Category Archives: Redistricting

Democrats Now Need 23

By Jim Ellis

March 29, 2018 — It appears that Pennsylvania Rep. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester) is turning over a projected swing 2018 electoral seat in PA-6 to the Democrats without so much as a fight. Doing so will reduce the net number of Democratic majority conversion seats from the current 24 to 23.

Rep. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester)

Rep. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester)

The two-term Philadelphia suburban representative informed Keystone State Republican leaders on Tuesday that he will remove his name from the ballot and not run for re-election. Yesterday was the final day for Pennsylvania candidates to withdraw before the primary ballots become permanent.

The major issue for Republican leaders with this belated move is that the candidate filing deadline already has passed, and another Republican has qualified for the ballot. Attorney Greg McCauley filed his candidate documents and presented the proper number of ballot petition signatures. Therefore, as the only Republican who was running opposite Costello in the GOP primary, it is likely that this obscure challenger will now be unopposed for the party nomination. McCauley has a credible resume but has never run for public office, and is not viewed as a top-tier candidate for an impending campaign in a highly competitive district such as PA-6.

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Pennsylvania Files – Part II

By Jim Ellis

March 27, 2018 — Today we finish our look at the new Pennsylvania filings from Districts 10 thru 18, but first must mention a new story floating in the Washington Post and throughout the local Philadelphia media.

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court

Rep. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester), after filing for re-election, is already dropping out of the race. In withdrawing, the two-term incumbent virtually hands the seat to Democrat Chrissy Houlahan, a first-time candidate for any office, because the local Republican Party will have no way of replacing him. Attorney Greg McCauley filed in the Republican primary and becomes the party nominee now that Costello has backed away. It is unclear why Costello filed for re-election if he was not serious about running.

District 10: Rep. Scott Perry (R-Dillsburg/York)

Though new District 10, that now includes all of the York and Harrisburg metro areas, is more Democratic than Perry’s previous 4th District, President Trump still posted a nine percentage point win during the 2016 presidential election contest. Rep. Perry is unopposed in the Republican primary and draws five Democratic opponents, including 2016 congressional nominee Christina Hartman who suffered a decided loss to freshman Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) in an adjoining district. Hartman raised over $1.1 million for her first congressional effort, and was originally seeking a re-match with Rep. Smucker. When the new redistricting plan left him with a solidly Republican district, she moved here even though none of her previous territory transferred to new CD-10.

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Pennsylvania Files – Part I

By Jim Ellis

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court

March 26, 2018 — After the three-judge federal panel and the US Supreme Court both rejected Republican legal appeals to overturn the new state Supreme Court-imposed congressional map, candidates submitted their official filing documents to run in the new districts.

We now have an idea as to where the key Pennsylvania political battles will occur, and who some of the key players will be. Today we take a look at the first nine districts. Tomorrow, we’ll review CDs 10-18. The party primaries are scheduled for May 15.

District 1 – Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown)

Freshman Rep. Fitzpatrick faces attorney Dean Malik in the Republican primary. Three Democrats filed, including Scott Wallace, grandson of WWII era Vice President Henry Wallace (D). Attorney Rachel Reddick and non-profit organization executive Steven Bacher round out the Democratic field. The new 1st is highly competitive, and this race could well evolve in to a toss-up campaign.


District 2 – Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia)

Originally designed as an open seat, or the place where retiring Rep. Bob Brady (D-Philadelphia) may have run, the new 2nd will now go to two-term Rep. Brendan Boyle who formerly represented a district anchored in Montgomery County. The new 2nd contains the eastern part of Philadelphia and is a safely Democratic seat. Radio talk show host Michele Lawrence is challenging Boyle in the Democratic primary, and Republican David Torres will be his general election opposition. Rep. Boyle will have little trouble in securing this new district.


District 3 – Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia)

This is a heavily African American Democratic seat that freshman Rep. Dwight Evans will have little trouble holding. He has only minor opposition in both the Democratic primary and the general election.


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PA: Lamb, Saccone Decide; Others, Too

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court


By Jim Ellis

March 19, 2018 — Though Tuesday’s special election results in western Pennsylvania are not yet even finalized, the two candidates, and others, are making decisions about where to run in the regular election cycle. After the state Supreme Court created a new congressional map for the coming election, they lengthened the candidate filing period from one that closed March 6 to a new deadline of tomorrow, Tuesday, March 20.

Republicans are formally challenging the new map in federal court. A three-judge federal panel has already heard their arguments and the GOP leaders also filed a motion to stay the state court’s mapping decision with the US Supreme Court. Since no ruling has yet come from either judicial panel, incumbents and candidates must move forward with the qualifying process assuming the new map will stand.

Under Pennsylvania election law, congressional candidates must obtain 1,000 valid signatures from registered party members to qualify for the ballot. Since such a process obviously requires time, all candidates, including Rep.-Elect Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) and defeated Republican candidate Rick Saccone, must determine where they will run under this new and very different Keystone State congressional map.

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CATCHING UP WITH THE PA-18 ELECTION

By Jim Ellis

Former Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb (L) | Former Pennsylvania Rep. Rick Saccone (R)

Former Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb (L) | Former Pennsylvania Rep. Rick Saccone (R)

March 14, 2018 — The Keystone State special congressional election was held yesterday, as southwestern Pennsylvania voters went to the polls to choose a replacement for resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh).

Before PA-18 Election Day, Democrats appeared to have the better candidate in the person of attorney Conor Lamb, whose grandfather was a former state House Democratic leader and uncle is the Pittsburgh City Controller.

Simultaneously, this election carried major national ramifications, yet the winner’s success might be short-lived, when one can be identified, which likely will take a day or two longer. With 100 percent of the vote in, Lamb leads Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Canonsburg) 113,111 (49.8 percent) to 112,532 (49.6 percent) a difference of only 579 votes as of this writing. Absentee and provisional ballots are still being counted. So there’s a chance that Saccone could overtake Lamb, however, that’s unlikely.

Democrats predicted victory before yesterday’s election, citing polls showing Lamb holding a slight lead over Saccone. The last survey, coming from Monmouth University (March 8-11; 372 likely PA-18 voters), gave Lamb leads of two to seven points, depending upon the overlaid turnout model. Obviously, the more energized and aggressive Democratic participation model gave Lamb the stronger edge. Under a low turnout model, the lead dropped to two points. Pennsylvania is one of 13 states that has no early voting system, so there were no tangible pre-election turnout indicators for this contest.

The Lamb campaign approached $5 million in dollars raised for the race versus Saccone directly commanding resources in the $1 million range. The national Republican Party organizations and conservative groups entered the district to even the spending, so it’s likely we’ll see total combined expenditures approach or exceed the $15 million mark.

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More on Pennsylvania

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map - Philadelphia Area

Old/New Pennsylvania Congressional Map Comparison – Philadelphia Area
(Click on map to see larger)

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 22, 2018 — A day after the court-imposed Pennsylvania congressional map was instituted, much action is occurring in and around the new districts. A more in-depth look at the now available political numbers, for example, tells a somewhat different story than the one gleaned from simply looking at the new map configuration.

Before discussing the historical numbers and trends, several non-mathematical happenings also transpired.

First, as promised, Republicans filed a federal lawsuit against the new plan, a complaint that largely attacks the state Supreme Court for usurping legislative duties, and less about the districts themselves. The Republicans also make the sub-point that no legal challenge from any party had been leveled against the previous map even though the map cleared the legislative process and stood through three complete election cycles.

The GOP is asking the federal court system to stay the new map until the appropriate judicial panel hears their case. Such a rendering would reinstate the 2011 plan for the current election cycle. Since the revised congressional candidate filing deadline is March 20, we can expect the ruling authorities, most likely the US Supreme Court, to quickly signal an intent.

Assuming the new map stands, Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia), whose Montgomery County-anchored 13th District was split into three southeastern Pennsylvania districts, announced that he will run in District 2. The new PA-2 is predominantly a downtown Philadelphia district that features a voting history where Republicans don’t even reach 30 percent of the vote. This leaves new District 4, where the other large section of his 13th District now resides, as an open seat. The new 4th, where Republicans fare better than in the 2nd but still don’t come close to winning, will elect a freshman Democrat if the court map survives its legal challenge.

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An Open Review – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 6, 2018 — With so many House retirements coming into focus within the past several weeks, it is a good time to review the list of 53 districts heading into their next election without an incumbent on the ballot.

Of the 53, Republicans currently hold 37 seats versus just 16 for the Democrats. Here’s the breakdown of how things look regarding all 53 seats right now:

2018-elections-open-seats

  • Safe Republican (19)
  • Likely Republican (6)
  • Likely Democrat (6)
  • Safe Democrat (6)
  • Lean Republican (5)
  • Lean Democrat (3)
  • Toss-up (8)

This configuration could change drastically if the Pennsylvania map is re-drawn in a court-ordered redistricting. The state Supreme Court has declared the Keystone State map a political gerrymander and has ordered a new plan drawn by Feb. 15.

The state Senate President Pro Tempore is responding, however, that the legislature will not comply with the court order to turn over statistical data need to draw a new map because the state court did not cite the legal provisions violated in making the current plan a gerrymander. Additionally, the US Supreme Court is sending signals that it may try to involve itself even though this case is filed against the Pennsylvania Constitution and not its federal counterpart. We can count on major action coming here within the next several days.

Furthermore, the US Supreme Court is in the process of deciding the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case, which will also affect active lawsuits in Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia; in Pennsylvania, the political gerrymandering lawsuit realm is not directly part of this group because its case is filed within the state court system. But the Republicans have petitioned the federal high court to look at this case for other legal reasons.

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Two More Head Out the House Door

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 2, 2018
— The cavalcade of US House retirements continued with two more well known veteran members, one from each party, making public their intention to retire from Congress.

Counting this latest pair, the number of representatives not seeking re-election has now risen to 53 (37 Republicans; 16 Democrats). Four of the open seats are currently vacant and in special elections, though the MI-13 contest (former Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit) will run concurrently with the regular cycle.

SC-4

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-Spartanburg, SC) | Facebook

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-Spartanburg, SC) | Facebook

Four-term GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-Spartanburg) announced that he will also retire at the end of the current Congress. Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, had signaled his desire to return to South Carolina as early as the 2014 election but continued to remain and now will do so just through the final year of the current term. Prior to assuming the leadership of the government reform committee, Gowdy came to national notoriety as chairman of the special House investigatory committee on the Benghazi situation.

Rep. Gowdy’s 4th Congressional District largely encompasses the Greenville-Spartanburg metropolitan area in the Palmetto State’s northwestern corner. As the Spartanburg County solicitor (known as district attorneys in most states), Gowdy ousted then-Rep. Bob Inglis in the 2010 Republican primary, and has easily been elected and re-elected ever since.

He was commonly viewed as a rising Republican star in the House but eschewed the opportunity to enter any internal leadership races. Gowdy says he will not be on the ballot for any office in 2018, and is planning to return to the South Carolina jurisprudence system.

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Meehan to Go

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 29, 2018 — The alleged sexual harassment situation involving four-term Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford) culminated with his retirement announcement, last week.

Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford)

Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford)

In a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan and his local Republican Party chairman, Meehan wrote that he will not be a candidate for a fifth term in November. But, his personal situation may not be the only reason that voluntarily leaving Congress makes sense for him.

As we’ve discussed on several occasions, the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court invalidated the state’s congressional map earlier this week on grounds that the empowered Republican political apparatus took partisanship too far in constructing the 2011 plan. The GOP will try to flip this case into federal jurisdiction — the US Supreme Court has never ruled a map invalid because of political gerrymandering, and are actively considering several such cases during the current term — but the party’s prospects of doing so are likely poor.

If the state high court’s ruling stands, the legislature and governor will be forced to present a new map to the Justices by Feb. 15 in order to keep pace with the current election calendar. The short deadline will likely avoid compelling the court to delay the state’s March 6 candidate filing deadline and May 15 primary election.

Now with a Democrat governor in office, and not the Republican that signed this map into law, it is highly probable that a veto will occur over the next GOP iteration. If so, then the court will appoint a special master to draw the new map.

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The Pre-Redistricting Wars

redistricting-2018By Jim Ellis

Jan. 23, 2018 — Though we are in the fourth election cycle of the decade, the 2011 redistricting fights are still continuing. The US Supreme Court has been dealing with redistricting cases from five states, but it all could come to a head soon.

The lawsuits first break down into the familiar racial gerrymandering claims, which have been in the courts in some fashion or another since the Voting Rights Act was created in 1965. Currently, the topic of political gerrymandering is hot as both parties are pursuing live complaints against their opponents for drawing congressional and state legislative boundaries to maximize the political standing of one party to the unfair detriment of the other.

The major political gerrymandering case comes from Wisconsin and will likely set the tone for other such suits in Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and possibly Maryland. Democrats are bringing the action in the first four states, while Republicans are challenging Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

Obviously, the high court is getting involved to craft a new set of rulings relating to both racial and political gerrymandering before the entire country goes into a 50-state redistricting round upon completion of the 2020 census. Therefore, election results in 2018 and 2020 to establish incumbency both in the House of Representatives and the state legislatures become critically important.

Last week, the US Supreme Court stayed the most recent North Carolina lower court redistricting ruling. The three-judge panel invalidated the maps, determining that majority Republicans engaged in political gerrymandering. In the last election cycle the Tar Heel State boundaries were also re-drawn to remedy what the panel cited as racial gerrymandering reasons, but the Democrats were unable to make a dent in the Republicans’ 10R-3D delegation advantage.

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Arizona Senate Activity;
North Carolina Map … Again

Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 11, 2018 — Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio made a political move regarding the open Senate race on Tuesday, just as Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) was scheduling a series of statewide “events” for Friday.

The controversial ex-sheriff, who President Trump pardoned earlier in the year just before his sentencing for a contempt of court conviction, announced his candidacy for Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R) open seat. Many, however, including Sen. Flake himself, do not believe that Arpaio will follow through with his candidacy. The former sheriff, who was defeated for re-election in 2016, has frequently said he was going to launch a statewide campaign but ultimately backed away from doing so. As an aside, should Arpaio be elected at 85 years of age, he would become the oldest freshman senator in American history.

Rep. McSally’s Friday appearances are reported to be a Senate announcement tour. Since Sen. Flake announced his retirement, it has been expected that McSally would become a Senate candidate.

Ironically, should Arpaio run, the big beneficiary might actually be McSally. With ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward in position to attract the more conservative Arizona primary voter, Sheriff Arpaio’s presence, complete with his virtually universal name identification and well-known border protection positions, would clearly split the former legislator’s political base. In a state with no secondary run-off election system, this would likely allow McSally the opportunity of winning the nomination without having to secure a majority vote.

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New Year House Preview

US-House-of-Representatives-balance-of-power-January-2018By Jim Ellis

Jan. 8, 2018 — Continuing our federal race outlook to set the political stage in this first week of the actual midterm election year, we now turn to the House races.

Republicans have a 24-seat margin (counting their three vacant seats that will go to special election in the early part of this year: PA-18, AZ-8, and OH-12), and though Democrats and most in the media claim that a new majority is just around the corner, a race-by-race House analysis shows that the road to converting the majority remains difficult to attain. This is so for several key reasons, not the least of which is the typical House incumbent retention factor. In 2016 the rate hit 97 percent (377 victories for the 389 House members who ran for re-election).

Additionally, even though President Trump’s job approval rating is historically low, we must remember that he won the 2016 national election with a personal approval index no higher than his present positive to negative ratios. And, even though congressional approval was well below 20 percent for the entire 2016 election year, Republicans lost only six House seats from their previous modern era record majority of 247 that was attained in the 2014 election.

When we have seen major seat changes occur in past elections, the winning party has done well in converting open seats. For the fourth election cycle in a row, the 2018 House cycle features an above average quantity of incumbent-less US House campaigns – the current number is 45, counting the two latest announced retirees, Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Gregg Harper (R-MS).

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Action Breaking in Texas

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 24, 2017
— Early last week, the three-judge federal panel considering the Texas redistricting lawsuit issued a ruling, one that contained a rather major surprise.

It was expected that Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) and Lloyd Doggett’s (D-Austin) districts would certainly be ordered re-drawn for racial gerrymandering reasons, but it was assumed that Rep. Will Hurd’s (R-San Antonio) 23rd District would also be in the same predicament. In a ruling that certainly caught the Democratic plaintiffs off guard, the court allowed the current 23rd to stand while striking down the other two. The panel also left north Texas in tact, another region the Democrats wanted re-configured.

Now with some certainty that the district will remain intact – though it could tangentially change as a result of re-crafting Doggett’s nearby 35th District – candidates already are starting to make their moves regarding challenging vulnerable two-term incumbent Hurd.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio)

Congressman Hurd was first elected to represent his sprawling central-west Texas district, a seat that stretches more than 550 miles from San Antonio to El Paso, in 2014 when he upset then-Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), 50-48 percent, yielding a margin of just over 2,400 votes. This past November, Rep. Hurd again beat Gallego, this time 48-47 percent, a spread of just over 3,000 votes. Knowing that the turnout would literally double in the presidential year from the previous mid-term, many observers expected Gallego to re-claim the seat and were again surprised when the re-match evolved into a rerun.

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The Texas Re-Draw

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 21, 2017 — The special three-judge panel considering Texas redistricting, which long ago declared the state’s 35th Congressional District as a racial gerrymander, issued a ruling earlier this week that contains re-drawing deadlines.

Early in the decade the panel declared District 35, a seat containing parts of both Austin and San Antonio connected by a thin strip traveling south on Interstate 35 between the two cities and represented by veteran Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), as violating parts of the Voting Rights Act. The ruling cited the intent of map creators to draw the seat using race as a primary basis. The evidence for such a decision consisted of emails among Republican staff members in the state legislature and Congress that proclaimed such a desire.

At the heart of the current issue is then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s (R) decision to adopt the court’s temporary correction map as the state’s official plan. Once the legislature and governor agreed with his idea, the temporary map became permanent, which theoretically ended the process. The flaw in Abbott’s strategy, however, is the court declared at the time of issuance that the fixes were temporary and all of the problems were not corrected, meaning the plan was designed only to get through the 2014 election after which time the legislature was to create a permanent map.

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The First Midterm: A Deeper Story

By Jim Ellis

July 18, 2017 — Much has been made about a new president’s party failing in the midterm directly after his initial national election, but the statistics aren’t quite what they seem. In the House, the average loss for the new president’s party is 26 seats in first midterm during the modern political era, in addition to dropping two Senate seats. But these numbers are misleading.

Many media stories portray the Democrats on the brink of wresting the House majority away from Republicans, and one factor supporting such a claim is the first midterm historical trend. The stories underscore that the Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats to depose the Republicans, two seats less than the average “out party” gain in similar elections.

The research stops short, however, and omits a very key point. Since President Harry S. Truman assumed office in 1945 and stood for election in his own right in 1948, 11 presidents, inclusive, have seen his party lose House seats in first midterm election. President Gerald Ford, because he was never elected to the office, is not included for purposes of this statistical exercise.

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