Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez
Won’t Seek Re-Election

By Jim Ellis

Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Rocky River)

Sept. 21, 2021 — Saying he believes that former President Donald Trump “shouldn’t ever be president again,” sophomore Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Rocky River) announced on Friday that he will not seek a third term in the House.

Rep. Gonzalez was one of 10 Republicans to support Trump’s second impeachment, and drew a strong Republican primary opponent as a result. Former President Trump responded to Gonzalez’s statement and decision with his own release saying, “1 down, 9 to go,” in reference to those Republican House members who supported removing him from office after the Jan. 6 Capitol invasion.

Gonzalez is the 19th member who will not be on the next election ballot for the US House seat he now holds, including the three vacancies to be filled in special elections. Of the 19, Republicans currently hold 10 seats as compared to nine for the Democrats. This is the first GOP opening with some competitive potential, however, though the Gonzalez decision will likely have a big impact upon the Ohio redistricting process currently under way within the state legislature in Columbus.

Former White House aide Max Miller had been Rep. Gonzalez’s top Republican competitor. Through the June 30 campaign financial disclosure period, Miller had raised just under $1 million ($951,520), but had only $533,153 remaining in cash-on-hand.

Despite Miller’s strong fundraising effort, Rep. Gonzalez still held the upper hand, reporting $1.22 million raised with over $1.5 million in the bank. Therefore, while the Miller challenge appeared formidable, it was not a foregone conclusion that he would have denied Rep. Gonzalez re-nomination had the congressman decided to continue running.

Rep. Gonzalez’s 16th Congressional District begins in the Westlake area to the west of Cleveland and stretches south toward the rural areas southwest of Canton. It then meanders to the northeast around Akron to end in the city of Edinburg.

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Colorado Redistricting Map:
Congressional Version 3

The Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission members released for public input the third congressional map — and second staff offering. (Click on map to see bigger map, more detail)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 20, 2021 — The Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission (congressional) members are on a tight time schedule so they are moving fast. The third congressional map, and second staff offering, was released for public input late last week.

Under the commission parameters, the members produced the first map and the staff constructed the second after completing public hearings. Once both maps were publicized, further comments were recorded. Responding again, the staff amended their draw and released the newest iteration.

The ballot initiative that created the commission process mandates that the members agree upon a map by Sept. 28. A super majority of eight of the 12 members is required to approve a final plan. If the commission members are unable to agree upon a map in such a ratio, the staff would then directly submit a version to the state Supreme Court. The high court must confirm the new congressional plan by Dec. 15. Therefore, it is reasonable to argue that the commission staff possesses more power than the members.

Clearly there were objections, likely from both parties, to the original staff map. Based upon public input, they claimed, a seat that occupied most of the state’s southern quadrant was placed into District 3, historically known as the “western slope” seat. It has traditionally stretched from the Rocky Mountains west of Denver all the way to the Utah border and from Wyoming to New Mexico.

The original staff map changed the 3rd District’s direction, eliminating its northern sector. This had the effect of pairing Reps. Joe Neguse (D-Boulder) and freshman Lauren Boebert (R-Silt) technically into one seat. The heart of District 3 largely remained intact under this map, so even though Boebert’s home was placed in District 2, she still had a place to run. Therefore, the potential incumbent pairing, a political set-up that would have greatly favored Rep. Neguse, is likely alleviated.

Drawing the southern seat had the effect of taking Neguse’s 2nd District from Boulder County all the way to Utah and significantly changing his district, as well. Though it would remain a solid Democratic seat, many conservative western slope voters would have been introduced into a new CD that also included liberal Boulder.

It is highly likely that neither Boebert nor Neguse liked that particular draw, and many leaders of both parties also probably lobbied the commission members and staff to change the map. If so, the persuasion worked.

The new staff map restores the western slope district to its previous formation, meaning encompassing Colorado’s western quadrant from Wyoming to New Mexico along the Utah border. It does include Democratic Pueblo County, which brings some competition to the district. According to the commission’s political statistical package, a historical eight-race averaging of significant electoral contests, the 3rd District would become relatively safe for Rep. Boebert with an R+9 political performance.

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First Indiana Map Published

Indiana Congressional Districts Draft Map (click on map to see larger file size details)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 17, 2021 — The Indiana House Republican majority caucus released the state’s first 2021 congressional redistricting map, and it appears to strengthen the party’s 7-2 grip on the Hoosier State federal delegation.

Political data is not readily accessible, but the geographic outline and reaction from at least one former Democratic congressional candidate suggests the biggest change comes in the state’s 5th District. IN-5 is the geographically central seat that had been trending away from being the safe Republican CD we saw during the previous decade’s early period.

Former state representative and 2016 lieutenant governor nominee Christina Hale (D), who lost to freshman Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Noblesville) by a relatively close open seat 50-46 percent count last November, claims the House Republicans “kneecapped” any Democrat wanting to run in this district for the foreseeable future.

Though the official political data is not available, the Daily Kos Elections team calculated that former President Trump would have carried this new version of the 5th District with a 57-41 percent margin. His victory totals in the present 5th from 2020 and 2016 were 50-48 and 53-41 percent, respectively.

The current 5th District encompasses all or part of eight central Indiana counties including just over 180,000 people from Marion County in the northern Indianapolis suburbs. These are the precincts making the 5th more competitive as they now lean Democratic.

The proposed CD-5, and this released map, are a long way from being adopted through the legislative process; it would see a jettisoning of all of its Marion County population. Instead, the new district would occupy five whole counties north of Indianapolis and the Marion County line in addition to annexing almost all of Howard County.

The district coming into Marion County to replace the residents shed from the 5th is Rep. Greg Pence’s (R-Columbus) 6th District. Instead of moving in a north south direction along the Ohio border as is the current configuration, the proposed IN-6 would move from the Ohio border and enjoin counties to the west all the way into Marion County. The 6th, however, would assume the necessary Marion County population in the southern portion of the Indianapolis metropolitan area instead of the northern territory.

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Newsom Wins Recall; Other Elections

By Jim Ellis

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)

Sept. 16, 2021 — California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) easily avoided being recalled in last night’s statewide election, but the margin will likely close once all of the ballots are received and finally counted. The reported results are largely from mail ballots received well before election day. The posted turnout totals exceed 9 million voters, and this number will continue to grow.

The NO option on the recall ballot, meaning the vote individuals cast in order to keep Gov. Newsom in office, is running just under 64 percent, but under the California system of ballot signature verification it will be several weeks before we see official final totals. California also allows a long post-election period for ballots postmarked on election day to be received. It is clear, however, that Newsom will survive in office by a wide margin, but with an end-result closer margin than we see in early returns.

Though the replacement election became moot with the recall being rejected, conservative commentator Larry Elder was the clear leader, recording a tick under 47 percent of the vote. The next closest candidate was Democrat Kevin Paffrath with 10 percent. Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R) finished third with just under 9 percent. John Cox (R), who was one of the leading recall effort funders and the finalist against Newsom in the 2018 election, fell back to less than 4.5% of the vote. Media star Caitlin Jenner (R), who proved not to be a serious candidate, scored just 1.1% in the replacement election.

All of the replacement candidates were at a disadvantage in terms of financial resources. Though Elder raised a reported $18 million, an impressive amount in a short time frame, Gov. Newsom spent possibly as much as $80 million.

The rules for Newsom, however, were different. Because he was the recall subject, and the people were deciding the question as to whether or not he alone should remain in office, the campaign financial structure for him was that of a referendum. Therefore, he could raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals and entities. The replacement candidates, because they were running in an election campaign, were bound by the state campaign finance laws that feature contribution amount limits.

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The New Mexico Ploy

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 15, 2021 — During the last week reports were surfacing that suggested the New Mexico State Democratic leadership was considering ways to turn the current 2D-1R congressional map into a 3D-0R plan. This might be easier said than done, however.

New Mexico is one of the Democrats’ 15 “trifecta states,” meaning the party controls all three legs of the redistricting stool: the state Senate, state House, and governor’s mansion. Republicans have 23 trifectas. Therefore, if the Democrats are to minimize the redistricting damage, or even possibly come out slightly ahead, they must fully use their political leverage in the states they control.

Of the Democrats’ 15 trifectas, however, five of the states handle redistricting through a commission, and in another five the party already controls all the congressional seats. Therefore, if they are to make a national redistricting play they must take maximum advantage in Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon. The lay of the land, however, makes it very difficult to expand their fortunes in Nevada and possibly Oregon, which is why trying to take an extra seat from New Mexico makes some sense from a national Democratic perspective.

New Mexico has three congressional seats, all of which a freshman represents. The 1st (Rep. Melanie Stansbury; D-Albuquerque) and 3rd Districts (Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez; D-Santa Fe) in the northern part of the state are safely Democratic.

The southern 2nd District (Rep. Yvette Herrell; R-Alamogordo), which encompasses almost all of the territory south of Albuquerque, has performed as a Republican seat at the congressional level in 19 of the last 21 elections. Democrats picked up the district in their recent wave election years (2006; 2018) with open seat victories, but the voters favored the Republican challenger in both successive elections. This, despite NM-2 being a majority Hispanic district: 53.7 percent of the overall population according to the previous census data.

Additionally, the current seats are not widely out of population balance. The 1st District needs to gain just 11,264 people, while the 2nd must shed 8,181 individuals, and the 3rd must relinquish 3,082 residents. Therefore, a radical re-draw that results in a sweep of the three districts for one party when the population swings are so small would certainly draw a political gerrymandering lawsuit upon adoption of the new map. Whether such a lawsuit would succeed of course is a question that can only be answered when the final map is drawn and enacted.

Likely, the only way to draw a 3D-0R map in New Mexico would be to keep the northern 3rd District Democratic seat virtually intact, and then draw the Republican 2nd into Albuquerque. This would cause the city and Bernalillo County to be split resulting in the 1st and 2nd then appearing as southwestern and southeastern seats that divide Albuquerque, and subsequently stretch all the way to the Mexican border.

Even this draw might make it difficult to create three Democratic seats because the southeastern district would still have the potential of being Republican enough to make the party’s candidate, in this case Rep. Herrell, strong enough to have a chance of winning a general election.

New Mexico is a good example as how a largely internal state exercise can transform itself to help achieve a national partisan goal. It remains to be seen just how bold the New Mexico Democrats will be, as this small and sometimes obscure state steps into the national redistricting limelight.