Author Archives: Jim Ellis

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.

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UTAH REDISTRICTING UPDATE

Utah 2021 Congressional redistricting map

Gov. Spencer Cox (R) signed the congressional and state legislative maps. The congressional map will lock in the Republicans’ 4R-0D advantage. The legislature adopted a pie-shaped option, meaning that all four of the state’s CDs receive a portion of the state’ largest metro area, Salt Lake County.

The biggest change occurs in the state’s 4th District, where Rep. Burgess Owens’ (R-Salt Lake City) district goes from being the most politically marginal seat to the safest Republican domain in the state. The 4th was also Utah’s most over-populated seat, having to disperse 65,265 residents to other districts. This allowed the map drawers more latitude in making the seat more Republican for the freshman incumbent.

NEVADA REDISTRICTING UPDATE

Nevada 2021 redistricting map

Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed the Democratic legislators’ map into law, which is designed to keep the state’s 3D-1R delegation intact.

The 2020 election yielded very close re-election results for Reps. Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas) and Steven Horsford (D-Las Vegas). Therefore, this map strengthen those two districts in Clark County, but at the expense of Rep. Dina Titus’ (D-Las Vegas) downtown 1st District. The strongest Democratic district, Rep. Horsford’s 4th CD, is only rated as a D+5 on partisan indexes.

Despite Nevada’s large population gain, Rep. Titus’ district needed to gain 73,332 residents, meaning her district had to undergo relative significant change.

All three Democratic seats are now in the low to mid-50s realm, meaning in strong Republican years, these districts could become competitive.

GEORGIA REDISTRICTING UPDATE

Georgia did not gain a seat in reapportionment despite significant growth in the Atlanta area. In the state’s major metroplex, the congressional districts fully contained within or touching the area counties gained almost 200,000 people dispersed within six districts. The rural CDs, particularly in the southern part of Georgia, however, all needed to gain individuals in order to meet the state population quota of 765,136 individuals per congressional district.

Rep. Sanford Bishop’s (D-Albany) 2nd District becomes somewhat more Republican, but this seat was the most under-populated congressional domain in the state, requiring an additional 92,108 residents to meet the state quota. Therefore, a significant change was necessary.

The big changes come in the Atlanta area, and this is where the Republican map drawers are making a move to take back one of their two lost seats. It appears the 6th District of two-term Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) will again become strongly Republican, with a major population shift also going into Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux’s 7th CD that will concede the district to her and the Democrats.

By changing the 6th District — because Rep. McBath is African American, and the move will undoubtedly trigger a civil rights lawsuit — eyebrows were raised. Under previous redistricting rulings, however, a district is not judged by the incumbent, but rather whether the controlling minority community elects its candidate of choice.

It is likely that the Georgia map changes with Republicans flipping the 6th District back into their column. The remaining Georgia incumbents will all receive winnable seats, so most of the state’s congressional political action will be centered upon the 6th District.

Under this new plan, the Georgia delegation is projected to become 9R-5D, but expect a major legal challenge.

Rep. Suozzi Announces for
New York Governor

Long Island US Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 1, 2021 — Turning down NYC Mayor-Elect Eric Adams’ offer of becoming one of the city’s deputy mayors, Long Island US Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) instead announced Monday that he is joining the fast-growing Democratic primary for governor.

Already in the statewide race is the new incumbent, Gov. Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Tish James, and NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. On the Republican side, Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is clearly the leading candidate for his party’s gubernatorial nomination, having already clinched the official New York Republican Party endorsement.

This is not the first time Suozzi has run for governor. In the 2006 Democratic primary, ill-fated, then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer crushed Suozzi, 82-18 percent.

The Suozzi strategy is to take advantage of a crowded Democratic field where the other participants are all campaigning to the left. Therefore, he is calling himself the “moderate, common sense Democrat.” In a plurality election, his strategy has a chance of being successful, but the bigger question may revolve around whether he will have adequate resources to effectively communicate his message to a statewide electorate in order to develop such a fractured winning coalition.

With Rep. Suozzi foregoing re-election, it creates an additional open Democratic US House seat, a number that has grown significantly in the past two weeks, and also potentially alters the New York redistricting process.

Suozzi was first elected to the House in 2016 and twice re-elected, but failed to reach 60 percent in any of his congressional campaigns. Prior to his service in Congress, Suozzi held the Nassau County Executive position for two terms but was defeated when trying for a third. Four years later, in 2013, trying to regain his lost position, Suozzi was again defeated, this time by a strong 59-41 percent margin. Before winning his countywide position, Suozzi was twice elected as mayor of his hometown of Glen Cove, NY.

Suozzi’s 3rd Congressional District sits in Long Island’s center-west sector, hugging the north shore. The four districts that are self-contained on Long Island are a combined 148,780 people short of meeting the per-district population quota of 776,971 individuals in each of the state’s 26 congressional districts.

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