The Open and Collapsed Seats

By Jim Ellis

A look at how things might play out in key states in the redistricting tug of wars

Dec. 2, 2021 — In a redistricting year, tracking the open seats can be a bit confusing. Not only do we record retiring members and those seeking other offices, as we do in every election cycle, but in a redistricting year we also see new seats awarded to states in reapportionment, new districts created through map drawing, and collapsed seats. This, in addition to members being paired and certain incumbents choosing to run in districts other than the one they currently represent.

The open seat numbers have grown significantly during the past month. As a result, we see 24 members leaving their current districts either for retirement or to run for another office. Sixteen are from the majority Democratic conference, with eight coming from their Republican counterparts.

One seat, FL-20, remains in special election cycle and will be filled on Jan. 11. At that point, the House will have its full compliment of 435 members for the first time in this Congress.

Reapportionment changed locations within states for seven congressional seats, and map drawing has added an additional four new seats to date for a total of 11 nationally. The new seats also lead to a commensurate number of incumbent pairings or collapsed districts.

Adding the numbers from all of these categories tells us that 43 House seats have been affected in addition to four members who have declared for seats they don’t currently represent.

The collapsed seats tell their own story. In this category, certain members have nowhere to run, typically in states that lost a seat in reapportionment. In many instances, the member without a place to run is one who had previously indicated that he or she is leaving the House.

In California, the first draft redistricting map shows that Rep. Karen Bass’ (D-Los Angeles) seat would be the one collapsed, because the state is, for the first time in history, losing a district. Bass, however, previously announced that she is running for mayor of Los Angeles, so seeing her seat as the one forfeited was not a surprise.

Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon) was geographically in a difficult position because the map drawers needed the leftward voters in his district to enhance two adjoining Democratic seats. Therefore, he became the odd man out.

Five drafts of the Michigan congressional map have been released, and most point toward Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Midland) as being the man without a district. The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission members will finalize a map before the end of the year, but it is relatively clear that Moolenaar will have a choice of several other incumbents either to primary or challenge in the general election.

New York’s Tom Reed (R-Corning) and Ohio’s Anthony Gonzalez (R-Rocky River) had both announced their retirements before redistricting; hence, predictably, their seats have been or will be collapsed. We could also see further seats being eliminated in New York, and quite possibly on Long Island.

In West Virginia, it came with little surprise that Rep. Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town), whose 2nd District lies in the middle of the state was the one collapsed. The Mountain State dropped one of its three seats in reapportionment.

The same will likely be true in the Pittsburgh area, though no map has yet been presented. With both Pittsburgh Reps. Conor Lamb (D) and Mike Doyle (D) already announcing they won’t seek re-election, it would make sense to collapse the two adjoining seats into one, especially since most of the state’s population drain has come from western Pennsylvania.

Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville), despite representing only about a quarter of the new 15th District’s constituency, announced on Monday that he will not enter the governor’s race, but will seek re-election from this newly configured district.

In Davis’ former 13th District, now drawn as a new open Democratic seat that stretches from Champaign to the St. Louis suburbs through Decatur and Springfield, former Obama Administration official Nikki Budzinski (D), who had originally declared against Rep. Davis, announced that she will run here and thus immediately becomes the favorite to capture the seat.

Freshman Rep. Mary Miller (R-Oakland), who sees her current 15th District split between the new 15th where Davis is running, and Rep. Mike Bost’s (R-Murphysboro) southern Illinois 12th CD has not yet made a choice as to where she will run. She faces two unfavorable choices in a state that lost a seat in reapportionment.

More changes will be forthcoming as additional states complete the redistricting process and members and candidates make decisions about where they will run in 2022.

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