Category Archives: Redistricting

New Political Heat in the Arizona Desert

Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake (R-6)

More torrid political action is coming to Arizona. As expected, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) announced yesterday that he will leave the House at the end of next year to run for the Senate, now that Republican Whip Jon Kyl (R) has made his retirement plans known. Flake, who attracts some national attention for opposing earmarks and his fervent support of reducing government spending, may have the right message for a like-minded constituency at exactly the proper time. He certainly will be formidable in a Republican primary and, today, must be cast as the general election favorite too.

The Congressman’s short-term objective is to discourage other top Republicans from challenging him, thus making his road to the GOP nomination smooth and easy. Several already have officially declined to run, including former Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ-3) and freshmen Reps. Ben Quayle (R-AZ-3) and David Schweikert (R-AZ-5), in addition to retired NFL quarterback Kurt Warner. Another office-holder previously thinking about the Senate race has reportedly altered his plans. Russell Pearce, the Arizona Senate president, is said to be mounting a campaign for Flake’s open House seat, wherever it might be drawn, rather than enter the statewide fray.

The Flake decision also impacts redistricting. With an incumbent-less suburban Republican seat unprotected, it becomes easier for map drawers to make drastic changes in the congressional map.

Politics in the Grand Canyon State are still in a relative state of chaos, rendering it almost impossible to accurately forecast future elections. Considering this tentative back-drop, it appears that Mr. Flake’s decision to run for Senate is a sensible one.
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In Iowa, Who Will Be Out?

The layout of Iowa's five congressional districts.

The Census Bureau released Iowa’s census block data at the end of last week, giving us clues as to which of the five current US Representatives will be paired with another member for the 2012 election. The Hawkeye State did not keep pace with the national growth rate of 9.7% for the decade (it grew only 4.1%), and therefore loses one seat in reapportionment. All five current districts are substantially below the average of approximately 710,767 constituents that each seat will have for the next 10 years.

Iowa has a unique redistricting system. A select group of legislative staff members draw proposed congressional and legislative maps, and then the full general assembly votes up or down, without amendments, on the final drafts. What makes Iowa unique is that political considerations are minimized in the drawing process; in fact, the incumbents’ home addresses aren’t even included as a redistricting factor, making Iowa the only such state to proceed in such a fashion.

Of today’s five districts, from the map drawn and adopted in 2001, the seat requiring the most new population is Rep. Steve King’s CD 5 in Iowa’s western region. An additional 184,136 people must be added to meet the mandatory one person-one vote standard. The seat needing the second-most increase in population is Rep. Bruce Braley’s 1st district in the eastern part of the state at 165,146 individuals. Rep. Leonard Boswell’s 3rd district needs to gain the least, but even there the number is still substantial: 119,473 people. All totaled, when considering the state’s five congressional districts, Iowa is down a whopping 761,590 inhabitants.

In redistricting, and particularly where the Iowa system is concerned, a member’s House career path and standing within the internal committee structure is far less important than whether the district is located in a corner or the middle of the state, and if the particular region is growing or contracting. Since all five of Iowa’s districts are severely under the per district target population number, geography and anchor cities become highly important.

Rep. Tom Latham’s 4th district, needing 152,102 more people and residing in the central part of the state, could be most vulnerable to collapsing. This seat is the only one of the five without a major population center. It’s largest city is Ames, with just over 50,000 inhabitants – not much when compared to cities in other Iowa districts. For example, Cedar Rapids, with 121,000 people, anchors Rep. David Loebsack’s 2nd district.

Though the new four-district map can be drawn in many different ways, the state’s drastic population change will force a radical shifting of the congressional districts. The fact that King’s district can only move to the east – it is bordered by Nebraska and South Dakota on the west, Minnesota to the north, and Missouri to the south – means the Latham seat will be squeezed. The other three districts, Braley’s 1st, Loebsack’s 2nd, and Boswell’s 3rd, must all shift westward to gain the number of needed inhabitants. This will likely force Latham into a pairing with Boswell, since the former’s hometown of Ames is close to Des Moines and could easily be moved into that district, or King, who will likely pick up the Ft. Dodge area.

There are many other scenarios that can easily be crafted to make another member the odd man out but the 4th’s characteristics, straddling the middle of the state without a major population anchor, portends to what could become the most logical final framework option.
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What’s Next in New York and Arizona?

The surprise resignation of Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY-26) will soon set off yet another special congressional election in New York. The 26th district, stretching from the Buffalo suburbs to the outlying Rochester area, is strongly Republican. With a new, short-term incumbent, however, the district stands a chance of being collapsed in the 2012 redistricting plan, since the state loses two congressional seats in reapportionment. Therefore, redistricting is certainly a factor for the potential candidates assessing their special election chances and prospects for a long tenure in the House. Republicans will have the advantage in this short-term contest.

Previously, when then-Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY-20) was appointed to the Senate, a special election was held to choose a replacement for the House seat. Democrat Scott Murphy prevailed, but current Rep. Chris Gibson (R) subsequently defeated him in November. Rep. John McHugh’s (R-NY-23) appointment as Army Secretary led to a divisive special election allowing Democrat Bill Owens to slip through a three-way contest to capture the normally Republican seat. Owens went on to win a full term last November in similar fashion.

The major political parties will caucus and select a nominee; thus, there will be no primary election. Early reports suggest that Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin is already beginning to assemble a campaign operation. Among Democrats, Erie County legislator Kathy Konst has the potential of quickly becoming a consensus candidate. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has a wide time frame in which to schedule the vote but once he does, the election will be held just 30-40 days from his official call.

In Arizona, Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R) announcement yesterday that he will not seek a fourth term sets the state’s political apparatus in motion. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) previously indicated interest in making a statewide bid should Kyl retire. The five-term Representative is a nationally known budget hawk, and has a strong following in the state. He has over $627,000 in the bank according to his year-end financial statement. The only other veteran Republican congressman in the Arizona delegation, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-2) is more likely to remain in the House.

For the Democrats, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D-AZ-8) name is already surfacing, but the congresswoman, recovering from a senseless assassination attempt, is not currently in a position to run a grueling statewide campaign. Had it not been for the tragic Tucson shooting that injured her and killed six others, Rep. Giffords would very likely have joined the field of Senate candidates and been among the favorites to capture not only the Democratic nomination, but possibly the seat itself. Homeland Security Secretary and former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano is also being mentioned as a person having interest in running. But recent polling indicates that her stint in Washington has cost her dearly among her former constituents.

Turning to other potential Senate candidates, former Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ-3) is saying he might have interest in such a race. Former Attorney General Grant Woods, known as a liberal Republican, is another mentioned as a potential candidate. Ex-Democratic Party state chairman and 2006 Senatorial nominee Jim Pederson will also find his name prominently on a list of potential office seekers. Former state Treasurer Dean Martin (R), who briefly challenged Gov. Jan Brewer in the Republican primary, is another GOP possibility.

This race will be hard-fought, as the state is rife with controversial issues and the voting base becomes ever more marginal and competitive. Republicans will start out with an advantage, but this race will be one to watch throughout the 2012 election cycle.
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Redistricting in Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas & Maryland

The Census Bureau is sending four more states their block data this week and soon Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas, and Maryland will begin their redistricting processes.

Iowa: The Hawkeye State — which draws its lines through a special legislative committee and does not add the incumbents’ home addresses to their data pull, thereby ensuring that districts are built only around population figures and not politics — will be the most interesting of this bunch. Iowa will lose a seat, and it’s still unclear which two members will be paired. Prior to the actual census data being released, it was estimated that Iowa had two of the 20 lowest populated districts. The current delegation stands at three Democrats and two Republicans, so statistically the Democrats have a greater chance of having at least one of their districts in a pairing. On the Republican side, Rep. Tom Latham’s 4th district, the more interior seat, has a greater chance of being paired than the western-most 5th district of Rep. Steve King. The final four-seat plan could assume one of many diverse variations, but it’s simply too soon to tell what may happen here. We do know for sure, however, that at least one current sitting incumbent will not return in the next Congress.

Indiana: The new Indiana Republican delegation approaches redistricting in strong position. The delegation is divided 6R-3D, after the GOP gained two seats in the 2010 election. All six Republicans can expect to gain safe seats from the GOP-controlled state legislature and Gov. Mitch Daniels (R). Expect the southern Indiana seats, districts 8 and 9, to be strengthened with more Republicans, thus reconfiguring to some extent the safe 4th (Rep. Todd Rokita) and 6th districts (Rep. Mike Pence; likely an open seat). The aforementioned central state seats will all remain heavily Republican, including the 5th district of Rep. Dan Burton, but they will likely contain some different territory. The big Indiana question is whether the Republicans will try to weaken Rep. Joe Donnelly’s (D) 2nd district. He barely secured a third term last November with a very tight 48-47% victory over state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R).

Arkansas: The Republicans gained two seats in the Arkansas delegation, flipping the 3D-1R advantage into a 3:1 split in the GOP’s favor. With Democrats in control of the redistricting pen, will they draw a map that protects all incumbents to the detriment of their own party? Today, that’s difficult to say. The wild card in the picture is Rep. Mike Ross’ (D-AR-4) open desire to run for governor in 2014, since Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe will be term-limited. Ross wants to ensure the safest congressional seat possible for himself to build a strong base for the statewide contest. The more Democratic Ross’ district becomes, the greater the chance all three Republicans survive.

Maryland: This is a state where the Democrats must be concerned about over-reaching. Currently ensconced with a solid 6D-2R delegation split, some Ds want to see the Eastern Shore seat strengthened to give a legitimate shot a unseating freshman Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD-1). Geography favors Harris, as the Eastern Shore is unlikely to be split. If the region has grown, this will help Harris, too. The Congressman hails from the mainland of the state, and his strength on the Eastern Shore may be weaker than most incumbents, but he has a full term in which to personalize his seat. The only Maryland question to resolve is how far will the Democrats go? Will they secure a strong 6D-2R map, or stretch to 7D-1R?
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The Redistricting Bell Sounds

The Census Bureau delivered the individual block data to four states at the end of last week, and scheduled an additional quartet for this week, thus officially opening the deci-annual national redistricting process. Since New Jersey, Mississippi, Louisiana and Virginia all have odd-numbered year elections and operate within the tightest timeline to complete their state and local redistricting processes, it has become traditional for them to receive their vital population statistics ahead of all others. The four states scheduled for this week are Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas, and Maryland. Expect Illinois and Texas to be done soon, too, as both states have early March 2012 primary elections and each has a different number of congressional districts in the new national apportionment.

New Jersey: In the first group of four states now equipped to begin the re-mapping process, each has some hurdles to clear before a final congressional map can be completed. New Jersey, which draws their districts via special commission, loses a seat, and will be reduced from 13 to 12. All 13 current districts are under-populated, hence the underlying reason for reducing the Garden State’s level of representation. The population shift trends reveal the most significant inhabitant drain in the middle of the state. Actually, the majority minority seat in northern New Jersey, CD 10 in Newark, must gain about 100,000 new residents but will not be collapsed. It will be reconstructed for purposes of protecting the large African-American voting base.

Districts 8 (Rep. Bill Pascrell; Paterson, West Orange) and 9 (Rep. Steve Rothman; Hackensack, Ft. Lee) have to gain more than 70,000 people apiece, suggesting that it might be easiest to eliminate one of these two. Districts 5 (Rep. Scott Garrett; Paramus, part of Bergen County) and 6 (Rep. Frank Pallone; Plainfield, New Brunswick) each must gain more than 60,000, so these too could be candidates for removal. Rep. Rob Andrews’ 1st district (Camden) also must gain more than 60,000 people, but the geography and political characteristics affecting this seat point to preservation.

Mississippi: With a split state government and the Obama Justice Department holding map pre-clearance power over Mississippi, the Republicans will be very fortunate to protect their 3R-1D split in the Magnolia State congressional delegation. The Voting Rights Act-protected 2nd district (Rep. Bennie Thompson) needs to gain over 73,000 people, presenting the Democrats with a substantial stumbling block to fulfill their goal of creating two districts of their own. Their most likely target, Rep. Gregg Harper’s 3rd district (Jackson/Pearl; Starkville) has to shed 15,000 people, which makes it more difficult to make drastic changes.

Louisiana: Though the Republicans are now in total control of the Louisiana redistricting apparatus thanks to a party switch in the state Senate, their new status won’t force the Democrats to absorb the loss of a congressional seat. Largely because of post-Katrina population drain, Louisiana is one district down in reapportionment. The only Democratic position in the delegation, the New Orleans’ based 2nd district (Rep. Cedric Richmond), also is a VRA district and cannot be retrogressed. With the 2nd needing to gain an incredible 272,000 people and the 3rd district (Rep. Jeff Landry) directly to its south requiring an additional 118,000 inhabitants, it is very likely the 3rd will be eliminated and its people spread to neighboring districts.

Currently hosting a 6R-1D split in the congressional delegation, Louisiana will almost assuredly send five Republicans and one Democrat to Washington for the balance of the new decade.

Virginia: The Virginia map, which currently yields eight congressional Republicans and three Democrats, has significant areas of population loss and gain. Holding steady with eleven districts for the coming political decade, means that substantially re-shifting the seats’ population centers becomes a necessity. The Virginia Beach-Norfolk area is low, as both Reps. Scott Rigell and Bobby Scott must each gain significant population. The northern Virginia seat of Rep. Frank Wolf, CD 10, is over-populated to the tune of 142,000+ people. Thus, the overflow will have to be dispersed to other seats in the region, but the effect of such a population roll will change the complexion of the other seats, as well.

Since legislative elections will be conducted this year in Virginia, don’t expect the congressional map to be drawn until early 2012. With both parties striving to gain full control of the legislature, the power to re-construct the congressional map becomes a spoils for the victor in the 2011 election cycle. At the end of the process, Republicans will find themselves in very strong position if they are simply able to maintain the status quo 8R-3D split. Whether or not this occurs is yet to be decided.
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Is the DCCC Wasting its Money?

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is already on the attack, running radio ads this week against 19 Republican incumbents whom they believe will be vulnerable next year. According to the message in most of the spots, the member in question is being attacked for supporting the Republican spending cuts, which the Democrats’ say will tangentially stifle job creation.

The problem for the DCCC is that in nine of the 19 targeted districts, Republicans have full control of the redistricting pen, and to a person these members will be running in much stronger GOP districts in 2012. In only two of the 19 will the Democrats be able to change the districts to enhance their own party candidates (in Illinois — Reps. Bob Dold and Joe Walsh). In the remaining seats, the Ds and Rs have split control meaning that a redistricting commission or a court ultimately will decide how the final lines are constructed.

Until redistricting is complete, it is difficult to fully grasp how the new congressional districts will form. Therefore, the DCCC may be paying to educate large numbers of constituents who won’t even be eligible to vote against their particular target in the fall of 2012. Likely, the more cost-effective, short-term advertising strategy for both parties is to demonstrate patience.
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In Conn., Redistricting Could Make Things Very Interesting

Connecticut is already shaping up to be one of the more interesting political states for 2012. Redistricting adds a wild card to the picture that will likely favor the Democrats, but also provides the Republicans an opportunity to potentially take advantage of a majority party in transition. Watch for major action here.

Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5), an announced candidate for Joe Lieberman’s open Senate seat, just released the results of an internal campaign poll but with data accumulated from a few weeks ago. Obviously anticipating Lieberman’s exit from the race, the Gotham Research Group, for the Murphy campaign, surveyed 502 registered Connecticut voters during the January 3-5 period. Not surprisingly, the results showed Rep. Murphy faring very well against the two most likely 2012 GOP entries, just-defeated Senatorial nominee Linda McMahon and former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2).

According to Gotham, Murphy would defeat McMahon 54-35%, while holding a smaller 46-34% advantage over Simmons. These are believable numbers since Connecticut performed well for the Democrats in the Republican year of 2010, and both McMahon and Simmons lost the Senate race. But it’s the Democratic primary numbers that are the most interesting factor in the released data. According to the study, Murphy leads former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz 40-31% with 29% undecided.

The primary numbers are worth noting for a couple of reasons. First, the questions were asked of only 257 Democrats, a very small sample considering the number of such voters in the state, thus the error factor is high. Second, the poll did not include Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT-2) who is now seriously considering entering the Senate race in his own right. This poll should encourage Courtney because neither of his prospective opponents is close to 50%, and almost 1/3 of the voters describe themselves as undecided. Thus, a competitive race with a trio of credible candidates lasting until August of 2012 could formulate in many different ways. In this situation, a reasonable victory scenario can be crafted for each of the three candidates.

Aside from a free-for-all Senatorial primary to potentially contend with, the Democrats might also be left in a precarious situation regarding the House races. With Murphy already vacating his seat and Courtney a possibility to do so, the Democrats would face some redistricting and political challenges necessary to keeping all five of the state’s congressional seats in the party’s column. Remember, Republicans won both the 2nd (Courtney) and 5th (Murphy) districts in their current configuration up until 2006.

Though they are highly Democratic seats (CT-2, Obama ’08: 59% – Bush ’04: 44%. CT-5, Obama ’08: 56% – Bush ’04: 49%.), Republicans proved they can win in both places. While Courtney had an easy re-election in 2010 (winning 59-39% against an opponent who spent less than $250,000), Murphy fought off a tough challenge from state Sen. Sam Caligiuri (R). Additionally, Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT-4) also had a tough battle in his first re-election, winning 53-47% in a race similar to Murphy’s.

Obviously, in open seat situations the 2nd and the 5th are going to be more competitive, thus the party may need to roll a few more Democratic voters to both the east (2nd) and west (5th), taking them from the 1st (Rep. John Larson – Hartford) and 3rd (Rep. Rosa DeLauro – New Haven) districts. The 4th, which elected Republican Chris Shays until 2008 and is located in the southwestern tail of the state that borders New York, also might need a slight increase in Democratic voters and that would drain a few more from the neighboring 3rd. Thus, we could find Dem redistricting specialists facing what could be a tricky task of rolling voters from their middle districts in both directions. This would certainly make the 1st and 3rd less Democratic, but would theoretically strengthen districts 2, 4, and 5.

The most positive end redistricting result would mean five Democratic seats that can be maintained throughout the decade. On the other hand, opening up all districts for significant change often brings unintended consequences, and this could help the Republicans.
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