Monthly Archives: February 2012

Texas Redistricting Map Released

The three-judge federal panel in San Antonio yesterday released the latest version of the Texas congressional map, along with those for the state House and Senate. It is clear the panel adhered to the mandate the US Supreme Court delivered when the body rejected the original court map because the population was not equally dispersed among the 36 districts, and some of the minority districts did not meet previous federal directives.

The Texas Legislative Council released partisan numbers for the new seats, but not minority counts. Once the complete data is available, a full analysis can be provided.

At a cursory glance, it appears Republicans will fare much better with this map than under the previous court plan. Because the three-judge panel was forced to give deference to the legislatively passed map, the elected body’s original footprint has been restored.

The map appears to improve the seats of Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX-6) and Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), both of whom were given marginal districts in the first court plan. Freshman Rep. Quico Canseco (R-TX-23) will continue to battle in a marginal 50/50 district, but has a better draw now than previously.

In the East Texas 14th District, being vacated by Rep. Ron Paul (R), the Galveston-Beaumont region is again together, which favors former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX-9 and 22), but is even more Republican than in past versions. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-25) is placed in the 35th District, a seat that stretches from Travis County, the Congressman’s home, into Bexar County. It will be a heavily Hispanic district. The new 25th District then becomes an open Republican seat that begins in western Travis County and meanders northward toward Ft. Worth.

It appears the GOP would be favored in 25 seats and the Democrats in 10, with the Canseco district being in toss-up status. A more detailed analysis will be conducted once the full demographic and political data becomes public.

Snowe’s Retirement a Blow to Republicans

In perhaps bigger news that Mitt Romney’s Tuesday wins in Michigan and Arizona, three-term Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) sent shock waves through the political world by announcing that she has decided not to seek re-election in the fall. Despite high favorability and poll ratings, Snowe indicated she is leaving the Senate at the end of the term rather than serve in a Republican caucus that is trending far to the right of her individual ideological perspective.

The retirement is a blow to Republican chances of regaining the Senate majority, as the Maine seat appeared secure. Without Snowe in the race, Democrats become the favorites in an open seat race.

Expect Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) and Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) to give serious consideration to running, as might former Gov. John Baldacci (D). Republican Gov. Paul LePage also has to be considered a strong potential candidate, but he has given no early indication that he will run.

Because Maine has a penchant for electing Independents in statewide contests, one also must consider who could run without being associated with a major party. Former two-term Independent Gov. Angus King would top this list of potential contenders.

Sen. Snowe becomes the 10th Senator to retire at the end of this Congress, meaning that 30 percent of the 2012 in-cycle seats will be open. Of the 10 upcoming vacancies, six are currently held by Democrats, one by an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats (Sen. Joe Lieberman), and three Republicans.

What Do Mitt’s Tuesday Wins Mean?

Mitt Romney won a close victory in Michigan last night and a landslide victory in Arizona, but his performance still doesn’t knock out Rick Santorum. Because of what appears to be only a three-point victory in the Wolverine State, Romney probably will score only two more delegates from this state than does his chief opponent.

Arizona, on the other hand, is setting itself up as a winner-take-all state (29 delegates due to penalty), but that format is in defiance of Republican National Committee rules. Expect a major challenge here if the race goes all the way to the national convention.

With splits predicted for the upcoming Super Tuesday states, including the Washington caucuses this Saturday, the outcome of the GOP nomination battle will likely not be settled even after those states pass. Much more to come in this presidential race.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Now that redistricting has been virtually completed in 36 of the 43 multi-congressional district states, the action tide has waned. During the past week significant action occurred only in Minnesota, but the state Supreme Court ruling ended the process by adopting a final map.

Here’s an update of where things stand with the states followed by a briefing on the action in Minnesota:

Congressional Redistricting Now Completed (36):

Alabama Idaho Michigan Ohio Virginia
Arkansas Illinois Minnesota Oklahoma Washington
Arizona Indiana Mississippi Oregon West Virginia
California Iowa Missouri Pennsylvania Wisconsin
Colorado Louisiana Nebraska Rhode Island
Connecticut Maine Nevada South Carolina
Georgia Maryland New Jersey Tennessee
Hawaii Massachusetts New Mexico Utah

Plans Awaiting Governor’s Signature (1):
Kentucky

Court Maps to be Drawn (1):
Texas

Completed Plans; Litigation Underway (2):
Florida
North Carolina

Legislative Action Underway (3):
Kansas
New Hampshire
New York

MINNESOTA (current delegation: 4R-4D) – The Minnesota Supreme Court issued a new set of congressional districts that will likely stand for the next 10 years. The state holds the 435th seat in the House, since they missed losing a district by only 13,000 people under the 2010 reapportionment formula calculations. As you can see when looking at the two Minneapolis-St. Paul seat statistics (Districts 4 and 5), the majority of the state’s population loss comes from its twin cities. Conversely, the growth is found in the two suburban Republican seats, CDs 2 and 6. Therefore, the Minnesota individual congressional district population target is a low 662,991.

As a result of continuing to maintain eight districts, the high court adopted a “least change” map, as you can see from the following statistics:
MN-1 – Rep Tim Walz-D: 9.97% new territory; needed to gain 18,204 people
MN-2 – Rep. John Kline-R: 13.44% new territory; needed to shed 69,524
MN-3 – Rep Erik Paulsen-R: 8.95% new territory; needed to gain 12,806 people
MN-4 – Rep. Betty McCollum-D: 17.46% new turf; needed to gain 48,367
MN-5 – Rep. Keith Ellison-D: 7.02% new territory; needed to gain 46,509
MN-6 – Rep. Michele Bachmann-R: 5.23% new turf; needed to shed 95,487
MN-7 – Rep. Collin Peterson-D: 6.05% new turf; needed to gain 37,479 people
MN-8 – Rep. Chip Cravaack-R: 0.40% new territory; needed to gain 2,649

All of the MN districts changed very little in partisan terms, too. Arguably, the big winner was Rep. Michele Bachmann, as her 6th District sees a net gain of four Republican percentage points. She retains 94.8% of her current district but, unfortunately, she lives in the 5.23% of the district that went to another seat. Her home now resides in Rep. Betty McCollum’s 4th District. Under federal law congressional candidates are not required to live in their districts hence, Ms. Bachmann has already announced for re-election in the new 6th.

With the map remaining in about the same position as it was during the last decade, we can again expect to see a Minnesota political playing field that is open to competition in potentially five of its eight seats. Should Rep. Peterson retire or run for a different office, then an open MN-7 seat would become a potential GOP conversion opportunity.

Is Kerrey In After All?

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE), who hasn’t lived in Nebraska since leaving office in early 2001, may be reconsidering the decision he made two weeks ago to jettison a political comeback attempt in the Cornhusker State. Kerrey is reportedly now telling Democratic leaders that he has changed his mind and will enter the race as a candidate for the Senate. The former Senator served two terms from 1989 through 2001. Prior to his service in Washington, Mr. Kerrey logged one term as Nebraska’s governor. In 1992, he ran an ill-fated campaign for president.

The Kerrey decision may be more than simple equivocation, however. This could be a well-planned and shrewd move. Under Nebraska’s candidate filing law, current office holders must file for re-election or another office by Feb. 15 during this particular election cycle. Non-office holders have until March 1. The unique law allowed Kerrey the luxury of standing back to see what popular Gov. Dave Heineman (R) actually decided about his own Senatorial candidacy. Heineman never appeared serious about running for federal office, but he also failed to publicly close the door on a bid. Polling showed that the governor would be the strongest candidate in either party.

With Heineman out and no strong Democrat on the horizon, the way is clear for Kerrey to return to political action. Should he run, he will face either Attorney General Jon Bruning or state Treasurer Don Stenberg in the general election. Even against Kerrey, the Republicans still might have a slight edge. With Sen. Ben Nelson (D) retiring, the GOP is in prime conversion position as President Obama, at the top of the ticket, is not projected to run strong here. The Nebraska seat is critical for both parties in terms of winning majority status.