Category Archives: Reapportionment

Dissecting the New York Map

The recently enacted New York congressional map (go to FiveThirtyEight.com to see fully interactive map, or click on the map above.)

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 10, 2022 — The recently enacted New York congressional map is one of the most gerrymandered in the country and designed to reduce the Republican contingent to just four of 26 seats. While Republicans will no doubt challenge the map in court, some of the moves, however, will prove justifiable.

Since the Democrats control the redistricting process in only four states, national pressure came upon the party’s legislative leaders in New York, Illinois, New Mexico, and Oregon to draw the maximum partisan maps. They did so in each case, but when such a map is constructed, invariably some of the majority seats are weakened to the point of being competitive in wave election years for the opposite party. Such appears to be the case with the New York lines.

To begin, the map drawers were able to cut the Republican contingent in half by executing several fundamental strategic moves.

First, they reduced Democratic strength (even with the current map or weaker) in 15 of the current 19 party held districts but still made the seats untouchable. Second, the remaining four Republican districts saw an increase in GOP loyalty. Third, the Republicans were forced to absorb the seat the state lost in national reapportionment, and the Dems were able to take advantage of three GOP members not seeking re-election: Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley; running for governor), Tom Reed (R-Corning; retiring) and John Katko (R-Syracuse; retiring).

Using the FiveThirtyEight statistical organization’s rating of each new district, we can draw conclusions about party performance in each of the new 26 CDs.

The Democratic members receiving politically safe seats ranging from D+20 all the way to D+77 are mostly from New York City: Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens; D+54), Grace Meng (D-Queens; D+24), Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn; D+65), Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn; D+55), Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn; D+55), Jerrold Nadler (D-New York City; D+52), Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan; D+67), Adriano Espaillat (D-Bronx; D+77), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx; D+50), Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx; D+72), Jamaal Bowman (D-Yonkers; D+36), and Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo; D+20).

The four safe Republican seats are mostly in upstate New York, with one Long Island exception. Those seats are for Reps. Andrew Garbarino (R-Sayville; R+20), Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville; R+23), Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford; R+26), and Chris Jacobs (R-Orchard Park; R+25).

The collapsed seat is actually Rep. Tenney’s current 22nd District. It was justified combining the 22nd with Rep. Reed’s 23rd because those districts, located adjacent to one another, are the two lowest in population.

The current 22nd District was then combined with Rep. Katko’s current 24th to make the new open 22nd District, which resulted in a D+13 rating and a district again anchored in Syracuse. The voting trends in the new 22nd increase from the D+4 rating that the current 24th carries.

The new draw and Rep. Reed’s retirement allows Rep. Tenney to run in the new 23rd where she will likely have to win a competitive Republican primary, but would have a safe seat in the general election. The new 23rd, however, contains only 10 percent of her current constituency.

Rep. Jacobs’ current 27th District is then pushed northward from his Buffalo and Rochester outer suburbs district into a new safely Republican 24th CD that contains just under 60 percent of his current constituency. He, too, could face GOP primary opposition but will have a safe seat for the general election.

Democrats will have a strong chance of converting open District 1 on Long Island. This seat goes from a R+10 rating that Zeldin held to a D+6. Currently, with Suffolk County Legislators Bridget Fleming and Kara Hahn in the race, along with ex-Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon who was the District 2 nominee in 2020, the Democrats have the stronger early contenders. The candidate filing deadline is not until April 7 for the June 28 primary, so the GOP has time to coalesce around a viable candidate of their own.

Rep. Tom Suozzi’s (D-Glen Cove) Long Island-anchored 3rd District increases to D+10 from D+6. He is running for governor and leaves behind a crowded Democratic primary field. The winner will face consensus Republican candidate George Santos (R) who performed surprisingly well as the 2020 nominee.

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North Carolina Map Rejected

Rejected 2022 North Carolina Congressional Redistricting map (click on map above or here to go to an interactive map at DavesRedistricting.com)

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 8, 2022 — In what has almost been a decade-long game of gerrymander ping pong, the state Supreme Court on Friday rejected the new North Carolina congressional and state legislative maps, thus repeating their actions from the two previous times the panel’s majority disqualified a Republican legislature’s map.

The vote was 4-3, with all four Democrats voting in favor of declaring the map a partisan gerrymander, consistent with their past action, while the three Republicans voted to uphold the plans.

We are again looking at a relatively quick re-draw situation because the twice-postponed North Carolina primary is now scheduled for June 7. If an agreement cannot be reached, it is possible the candidate filing deadline and statewide primary are again postponed.

The high court’s move was expected, but this is a serious setback to Republicans from a national perspective since North Carolina appears to be the only state where the party can gain multiple seats through redistricting.

It is likely that the inter-party pairing of Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk) and Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) will be re-drawn when a new congressional version is passed. The Greensboro area has been the major focal point of this and the previous maps, with the partisan Republican legislature and partisan Democratic court continuing to battle over a map that will eventually become the state’s 2022 political playing field.

As drawn, the legislature’s map — under North Carolina law and procedure, the governor, in this case Democrat Roy Cooper, has no veto power over redistricting — would have returned either 10 Republicans and 4 Democrats or possibly has high as 11 Republicans and 3 Democrats. Under the current draw, the Republican advantage is 8-5.

North Carolina gained one seat under national reapportionment, and the last iteration of the state Supreme Court map, ordered before the 2020 election, resulted in the Republicans losing two seats, one in Raleigh and the other in the Greensboro area.

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Two More House Dems to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 20, 2022 — Setting off a game of political musical chairs, eight-term California Democrat US Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) announced Tuesday that he will not seek a ninth term later this year. Rhode Island US Rep. Jim Langevin (D-Warwick) also announced that he will not seek re-election later this year.

CA-9; CA-13; current CA-22

Eight-term California Democrat US Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) announced his retirement this week.

Originally elected to a Bay Area-anchored district in 2006 when he defeated veteran Rep. Richard Pombo (R), McNerney’s then-11th District was moved into the San Joaquin Valley because of 2011 redistricting. The new 9th District will still be anchored in the city of Stockton, but the updated version is somewhat more Republican than the current CA-9. The Congressman would have been favored for re-election, however.

Immediately upon McNerney’s announcement, Rep. Josh Harder (D-Turlock), who had decided to seek re-election in the new 13th District after his current 10th District was divided into various parts under the new redistricting plan, declared that he will run to succeed the retiring congressman. The 9th CD is slightly more Democratic than the CA-13, but it is still cast as a relatively competitive general election seat.

With Rep. Harder abandoning his re-election plans in CA-13, state Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) quickly announced that he will run for Congress in the suddenly open district that stretches north to south from Modesto to Fresno through Merced and Madera Counties.

California’s Central Valley is in a state of political flux. With the special election for resigned Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-Tulare) underway in the neighboring current 22nd District and the candidates having no place to run in the regular election, the 13th District could now become an attractive landing spot for one or more of the GOP special election contenders.

A Republican will be an underdog in the new 13th, but at least the candidate would have a fighting chance to win a full term and the opportunity of seeking re-election if successful.

Former Rep. Nunes’ CA-22, a Republican seat that occupies parts of Fresno and Tulare Counties, was torn to pieces as part of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission plan, as was Rep. Harder’s CD in the agricultural region’s northern section. As a result, a Republican district, numbered 5, was created northeast of Fresno to the outskirts of Sacramento that Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) will claim. This is where Rep. Nunes would have run for re-election had he stayed in Congress.

Two swing Democratic districts, the aforementioned 9th and 13th, and two stronger Democratic seats — the 21st that contains downtown Fresno where Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) will seek re-election, and the new 22nd District to the west from where Republican Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) is endangered in the general election — were also created.

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Rep. Lawrence to Retire;
Open US House Seats Now Up to 44

By Jim Ellis

Four-term Michigan US Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield)

Jan. 7, 2022 — Four-term Michigan US Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) became the latest Democratic incumbent to announce her retirement. She is the 25th Dem to not seek re-election as compared to 11 Republicans.

Saying, “this is the right time to turn the page and spend more time with my family — my husband, daughter, son and granddaughter — and put them first,” Lawrence made official her decision not to seek a fifth term next year. She is 67 years old. Prior to her election to Congress, Lawrence served as Southfield’s mayor for 14 years. She is the only African American in the Michigan delegation and the lone Wolverine State Democrat to serve on the House Appropriations Committee.

It is speculated upon that the new Michigan map influenced her retirement decision, but Rep. Lawrence said she was confident of being able to be re-elected in the new 12th District. Though her home base of Southfield was included in MI-12, the cities of Dearborn, Westland, and the western part of Wayne County would have, for her, been foreign political turf.

In her closing comments to the Detroit Free Press newspaper, Rep. Lawrence said, “I’m incredibly grateful for the people of Michigan’s 14th Congressional District who have placed their trust in me — in me, a little Black girl from the east side of Detroit.”

The Lawrence decision greatly changes the Detroit area congressional campaigns. Immediately upon Rep. Lawrence announcing her retirement plans, neighboring Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) declared that she will seek re-election in the 12th District, saying that she currently represents more of this CD than the downtown Detroit-anchored MI-13. This leaves the 13th open and will create a major Democratic primary battle. CD-13 is a majority African American district and heavily Democratic, meaning that winning the party primary is tantamount to election in November.

A group of current and former Detroit state legislators announced Wednesday that they are filing a lawsuit against the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, saying the new congressional, state Senate, and state House of Representatives’ boundaries discriminate against black voters, and therefore violate the Voting Rights Act. If the lawsuit successfully overturns the Detroit district draws, new mapping instructions could be forced upon the commission before the 2022 election.

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Rep. Bobby Rush to Retire

US Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago)

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 6, 2022 — From Illinois Black Panther Party co-founder to 30-year member of Congress, US Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago) after the first of the year announced that he will not seek a 16th term next year. Rush becomes the 24th Democrat to leave the House either for retirement or seeking another elective office. A 25th Democratic seat, that of the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), will be filled next week (Jan. 11) in a special election.

Bobby Rush co-founded the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968, but left for the Democratic Party in 1974. He was elected to the Chicago City Council in 1983, and then to the US House in the 1992 election. In addition to his civil rights activism and background, his claim to national fame was defeating then-state Sen. Barack Obama in the Democratic congressional primary of 2000.

Obama, of course, would go onto win the US Senate election in 2004, and the presidency in 2008. Interestingly, former President Obama is not the only recent president who lost a race for the House of Representatives. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also failed to win a district contest.

Illinois’ 1st District is heavily Democratic, even in its new form that meanders farther away from its south Chicago population anchor. The new 1st stretches all the way to the city of Wilmington, some 60 miles from the traditional heart of IL-1.

Likely anticipating that Rush would retire, seven Democrats had previously announced their 2022 candidacies, but none are elected officials. With the incumbent retirement now official, we can expect a number of Chicago Democratic politicians to enter the open race. As many as 11 sitting state and local officials are being mentioned as possible candidates in addition to Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton.

Regardless of who files before the March 14 candidate declaration deadline, the June 28 Democratic primary winner will easily claim the seat in November. While the new 1st is a bit more Republican than Rep. Rush’s current CD, the new district is still overwhelmingly Democratic and majority minority under the Democratic legislature’s gerrymandered map. According to the FiveThirtyEight statistical site, the new 1st is a D+41, down from the current 1st District rating of D+47.

Of the 24 Democratic incumbents not seeking re-election, 17 are retiring and seven are seeking another office, from US Senate and governor to state attorney general and big city mayor.

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