Category Archives: Redistricting

Weekly Redistricting Roundup

Major redistricting action occurred in only two states during the past week, New York and South Carolina.

NEW YORK (current delegation: 21D-8R; loses two seats) – The three-judge panel that has assumed redistricting responsibility released the congressional map this past week, and unless the legislature takes quick action, the court plan could shortly be instituted. Candidate filing is scheduled for March 24, so every day that passes without a new legislative proposal, the more likely it becomes that the court map will stand.

The legislature, of course, is more concerned with its own plans, particularly that of the state Senate. The congressional map takes a back seat to the Senate and Assembly unless it becomes a bargaining chip in negotiations between the Democratic state Assembly and the Republican Senate.

The court plan makes sizable changes to the New York congressional map, not surprisingly since the state loses two seats in reapportionment. The casualties are, first, freshman Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY-9) whose district is split into seven parts. He will now face Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY-5) in the new 6th District, a seat where President Obama captured 63 percent of the vote. Turner represents 46.0 percent of the new CD and Ackerman only 37.7 percent, but the district is so overwhelmingly Democratic that Turner is certain to fall.

The collapsed upstate Democratic seat is that of retiring Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY-22). This territory is spread among four new districts, with the largest share going to Republican Rep. Chris Gibson’s new 19th District. Equal parcels (about 23 percent apiece from the old 22nd) go to Reps. Nan Hayworth’s (R-NY-19) new 18th CD and Richard Hanna’s (R-NY-24) new 23rd District. The dispersing of the heavily Democratic territory to Republican districts clearly weakens each of those GOP districts.

The Long Island districts will see major change. Though the 1st District of Rep. Tim Bishop (D) remains virtually intact, 96.8 percent of the territory remains because he is surrounded by water on three sides, the political number actually gets one point more Republican. Remembering that Mr. Bishop survived in the nation’s closest race last election (593 votes against businessman Randy Altschuler who is running again in 2012), this one point adjustment could become significant.

But it’s the districts of Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY-2) and Peter King (D-NY-3) that are truly torn apart. First of all, the two will swap district numbers for the next decade, and King inherits 52.7 percent of Israel’s district. He keeps 47.3 percent of his own territory. The swap increases the Obama percentage by four points, and commensurately takes the McCain number down four. This will undoubtedly cause political problems for Mr. King. Though Mr. Israel only keeps 38.8 percent of his current territory, the new 3rd CD is highly Democratic, so the unfamiliar territory should not cause him much trouble.

Carolyn McCarthy’s 4th District sees a swing of six points toward the Republican side of the ledger, but she will still be in strong political position. Mr. Ackerman’s 5th District is split into five pieces, but he becomes the beneficiary of the pairing with Mr. Turner, as described above.

In the city, all incumbents should fare well. Upstate is a different story, though. Rep. Chris Gibson’s 20th District is changed greatly. He retains only 44.1% of his current district in new CD 19 and gains more than one-third of Hinchey’s Democratic seat. Gibson’s political number swings five points more Democratic, yielding to a 53 Obama percentage. Conversely, while Rep. Bill Owens’ (D-NY-23) new 21st District remains constant in terms of voting history, he adds 32.6 percent from Gibson’s current district in the Finger Lakes region. This addition will likely spell bad news for Owens and makes him highly vulnerable if the Republicans can ever coalesce around one candidate. A split vote between Republicans and Conservatives has led to Owens winning two terms.

The Buffalo area had to change greatly. It is this section of the state that experienced the greatest overall population loss. The big winner under this new draw is Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY-27), whose new 26th District is a center city Buffalo seat. Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul, on the other hand, is in deep trouble. Her already heavily Republican district becomes even more so under this plan, as the new 27th CD actually becomes the best John McCain district in the state (54-44 percent over President Obama).

Other freshman Republicans Tom Reed and Ann Marie Buerkle get altered territory as well. Reed only keeps 54 percent of his current district, and it becomes more Democratic (about five points more so), but he should hold the district. Buerkle keeps 79.6 percent of her Syracuse-anchored CD, but she will be highly vulnerable as former Rep. Dan Maffei (D) is gearing up another run against her. The new 24th holds its Obama rating of 56 percent.

All totaled, 19 current incumbents retain a majority of their current territory and 10 do not. Expect some highly competitive 2012 congressional campaigns. In a delegation split 21D-8R, it is clear the Democrats will retain a huge edge in the next New York congressional contingent, but the Republicans do have a fighting chance to hold eight seats of the new 27.

It remains to be seen if the map described above actually becomes the electoral footprint for this election and those to follow.

SOUTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 5R-1D; gains one seat) – The three-judge federal panel hearing what many believe is a frivolous lawsuit brought against the new seven-district plan ruled against the plaintiffs and for the state. The Democratic plaintiffs will now have to decide whether to appeal to the US Supreme Court. This ruling virtually clinches that the legally adopted map will be used for the upcoming election and almost assuredly stand for the entire decade. Expect the GOP to capture the new Myrtle Beach district and expand the delegation to 6R-1D.

Examining How Kaptur Crushed Kucinich in Ohio

Those who spent any time with Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9) this winter knew that she was not looking forward to the month of March. The Toledo area congresswoman had been paired in the same district with Ohio Democratic colleague Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10) by the newly minted GOP majority in the Buckeye State legislature as part of this year’s redistricting, and she was not looking forward to having to battle the combative Cleveland Democrat as prelude to defending her seat in November.

Dennis Kucinich has been a fixture and a colorful figure on the Cleveland political scene since the late 1960s. Some Clevelanders have had the chance to support Kucinich in campaigns for city council, mayor, Ohio secretary of state, governor, state senator, the U.S. Congress and the presidency in 2004 and 2008 during the course of a roller-coaster political career that has spanned 45 years.

For her part, Miss Kaptur’s political career, spent in the Toledo area, has been less colorful, but more careful than that of her Cleveland rival. First elected to Congress in 1982, Kaptur has steadily built support and seniority to become the longest-serving woman in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The 2010 Census made it clear that Ohio would lose two House seats to reapportionment. With Republicans gaining control of both Houses of the state legislature and the governor’s office that year, it was no surprise that Democrats in the Congressional delegation would be uneasy. The final redistricting plan to emerge from Columbus raised eyebrows this winter when two of the state’s most senior Democrats were both thrown into a battle for their political lives in the new Ninth CD.

Stretching all the way from Kaptur’s Toledo base in the west and hugging the Lake Erie shore all the way to Lorain and Kucinich’s Cleveland/Cuyahoga County political launching pad in the east, the district is the longest from end-to-end in Ohio. With more of Kaptur’s old district than Kucinich’s in the new CD, the voter history edge went to Kaptur in the early handicapping, but Kucinich supporters felt that as the more liberal of the two, he might have the edge with party activists and primary voters.

Kaptur, who hasn’t been seriously tested in some years in her heavily Democratic base, dusted off her campaign skills, showing remarkable energy in tirelessly reaching out to voters in the eastern reaches of the district where she was less well known. The final weeks the campaign took on a surreal atmosphere as Kucinich touted endorsements from country music icon Willie Nelson, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt and Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, none of whom live in Ohio.

By contrast, Kaptur captured the endorsements of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and former GOP Cleveland mayor, Ohio governor and U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R).

Adding to the campaign mayhem, Kaptur ran an ad in the Cleveland media market highlighting Kucinich’s musings about possibly moving to Washington state to run for Congress instead of Cleveland. Kaptur’s ad linked Kucinich to Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell and Cleveland Cavaliers/Miami Heat basketball superstar LeBron James as figures willing to turn their backs on Cleveland and Ohio by packing up and moving away.

While Tuesday night’s Romney-Santorum cliffhanger captured almost all the national media attention, Kaptur’s 56-40% drubbing of Kucinich may have the greater long-term consequences in Washington DC, if not Washington state. Late last week, the announcement that Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA-6) would not seek re-election created a third Democratic-leaning open House seat in the Evergreen State. Dicks’ retirement also will make Kaptur the most senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee come January if she wins re-election in the new, heavily Democratic Ninth CD.

It would be highly unusual for any Democrat to mount a challenge to Kaptur for the top spot, but it is not unprecedented for members to challenge each other for choice slots on major committees. Kaptur, after all, is no favorite of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Pelosi lieutenant Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY-18), for one, might be put up to such a run. A long-shot dream scenario for Pelosi might be for Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5) to give up his leadership post and reclaim his seniority on the Appropriations Committee, where he served before moving into the Capitol Building. Hoyer would then become chairman of the committee in the unlikely event the Democrats regained the House majority. That move would allow her to dispatch two rivals in one move, but such things are too much for even former Speakers to hope.

A more realistic view is that Kaptur will be the odds-on favorite to win the top Democratic spot on the Appropriations Committee when the next Congress convenes. She can look back and think that this whole chain of events all started with a momentous month of March.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Now that redistricting has been virtually completed in 37 of the 43 multi-congressional district states, the action tide has waned. However, during the past week significant action occurred in Florida, New York and Texas.

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – The Florida Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on the congressional, state Senate and House redistricting plans. Their principal task is to determine if the maps are legally consistent with the Fair Districts initiative that voters passed in 2010. The US Justice Department will review the plans at the end of the state process in order to grant pre-clearance. The Florida legal questions are the most difficult in the nation because the Fair Districts law and the Voting Rights Act seem to conflict on certain fundamental points.

The Supreme Court must approve or disapprove the redistricting legislation by March 9. If they reject, Gov. Rick Scott (R) has five days to call the legislators into special session for purposes of reconciling the maps with the high court’s ruling. March 9 is adjournment day for the Florida legislature, hence the necessity for a special session if the legislature is required to act.

NEW YORK (current delegation: 21D-8R; loses two seats) – The newly assembled three-judge panel accepted public submission maps through last Friday. The legislature continues to move forward in the process, but has failed to even produce a draft congressional map. The new candidate filing deadline is March 24, since a federal court judge moved the New York primary to June 26 in order to comply with the federal MOVE Act. This law requires that overseas voters have a specified amount of notice prior to every election day, meaning that states with certain late September primaries, like New York, must change their schedule. Obviously, maps will have to be produced very soon in order to comply with the new electoral time frame.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – The San Antonio three-judge panel finally brought forth the congressional and legislative maps, issued a belated court order after their public release, and set the political calendar. But the process is still not quite over.

The three-judge panel ruled that the candidate filing deadline would be extended to March 9 and the state primary would be held May 29th, with the run-off election for candidates in races where no majority was achieved on July 31. The US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit, still has before it the original congressional and state legislative submission from the state of Texas. They are still expected to rule in the relatively near future. Any decision this court makes would trump the three-judge panel. It is also possible they could delay the ruling and allow the just-approved map to serve as interim lines for 2012.

Though the entire process is not completed yet, we are closer to having a map and election schedule for at least the 2012 campaign. If the San Antonio map does take effect, Republicans will clearly win the majority of Texas congressional seats, but just how large will be their margin?

Once the DC Court of Appeals takes action, the last piece of the Texas redistricting puzzle will finally be played. The odds seem strong, however, that the San Antonio panel’s draw will soon be formally installed as the map for at least the 2012 election.

Texas Redistricting Map Released

The three-judge federal panel in San Antonio yesterday released the latest version of the Texas congressional map, along with those for the state House and Senate. It is clear the panel adhered to the mandate the US Supreme Court delivered when the body rejected the original court map because the population was not equally dispersed among the 36 districts, and some of the minority districts did not meet previous federal directives.

The Texas Legislative Council released partisan numbers for the new seats, but not minority counts. Once the complete data is available, a full analysis can be provided.

At a cursory glance, it appears Republicans will fare much better with this map than under the previous court plan. Because the three-judge panel was forced to give deference to the legislatively passed map, the elected body’s original footprint has been restored.

The map appears to improve the seats of Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX-6) and Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), both of whom were given marginal districts in the first court plan. Freshman Rep. Quico Canseco (R-TX-23) will continue to battle in a marginal 50/50 district, but has a better draw now than previously.

In the East Texas 14th District, being vacated by Rep. Ron Paul (R), the Galveston-Beaumont region is again together, which favors former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX-9 and 22), but is even more Republican than in past versions. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-25) is placed in the 35th District, a seat that stretches from Travis County, the Congressman’s home, into Bexar County. It will be a heavily Hispanic district. The new 25th District then becomes an open Republican seat that begins in western Travis County and meanders northward toward Ft. Worth.

It appears the GOP would be favored in 25 seats and the Democrats in 10, with the Canseco district being in toss-up status. A more detailed analysis will be conducted once the full demographic and political data becomes public.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Now that redistricting has been virtually completed in 36 of the 43 multi-congressional district states, the action tide has waned. During the past week significant action occurred only in Minnesota, but the state Supreme Court ruling ended the process by adopting a final map.

Here’s an update of where things stand with the states followed by a briefing on the action in Minnesota:

Congressional Redistricting Now Completed (36):

Alabama Idaho Michigan Ohio Virginia
Arkansas Illinois Minnesota Oklahoma Washington
Arizona Indiana Mississippi Oregon West Virginia
California Iowa Missouri Pennsylvania Wisconsin
Colorado Louisiana Nebraska Rhode Island
Connecticut Maine Nevada South Carolina
Georgia Maryland New Jersey Tennessee
Hawaii Massachusetts New Mexico Utah

Plans Awaiting Governor’s Signature (1):
Kentucky

Court Maps to be Drawn (1):
Texas

Completed Plans; Litigation Underway (2):
Florida
North Carolina

Legislative Action Underway (3):
Kansas
New Hampshire
New York

MINNESOTA (current delegation: 4R-4D) – The Minnesota Supreme Court issued a new set of congressional districts that will likely stand for the next 10 years. The state holds the 435th seat in the House, since they missed losing a district by only 13,000 people under the 2010 reapportionment formula calculations. As you can see when looking at the two Minneapolis-St. Paul seat statistics (Districts 4 and 5), the majority of the state’s population loss comes from its twin cities. Conversely, the growth is found in the two suburban Republican seats, CDs 2 and 6. Therefore, the Minnesota individual congressional district population target is a low 662,991.

As a result of continuing to maintain eight districts, the high court adopted a “least change” map, as you can see from the following statistics:
MN-1 – Rep Tim Walz-D: 9.97% new territory; needed to gain 18,204 people
MN-2 – Rep. John Kline-R: 13.44% new territory; needed to shed 69,524
MN-3 – Rep Erik Paulsen-R: 8.95% new territory; needed to gain 12,806 people
MN-4 – Rep. Betty McCollum-D: 17.46% new turf; needed to gain 48,367
MN-5 – Rep. Keith Ellison-D: 7.02% new territory; needed to gain 46,509
MN-6 – Rep. Michele Bachmann-R: 5.23% new turf; needed to shed 95,487
MN-7 – Rep. Collin Peterson-D: 6.05% new turf; needed to gain 37,479 people
MN-8 – Rep. Chip Cravaack-R: 0.40% new territory; needed to gain 2,649

All of the MN districts changed very little in partisan terms, too. Arguably, the big winner was Rep. Michele Bachmann, as her 6th District sees a net gain of four Republican percentage points. She retains 94.8% of her current district but, unfortunately, she lives in the 5.23% of the district that went to another seat. Her home now resides in Rep. Betty McCollum’s 4th District. Under federal law congressional candidates are not required to live in their districts hence, Ms. Bachmann has already announced for re-election in the new 6th.

With the map remaining in about the same position as it was during the last decade, we can again expect to see a Minnesota political playing field that is open to competition in potentially five of its eight seats. Should Rep. Peterson retire or run for a different office, then an open MN-7 seat would become a potential GOP conversion opportunity.