Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Ohio Congressional Map Tossed

The Ohio State Supreme Court invalidated the state’s newly enacted congressional map and returned the plan to the Ohio state legislature to be redrawn. The state lost a seat in reapportionment. (Map: Dave’s Redistricting App)


By Jim Ellis

Jan. 19, 2022 — The Ohio State Supreme Court, on a 4-3 vote with the Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor voting with the three Democratic members, last Friday invalidated the state’s newly enacted congressional map and returned the plan to be redrawn. The decision may result in a blow to Republican hopes of re-capturing the US House majority as the Ohio draw is one of the party’s most important maps.

The high court’s action followed a similar 4-3 decision the previous day to reject the state House and Senate maps. All of the plans were invalidated for the same reason: they did not meet the competitiveness provision in the Ohio redistricting proposition that the people’s vote enacted prior to the commencement of the re-mapping process. The justices claimed the plan must better reflect the partisan statewide voting pattern, a measure that favors Republicans but not to the extent of the district ratios projected for the jettisoned maps.

The current Ohio congressional map stands at 12 Republicans and four Democrats. The state lost a seat in reapportionment, so the advisory redistricting commission members and the legislature were tasked with creating a new 15-district congressional plan.

By most accounts, the new map would have likely elected 10 Republicans and two Democrats, while featuring three politically marginal districts, those of Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) and an open seat largely created because Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Rocky River) and Tim Ryan (D-Warren) are leaving their seats to retire and run for the Senate, respectively. Therefore, the state’s electoral split could have swung anywhere from 10R-5D all the way to 13R-2D.

The ruling likely creates the greatest change for two of the aforementioned members. The court specifically cited the Hamilton County draw in Rep. Chabot’s seat that attached a swath into downtown Cincinnati. This created a city attachment to Butler County, thus placing it in Rep. Warren Davidson’s (R-Troy) strongly Republican 8th District. As a result, the 1st District became more Republican for Chabot, but still left him with a swing seat at best.

Continue reading

New York Rep. John Katko to Retire

New York Rep. John Katko (R-Syracuse)

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 18, 2021 — New York Rep. John Katko (R-Syracuse) announced Friday that he will not seek a fifth term later this year, creating a 47th open seat for the 2022 US House elections.

Katko, who indicated that he and his wife buried all four of their parents during the past three years, which he said was “gut-wrenching,” says he now desires more time with his family. He leaves a seat where he has averaged 56.5 percent of the vote as one of only eight Republicans from the 27-member Empire State delegation.

Other factors may also have played a role in his retirement decision. Redistricting appeared to be creating some re-election problems for Rep. Katko, as had former President Donald Trump.

New York lost a seat in reapportionment — a district collapse that will come from the Upstate region. Early maps suggested that Katko’s Syracuse-anchored seat would be combined with Rep. Claudia Tenney’s 22nd District, which would result in a paired incumbent situation before the primary winner likely would face another competitive general election campaign.

In the past two election cycles, Rep. Katko’s opponent was college professor Dana Balter (D), and her challenges resulted in expensive and hard fought 53-43 percent (2020) and 52-47 percent (2018) victories. Balter spent $2.7 million and $3.3 million in her two successive races against Rep. Katko, totaling $6 million, which he countered with a combined $6.3 million. Additionally, both candidates received hundreds of thousands of dollars in support from their respective political parties and outside groups.

The NY-24 seat is one of only nine districts where the electorate supported President Biden and elected a Republican to the House. In the current Congress, the 24th is one of just three districts that Hillary Clinton carried while electing a Republican Representative. Katko had repeatedly proven himself as an effective and successful political candidate.

In a paired 2022 situation against Rep. Tenney, however, the retiring congressman would have faced increasing pressure from his political right largely because of his vote to impeach former President Trump. Additionally, the New York Conservative Party leadership said they would not allow Katko to run with their ballot line in the 2022 general election. In New York, a candidate can run with more than one party designation.

Continue reading

GOP Battle Brewing in
North Carolina Senate

Former Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) – on thin ice in Senate bid? / Photo by Hal Goodtree, Flickr

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 17, 2022 — The North Carolina Senate candidates have dealt with more uncertainty than any other set of statewide political contenders in this election cycle. Some of the questions have now been answered, but others remain.

Due to the continuing congressional and state legislative redistricting legal battles that have hampered the state for virtually the entire preceding decade, even the candidate filing date and the primary schedule itself were in doubt until the courts finally set a political calendar.

In order to be more relevant for the 2020 presidential election, the legislature moved the state’s traditional May primary to early March to better influence the presidential nomination selection. By not taking action to move the primary back to May, it appeared that voters would choose their ’22 nominees on March 8.

In December, the state Supreme Court, after an early flurry of lower court redistricting action, took it upon themselves to transfer the state primary to May 17. They merely suspended the Dec. 17 candidate filing deadline, but did not issue a new date. Earlier this week, as part of its ruling upholding the GOP legislature’s congressional and legislative maps, the special three-judge panel assigned to hear the redistricting challenges set the filing deadline for March 4.

With these basic questions now answered, the candidates finally have a clear electoral timeline in which to work. With the Democrats earlier coming together on a consensus candidate, fireworks are beginning on the Republican side. In mid-December, state Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte), thought to be a major US Senate contender, dropped his statewide bid. This makes former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley an overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination.

In the past few days, a pair of Tar Heel State Republican primary Senate polls were released almost simultaneously, with both finding former Gov. Pat McCrory holding an edge over US Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance). The ex-state chief executive’s advantage isn’t what one would expect for a well known party leader before his own partisan electorate, however. The McCrory campaign released their Strategic Partners Solutions survey (Jan. 5; 800 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters) that gives their man a 30-21-8 percent lead over Rep. Budd and former US Rep. Mark Walker.

The Civitas Institute’s latest Cygnal statewide poll (Jan. 7-9; 600 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters) also found McCrory holding an initial lead, but only through a 24-19 percent spread. Pushing for a decision from the 48 percent who said they were undecided and adding those preferences to the total actually finds Rep. Budd pulling into a small lead, 34-33 percent, when accounting for those who have “definitely” and “probably” made up their minds.

Continue reading

Rep. Hollingsworth to Retire;
Tennessee Map Advances

By Jim Ellis

Indiana Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Jeffersonville)

Jan. 14, 2022 — Three-term Indiana Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Jeffersonville) announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election in the autumn, becoming the 12th Republican to retire in this election cycle. The congressman’s retirement decision means at least 46 seats will be open in the 2022 House election.

Saying, “I ran for Congress to return this government to the people from the career politicians who had broken it, and I will be damned if I become one in the process,” Hollingsworth will draw his congressional career to a close after six years. When he first ran in 2016, he pledged to serve no more than four terms. He expresses a desire to return to the private sector.

Indiana’s 9th District occupies most of the state’s southern sector and for years was a Blue Dog Democratic area. For 17 terms, Congressman Lee Hamilton (D), who became chairman of the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees, represented the district. Democrat Baron Hill succeeded him in 1998, and served until his defeat at the hands of Republican businessman Mike Sodrel in 2004. Two years later, Hill recaptured the seat and held it until his second loss in 2010, this time to attorney Todd Young (R) who is now the Hoosier State’s senior senator.

Since the Young victory in 2010, the 9th has performed as a solid Republican district. Donald Trump carried in the seat in 2016 with a 61-34 percent margin, and again in 2020 with a similar 61-37 percent vote spread.

Under the new Indiana congressional map, the new 9th moves to the north and east, but retains its population centers in Jeffersonville, Clarksville, and New Albany, all across the Ohio River from Louisville, KY, and in the college town of Bloomington where the Indiana University resides.

Dave’s Redistricting App rates the new seat as a 59.7 percent Republican domain, while the FiveThirtyEight statistical site projects the new IN-9 with an R+30 rating, up from R+27 on the current map. The Republican primary is expected to be crowded and competitive. The Indiana candidate filing deadline is Feb. 4 for the May 3 statewide primary.
Continue reading

Cherfilus-McCormick Easily Wins Special election in Florida’s FL-20 Congressional District

By Jim Ellis

Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick easily won Tuesday’s special election in Florida’s FL-20 Congressional District.

Jan. 13, 2022 — Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, as expected, easily defeated Republican Jason Mariner Tuesday in a district that gave President Biden a 77-22 percent majority in 2020. Cherfilus-McCormick scored a 79-20 percent victory with 55,457 people voting and will now serve the balance of the late Rep. Alcee Hastings’ (D-Delray Beach) final term.

After winning the special Democratic primary over Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness on Nov. 2 by just five votes, Rep-Elect Cherfilus-McCormick can now expect a highly competitive regular election Democratic primary challenge. Holness has already said he will oppose the new incumbent in the 2022 nomination election as he continues to pursue legal action in hopes of overturning the special primary results.

The Florida special congressional election was the nation’s eighth during this legislative session. Like the other seven, the candidate of the party originally holding the seat won the special vote. Five were Democrat seats, and three Republican. A ninth special election, that for resigned Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R) seat in California, has been scheduled for April 5 with a runoff on June 7 if none of the eventual contenders garner majority support in the first vote.

Though predictions of a coming wave Republican election appear to be rampant, the odd-year election pattern reveals no such precursor. As mentioned, 100 percent of the congressional special elections have remained true to the originating party, but that has almost also been true among special elections in state legislatures.

A total of 33 state special elections occurred in 2021. Republicans captured three Democratic seats in Connecticut, Iowa, and Texas, but Democrats turned the tables on Republicans in another three: New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. Therefore, a net conversion factor of zero resulted.

When the Democrats predicted their “blue wave” coming for the 2018 election, the commensurate election cycle saw much change in the special elections. In the 2017-18 cycle the Democrats flipped a net total of 19 seats that some believe was a prelude to the Democrats’ success in the regular ’18 election.

Continue reading