Category Archives: House

The House Convenes

By Jim Ellis

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) barely retained the Speakership in a narrow vote.

Jan. 4, 2021 — The 117th House of Representatives was called to order yesterday in an unusual Sunday commencement session, and even on the first day the House membership is not complete. The elected body includes 433 members. The NY-22 seat is still undecided, and the LA-5 district is now vacant due to the shocking death of Rep.-Elect Luke Letlow (R).

The vote for Speaker in favor of incumbent Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was 216-209. Two Democrats, Reps. Conor Lamb (D-PA) and Jared Golden (D-ME), did not support Pelosi, voting for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), respectively, while three others voted present. Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), all re-elected with closer than expected margins, only acknowledged their presence in the chamber while responding to the vote for Speaker.

Two members were unable to participate in yesterday’s ceremony. Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Delray Beach), due to cancer treatments, and fellow Sunshine State Rep.-Elect Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Miami), because of a positive COVID test, were absent for the first session.

Three other seats will soon be vacant. Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and Deb Haaland (D-NM) have all been appointed to or nominated for positions in the Biden Administration.

Rep. Richmond will resign on Jan. 20 to run the White House Office of Public Engagement. This position does not require Senate confirmation. Reps. Fudge and Haaland must receive Senate confirmation for their nominations as secretaries of Housing and Urban Development and Interior, respectively. They will resign from the House upon receiving such approval for their new positions.

The NY-22 election is still undecided, now two full months after Election Day, and it may still be some time before the winner is actually determined. As the counties are finally finishing their vote totals after Justice of the Oswego County Supreme Court Scott DelConte ordered seven of the eight local entities to review and properly submit the challenged ballots to the court. Justice DelConte ruled that the seven counties failed to adhere to New York election law in processing and accounting for the challenged ballots.

The totals continue to fluctuate, as Tenney has seen her 12-vote lead swell to 29, before her fortunes changed to trailing by 14 tallies. Perhaps more importantly, DelConte has been ruling in favor of Rep. Anthony Brindisi’s (D-Utica) challenges, which could be a prelude to the final outcome. More than 2,000 ballots were contested by the competing parties.

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The Losing Regions – Part II

All the best for a great holiday break. The Political Updates will return on Monday, Jan. 4.

A look at how things might play out in key states in the redistricting tug of wars

By Jim Ellis
Dec. 24, 2020 — Continuing our two-part series of examining reapportionment projections for states expected to lose congressional seats, today we look at an additional four states with CDs on the chopping block: Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

At this point, it appears a total of ten states are in the losing category. Yesterday, we covered Alabama, California, Michigan, and Minnesota. The remaining two, Rhode Island and West Virginia, are moving to at-large and two district status, respectively, meaning their new maps become obvious.

The new apportionment, originally due at the end of this year but delayed due to COVID, could be released sometime in January.


Illinois

Illinois is a sure loser and one of the few states where the overall population is less (over 158,000 people) according the latest available numbers (July 2019) than registered 10 years ago. Therefore, Illinois is in the rare situation of losing congressional representation not because the population failed to keep pace with the rate of growth, but rather due to the entity actually having fewer people.

This leads to speculation that the state could lose two seats because even in such a scenario the per district population number would be under 800,000 individuals. A two-seat loss would still render the state with a lesser per district total population figure than some of the other states losing one.

All current 18 Illinois CDs need to gain population even under a one-seat loss scenario. Making such calculations we see that the new rudimentary per district population figure would be approximately 745,401 individuals, less than the number projected for most states. Typically, states losing congressional districts feature much higher numbers. This adds to the speculation that the state could drop a second CD.

If the loss is only one, as the current projection formula suggests, the southern part of the state would appear to take the hit. This means that Republicans, while holding only five of the state’s current 18 districts, would likely lose a seat. Aside from Rep. Cheri Bustos’ (D-Moline) 17th District anchored in the Quad Cities region, which has the largest population number to gain, over 79,000 people, the remaining seven of the top eight districts needing a population increase come from the Downstate region.

The figures suggest that combining the five central and southern districts of Reps. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro), Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville), incoming freshman Mary Miller (R), Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon), and Darin LaHood (R-Peoria) into four districts would be the most likely scenario unless the Bustos district is collapsed. Considering that the Democrats control the redistricting process, it is probable that the former scenario would be the one adopted.


New York

Like Illinois, New York, while having slightly more people than they did in 2010 (just over 75,000 more according to July 2019 estimated figures), could be on the cusp of losing two seats. Of their current 27 districts, 24 must gain population. Only the seats of Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn), Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), and Adriano Espaillat (D-Bronx) are in the position of shedding residents. All others need a population influx even to reach the approximated 748,213 figure that appears be present at this point for a 26-District model.

As in Illinois, a two-seat loss would still keep the per district number at well under 800,000, much less than other states that are projected to lose congressional representation.

Also as in Illinois, the non-urban area looks to need the largest population gain (meaning Upstate, in this case), would contain the area most prone to lose a seat. This means, also as in Illinois, that the party in a small minority, the Republicans, is most likely the one on the chopping block.

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The Losing Regions – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 23, 2020 — With the Census Bureau readying the national apportionment formula to present to the Clerk of the House at some point next month, it is a reasonable time to again look at the states projected to lose congressional districts and begin to determine where a dragging population could cost a region its current representation.

Today, we look at four states projected to lose a district: Alabama, California, Michigan, and Minnesota. Tomorrow, we will examine Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. Rhode Island and West Virginia are also going to lose seats but because they are two- and three-district states, the new redistricting map becomes obvious, particularly in the former’s case.


Alabama

The Alabama population suggests that it is too small to keep its seventh congressional district, but such makes the remaining six districts very large, likely well over population figures of 800,000 residents apiece. It is an ironic problem for the states losing districts in that the remaining CDs actually become much larger. If Alabama is on the losing end in final reapportionment, the scenario of dropping a district and making the remaining seats much larger will certainly come to pass.

As with all redistricting, those in a corner of a state, i.e., either bordered by another state, body of water, or country are in the best shape because their districts can only expand or contract one or two ways. In Alabama, the 1st and 5th CDs, those of incoming Rep. Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) and Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) are in the most favorable geographic positions.

The district appearing to lose the most population is Rep. Terri Sewell’s (D-Birmingham) 7th CD, but this is a protected Civil Rights district meaning it must be protected. The seat could need to gain almost 150,000 people according to rudimentary calculations, and the most likely place for the increase comes from Montgomery County at the expense of the 2nd District and possibly the 3rd.

The 2nd District, even when bordered by states on two sides, appears the most vulnerable to collapse. Needing to likely gain over 140,000 individuals before almost certainly losing population to the current 7th District, the collapsing of the 2nd and 3rd Districts into one seat appears to be a potential outcome. This would place incoming freshman Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) and veteran Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Anniston) in the same district.


California

For the first time in history, California looks to lose congressional representation. In the last census, the state remained constant for the first time. In every previous census apportionment, the Golden State had gained representation. In the 1980 census, for example, California gained seven new congressional districts. Now, it appears they will reduce representation from 53 to 52 seats, but still be the most populous state by a wide stretch.

The region not keeping up with the rate of growth appears to occur in the southern California expanse from Bakersfield through Los Angeles County and portions of Riverside, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties. Such a region covers 18 congressional districts, 16 of which will need to gain population under a rudimentary calculation suggesting that each of the state’s 52 CDs will require approximately 760,000 residents. Of the 18 districts, Democrats represent 15 and Republicans’ three.

Only two of these 18 districts, those of Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Norma Torres (D-Pomona), are either at or slightly over the approximated population goal.

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Outstanding Races: A Look-In

(Jon Ossoff – “Selma”)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 22, 2020 — The Georgia Senate runoff campaigns continue to see brisk pre-election voting participation and huge amounts of money being spent, while one of the candidates appears to be fundamentally changing his message strategy. In the two contested House races, the NY-22 result remains undecided, while questions are being raised around the IA-2 situation with regard to seating the state certified winner on Jan. 3.

The Georgia races, heading into Christmas week, feature political surveys finding both campaigns, those of Sen. David Perdue (R) against Jon Ossoff (D) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) paired with Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) in their special election battle, falling within the polling margin of error.

The Target Smart statistical organization reveals that Democrats are slightly leading Republicans in pre-election ballots returned (47.0 – 46.7 percent, respectively within the universe of returned ballots), a difference between the two parties of just 4,025 ballots. Over 1.329 million votes have been received through the end of last week, which is only 241,088 under the number of early and mail votes recorded in the 2020 regular election.

During the regular election, the Democrats led the early and mail voting participation with 748,741 ballots (47.7 percent of the total return) compared to the GOP’s total of 719,515 (45.8 percent). The unaffiliated sector returned 102,635 ballots in the regular election. So far in the runoff cycle, 82,756 unaffiliated individuals have either voted early or mailed their ballots.

During the week, Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff changed his media strategy. Prior to this period, the Ossoff campaign had been concentrating on COVID as their key issue driver, but now appear to be concerned about African American voter turnout. With the pre-election numbers being slightly down for Democrats as described above, the change in Ossoff strategy suggests that the campaign strategists do not feel the black vote numbers are where they need to be to clinch a victory on Jan. 5.

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NM-1: New Vacancy

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 21, 2020 — Late last week, President-Elect Joe Biden announced that he is nominating New Mexico US Rep. Deb Haaland (D-Albuquerque) to be Interior Secretary. Upon confirmation, Rep. Haaland will resign her seat in the House, which will become the body’s third vacancy.

Biden has already chosen Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) to run the White House Office of Public Engagement and become Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, respectively.

Special elections will be held in all three districts and scheduled once the member officially resigns to accept his or her new position. Democrats will be prohibitive favorites in Louisiana and Ohio, but it’s possible the New Mexico seat could become competitive.

Haaland was first elected to what was an open district in 2018 when then-Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) risked the 1st District House seat to wage an ultimately successful campaign for Governor. Grisham was first elected to the House in 2012 in an open seat campaign. She succeeded then-Rep. Martin Heinrich (D), who won a Senate seat in the same election.

Prior to Heinrich’s initial House win in 2008, the 1st District congressional seat, anchored in Albuquerque, had been in Republican hands for 40 consecutive years in the person of Reps. Manuel Lujan, Steve Schiff, and Heather Wilson, consecutively. Though the district has significantly changed politically, it has largely kept its same basic geographic context during the entire aforementioned stretch. Prior to the 1968 election, New Mexico’s representatives were chosen in at-large elections.

Once Haaland, one of the first Native American females to be elected to the House, resigns, Gov. Grisham will schedule a special election. Under New Mexico procedure, the political parties will caucus to choose their nominees, so there will be no primary election. Therefore, it is probable to see a contested convention process for both parties, particularly for the Democrats since their eventual nominee will begin the special election campaign in the favorite’s position.

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