Category Archives: House

Michigan’s Redistricting Complexities

One of the draft Congressional maps put forward by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission for public review this week.

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 18, 2021 — In this redistricting cycle’s early going, one state appears to be adopting a unique map-drawing approach, and its design likely assures a long and challenging legal process to follow.

The 13-member Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission has drafted 10 maps of the congressional, state Senate, and state House maps and made them available for public testimony and comments at a series of upcoming public hearings. Within the series, four relate to the congressional boundaries with the remaining six being divided evenly between the state Senate and House.

The multiple congressional maps go in several different geographical directions and radically alter the state’s district layout to the point of even changing the entire numbering system.

It appears the basis could be in place for many lawsuits and possibly from people or organizations associated with both parties, since the final version will likely draw complaints from both Republicans and Democrats. This would be particularly true if the final map collapses a Voting Rights Act minority district as one version features.

While four draft maps were released, the congressional plan base outline seems to be in place. Remember that Michigan will lose one congressional seat, reducing the delegation size to 13 members, and we will inevitably see at least one pairing of incumbents. At this point, no sitting member has indicated that he or she will retire.

The map versions suggest several options for the Detroit metro area; for example, meaning Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield), Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Township), Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), and Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills) could all find themselves in some type of a paired situation.

Looking at what little partisan political numbers are available, most of the maps point to the Democrats gaining a net of one seat, but some of the districts would be competitive to the degree of making the final outcome unclear.

Below is a synopsis of where each current member could land:

• District 1: Rep. Jack Bergman (R) – looks to receive a strongly Republican northern Michigan seat bordering Canada from the upper peninsula that will drop even further into the lower peninsula. Labeled District 12.

• District 2: Rep. Bill Huizenga (R) – could be in a paired situation with either Reps. Fred Upton (R) or John Moolenaar (R), as the commissioners take his current 2nd District to the southeast instead of due east or north as expected. The primary winner would get a safe Republican district. Labeled District 9, though Huizenga could run in a new District 13 in a potential pairing with Moolenaar.

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Impeachment Republicans’ Trouble

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), one of 10 Republican House members who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump

Oct. 15, 2021 — As we know, 10 House Republicans voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump over the Jan. 6 US Capitol controversy and now it appears that the nine running for re-election are currently facing a bumpy political road.

Reports have surfaced in the political media that identify billionaire Peter Thiel, a Trump supporter, as contributing to the campaigns of the Trump-endorsed candidate opposing at least two of the Impeachment Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA). The big question is whether Thiel and other like-minded mega donors will fund Super PAC efforts against the House incumbents who supported the impeachment resolution.

Already, Thiel is reportedly committing $10 million to a Super PAC supporting Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters. He faces a credible field in the GOP primary, including Attorney General Mark Brnovich, solar company owner Jim Lamon, retired Arizona National Guard Adjutant General Mick McGuire, and State Corporation Commission member Justin Olson.

It is unknown whether Thiel will put that type of money behind the Trump endorsed House candidates trying to deny the impeachment Republicans re-nomination, but he has made the maximum campaign contribution to at least two of the contenders, Harriet Hageman, who is opposing Rep. Cheney, and retired Army officer Joe Kent, Rep. Herrera Beutler’s GOP challenger.

Let’s look at how the 10 are currently faring in their re-election efforts:

• CA-21 – Rep. David Valadao: With California’s top-two qualifying system there are effectively no Republican or Democratic primaries. The candidates finishing first and second from the June primary will advance into the general election regardless of party affiliation. There is little chance of denying Rep. Valadao one of the two finalist positions, but he will face a difficult general election campaign irrespective of the Trump-backed efforts.

• IL-16 – Rep. Adam Kinzinger: Reports suggest that the Democratic state legislative leadership is attempting to collapse Rep. Kinzinger’s seat since Illinois loses a seat in reapportionment. He faces a multi-candidate Republican field, but the redistricting lines will be the biggest factor in whether or not Rep. Kinzinger continues his congressional career. The situation won’t be fully known until the redistricting plan is formally introduced and passed into law.

• MI-3 – Rep. Peter Meijer: Freshman Rep. Meijer may have the most favorable situation of all the impeachment Republicans. While he does have primary opposition, none of the candidates appear particularly formidable. Additionally, the preliminary redistricting maps suggest that while Meijer’s district will significantly change, he will still have a Republican seat anchored in Grand Rapids. Adding the city of Kalamazoo would make re-election more competitive, but the overall district would still favor a Republican nominee in most instances.

• MI-6 – Rep. Fred Upton: Multiple Republican candidates have surfaced against Rep. Upton, but his bigger problem may be redistricting. The Michigan Independent Citizens Commission has released four draft maps, and all pair Rep. Upton with another Republican incumbent, either Reps. Bill Huizenga (R-Holland) or John Moolenaar (R-Midland).

Though Trump has endorsed state Rep. Steve Carra (R-Kalamazoo), Upton’s bigger problem would likely be facing another incumbent. It is also possible that Carra finds himself placed in another district.

• NY-24 – Rep. John Katko: Like Rep. Upton, Katko’s biggest re-election problem appears to be redistricting and not the two Republicans who have announced against him. Though the New York preliminary congressional redistricting map has not yet been released, it appears the Democratic leadership is looking to take as many as five of the eight Republican seats away from the GOP.

This very likely means that Rep. Katko would find himself paired with another Republican incumbent, even potentially House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik. Redistricting will likely be the key factor in whether or not Rep. Katko returns to Congress after the next election.

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Rep. John Yarmuth to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Louisville)

Oct. 14, 2021 — In a video to his supporters and beginning with the phrase “it’s been an incredible journey since my first campaign in 2006 until now …” Kentucky US Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Louisville), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, announced Tuesday that he will not seek a 9th term in Congress next year.

Yarmuth indicated that he never intended to spend 16 years in Washington, figuring he would retire after five terms, but at the age of 75, with his birthday just before the next election, the veteran congressman indicated it is time to return to Louisville and begin enjoying retirement. He committed to vigorously serving the remainder of the current term.

Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District is fully contained within Jefferson County and hosts the state’s largest city of Louisville. Under the 2020 census numbers, the 3rd only needs to shed 5,879 residents, suggesting that the district will remain largely intact after redistricting. The Kentucky legislature is again expected to draw a 5R-1D congressional map designed to hold for the ensuing decade.

The 3rd is Kentucky’s lone Democratic congressional seat, and returned a 60-38 percent margin for President Biden last November. Hillary Clinton recorded a 55-40 percent spread against then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016, and President Obama posted a 56-43 percent mark against Mitt Romney back in 2012, the first election under the current district lines.

Yarmuth came to the House in 2006, scoring an upset win over then-Rep. Anne Northup (R) in a much different and more competitive 3rd District. He unseated her with a close 51-48 percent margin in what proved to be a strong Democratic election year. Northup returned for a re-match in 2008, but Yarmuth easily won that contest with a 59-41 percent victory margin in the first Obama election year.

In the course of his seven re-election campaigns, Rep. Yarmuth averaged 61.4 percent of the vote and was never a targeted Democratic incumbent. He assumed the chairmanship of the Budget Committee in 2019.

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Maps to the Max

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 13, 2021 — We’re beginning to see preliminary congressional redistricting plans appear around the country, and it seems both parties are attempting to draw maps to their maximum political advantage where possible.

We’ve seen the Democrats attempt to draw a 5D-1R map in Oregon. It appears on the surface that they may have succeeded, but at the very least, Rep. Kurt Schrader’s (D-Canby/Salem) 5th District looks to be highly competitive in the general election, so such a party division outcome is not yet a given.

Speculation coming from New York, Illinois, and New Mexico, suggest the Democrats will attempt to stretch their advantage in those states, the only ones they fully control for redistricting, to a risky maximum. Sources in New York indicate the Democratic leadership is attempting to craft a map that would convert five of the Republicans’ current eight seats in the state delegation to the Democrats.

In Illinois, the potential plan suggests the Democratic leadership will attempt to take the Republicans down to just three seats in the delegation from their current five. Illinois lost a seat in reapportionment, meaning the Land of Lincoln delegation will return to Washington with 17 instead of 18 members.

In New Mexico, plans have surfaced to attempt to draw the state’s lone Republican 2nd District into the Democratic column. This requires bringing the 2nd into the Albuquerque metro area for the first time since becoming a three-seat state.

While the aforementioned draws are possible, doing so could create enough politically marginal districts that the plans backfire at least to a degree.

Republicans look to be retaliating in the states that they control outright, meaning places that have not created a redistricting commission or where they don’t already control the maximum number of seats.

The first North Carolina plan was just released, and if passed, the Republicans could net three seats, gaining two when compared to the current plan, while the Democrats lose one. North Carolina is another of the states that is gaining a congressional district from national reapportionment.

The proposed map looks to make major changes and takes advantage of Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) leaving the delegation to run statewide for the Senate. This allows the GOP to effectively draw two new seats instead of one. Though the Democrats control the governorship in the person of Roy Cooper, under North Carolina law the state chief executive has no role in redistricting. Therefore, if maps pass both houses of the state legislature, they are enacted. Republicans have significant majorities in both the state House and Senate.

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New Redistricting Numbers

Oregon 2022 Congressional Districts (Go to Daily Kos story on Oregon’s new House map)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 12, 2021 — The Daily Kos Elections website’s statistical team has already published presidential election numbers for some of the states that have completed their redistricting process. Therefore, we have a bit more information about the new districts in Oregon and Maine, which allows us to better analyze the political landscape.

In Oregon, the Daily Kos team has published the Biden-Trump 2020 numbers for the new six Beaver State congressional districts, which makes comparing with previous data possible.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici’s (D-Washington County) 1st District actually makes her previously safe northwestern Oregon seat even stronger. This new district gives her all of downtown Portland. President Biden posted a 68-29 percent margin in the new 1st, a net 10-point increase from his spread in the current district (63-34 percent).

The state’s lone Republican district, OR-2, also sees its percentages increasing for the incumbent’s benefit, who is freshman Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario/East Oregon). Instead of finding a 56-42 percent margin in former President Donald Trump’s favor, the new 2nd expands to 61-37 percent, a similar net 10-point improvement for the GOP as the Democrats saw in District 1.

Making the 2nd District so overwhelmingly Republican is reflective of the Democratic legislature’s plan to pack as many GOP voters as possible into the 2nd to facilitate achieving their goal of drawing a 5D-1R statewide map.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s (D-Portland) 3rd District, previously the Democrats’ safest Oregon seat, remains so, but with a slightly smaller margin. Under the newly adopted district lines, President Biden would have recorded a 73-25 percent victory as opposed to his 74-23 percent spread under the current map.

Perhaps the biggest change on the Oregon map, other than adding a new district, was making the Eugene-anchored 4th District safer for veteran representative and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield).

The Biden margin in the previous 4th was 51-47 percent, and the congressman only recorded 51.5 percent in his 2020 re-election victory, one of the smallest of his 18 electoral triumphs. In the new 4th, President Biden’s victory spread would have been 55-42 percent, a net Democratic gain of nine percentage points.

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