Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Redistricting Boom Hits

New York 2022 redistricting map. (Click on map to go to FiveThirtyEight.com’s interactive map to see breakdown of each Congressional district.)


By Jim Ellis

Feb. 2, 2022 — The redistricting boom that political observers were awaiting has hit. The New York legislature unveiled their new congressional map, and akin to what the Democratic leadership passed in Illinois, the Empire State plan decimates the Republicans just as expected.

As we will remember, New York lost one congressional seat in national reapportionment (by just 89 people statewide) thereby reducing the delegation size to 26 seats. The current 27-district map yields 19 Democrats and 8 Republicans. The new map is projected to reduce the GOP contingent to just four seats.

Starting on Long Island and knowing that Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is leaving his 1st District to run for governor and understanding that the four districts covering the island are a cumulative 148,780 people short of the per congressional district quota of 776,971 residents, means major differences for these seats.

The map drawers brought the 1st District further west, the only thing they could do to capture the number of needed new people, and as a result were able to turn this R+10 district according to the FiveThirtyEight statistical site into a Biden +10.8 percent seat according to an analysis in the Washington Post.

Note that because the New York presidential election was so lopsided, largely because the Trump campaign never tried to become competitive, using just the 2020 presidential numbers to project voter history is likely slanted even more distinctly toward the Democrats. Once more analyses come into the public domain, we will be better able to pinpoint the partisan trend in each new district.

The 1st District draw makes Rep. Andrew Garbarino’s (R-Sayville) 2nd much redder. His CD, designed to now follow the open 1st District’s borderline to the south, would register as a Trump +14.3 percent district as compared to the previous R+8 calculation from FiveThirtyEight.

The plan would then improve both Rep. Tom Suozzi’s (D-Glen Cove) open 3rd District (Biden +14.2 percent) as it moves further into Queens, and Rep. Kathleen Rice’s (D-Garden City) 4th CD. The latter district would record a 12.1 percent Biden performance, up from the 538 total of D+9.

All of the New York City Democrats would again retain safe seats. The big change would come in the Staten Island-Brooklyn district of freshman Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island). Her current 11th CD voted for Trump in 2020 by a 10.5 percent margin (538: R+13). Under this plan, the Washington Post rates the newly configured 11th for Biden with a +9.9 percentage point spread. Former Rep. Max Rose (D), who Malliotakis unseated in 2020, is back for a re-match. If this map becomes law, as expected, the 11th District playing field will be greatly altered.

The upstate region also significantly changes. Freshman Rep. Mondaire Jones’ (D-Westchester County) district becomes slightly more competitive, from a D+17 to a Biden +13.3 percent. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Cold Spring) would go from representing a district that 538 rated as even between the two parties to a Biden +8.3 percent edge. Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-Rhinebeck) would see his 19th CD strengthen from R+4 to Biden +10.0 percent.

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A Curiously Conflicting Georgia Poll

By Jim Ellis

“The negative driver for this [Georgia poll] appears to be President Biden.”

Feb. 1, 2022 — The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) released one of their regular Georgia statewide polls that the School of Public and International Affairs from the University of Georgia administers (Jan. 13-24; 872 registered Georgia voters, live interview) and the results reflect an electorate with some conflicting views.

While President Biden’s job approval ratio has taken a steep dive since the news entity’s May 2021 survey was published, and the right track/wrong track question is heavily lopsided toward the negative, the current statewide office holders and even the state legislature land in the positive approval realm. Yet, in the accompanying ballot test numbers, the tested Democratic officials are trailing despite brandishing the relatively positive approval ratios.

President Biden now records a combined 34:61 percent favorable to unfavorable index (13 percent strongly approve; 21 percent somewhat approve; 11 percent somewhat disapprove; 50 percent strongly disapprove), which is a huge net reduction of 32 percentage points from his combined 51:46 percent score in May (28 percent strongly approve; 23 percent somewhat approve; 9 percent somewhat disapprove; 37 percent strongly disapprove).

In the new January poll, the respondents believe, in a very poor 17:71 percent ratio, that the country is on the wrong track. They also feel Georgia is headed in the wrong direction, but with less intensity, 34:48 percent negative. The May AJC poll, with a shorter questionnaire, did not ask similar track questions.

The sense of the nation figures in the January study, however, also seem inconsistent with how these same respondents rate their elected federal officials. Sens. Raphael Warnock (D) and Jon Ossoff (D) record 44:35 percent and 43:35 percent positive ratios, respectively. This tells us that the sampling universe members don’t hold their senators particularly responsible for the country being on the perceived wrong track.

In another inconsistency, the senator who is on the 2022 ballot, Rev. Warnock, actually trails his prospective general election opponent, former Georgia and NFL football star Herschel Walker (R), despite the positive job approval sentiment. In this AJC poll, Walker holds a 47-44 percent lead. This latter finding is also consistent with a recent Quinnipiac University study (Jan. 19-24; 1,702 registered Georgia voters, live interview) that gave the challenger an edge, but with a smaller 49-48 percent split.

The governor’s numbers show a similar inconsistency. In Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) case, while the state is viewed as headed in the wrong direction, the chief executive does not appear to be shouldering an excessive amount of blame. His job approval lies in the positive realm at 49:43 percent favorable to unfavorable. Paired with his likely general election opponent, 2018 gubernatorial nominee and former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D), Kemp leads 48-41 percent.

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Another Close Arizona Race Beckons

By Jim Ellis

Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly (D)

Jan. 31, 2022 — The state of Arizona has become a volatile political domain, and a new poll suggests we will see another razor-thin US Senate race evolve later this year.

Over the course of history, the Arizona voting universe boasts a pattern of electing similar numbers of candidates from both parties. Admitted to the Union in 1912 as the 48th state, Arizonans have elected just 14 individuals to their two Senate seats, seven of whom have been Democrats with an equal number of Republicans. Since 2010, however, the electorate has strayed from its conservative political roots and moved toward the ideological center.

With this backdrop, the Data for Progress research organization just released their major statewide survey of the Grand Canyon State electorate (Jan. 21-24; 1,469 likely Arizona general election voters, online & text). The DfP finds Sen. Mark Kelly (D) already falling into a tight battle with Attorney General Mark Brnovich, should the latter man win the GOP nomination.

In the campaign from two years ago, you will remember that Sen. Kelly won a special election in 2020 and now serves the remaining two years of the late Sen. John McCain’s (R) final term. In this election year, he stands for a full six-year term.

The ballot test found Kelly holding a slight 49-47 percent edge over AG Brnovich, but with the senator’s personal approval rating lapsing into the negative realm, 46:49 percent favorable to unfavorable. He still rates higher, however, than President Biden (45:54 percent), fellow Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (42:52 percent), and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey (39:57 percent).

Brnovich also records a negative personal approval rating at 26:32 percent, while venture capitalist Blake Masters, another top Republican in the US Senate field, posts a 16:17 percent ratio, with 68 percent replying that they “haven’t heard enough (about him) to say.”

In a ballot test against Gov. Ducey, who is not a Senate candidate, Sen. Kelly’s advantage is 50-47 percent. Masters was not included in the head-to-head pairing questions with Sen. Kelly.

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Gov. DeWine’s Primary Trouble

By Jim Ellis

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R)

Jan. 28, 2022 — The Ohio Republican gubernatorial race has been rather quiet to this point, but it appears the May 3 primary is beginning to get interesting.

A Fabrizio Lee research firm survey (Jan. 11-13; 800 Ohio Republican primary voters and Independents who choose to vote in the Republican primary, live interview) finds Ohio GOP Gov. Mike DeWine, one of the leading 2020 COVID shutdown governors, in trouble for re-nomination against his Republican primary opponent, former Congressman Jim Renacci.

According to the poll results, Renacci would top Gov. DeWine in his quest for re-nomination by a relatively substantial 46-38 percent margin. The governor falling under 40 percent among a voting sample within his own party is certainly a warning sign. It appears what was thought to be a relatively minor primary challenge is transforming into a highly competitive contest.

Earlier in the month, the Harris Poll (Jan. 4; 1,146 likely Ohio Republican primary voters, online) tested the Ohio primary and found the two contenders tied at 42 percent, possibly the first public tangible indication of the incumbent’s weakness within his own party.

Of Renacci’s 46 percent support in the Fabrizio Lee study, 22 of the 46 said they would “definitely” vote for the GOP intra-party challenger. Another 19 percent said they would “probably” back him, with the final five percent saying they are “leaning” toward the former congressman. Turning to DeWine’s supporters, 20 percent of his 38 percent said they would “definitely” vote for the governor, 16 percent retorted “probably” so, with the final two percent indicating they are “leaning” toward the incumbent.

Furthermore, Gov. DeWine’s score on the accompanying re-elect question is troublesome for any incumbent. A total of 33 percent from his own party said “I will definitely vote against Mike DeWine for governor regardless of who runs against him in the Republican primary” as compared to just 14 percent of Republicans and Republican voting Independents who said “I will definitely vote to re-elect Mike DeWine for governor, regardless of who runs against him in the Republican primary.”

Looking at the extremes on such a question is telling, and the fact that DeWine sees his opponent’s hard-core supporters more than doubling the number of his own strong backers is a major warning sign indicating that he could face losing the party nomination if this pattern is verified and continues.

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Rep. Jim Cooper to Retire;
Alabama Map Tossed

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 27, 2022 — The Tennessee state Senate passed the state House version of the new 9-District congressional map on Tuesday, which led to a political move. The redistricting plan now goes to Gov. Bill Lee (R), and he is expected to sign the legislation.

Retiring Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville)

Upon passage of the new map that would significantly change the Nashville area, veteran Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) quickly announced that he will not seek re-election later this year.

The map drawers divided Davidson County, which houses the Democratic city of Nashville, and split it among three districts: Cooper’s 5th, Rep. John Rose’s (R-Cookeville) 6th CD, and Rep. Mark Green’s (R-Clarksville) TN-7.

The effect creates a new 5th District that moves from a victory margin of 60-37 percent for President Biden to a seat that former President Trump would have carried 54-43 percent according to the Daily Kos Elections site statisticians. Both Reps. Rose and Green would continue to have solid Republican seats even with the Davidson County additions to their districts. Under the plan, the Tennessee delegation is expected to move from 7R-2D to 8R-1D.

Cooper is serving his 16th term in the House, winning his first election from the state’s east/southeastern 4th District in 1982, which he represented until he ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 1994. He returned to the House from the Nashville district in 2002 when then-Rep. Bob Clement (D-Nashville) left the seat to challenge then-Sen. Fred Thompson (R), the same man who defeated Cooper in his statewide bid.

During his second tour of duty in the House, Rep. Cooper was not seriously challenged for re-election. He is a member of the House Armed Services Committee where he chairs the Strategic Forces Subcommittee. He also is a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and the House Budget panel. It appeared that Cooper was preparing for a Democratic primary challenge this year, but that is moot now that the new 5th District becomes decidedly Republican.

Rep. Cooper is the 29th Democrat not to seek re-election. Counting the Democratic and Republican retirements along with the new and created (through redistricting) open seats, the House will see a minimum of 50 new members coming into office at the beginning of 2023.
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