Category Archives: House

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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The Incumbent Pairings

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 30, 2021 — At this point in the national redistricting process, six sets of incumbents have been paired together, mostly in nomination battles, while an additional five incumbent combinations have been averted.

Over half the states have either completed the district re-drawing process or are well down the road to finishing. Illinois leads the nation with two sets of incumbent pairings, one set for each party. An additional four states have single pairings. A total of three Republican primary pairings are on the board, two feature Democratic incumbents, and one, in North Carolina, is a potential pairing with a member from each party.

Retirements have largely averted several more pairings. Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), Tom Reed (R-NY), Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), and Conor Lamb (D-PA) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), not seeking re-election have likely prevented obvious pairings in their states.

Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa), deciding to seek re-election in the new 1st Congressional District, has avoided a Republican primary pairing with her freshman GOP colleague, Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion/Cedar Rapids).

Below, we review the individual pairings.


GA-7:

• Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) vs. Rep. Lucy McBath (D)
Candidate Filing: March 11
Primary: May 24
Runoff: July 26

The surprise pairing of the early cycle occurs in the Atlanta suburbs. The Republican map drawers changed Rep. McBath’s 6th District back into a seat that favors the GOP, and instead of running an uphill campaign in a general election, McBath immediately announced that she would launch a primary challenge to freshman Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in a politically marginal district that was made safely Democratic.

This will be one of the more interesting pairings. Rep. Bourdeaux represents most of the new 7th’s constituency, but Rep. McBath will likely be viewed as the stronger Democratic base candidate. Bourdeaux starts with an early edge, and with each candidate already approaching $2 million in their respective campaign accounts, this primary campaign will be an old fashioned political shoot out. The winner earns a virtual free ride in the general election.


IL-6:

• Rep. Sean Casten (D) vs. Rep. Marie Newman (D)
Candidate Filing: March 14
Primary: June 28

The second Democratic pairing is the result of the party’s map drawers creating a second Chicago Hispanic district. This led to freshman Rep. Marie Newman standing without her own district. Instead of challenging Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago) in the original urban Hispanic seat, the district in which her La Grange residence was placed, she decided to instead oppose Rep. Sean Casten in the safely Democratic suburban 6th CD.

Though the seat carries Rep. Casten’s 6th, a bit more of the constituency belongs to Rep. Newman. The early resources favor Casten, as his $1 million in the bank is more than double Rep. Newman’s Sept. 30th filing deadline cash-on-hand total. This race will be one that turns sharply left, as both members identify with the party’s leftward faction. Rep. Casten is likely to attract more Chicago establishment support whereas Rep. Newman will get the bulk of leftward social issues coalition backing.

On paper, it appears that Rep. Casten would have at least a slight edge, but we can count on seeing a major campaign contest all the way to the June 28 primary.


IL-12:

• Rep. Mike Bost (R) vs. Rep. Mary Miller (R)
Candidate Filing: March 14
Primary: June 28

The second Land of Lincoln pairing features two Republican incumbents in the state’s southern sector. Typically, in a gerrymandered state the minority party inherits several very safe districts. Such is the case for the GOP in the new IL-12.

Most of Rep. Bost’s current 12th District constituency is in the new 12th, but the eastern part of a district that now encompasses all of the southern Illinois territory currently belongs to freshman Rep. Miller. The early financial edge also goes to Rep. Bost, but the two begin this race separated only by approximately $200,000.

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Welch In; Johnson Out; McBath Switches Districts in Georgia


NOTE: Ellis Insight will be taking a break starting tomorrow through the weekend. We’ll return on Monday, Nov. 29. Happy Thanksgiving to all!


By Jim Ellis

Nov. 24, 2021 — Vermont Congressman Peter Welch announces his Senate candidacy, two-term Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath announces a switch from her GA-6 district to GA-7 as a result of redistricting, and 85-year-old veteran Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announces her retirement. Details below:

Vermont Senate

As expected, Vermont at-large Congressman Peter Welch (D-Norwich) announced his US Senate candidacy this week and becomes the prohibitive favorite to succeed retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy (D). With Welch representing the same statewide constituency as a senator, the move to the chamber of the states should be seamless.

It does not appear that Welch will have major opposition. At this point, Sanders for President campaign activist Niki Thran, a physician, is the only announced Democratic candidate. The more serious potential contenders are likely to opt for the now open at-large House seat.

Rep. Welch was first elected to the US House in 2006, and has cruised to re-election ever since. He was originally elected to the state Senate in 1980, and served 10 years. He became the Senate Democratic Leader for one two-year term.

In 1988, Welch ran for the US House, but lost the Democratic primary. He returned in the governor’s race two years later, this time winning the Democratic nomination but losing the general election. He would return to the state Senate in 2001 when then-Gov. Howard Dean (D) appointed him to fill a vacancy. He was then elected as a member of the Vermont legislative body in 2002, and became the Senate’s President Pro Tempore, a position he held until winning his first US House race.

GA-6

In a surprising response to the Georgia state House voting in favor of the new congressional redistricting map, two-term Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) announced, even before Gov. Brian Kemp (R) approves the final legislation, that she will depart her current 6th District since its new constituency trends strongly Republican.

Instead, she will challenge freshman Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Suwanee) in adjacent District 7 in next year’s Democratic primary. McBath will run to the left of her new opponent, who she will attempt to paint as being too conservative before the primary electorate.

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Two More Maps Advance

Georgia Congressional redistricting map

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 23, 2021 — The late redistricting season continues to move along at a brisk pace, and two more states are poised to enact new congressional plans this week.

The Georgia state House, after the state Senate passed the proposed congressional map on Friday, was expected to vote on the legislation yesterday and send it to Gov. Brian Kemp (R) for final approval. The Oklahoma legislature, late last week, passed its congressional and state legislative maps in special session and sent them to Gov. Kevin Stitt (R). He is expected to sign the plans into law.

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.

Oklahoma was both a long way from gaining and losing a seat, so the state remains constant with five congressional districts, now three of which come into Oklahoma County, the entity housing the state’s largest metropolis, Oklahoma City.

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North Carolina Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s Retirement Leaves a Competitive 2nd

North Carolina Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-Wilson)

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 22, 2021 — As was suggested earlier in the week, 10-term North Carolina Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-Wilson) announced late last week that he will not seek re-election next year. He leaves a new 2nd District – his seat had been numbered NC-1 throughout his career – that will be more competitive in 2022.

Rep. Butterfield attacked the Republican-passed redistricting plan as a gerrymander on his way out and says the draw hurts African Americans in his district. He says that largely because an African American section of Pitt County was removed from the district, along with a small conservative county, and replaced with three larger and decidedly more Republican localities along the Virginia border.

North Carolina gained a seat in reapportionment, but the Butterfield seat was the only current Tar Heel State CD that needed to gain residents. The current 1st District was 58,205 individuals short of the state’s new population quota of 745,671 individuals per CD, so the map drawers had no choice but to add people. Virtually all of the surrounding counties are Republican.

The new 2nd District is certainly more competitive. While President Biden carried the current 1st District with a 54-45 percent margin, on par with Hillary Clinton’s 55-44 percent spread in 2016, the new 2nd District would have given Biden only a 51-48 percent vote split.

Though the new 2nd will be more competitive, the current 1st District was beginning to show signs of political change. This somewhat dispels Rep. Butterfield’s gerrymandering argument. While the previous eight elections delivered an average vote of 72.6 percent for Butterfield, his 2020 victory margin dropped to 54-46 percent opposite accountant and political activist Sandy Smith (R).

Though the state Supreme Court changed the North Carolina map for the 2020 election and basically awarded the Democrats two of the Republicans’ seats, the 1st was left largely unchanged. This suggests that the electorate could be transforming naturally, thus alternative reasons exist for the district becoming more conservative than simply altering the district lines.

We can expect to see competitive primaries in both parties, and things will quickly unfold now that the seat is open. Prior to the retirement announcement, Henderson City Councilman Jason Spriggs had announced a Democratic primary challenge to Rep. Butterfield but he was not rated as a serious challenge to the congressman.

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