Monthly Archives: September 2021

Colorado’s Second Map

The Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission’s recently released second iteration of the state’s new eight-seat congressional map.

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 9, 2021 — After a round of public redistricting hearings, the staff for the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission released the second iteration of the state’s new eight-seat congressional map. The Centennial State gained one seat in national reapportionment.

The second map differs significantly from the first commission draw, but the partisan outcome may be similar. The biggest differences affect Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-Silt) 3rd District, which becomes the contiguous southern seat for which many people were calling in the public hearings. Though her home would be placed in Rep. Joe Neguse’s (D-Boulder) 2nd District, all seven current incumbent members would have a place to run.

Rep. Neguse’s 2nd District has already drawn criticism for pairing the college town of Boulder with a rural western slope constituency that would stretch all the way to Utah. The traditional Colorado western slope rural district included all of the state’s western sector and stretched from Wyoming to New Mexico.

Despite the unusual draw, Rep. Neguse would have a safe Democratic seat. Rep. Boebert would have a district that would stretch beyond the Democratic city of Pueblo, which she currently represents, but this new 3rd District iteration would only be slightly more Democratic than her current domain.

According to the accompanying electoral statistical chart that the Commission supplied, all Republican candidates carried the 3rd in the chosen eight benchmark races from 2016, ’18, and ‘20. Curiously, the commission staff did not include the 2020 presidential contest among the considered races though they did include the landslide 2020 US Senate result.

The other member who would have a similar district to that of Rep. Boebert, but from a partisan Democratic perspective, is 7th District Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Arvada). Here, Perlmutter would find himself in a relatively competitive seat that in a bad year for his party could flip. The cumulative election result gives the Democrats a 5.2 percent margin, similar to Boebert’s 5.5 percent Republican tilt in her 3rd District. The party registration numbers, however, give the Democrats only a 1.3 percent advantage.

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Ohio’s Lost Seat

Ohio’s Congressional Districts

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 8, 2021 — In some of our previous redistricting articles, we’ve alluded to Ohio’s interesting situation. With a 16-member congressional delegation reducing to 15, it seemed unlikely that Republican map drawers would stretch the new map to 12R-3D from its current 12R-4D split. Outside pressures and other factors, however, suggest the first Buckeye State map could have such a partisan division.

Recently, news coming from Illinois suggests that Democratic leaders are looking at ways to reduce the Republican federal contingent in the Land of Lincoln from five House members to just three. If so, states like Ohio, where Republicans are in complete control of the redistricting process, face national pressure to maximize the partisan gain.

Another factor pointing to the Democrats losing the Ohio seat is that only one member to-date, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown), is not running for re-election. The eastern Ohio congressman is an announced US Senate candidate, meaning that his 13th District, which stretches from Akron to the Pennsylvania border, is largely unprotected.

As in Pennsylvania, where Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) is the lone House member not seeking re-election in his state because he, too, is running for the Senate, it is reasonable that the collapsed seat would be the one with no incumbent. Therefore, in both cases, Republican map drawers would have a defensible opportunity to collapse a Democratic seat. Furthermore, a Democratic power grab in Illinois, should that happen, makes Republican retribution in Ohio and Pennsylvania more likely.

Another transitional Ohio factor is the two new members coming into the House right after the Nov. 2 special election. Since the partisan primaries have already nominated candidates in a pair of vacated congressional districts that have consistently performed for each party, it became clear on primary night that Democrat Rep. Shontel Brown and Republican Rep. Mike Carey would be joining the delegation.

Brown’s 11th District that stretches from Cleveland to Akron is likely to be a key redistricting focal point. The 11th must gain 94,091 people to reach the new 15-District Ohio population quota of 786,630 individuals, which is the second most of any Buckeye State CD. Since this is also a majority minority seat, adding the necessary people from the Akron area would be a reasonable move, and such a population segment would have to come from Rep. Ryan’s 13th District.

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A New Jersey Shock Poll

By Jim Ellis

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D)

Sept. 7, 2021 — The Fabrizio Lee polling firm, surveying for the Club for Growth organization (Aug. 4-29; 600 likely 2021 New Jersey election voters, live interview) finds New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) potentially falling into a precarious political position.

Since June 1, Gov. Murphy has led in all four publicly released polls, each from a different pollster, with margins ranging from a low of 11 to as high as 28 points over former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R). The Fabrizio-Lee data casts a much different light upon the race, finding Gov. Murphy leading by a scant 43-41 percent margin as the contest has apparently become tighter with August ending.

Digging deeper into the polling analysis, it appears that Gov. Murphy is in slightly better position than the Fabrizio lead ballot test suggests, but nowhere close to his previous standing. The question then posed: is there significant movement toward Ciattarelli or is this Fabrizio Lee poll an outlier?

Among the 600 respondents who identify themselves as planning to vote in the Nov. 2 election, segmentation exists between those who have previously voted in an odd-numbered year election and those who have not. Among the “Gov-election” voters, Murphy’s ballot test position improves to 46-40 percent. For those who have not cast a ballot in a previous NJ governor’s election, Ciattarelli pulls ahead of the incumbent by a 41-35 percent margin, but these individuals are significantly less likely to participate.

The poll illuminates several other warning signs for the incumbent, however. While Ciattarelli has an 87:3 percent loyalty factor among Republicans, Gov. Murphy is running slightly less robustly among Democrats (75:11 percent). More concerning for the governor is him trailing among white voters (39-48 percent), and Independents (28-43 percent). Failing to improve within these two latter sectors could result in an upset election loss for the first term state chief executive.

Though the poll responses are weighted to compensate, the sampling universe’s racial composition is different than the state population numbers. The respondent sample is more heavily white than the state as a whole, with Hispanic and black respondents totaling only about half of their standing within the population at large. This would suggest that the Murphy ballot test numbers are slightly deflated.

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NH Gov. Sununu Polling Positively

By Jim Ellis

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R)

Sept. 3, 2021 — The St. Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics poll was released this week (Aug. 24-26; 1,855 registered New Hampshire voters, online weighted responses), and it contains good news for three-term Granite State Gov. Chris Sununu (R). From this data, Sununu records his largest lead of the early 2022 election cycle, 49-41 percent, over first term incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan (D).

Gov. Sununu has yet to enter the race and says he will make a final decision about his political future well into next year. Since New Hampshire is one of two states that limits its governors to two-year terms, Sununu is in the middle of his third term even though completing just his fifth year in office. He is eligible to run for a fourth term, and beyond.

Because New Hampshire has one of the latest primaries on the election calendar – Sept. 13 in 2022 – it wouldn’t be surprising for the governor to wait even until the end of the next legislative session to declare his political intentions for the midterm cycle. With his win percentage increasing to 65.1 percent in 2020 after victories of 52.8 and 49.0 percent in his first two elections and with a current 64:34 percent positive favorability ratio, the governor has the luxury of waiting along with the ability to clear the GOP field regardless of the office for which he ultimately declares.

With Gov. Sununu as the GOP’s Senate nominee, New Hampshire becomes the Republicans’ best national conversion opportunity, and he is obviously under heavy pressure from party leaders to run.

For her part, Sen. Hassan is prepared for a tough fight. Through the June 30 Federal Election Commission financial disclosure period, she reported raising $11.3 million during her out-of-cycle four years, with a whopping cash-on-hand figure of $6.56 million.

The Democrats appear fortunate that the election is so far away. The poll’s underlying numbers suggest they would fare badly in the New Hampshire general election if voting were in a close time proximity, but the Granite State electorate is wholly unpredictable. Since the turn of the century, no state has swung as wildly as New Hampshire, with the electorate going heavily for both parties in different election years.

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Former Mass. Sen. Scott Brown’s Wife Soon to be a House Candidate?

By Jim Ellis

Gail Huff Brown (R)

Sept. 2, 2021 — Television news journalist Gail Huff Brown (R), wife of former Massachusetts senator and ex-US ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown, is reportedly preparing to run for New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District in what can arguably be considered the most competitive CD in the United States.

Scott Brown (R) served in the Massachusetts state House and Senate before winning the US Senate seat in a 2010 special election after veteran incumbent Ted Kennedy had passed away. Current Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) then defeated Brown in the 2012 regular general election. In 2014, Brown, after moving back to his native state of New Hampshire, challenged Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) but lost 51-48 percent despite running in a wave Republican election year.

Now, the Browns are looking to embark upon another political campaign, but this time the candidate will apparently be Gail Huff Brown, the former senator and ambassador’s wife of 35 years. A formal announcement is expected soon according to the NH Journal news site, which quotes Scott Brown as saying that “Gail is very close to a yes,” in responding to a question about whether his wife will run. Additionally, the ex-senator believes that former President Trump will endorse Ms. Brown, but such a move could be a long time in coming and may not be a sure bet.

Already in the Republican field hoping to challenge two-term Rep. Chris Pappas (D-Manchester) are at least two other candidates with strong Trump credentials. Matt Mowers is the 2020 GOP nominee who held Rep. Pappas to a 51-46 percent re-election victory. Mowers, along with fellow 1st District congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt, is a former Trump White House staff member. A third announced candidate is freshman state Rep. Tim Baxter (R-Portsmouth).

The 1st District electorate has defeated more incumbents since 2004 than any other. In fact, only twice in those eight succeeding elections did the incumbent win re-election. Republican optimism for 2022 is high, however, because the 2020 elections awarded the GOP both the state House and Senate and, with Gov. Sununu (R) in office, the Republicans have a redistricting trifecta.

The state has two congressional districts. The plan would be to make the marginal 1st District, the eastern seat that contains the state’s small coastline area, into a likely Republican domain while conceding the 2nd CD, or western seat, to five-term incumbent Annie Kuster (D-Hopkinton/Concord). Currently, the 2nd plays relatively marginal – Rep. Kuster has averaged 52.9 percent of the vote over her five elections – but would be made safely Democratic under this discussed redistricting concept.

According to the Census Bureau’s per congressional district population report, the 2nd District needs 8,973 individuals from the 1st to equalize the resident figures. We can, however, expect a much bigger people swap if the defined partisan split plan is to become a political reality.

Rep. Pappas was initially elected in 2018 after then-incumbent Carol Shea-Porter (D) chose to retire. Shea-Porter first won in 2006, lost in 2010, was re-elected in 2012, defeated in 2014, and re-elected once more in 2016. Prior to his election to Congress, Pappas, a restaurant owner, was an elected member of the state’s Executive Council, a five-member board that holds certain checks and balances power over the Governor.

Pappas has said that he wants to survey the New Hampshire political situation before making his own 2022 electoral plans. If he deems the 1st District as becoming too Republican, he has not closed the door on running for governor, particularly if incumbent Sununu opts to run for the Senate. Sununu has been elected governor three times but is only in his fifth year of service because New Hampshire is one of two states, neighboring Vermont is the other, that maintains two-year terms for their state chief executives.

Though New Hampshire is a small state, the redistricting process will be closely watched because the GOP will need to convert the politically seesawing seat to meet their projected national majority numbers. With Gail Huff Brown potentially becoming a candidate, we can also expect increased national political attention coming to this race.

Additionally, it will be quite some time before we see the political patterns develop. New Hampshire still has a late primary, Sept. 13 for 2022, and candidate filing doesn’t close until June 10. Gov. Sununu is also indicating he will decide about the Senate race well into next year. Therefore, this political scenario is a long way from fully unfolding, and Gail Huff Brown’s potential entry into the congressional race brings us yet another new twist.