Tag Archives: Redistricting

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 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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The Florida Switch

Oct. 20, 2015 — Central Florida House Republicans are getting nervous. The new redistricting plan, which the state Supreme Court is likely to soon adopt, is not kind to the middle-state GOP incumbents. In preparation, press rumors are floating that several members will switch districts in order for each to have a winnable place to run next year.

Under the lower court’s proposed map, Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL-10) is the odd man out. His current Orlando-anchored district goes from a 46 percent Obama district to one where the president scored 61 percent. Therefore, the new 10th District becomes unwinnable for Webster even by his own admission.

Ironically, Rep. Alan Grayson’s (D) 9th District, now a 62 percent Obama district becomes even more Republican than the new 10th. The new southeastern Orlando suburban 9th would carry a 56 percent Obama rating, but even this Republican improvement would not yield a GOP victory particularly in a presidential election year. The 9th will be an open seat because Rep. Grayson is running for the Senate.

Rep. John Mica’s (R) 7th District is currently a 47 percent Obama district that would move to 49 percent Obama because the city of Sanford is annexed, which makes it a virtual tie at the presidential level (Mitt Romney also scored 49 percent). The open 6th District, northeast of the 7th that hugs the Atlantic coast from Daytona through Volusia County, is the seat Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) is vacating to run for Senate. This district gets more Democratic, too, but should remain in Republican hands. Originally, the 6th gave 41 percent of its votes to Obama; now, it would be 46 percent.

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The Hidden Reason Why McCain is
Being Challenged in Arizona

May 28, 2015 — A surprising story broke in Arizona Tuesday. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) announced that she will forego her re-election bid and instead challenge Sen. John McCain (R) next year. The congresswoman was included on most “possible candidate” lists, but was not viewed as someone overtly planning to make the jump into the statewide contest. Her move, however, may be a precursor to another decision that will soon enter the public domain.

With McCain’s approval numbers dropping into the dangerously low category (36:51 percent favorable to unfavorable according to Public Policy Polling), Kirkpatrick’s move is not without political reason. The latest PPP survey (May 1-3; 600 registered Arizona voters) finds her trailing the senator only 36-42 percent, certainly suggesting that such a general election pairing would yield a competitive contest.

But, the driving force behind Kirkpatrick may not be McCain’s perceived vulnerability. Rather, since the US Supreme Court is poised to soon render a decision on the Arizona redistricting challenge, it may be this issue that is actually motivating Kirkpatrick to move forward.

The Arizona Republicans are challenging the state’s congressional map on the grounds that the US Constitution only gives federal redistricting power to state legislatures. Before the 2000 reapportionment, voters adopted a ballot proposition that created a redistricting commission empowered to draw congressional and state legislative lines. The crux of the suit argues that a citizens’ commission has no authority to draw congressional lines.
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Developments in MS-1 Special,
Illinois Senate, Virginia Redistricting

April 1, 2015 — Candidate filing closed this past Friday for the MS-1 special election, which Rep. Alan Nunnelee’s (R) death made necessary. Twelve Republicans and one Democrat will be on the May 12 Mississippi jungle primary ballot. With so many candidates qualifying, a June 2 run-off between the top two finishers is a virtual certainty, since it would be very difficult for any one contender to attract a majority of the vote.

One prominent name missing from the list is former Rep. Travis Childers (D), who won the last special election held here, and then claimed a full term later in 2008. He was unseated in 2010, and then lost to Sen. Thad Cochran (R) last November in a statewide general election contest. Though it is always possible lightning could have again struck for him in a special election, the chance of Childers holding this strongly Republican northern Mississippi district for a long duration is an unlikely one, at best. Hence, his decision not to run.

The lone Democrat running is former Jackson mayoral aide Walter Zinn. His prospects of qualifying for the run-off are somewhat realistic because the Republican vote will be split literally a dozen ways. His prospects are thin, however, to capture the seat in the run-off. Aside from being a prohibitive underdog against a Republican in a one-on-one battle, Zinn’s Jackson political base is not even in the 1st District.
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Weekly Redistricting Roundup

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following seven states during the past week: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas.

ALABAMA (current delegation: 6R-1D) – The Department of Justice officially granted pre-clearance for the Alabama congressional map, making the enacted map a virtual lock to survive all future legal challenges. The plan protects all seven incumbents and should return the 6R-1D delegation split for the ensuing decade.

ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – The Arizona state Supreme Court overturned Arizona Independent Redistricting Chair Colleen Mathis’ (I) impeachment, thus reinstating her as a member of the panel. This likely means that the Commission will now be able to pass a new congressional map into law. The draft map has now exceeded the required time limit for public comment and is ready for passage. The panel has indicated that some changes will be made based upon input received. Mathis says the Commission will complete its work before Christmas. The map features four Republican districts, two Democratic, and three swing seats that will likely trend toward the Democrats as the decade progresses. For her part, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) who led Mathis’ impeachment drive, indicated she may again pursue an effort to remove her.

COLORADO (current delegation: 4R-3D) – The Republicans decided to appeal the lower court action that constructed the new congressional districts. Under the plan, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6) is endangered and Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) continues to hold a very marginal seat. The state Supreme Court will hear the appeal and have scheduled the first week of December for oral arguments.

KENTUCKY (current delegation: 4R-2D) – Now that the odd-numbered year elections are over, the Kentucky legislature released draft congressional maps. The congressional delegation itself proposed a map and state Assembly Speaker Greg Stumbo (D) also put forth his plan. Both are similar, particularly in the way they protect the 4R-2D current footprint. The Democrats control the governor’s office and the state Assembly. Republicans have a strong majority in the Senate. The deal appears to give all four GOP members safe seats but also shores up Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) who had a close call in the 2010 election, winning by just 515 votes. The incumbent protection plan is expected to pass into law.

MASSACHUSETTS (current delegation: 10D; loses one seat) – After a slight delay due to a legislative procedural maneuver, the state Senate passed the House version of the new nine-district congressional map. Gov. Deval Patrick (D) signed the plan into law yesterday. The map should elect nine Democrats in succeeding elections. With Rep. John Olver (D-MA-1) retiring, his 1st District was collapsed into the Springfield seat of Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA-2), making one large western Mass district. Freshman Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA-10) will run in the new 9th District despite his home city of Quincy being placed in Rep. Stephen Lynch’s (D-MA-9) new 8th District.

MINNESOTA (current delegation: 4R-4D) – Late last week, the political parties filed their proposed congressional maps with the special judicial panel hearing the redistricting lawsuit. The legislature passed a map, but Gov. Mark Dayton (D) vetoed the plan. Therefore, the court must draw a de novo map. For their part, the Republicans filed the eight-district bill that passed the legislature. The Democrats submitted their own map, but the plan was so partisan that even two of their own congressional members, Reps. Betty McCollum (D-MN-4) and Collin Peterson (D-MN-7), both decried it saying their Democratic Party leaders went too far. The Dem plan pairs Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) with McCollum in a new Democratic 4th District that is only two points below the present MN-4 partisan number. Bachmann, should she choose to seek re-election to the House, could move to a nearby more Republican seat, so it is unlikely that the pairing will ever occur. McCollum’s chief of staff was quoted as saying, “The DFL Chair and his high-paid lawyers have proposed a congressional map to the redistricting panel that is hyper-partisan and bizarre.” Peterson stated his belief that both party’s maps are too partisan. The court is taking input from all sides and will put forth its own plan at a later date.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – The three-judge panel drawing the new Texas maps released the state House and Senate maps, meaning the congressional plans will soon be made public, probably right before Thanksgiving or the Monday after the holiday. The panel favored the Democratic versions of the submitted legislative plans, and much the same is expected for the congressional plan. The enacted US House plan would likely have elected 26 Republicans and 10 Democrats. The court plan will likely be closer to a 22- or 23-R, 14- or 13-D map.