Early House Outlook – Part IV

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 24, 2021 — Concluding our electoral US House preview, today we look at the final dozen states in the country’s southern region.

• Alabama – 7 Seats (1D6R)

Alabama is on the cusp of losing one of its seven seats in reapportionment. Sources suggest the final numbers are very close and the state may sue over how the figures are tabulated should apportionment take away one of the Republican seats. The Democrats have only one CD in the state, which is a majority minority seat (Rep. Terri Sewell-D) that is a certainty to remain as part of the delegation.

Should Alabama lose a seat in reapportionment, the state’s southeastern region, most particularly the Montgomery anchored 2nd District, would probably the most affected since this is the least populated area of the seven CDs.

• Delaware – 1 Seat (1D)

The home of new President Joe Biden was once a relatively conservative state, but no longer. Delaware is growing but won’t come anywhere near gaining a second seat. Therefore, three-term Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Wilmington) will have an easy electoral ride for the foreseeable future.

• Florida – 27 Seats (11D16R)

The Sunshine State is one of two entities perched to gain multiple new districts. Florida is projected to add two seats, which should give the GOP map drawers the opportunity of protecting the newly won South Florida District 26 (Rep. Carlos Gimenez) and 27 (Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar) while maximizing the Republican compilation of Florida seats. Winning the aforementioned Miami-anchored CDs might result in conceding one of the new seats to the Democrats, however, in order to off-load a significant portion of their left-of-center voters, which would make both seats more Republican.

Holding the governor’s office, both houses of the legislature, and now a majority on the state Supreme Court will allow the GOP to become the big winner in redistricting. The fact that 25 of the 27 districts are over the estimated per district population projection of approximately 740,000 residents provides statistical evidence for expanding the delegation.

Rep. Darren Soto’s (D-Kissimmee) 9th District is the most over-populated seat with more than 931,000 people. Only Reps. Neal Dunn’s (R-Panama City) and Charlie Crist’s (D-St. Petersburg) seats are slightly below the projected population target. Twelve of the current 27 districts now hold more than 800,000 constituents. Expect the new seats to be added in South Florida, most likely toward the Gulf Coast side of the peninsula, and in the Orlando area.

• Georgia – 14 Seats (6D8R)

Though Republicans will control the redistricting pen as a result of holding both the legislature and governor’s office, the party map drawers will be hard-pressed to construct a map that allows their members to dominate the delegation as they did 10 years ago. Gaining a seat in 2010 reapportionment, the GOP began the decade with a 10-4 advantage in the House delegation only to see two Atlanta suburban seats slip away as a result of demographic and political changes in the metropolitan area.

Georgia is expected to remain constant in this reapportionment with their 14 seats. The GOP will attempt to make at least one of the seats they lost, District 6 (Rep. Lucy McBath) or District 7 (Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux) more Republican and thus give themselves a chance to re-claim a seat for the coming decade.

Expect a move to make one of these two seats, probably District 6, more Democratic in order to make District 7 more Republican especially since the latter CD is the most over-populated seat in the state with more than 844,000 residents and will have to shed close to 90,000 individuals to other districts.

• Kentucky – 6 Seats (1D5R)

The Bluegrass State is another that will remain constant in relation to reapportionment. With the Democrats now controlling the governor’s office and Republicans featuring majorities in both houses of the legislature, the failure to agree on a status quo map could send the process to court.

Republican Rep. Andy Barr (R-Lexington) would be looking to shed some Democratic voters after a close call in the 2018 election. His 6th District is the most over-populated in the state and would likely have to send approximately 30,000 individuals to other districts. All of the incumbents appear to be in strong political shape. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Somerset), who will be 85 years old just after the 2022 election, is certainly a retirement possibility.

• Maryland – 8 Seats (7D1R)

Maryland will remain an eight-district state but will the Democrats who control the redistricting process attempt to draw an 8D-0R map? Rep. Andy Harris (R-Cockeysville) is the lone Republican in the delegation, and he drew the ire of Maryland Democrats when he voted not to accept the Electoral College report.

Despite campaigning in 2010 that he would only serve six terms, Harris announced this week that he will seek another term in 2022. Therefore, redistricting may be Rep. Harris’ biggest political hurdle to overcome in 2022.

• Mississippi – 4 Seats (1D3R)

The Magnolia State will continue with four seats and likely the same delegation barring retirements. With all four members winning with at least 65 percent of the vote in 2020, it appears Mississippi will remain a politically stable state for at least most of the coming decade.

• North Carolina – 13 Seats (5D8R)

The Tar Heel State is another that is scheduled to gain a congressional seat, and possibly sits on the cusp of a second. They missed adding to the delegation in 2010 by approximately 15,000 people, so there is an outside chance that the growth has been large enough to add two new congressional districts. All current 13 districts are well over the projected per district population target.

With Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper having no veto power over redistricting legislation and the Republicans holding both houses of the legislature, the GOP will control the map drawing process. Democrats still maintain a one-seat majority on the state Supreme Court but lost two seats in November, including seeing the Chief Justice’s chair slip away. The previous NC Supreme Court imposed a new map upon the state for the 2020 congressional elections that awarded the Democrats two seats, but they might not witness the same outcome from the impending redistricting.

Republican election gains make this judicial body less favorable for the Democrats. Expect the 2021 map to tilt a bit more Republican as the GOP should be able to capture the new 14th District as well as cementing their other eight seats.

• South Carolina – 7 Seats (1D6R)

Despite being the sixth fastest growing state in the country, the South Carolina congressional delegation is expected to remain constant at seven seats. The Palmetto State gained a district in 2010 reapportionment and will likely be set to gain another in 2030, but for now a projection to easily retain seven seats is the probable scenario.

With Republicans in full control of the legislative process, expect the delegation also to remain consistent with a 6R-1D split. The Charleston-anchored 1st District (Rep. Nancy Mace-R) is over-populated to the tune of having an aggregate of 821,000 people, while the adjacent 6th District (Rep. Jim Clyburn-D) is only registering approximately 665,000 constituents. Therefore, we will see most of the population shift between these two districts.

• Tennessee – 9 Seats (2D7R)

Tennessee is registering below average growth when compared to the other 49 states, but they are in no danger of losing a seat. With Republicans in control of the redistricting pen, expect the 7R-2D partisan division to remain intact. The Nashville area seats are over-populated while the western districts must gain constituents. The eastern CDs appear to be very close to the projected population per district target.

• Virginia – 11 Seats (7D4R)

At the beginning of the decade, Virginia was projected to be a state that gained congressional representation, but the early population growth trends did not continue. Therefore, the Commonwealth will remain constant with 11 districts. The seats in Northern Virginia are over-populated while the far western region will need to gain population.

With their control of both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion, Democrats were in position to control redistricting, but a voter approved ballot proposition has now created a citizens’ commission to draw the lines. That being the case, we can more than likely expect the current party division among the eleven districts to continue especially when taking into consideration that the state is moving decidedly toward the Democrats.

• West Virginia – 3 Seats (3R)

West Virginia is another of the losing states, and a lower population in all three districts means that one of trio will be transferred to another state. Since Republicans hold all three seats, they will obviously be the party that loses even though they control the redistricting process.

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