Category Archives: House

Colorado’s Second Map

The Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission’s recently released second iteration of the state’s new eight-seat congressional map.

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 9, 2021 — After a round of public redistricting hearings, the staff for the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission released the second iteration of the state’s new eight-seat congressional map. The Centennial State gained one seat in national reapportionment.

The second map differs significantly from the first commission draw, but the partisan outcome may be similar. The biggest differences affect Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-Silt) 3rd District, which becomes the contiguous southern seat for which many people were calling in the public hearings. Though her home would be placed in Rep. Joe Neguse’s (D-Boulder) 2nd District, all seven current incumbent members would have a place to run.

Rep. Neguse’s 2nd District has already drawn criticism for pairing the college town of Boulder with a rural western slope constituency that would stretch all the way to Utah. The traditional Colorado western slope rural district included all of the state’s western sector and stretched from Wyoming to New Mexico.

Despite the unusual draw, Rep. Neguse would have a safe Democratic seat. Rep. Boebert would have a district that would stretch beyond the Democratic city of Pueblo, which she currently represents, but this new 3rd District iteration would only be slightly more Democratic than her current domain.

According to the accompanying electoral statistical chart that the Commission supplied, all Republican candidates carried the 3rd in the chosen eight benchmark races from 2016, ’18, and ‘20. Curiously, the commission staff did not include the 2020 presidential contest among the considered races though they did include the landslide 2020 US Senate result.

The other member who would have a similar district to that of Rep. Boebert, but from a partisan Democratic perspective, is 7th District Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Arvada). Here, Perlmutter would find himself in a relatively competitive seat that in a bad year for his party could flip. The cumulative election result gives the Democrats a 5.2 percent margin, similar to Boebert’s 5.5 percent Republican tilt in her 3rd District. The party registration numbers, however, give the Democrats only a 1.3 percent advantage.

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Ohio’s Lost Seat

Ohio’s Congressional Districts

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 8, 2021 — In some of our previous redistricting articles, we’ve alluded to Ohio’s interesting situation. With a 16-member congressional delegation reducing to 15, it seemed unlikely that Republican map drawers would stretch the new map to 12R-3D from its current 12R-4D split. Outside pressures and other factors, however, suggest the first Buckeye State map could have such a partisan division.

Recently, news coming from Illinois suggests that Democratic leaders are looking at ways to reduce the Republican federal contingent in the Land of Lincoln from five House members to just three. If so, states like Ohio, where Republicans are in complete control of the redistricting process, face national pressure to maximize the partisan gain.

Another factor pointing to the Democrats losing the Ohio seat is that only one member to-date, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown), is not running for re-election. The eastern Ohio congressman is an announced US Senate candidate, meaning that his 13th District, which stretches from Akron to the Pennsylvania border, is largely unprotected.

As in Pennsylvania, where Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) is the lone House member not seeking re-election in his state because he, too, is running for the Senate, it is reasonable that the collapsed seat would be the one with no incumbent. Therefore, in both cases, Republican map drawers would have a defensible opportunity to collapse a Democratic seat. Furthermore, a Democratic power grab in Illinois, should that happen, makes Republican retribution in Ohio and Pennsylvania more likely.

Another transitional Ohio factor is the two new members coming into the House right after the Nov. 2 special election. Since the partisan primaries have already nominated candidates in a pair of vacated congressional districts that have consistently performed for each party, it became clear on primary night that Democrat Rep. Shontel Brown and Republican Rep. Mike Carey would be joining the delegation.

Brown’s 11th District that stretches from Cleveland to Akron is likely to be a key redistricting focal point. The 11th must gain 94,091 people to reach the new 15-District Ohio population quota of 786,630 individuals, which is the second most of any Buckeye State CD. Since this is also a majority minority seat, adding the necessary people from the Akron area would be a reasonable move, and such a population segment would have to come from Rep. Ryan’s 13th District.

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Former Mass. Sen. Scott Brown’s Wife Soon to be a House Candidate?

By Jim Ellis

Gail Huff Brown (R)

Sept. 2, 2021 — Television news journalist Gail Huff Brown (R), wife of former Massachusetts senator and ex-US ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown, is reportedly preparing to run for New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District in what can arguably be considered the most competitive CD in the United States.

Scott Brown (R) served in the Massachusetts state House and Senate before winning the US Senate seat in a 2010 special election after veteran incumbent Ted Kennedy had passed away. Current Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) then defeated Brown in the 2012 regular general election. In 2014, Brown, after moving back to his native state of New Hampshire, challenged Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) but lost 51-48 percent despite running in a wave Republican election year.

Now, the Browns are looking to embark upon another political campaign, but this time the candidate will apparently be Gail Huff Brown, the former senator and ambassador’s wife of 35 years. A formal announcement is expected soon according to the NH Journal news site, which quotes Scott Brown as saying that “Gail is very close to a yes,” in responding to a question about whether his wife will run. Additionally, the ex-senator believes that former President Trump will endorse Ms. Brown, but such a move could be a long time in coming and may not be a sure bet.

Already in the Republican field hoping to challenge two-term Rep. Chris Pappas (D-Manchester) are at least two other candidates with strong Trump credentials. Matt Mowers is the 2020 GOP nominee who held Rep. Pappas to a 51-46 percent re-election victory. Mowers, along with fellow 1st District congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt, is a former Trump White House staff member. A third announced candidate is freshman state Rep. Tim Baxter (R-Portsmouth).

The 1st District electorate has defeated more incumbents since 2004 than any other. In fact, only twice in those eight succeeding elections did the incumbent win re-election. Republican optimism for 2022 is high, however, because the 2020 elections awarded the GOP both the state House and Senate and, with Gov. Sununu (R) in office, the Republicans have a redistricting trifecta.

The state has two congressional districts. The plan would be to make the marginal 1st District, the eastern seat that contains the state’s small coastline area, into a likely Republican domain while conceding the 2nd CD, or western seat, to five-term incumbent Annie Kuster (D-Hopkinton/Concord). Currently, the 2nd plays relatively marginal – Rep. Kuster has averaged 52.9 percent of the vote over her five elections – but would be made safely Democratic under this discussed redistricting concept.

According to the Census Bureau’s per congressional district population report, the 2nd District needs 8,973 individuals from the 1st to equalize the resident figures. We can, however, expect a much bigger people swap if the defined partisan split plan is to become a political reality.

Rep. Pappas was initially elected in 2018 after then-incumbent Carol Shea-Porter (D) chose to retire. Shea-Porter first won in 2006, lost in 2010, was re-elected in 2012, defeated in 2014, and re-elected once more in 2016. Prior to his election to Congress, Pappas, a restaurant owner, was an elected member of the state’s Executive Council, a five-member board that holds certain checks and balances power over the Governor.

Pappas has said that he wants to survey the New Hampshire political situation before making his own 2022 electoral plans. If he deems the 1st District as becoming too Republican, he has not closed the door on running for governor, particularly if incumbent Sununu opts to run for the Senate. Sununu has been elected governor three times but is only in his fifth year of service because New Hampshire is one of two states, neighboring Vermont is the other, that maintains two-year terms for their state chief executives.

Though New Hampshire is a small state, the redistricting process will be closely watched because the GOP will need to convert the politically seesawing seat to meet their projected national majority numbers. With Gail Huff Brown potentially becoming a candidate, we can also expect increased national political attention coming to this race.

Additionally, it will be quite some time before we see the political patterns develop. New Hampshire still has a late primary, Sept. 13 for 2022, and candidate filing doesn’t close until June 10. Gov. Sununu is also indicating he will decide about the Senate race well into next year. Therefore, this political scenario is a long way from fully unfolding, and Gail Huff Brown’s potential entry into the congressional race brings us yet another new twist.

Michigan’s Lost Seat

Michigan Congressional Districts

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 31, 2021 — Losing a congressional seat is nothing new to the Michigan delegation. Since the 1980 census, inclusive, the state has lost a district in every reapportionment and two in the 1990 iteration. Today, we continue our series about the states gaining and losing congressional districts under 2020 national reapportionment with a look at the Wolverine State.

Michigan is difficult to draw not only because of the consistent seat losses, but so many of the state’s districts abut immovable objects: i.e., an international or state border, or a body of water. Under the current map, 10 of Michigan’s 14 congressional districts at least partially border a country, state, or lake.

The Michigan per district population number for the 2020 census is a high 775,179 individuals. High per district resident numbers often occur when a state loses a seat. In this case, all of Michigan’s 14 districts must gain population, hence the underlying reason for another delegation reduction.

Another factor in making the state a rather unique draw for the new Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission that is tasked with creating the new congressional map for the initial time, is the areas needing to gain the most population lie in opposite ends of the state. This, added to the fact that over 70 percent of the current districts border an immovable object, means the 2021 redistricting process is a significant challenge for the eleven commissioners (4R; 3D; 4N) with no previous experience in drawing political maps.

The area with the largest population shortfall comes in the northern part of the state. Rep. Dale Kildee’s (D-Flushing/Flint) 5th District is the seat furthest away from the population quota, down 104,476 individuals. Directly to his west, Rep. John Moolenaar’s (R-Midland) 4th District is 77,325 people under quota, and to the north all the way to the Canadian border, Rep. Jack Bergman’s (R-Watersmeet) Upper Peninsula 1st District will require an additional 70,829 residents. Combined, these three seats are 252,630 people short of the population quota for three congressional districts.

The area in the second-most need of population is the city of Detroit. The two districts that encompass the city, Districts 13 (Rep. Rashida Tlaib-D) and 14 (Rep. Brenda Lawrence-D) are a combined 184,290 people short for a pair of districts. Because both CDs 13 and 14 and majority minority seats, it is more than probable that the commission won’t collapse these districts because of Voting Rights Act requirements.

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Gerrymandering Wars Ignited

By Jim Ellis
Aug. 27, 2021 — In the past few days, Democratic leaders and news sources in two states, New York and Illinois, are suggesting that the party redistricting strategists will attempt to maximize Democratic US House gains. Republicans will then counter in similar states that they control.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), on her first official day in office after replacing resigned Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), bluntly answered a reporter’s question to the affirmative when asked if she would use her newfound power to maximize Democratic congressional gains through the redistricting process.

Earlier this week, news sources were reporting that Illinois Democratic map drawers, though no preliminary congressional map has yet been released, are attempting to draw a new 14D-3R map that would likely collapse Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon) and Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) into a strong Democratic seat for the former and pairing for the latter with another downstate Republican.

Doing this would put added national pressure on Republicans in states such as Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Georgia – places where the GOP has full control of the redistricting process. Here, the states are either adding seats or in position to carve a sitting Democrat into unfriendly political territory.

With New York losing one seat, the prime district for elimination would appear obvious since Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) has already announced his retirement and his 23rd District is the lowest in population among all New York seats. Adjacent Rep. Claudia Tenney’s (R-New Hartford) 22nd CD is second lowest, so combining those two Upstate Republican districts into one appears to be a foregone conclusion. It remains to be seen if the Democratic leaders try to do more. The current delegation breaks 19D-8R but will reduce to 26 seats in the next Congress.

Of Illinois’ current 18 congressional districts, only one, that of Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago), is over-populated and only by 10,986 people. While the Kinzinger seat is 61,125 individuals short of the state quota of 753,677 for the new 17-district map, his is not even close to being the most under-populated. He, however, sits between two Democratic seats that the party needs to protect, those of retiring Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline), whose 17th CD is 79,907 residents under quota, and Rep. Lauren Underwood’s (D-Naperville) 14th, where she had a close call in 2020 but is only 482 people short of quota.

While the 14th does not need many more people, it does need significantly more Democrats and they can be found by dividing Kinzinger’s 16th CD into pieces.

Redistricting is always full of surprises, so this analysis is merely educated speculation. If, however, the Democrats come away with gaining a net three or four seats from New York and Illinois combined, then how do the Republicans retaliate?

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