affordable Care Act, and largely aligns with President Trump. Analysts note that Faso is vulnerable, since a large share of his constituents--including small-scale businesses--did not want the ACA repealed.
In particular, Delgado aims to increase small-business lending so companies can expand in New York. "I will push for banks to lend to small businesses, so they can expand and create the jobs we need," Delgado writes on his campaign site. "I will work to draw investments and businesses to the district, including those in growth industries like tech and clean energy, so we can match the trained workers to the businesses that need them."
The Democratic nominee is also bullish on free-trade agreements such as NAFTA, which has drawn skepticism from President Trump. To be sure, hundreds of small business across the country--including those that manufacture abroad or otherwise do business overseas--have seen costs rise in recent months as Trump introduces new tariffs on select imports. Delgado would join a chorus of left-leaning voices working to maintain free-trade deals. "I will oppose any trade agreements that are not beneficial to the Hudson Valley and the Catskills," Delgado adds.
4. California House race: 48th Congressional District.
In Southern California, tech entrepreneur-turned-political activist Harley Rouda, a Democrat, has an opportunity to unseat Dana Rohrabacher, a 15-term Republican with an anti-immigration track record and controversial ties to Russia.
Like other candidates, Rouda says he aims to reform the tax code to assist small-business owners: "To rebuild the middle class, the first step is closing antiquated tax loopholes that benefit outdated industries and the wealthy," he says. His background as an entrepreneur is likely to provide comfort to businesses throughout the region: Prior to running for office, Rouda launched or helped to grow several startups, including Stuffster, a waste management service, and Grayl, a maker of portable water filters.
Rohrabacher, by contrast, has worked to limit the number of H-1B visas available to entrepreneurs, a legal immigration program that hundreds of tech companies in California and beyond rely on to hire skilled talent. Indeed, in 2016, Rohrabacher co-authored the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2016, a bill that would have prevented companies with more than 50 employees--and 50 percent of those on H-1B or L-1 visas--from hiring more workers on H-1B visas. (The bill died on the vine in Congress.)
Still, Rohrabacher is perceived as a friend to businesses in other areas. Consider that he recently authored the proposed Expanding Employee Ownership Act of 2017, a bill that would amend the Internal Revenue Code to exclude securities issued to workers as compensation from gross income.
5. Iowa House race: 1st Congressional District.
This region of the Midwestern swing state, which supported former President Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012, will be the site of increased national attention in the months leading up to the midterms. Here, second-term Republican Rod Blum faces up against Democrat Abby Finkenauer, who vehemently supports working-class families and businesses. Blum's seat is potentially vulnerable, inasmuch as he, too, voted to repeal Obamacare, where many of his constituents actually benefit from the health care plan.
In particular, Finkenauer says she plans to increase investment in Iowa businesses and reduce the brain drain to other, more cosmopolitan areas of the country. "We need to ensure that we've created the conditions for businesses to succeed here in Eastern Iowa, and that we're constantly searching for opportunities to bring investment into our region," she says. She also aims to reduce regulation and red tape, which could increase the availability of capital to local entrepreneurs. "While large corporations can employ an army of accountants and regulatory professionals to deal with these demands, entrepreneurs have no such resources," she adds. "We need to level the playing field to give Main Street a fair shot."