Early House Outlook – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 21, 2021 — Continuing with our electoral stage preview for the US House, today we look at 12 states in the country’s central region. Tomorrow and the following Monday, we move further east.

• Arkansas – 4 Seats (4R)

Arkansas holds four Republican districts, and the GOP controls the redistricting pen. They will obviously attempt to draw a new map that protects all four incumbents, and they should be able to do so with relative ease as the state continues to move toward the ideological right.

Arkansas had previously received Justice Department approval to draw a map where all of its 75 counties whole within the individual congressional districts, and thus exceeding the plus-or-minus one individual congressional district population variance requirement.

• Iowa – 4 Seats (1D3R)

Iowa has a hybrid redistricting system. The legislature voluntarily cedes power to a particular legislative committee, which then draws the four congressional districts based upon a mathematical population algorithm without regard to incumbent residences or political preferences. The legislature must then approve or reject the map without amendment.

The current map has produced competitive districts as is evidenced in the 2nd District being decided by just six votes in the 2020 election. Three of the state’s four CDs have seen both Republican and Democratic representation during this decade. It is likely we will see the process produce a similar map later this year.

• Kansas – 4 Seats (1D3R)

Both parties have seats at the redistricting table as Republicans control the state House and Senate while Democrats have the governorship. Republicans will attempt to at least protect the status quo but Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly can be expected to hold out for a 2R-2D plan. Any prolonged impasse will send the map to either a state or federal court in order to produce an interim map for the coming 2022 election.

• Louisiana – 6 Seats (0D4R; 2 Vacancies)

The more immediate political task Louisiana sees is filling its two vacant congressional districts. The New Orleans-Baton Rouge 2nd District has no representation because Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-New Orleans) resigned to accept a White House appointment from the Biden Administration. Rep-Elect Luke Letlow (R) tragically passed away after his election and before he was officially sworn into office. Therefore, both seats will be filled in a two-tiered March 20/April 24 special election calendar.

Republicans control the legislature, but Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) holds the veto pen. The number of seats will remain constant since the population appears relatively even through the state’s six districts. The 1st (Rep. Steve Scalise-R) and the 6th (Rep. Garret Graves-R) are over-populated while the 4th (Rep. Mike Johnson-R) and the 5th (Letlow vacancy) will need to gain residents.

• Minnesota – 8 Seats (4D4R)

Minnesota barely held its 8th District 10 years ago, and it’s a near certainty that the state’s House delegation will recede to seven seats in the coming reapportionment. The northern part of the state hosts two Republican districts, 7 (Rep. Michelle Fischbach-R) and 8 (Rep. Pete Stauber-R), and the pair must gain the most population. It is probable that the remaining six seats would also need an increased number of residents, leading to the clear projection that the state will lose a seat.

Minnesota is the only state in the country with a split legislature, as Democrats control the House and Republicans, the Senate. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz will hold the veto pen. Losing a seat and moving to fundamentally change the district configuration suggests that the Minnesota map may find itself at an impasse, thus opening the door to a court-drawn interim map for the 2022 election. Expect the Republicans to lose the departing district.

• Missouri – 8 Seats (2D6R)

Ten years ago, Missouri lost a seat reducing their US House delegation to eight members. In the early 2020 projections, it appears the state will retain its current number of CDs. With Republicans controlling the redistricting pen, no obvious impending incumbent retirements, and African American members representing St. Louis and Kansas City, it appears the 6R-2D split will remain intact for the 2022 elections and likely beyond.

• Nebraska – 3 Seats (3R)

Nebraska looks to retain it three seats despite all being on the lower population end. The expansive 3rd District needs a population influx, and Republicans, who control the redistricting pen, will likely attempt to make the state’s 2nd District, the Omaha metro seat, more Republican if they can.

The 2nd went relatively strongly for Joe Biden in the presidential race – Nebraska is one of two states that split its electoral votes – and Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillion/Omaha) has won his last two re-election campaigns with just 50.8 and 48.9 percent respectively in 2020 and 2018.

• North Dakota – 1 Seat (1R)

The Peace Garden State will continue to hold one at-large seat, so redistricting here is not an issue. Second term at-large Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-Dickinson) is a lock for re-election and should have little trouble holding the seat in future campaigns.

• Oklahoma – 5 Seats (5R)

Regaining the OK-5 district (Oklahoma City metro area) in 2020 allowed the Republicans to again capture all five of the state’s congressional districts. The district population figures are strong enough to suggest the state will retain all five of its seats in reapportionment. The two metro districts, OK-1 (Tulsa) and OK-5 (Oklahoma City), will shed population, while the others will then gain slightly. Republicans hold the redistricting pen here and will strive to keep all five CDs decidedly in their political column.

• South Dakota – 1 Seat (1R)

As in North Dakota, the neighboring Mount Rushmore State has one congressional district and a second term incumbent member in the person of Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-Mitchell). He, like North Dakota’s Kelly Armstrong, should be able to keep the seat as long as he maintains a desire to serve in the House.

• Texas – 36 Seats (13D23R)

Texas gained four new seats in the 2010 reapportionment and looks to add another three in the 2020 version. Expect the Dallas, Houston, and Austin-San Antonio corridor to gain the additional representation. With their increased voting power in the state, Democrats may improve their position slightly, since the Republican map drawers will have the primary goal of strengthening weaker suburban seats like that of freshman Rep. Beth Van Duyne’s (R-Irving) 24th District (GOP winning percentage: 48.8).

Adding a new Democratic seat in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex will allow the GOP to keep all of the regional seats they currently control. Expect Rep. Lizzie Fletcher’s (D-Houston) 7th District to become more Democratic with the Republicans’ intent of better supporting the surrounding districts and possibly adding a new GOP district in southeast Texas.

As Austin becomes ever more Democratic, the Republican map drawers may need to draw a new Democratic or politically marginal CD to improve their surrounding districts such as the 21st where incumbent Rep. Chip Roy (R-Austin) scored election victories of 50.2 and 51.9 percent, respectively in 2016 and 2020.

• Wisconsin – 8 Seats (3D5R)

With all eight Badger State CDs having more than 700,000 people in the last census estimates, the state will keep its delegation intact but with aggregate population figures on the lower end. Republicans won’t have total control of the redistricting pen in 2021 as they did in 2011.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will obviously have a seat at the table and more than likely negotiate with a goal of making a 4R-4D map that he will argue more accurately reflects the state’s voting trends. With Milwaukee’s 4th District (Rep. Gwen Moore-D) needing a population influx, making one of the surrounding Republican seats more Democratic becomes more difficult.

Wisconsin is another place where an impasse may occur, and a court could be tasked with drawing a new interim map.

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