Category Archives: Redistricting

Meehan to Go

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 29, 2018 — The alleged sexual harassment situation involving four-term Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford) culminated with his retirement announcement, last week.

Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford)

Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford)

In a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan and his local Republican Party chairman, Meehan wrote that he will not be a candidate for a fifth term in November. But, his personal situation may not be the only reason that voluntarily leaving Congress makes sense for him.

As we’ve discussed on several occasions, the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court invalidated the state’s congressional map earlier this week on grounds that the empowered Republican political apparatus took partisanship too far in constructing the 2011 plan. The GOP will try to flip this case into federal jurisdiction — the US Supreme Court has never ruled a map invalid because of political gerrymandering, and are actively considering several such cases during the current term — but the party’s prospects of doing so are likely poor.

If the state high court’s ruling stands, the legislature and governor will be forced to present a new map to the Justices by Feb. 15 in order to keep pace with the current election calendar. The short deadline will likely avoid compelling the court to delay the state’s March 6 candidate filing deadline and May 15 primary election.

Now with a Democrat governor in office, and not the Republican that signed this map into law, it is highly probable that a veto will occur over the next GOP iteration. If so, then the court will appoint a special master to draw the new map.

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The Pre-Redistricting Wars

redistricting-2018By Jim Ellis

Jan. 23, 2018 — Though we are in the fourth election cycle of the decade, the 2011 redistricting fights are still continuing. The US Supreme Court has been dealing with redistricting cases from five states, but it all could come to a head soon.

The lawsuits first break down into the familiar racial gerrymandering claims, which have been in the courts in some fashion or another since the Voting Rights Act was created in 1965. Currently, the topic of political gerrymandering is hot as both parties are pursuing live complaints against their opponents for drawing congressional and state legislative boundaries to maximize the political standing of one party to the unfair detriment of the other.

The major political gerrymandering case comes from Wisconsin and will likely set the tone for other such suits in Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and possibly Maryland. Democrats are bringing the action in the first four states, while Republicans are challenging Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

Obviously, the high court is getting involved to craft a new set of rulings relating to both racial and political gerrymandering before the entire country goes into a 50-state redistricting round upon completion of the 2020 census. Therefore, election results in 2018 and 2020 to establish incumbency both in the House of Representatives and the state legislatures become critically important.

Last week, the US Supreme Court stayed the most recent North Carolina lower court redistricting ruling. The three-judge panel invalidated the maps, determining that majority Republicans engaged in political gerrymandering. In the last election cycle the Tar Heel State boundaries were also re-drawn to remedy what the panel cited as racial gerrymandering reasons, but the Democrats were unable to make a dent in the Republicans’ 10R-3D delegation advantage.

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Arizona Senate Activity;
North Carolina Map … Again

Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 11, 2018 — Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio made a political move regarding the open Senate race on Tuesday, just as Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) was scheduling a series of statewide “events” for Friday.

The controversial ex-sheriff, who President Trump pardoned earlier in the year just before his sentencing for a contempt of court conviction, announced his candidacy for Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R) open seat. Many, however, including Sen. Flake himself, do not believe that Arpaio will follow through with his candidacy. The former sheriff, who was defeated for re-election in 2016, has frequently said he was going to launch a statewide campaign but ultimately backed away from doing so. As an aside, should Arpaio be elected at 85 years of age, he would become the oldest freshman senator in American history.

Rep. McSally’s Friday appearances are reported to be a Senate announcement tour. Since Sen. Flake announced his retirement, it has been expected that McSally would become a Senate candidate.

Ironically, should Arpaio run, the big beneficiary might actually be McSally. With ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward in position to attract the more conservative Arizona primary voter, Sheriff Arpaio’s presence, complete with his virtually universal name identification and well-known border protection positions, would clearly split the former legislator’s political base. In a state with no secondary run-off election system, this would likely allow McSally the opportunity of winning the nomination without having to secure a majority vote.

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New Year House Preview

US-House-of-Representatives-balance-of-power-January-2018By Jim Ellis

Jan. 8, 2018 — Continuing our federal race outlook to set the political stage in this first week of the actual midterm election year, we now turn to the House races.

Republicans have a 24-seat margin (counting their three vacant seats that will go to special election in the early part of this year: PA-18, AZ-8, and OH-12), and though Democrats and most in the media claim that a new majority is just around the corner, a race-by-race House analysis shows that the road to converting the majority remains difficult to attain. This is so for several key reasons, not the least of which is the typical House incumbent retention factor. In 2016 the rate hit 97 percent (377 victories for the 389 House members who ran for re-election).

Additionally, even though President Trump’s job approval rating is historically low, we must remember that he won the 2016 national election with a personal approval index no higher than his present positive to negative ratios. And, even though congressional approval was well below 20 percent for the entire 2016 election year, Republicans lost only six House seats from their previous modern era record majority of 247 that was attained in the 2014 election.

When we have seen major seat changes occur in past elections, the winning party has done well in converting open seats. For the fourth election cycle in a row, the 2018 House cycle features an above average quantity of incumbent-less US House campaigns – the current number is 45, counting the two latest announced retirees, Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Gregg Harper (R-MS).

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Action Breaking in Texas

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 24, 2017
— Early last week, the three-judge federal panel considering the Texas redistricting lawsuit issued a ruling, one that contained a rather major surprise.

It was expected that Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) and Lloyd Doggett’s (D-Austin) districts would certainly be ordered re-drawn for racial gerrymandering reasons, but it was assumed that Rep. Will Hurd’s (R-San Antonio) 23rd District would also be in the same predicament. In a ruling that certainly caught the Democratic plaintiffs off guard, the court allowed the current 23rd to stand while striking down the other two. The panel also left north Texas in tact, another region the Democrats wanted re-configured.

Now with some certainty that the district will remain intact – though it could tangentially change as a result of re-crafting Doggett’s nearby 35th District – candidates already are starting to make their moves regarding challenging vulnerable two-term incumbent Hurd.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio)

Congressman Hurd was first elected to represent his sprawling central-west Texas district, a seat that stretches more than 550 miles from San Antonio to El Paso, in 2014 when he upset then-Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), 50-48 percent, yielding a margin of just over 2,400 votes. This past November, Rep. Hurd again beat Gallego, this time 48-47 percent, a spread of just over 3,000 votes. Knowing that the turnout would literally double in the presidential year from the previous mid-term, many observers expected Gallego to re-claim the seat and were again surprised when the re-match evolved into a rerun.

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