Monthly Archives: January 2021

More Redistricting Delays

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 29, 2021 — The Census Bureau announced at mid-week yet another postponement in releasing the national apportionment figures, this time until April 30. Reapportionment should have been completed by Dec. 31, but the Bureau previously announced that March 6 would be the new release date due to COVID-related problems. Now, we see further delays.

Reapportionment is the process of creating a new census data algorithm in order to project the number of congressional seats each state will be awarded for the coming decade. It appears that 10-12 seats could change states, with the northeast and Midwest typically losing districts to southern and western states. This time, however, California, for the first time in history, is reversing their trend and appears headed for the losing list.

Once the apportionment numbers are known and the individual data dispersed, the states can begin the redistricting process. The Census Bureau further stated that individual states won’t be receiving their particular data necessary for redistricting until at least July 30. This will clearly set the redistricting cycle back significantly, which could cause major problems for the coming election cycle.

In the past, the Census Bureau has prioritized the states with early primaries to be first to receive their data. This meant that New Jersey and Virginia initially received their new population numbers ahead of the others because they have odd-numbered year state legislative elections. Texas and Illinois were next to receive since they traditionally schedule their regular primaries in March of the election year.

Knowing that the numbers would not be available for them in 2021, New Jersey and Virginia took preparatory action. Garden State officials placed a referendum on the November ballot asking voters for approval to postpone legislative redistricting until 2023. The measure passed.

The Old Dominion leaders decided they would run their 2021 state Delegate elections on the amended 2011 map but could conceivably call elections again for next year once they receive their updated data and can draw district boundaries. Virginia state senators do not stand for election until 2023, so it is unlikely the redistricting delay will affect those campaigns.

The data distribution and processing delay could place most legislatures in a conundrum. Most will be adjourned when the data is received, so special sessions will have to be called in most cases to complete the process prior to the 2022 candidate filing deadlines. This suggests that the states having redistricting commissions might prove to be in better position to complete the task because they won’t have to deal with legislative politics, priorities, or calendars, all of which result in a lengthy process.

Additionally, since almost every map is challenged in court, we could well see a plethora of lawsuits being filed late in the year that keep the redistricting process tied in figurative knots for months.

The states in the most difficult situations will be those gaining and losing congressional representation. Because the number of districts these particular states will have differ from their current allotments, they do not have the option of reverting to the current map once 2021 apportionment becomes final.

In the case of gainers and losers not having completed maps, we may see at-large races for the House. This would be particularly difficult for the losing states because we may see all members in the affected places having to run at-large for seats in their House delegations.

Unofficially, the gaining states appear to be Texas (3 seats), Florida (2), Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon. The losers may be New York (possibly 2 seats), Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. Reports suggest that the closest developing situation concerns whether Alabama loses a seat or New York drops two.

President Biden’s executive order that mandates non-citizens be counted in the census will certainly affect the final data projections and may be another reason for this latest delay.

The only certainty about 2021 reapportionment and redistricting is the many moving parts in these various states will likely produce surprising political results.

Jockeying for Ohio’s Senate Seat

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 28, 2021 — Monday’s surprise announcement that Sen. Rob Portman (R) will not seek re-election next year has ignited a flurry of activity and speculation from potential candidates and political observers alike. Some looking to challenge Gov. Mike DeWine (R) are now also beginning to survey and assess how an open US Senate candidate field might unfold.

Recent voter history suggests that the eventual Republican nominee will at least begin the general election campaign in the favorite’s role. The GOP, with a large number of statewide office holders, former elected officials, and a dozen sitting US House members, has an array of candidates from which to choose, and many will take the plunge.

For example, former US Rep. Jim Renacci, who held Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) to a 53-47 percent victory in the 2018 campaign and was reportedly looking to challenge Gov. DeWine in the 2022 Republican primary, may now set his sights on the open Senate seat.

Another ex-office holder, Pat Tiberi, who averaged 60.6 percent of the vote over nine elections from a Columbus area congressional district that former governor and presidential candidate John Kasich once held, still sits on more than $5 million in his federal campaign account even though he hasn’t been on the ballot since 2016.

It was widely believed that he was amassing a huge war chest to run against Sen. Brown in ’18, but family considerations led him to change his mind, resign from Congress and instead take the reins of the Ohio Business Roundtable.

Still another former elected official, ex-state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who lost the 2012 Senate election to Sen. Brown, was planning to run again in 2018 until leaving the race because of his wife’s health issue. Mandel raised almost $20 million for his Senate race eight years ago and has over $4 million in his campaign account even though he has not been a federal candidate in eight years.

Republicans hold all of the state’s constitutional offices. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Attorney General Dave Yost, state Treasurer Robert Sprague, and State Auditor Keith Faber are all credible potential US Senate candidates.

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Ohio Sen. Portman to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) surprisingly announced his retirement Monday.

Jan. 27, 2021 — Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) surprisingly announced Monday that he will not seek a third term next year, opening the third Senate seat for the 2022 election cycle.

Addressing reporters at a news conference in Cincinnati yesterday, Sen. Portman said, “Our country’s polarized right now. It’s kind of shirts and skins. That makes it more difficult to find that common ground. Elected officials aren’t rewarded for that. What they’re rewarded for is throwing red meat to the talk show.”

The two-term senator indicated that the “partisan gridlock” is one of the reasons for his retirement. He further said in explaining his retirement decision, “we just keep pushing out to the right and to the left, there’s not going to be much left in the middle to solve the real problems we face.”

For the Republicans, they now have three big state open seats to defend as Sen. Portman joins Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Pat Toomey and North Carolina’s Richard Burr as incumbents who have already made their 2022 retirement plans public. Several others could be on the horizon.

Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will be 88 and 89 years of age, respectively, at the time of the next election, and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R) originally took a two-term pledge when he was first elected in 2010. None of these three lawmakers have made their future political plans public to date, however.

Ohio, once a bedrock Republican state, developed a swing image beginning in 1992 when the state deserted GOP President George H.W. Bush and backed Democrat Bill Clinton. They did so again in 1996. In 2000 and 2004, Ohio returned to the Republican column awarding George W. Bush with its electoral votes. In 2008 and 2012, the Buckeye State ventured back to the Democratic side of the political ledger, supporting Barack Obama in both of his national elections.

Therefore, rather than being cast as a swing state during this 20 year period, Ohio may actually have been a microcosm of the national electorate since the state’s voters chose the winning candidate in each of the presidential elections during that time span, and had done likewise for the three previous decades.

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Candidate Filing Closes

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 26, 2021 — Filing for the March 20 special congressional elections to fill the two Louisiana vacant seats, Districts 2 and 5, closed on Friday, meaning that the participating candidates are now identified.

Louisiana Republican Rep.-Elect Luke Letlow’s widow, Julia Letlow, is running for her late husband’s seat.

In the 2nd District, the New Orleans-anchored seat that stretches northward to include part of Baton Rouge, we see 15 individuals filing. The locals, however, highlight three significant Democratic contenders, one of whom will almost certainly be elected outright in the March 20 special primary or an April 24 runoff election should no one secure majority support in the initial vote. It is further likely that should such a runoff occur, it will involve two Democrats.

Moving northward, the vacant 5th District is open because the 2020 winner, Republican Luke Letlow, tragically passed away within three weeks of winning the December 5th runoff election. Here, 13 candidates filed to run in the special election, which was assigned the same election calendar as District 2, and Julia Letlow (R), the late congressman-elect’s widow, headlines those vying to represent the district.

Former Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-New Orleans) resigned from the House on Jan. 15 in order to accept his White House position. Richmond was originally elected in 2010, and had little trouble holding the seat through six elections. He averaged 67.0 percent of the vote and was never forced into a secondary runoff election in Louisiana’s jungle primary system.

The district is solidly Democratic. The 2020 presidential election segmentation by congressional district for Louisiana is not yet available, but the Democratic nominee averaged 75.20 percent of the vote when combining the 2016 and 2012 results. The CD is 61.50 percent black according to the available Citizen Voting Age population data. Therefore, the chances of one of the African American candidates again winning the seat is extremely high.

The three top contenders are state Sen. Troy Carter (D-New Orleans), who Richmond has publicly endorsed as his successor, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans), and prominent Baton Rouge political activist and blogger Gary Chambers, who has the political wherewithal to attract support.

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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.
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