Category Archives: Redistricting

California’s Redistricting Plan

With the release of the long-awaited 53-seat California map and, considering its impact upon national redistricting, we devote this entire report to the Golden State’s new plan. Since this is the first time the state’s maps were drawn by a commission, California was viewed as a redistricting wild card. The results certainly lived up to expectations.

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CCRC) released the first drafts for the congressional delegation, state Senate, Assembly, and Board of Equalization last Friday. With analytical data now available, the federal map’s partisan complexion is becoming clearer.

Generally, the Commission is getting good reviews for doing what was tasked. When adopted by the voting public, the CCRC was supposed to draw maps that adhered to all applicable laws, respected communities of interest more than incumbent protection, and made the districts as compact as possible by breaking the fewest numbers of county lines. It appears the Commission receives high marks for their first effort. The maps may be changed through public hearing and comments until July 7. Final adoption is scheduled on or before August 15. The first draft was unanimously passed 14-0.

After studying the map more closely, possible because the Meridian Pacific company released political data to coincide with the new district lines, it appears that the proposal is a bit less friendly to the Democrats than originally surmised. Though it is possible that the Dems could gain as many as three seats from the Republicans, it’s just as possible that they could lose a net of two districts. (Current Delegation: 34D-19R)

In all, it appears that 37 incumbents will have safe seats; 22 Democrats and 15 Republicans. Thirteen members, 10 Democrats and three Republicans, have some political problems either from being paired or placed in a district that is not favorable to their political party, or is highly marginal with no particular advantage to either side. Three additional seats (Reps. Dan Lungren (R-CA-3); Adam Schiff (D-CA-29); Susan Davis (D-CA-53) are borderline, meaning the current incumbent probably wins comfortably in 2012 but, as the decade progresses, their region could become much more competitive. The plan also created two open seats; one in Los Angeles and the other in Riverside.

The congressional draft features 11 sets of incumbent pairings, including a Central Valley district that contains the homes of three current incumbents. In only three of the 11 pairings, however, will it be likely that a sitting member does not return to the House.

Rep. David Dreier (R-CA-26) finds his current district split six ways, and though his home is placed in the same district as that of Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA-32) in the East San Gabriel-Covina district, his best chance to win re-election probably lies in the seat labeled “Ontario.” The CRCC has not yet numbered the districts, preferring to name them by geographic regions. The Ontario seat contains only about 30 percent of Mr. Dreier’s current district, and is much more Democratic. Already state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D), who represents much of this area in the legislature, has said she will run for Congress in this seat. So, Mr. Dreier will have a severe challenge, made even more difficult with President Obama on the ticket in 2012.

Veteran Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA-28) and Brad Sherman (D-CA-27) are paired in the West San Fernando Valley district. Sherman has 51 percent of the new territory versus just 19 percent for Berman. Sixty-one percent of Berman’s current seat lies in the East San Fernando Valley district, but this new open seat is 68 percent Hispanic, and Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas (D) has already said he will run here. Sherman would also have the option of challenging Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24) in the East Ventura district, which is a very marginal seat for both sides. It is probable that either Sherman or Berman will not return, and very possibly both. Gallegly is also seriously endangered in his new district.

The final incumbent-damaging pairing is in the East Los Angeles seat as Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-31) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-34) find themselves sharing the newly configured district. Neither has a good option of moving to an incumbent-less seat so, unless one retires, the two will square-off in the next Democratic primary.

All of the other pairings, including the three-way among Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA-18), Jeff Denham (D-CA-19), and Jim Costa (D-CA-20) give the incumbents an opportunity to hop to a nearby district, thus avoiding challenging another incumbent. In this particular instance, however, both Cardoza and Costa could face serious Republican opposition, while Denham looks to have a seat that he can easily win.

Other incumbents likely to have a difficult time securing re-election are Reps. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11), Lois Capps (D-CA-23), Gary Miller (R-CA-42), and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-47). Though all can survive, they will almost certainly face very tough opposition in a weaker district. The current 36th CD, now headed to special election in July, is also a marginal seat under the new map. The district is labeled “Palos Verdes-Beach Cities.” Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn is expected to hold the seat for the Democrats, but she can expect competition in the regular election should she win next month.

This PDF spreadsheet details all 53 districts, with their new label and racial and political data. The political numbers come from the 2010 election and features the governor’s race, won by Democrat Jerry Brown 54-41 percent, and the extremely close attorney general’s contest where Democrat Kamala Harris was victorious by less than one percentage point.

  • Congressional Redistricting Now Completed:
  • Arkansas
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana *
  • Missouri
  • Oklahoma
  • (*Must obtain Justice Dept. pre-clearance)

California Redistricting: Big Shake-up

The new California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CCRC) released their proposed congressional map late Friday afternoon and the early numbers suggest that 30 of the 53 current incumbents will have districts with at least 40% new constituents. Three incumbents, Reps. Gary Miller (R-CA-42), Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-CA-26) and Energy & Commerce Ranking Minority Member Henry Waxman (D-CA-30) will all have districts that are more than 70 percent new. Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA-39) will see a new seat with 69 percent new territory.

Tomorrow we will have a full analysis on the new map in a Tuesday morning PRIsm Redistricting Report, but it appears that the Democrats will be in position to improve upon their already lopsided 34D-19R edge. Many believed the Republicans would have a better chance to remain steady or even increase their position under the commission process rather than through the Democratic-dominated state legislature, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Several members are paired, as will be detailed tomorrow, but it appears that Rep. Gary Miller and Chairman Dreier are in the toughest re-election positions, along with Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA-50). Many Democrats are drawn into substantially new districts, but most of the newly configured districts are safe for the Democratic Party. The Central Valley region appears to be where the Democrats may have the toughest time holding all of their seats because some of the Fresno area districts look to be swing.

The CCRC is comprised of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four Independents. To pass a map, four Democrats, four Republicans, and three Indpendents have to vote in favor. The proposed congressional map attracted unanimous support from the 14 members. The maps are now open for public comment. A final vote will occur on or before August 15th.

Much more coming tomorrow …
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Nevada: A Potential GOP Quagmire

Nevada's congressional districts.

Though it appears that Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) is the obvious choice to replace outgoing Sen. John Ensign (R), who will resign May 3rd, the selection will ignite a series of moves that could be troubling for Silver State Republicans. Heller, a three-term congressman from the rural district – Nevada currently has three CDs, two in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, and one, NV-2, that touches a corner of Clark County (Las Vegas) and encompasses the rest of the state – is already the consensus Senatorial candidate for the party to maintain the swing-state Senate seat in 2012.

But, it is Heller’s House seat that could become problematic for the GOP if the congressman immediately replaces Sen. Ensign. Under Nevada law, the state party central committees choose nominees in the event of vacancies, and not the electorate through a direct primary vote. The law, however, is a bit sketchy. It does allow for independents to qualify for the ballot in addition to the major party nominees, and Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller says he will decide the particulars of gaining ballot access. Miller himself could become a candidate for a different office in 2012, too. He was considering the Senate race, but deferred to Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1), once she announced for the seat. Running for the US House, however, is a possibility for him because Nevada will have at least two open seats next year. So, it is conceivable his rulings for this special election could in some way affect his own short-term political plans.

Redistricting is yet another factor in this complicated situation. Because Nevada gains a new 4th district from reapportionment, the 2nd district will drastically change. Since the current Clark County population figure is only about 20,000 people short of qualifying for three complete CD’s, it is probable that none of the Vegas area will be in the new 2nd. But, the special general election will be run in the current 2nd, which does include a section of the metro area. Democrats control the legislature and will draw the initial congressional map, but Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, will have veto power over whatever is eventually sent him. If the two sides deadlock, then a court will draw the new congressional and legislative maps. Should the process find its way to federal court, the most liberal 9th Circuit of the Federal District Courts will come into play, as Nevada sits in that particular region. Therefore, even eventual court action is unclear.

Already, Sharron Angle, the controversial 2010 US Senate nominee who lost to Majority Leader Harry Reid 44-50 percent, has announced that she will run for the 2nd congressional district in the regular 2012 election. Back in 2006, Mrs. Angle, then a state assemblywoman, lost the Republican congressional nomination to Heller by just 421 votes. She will not be chosen as the Republican nominee in the special election by the party structure, and Secretary of State Miller’s ballot access rulings could factor prominently into her decision as to whether or not to seek the seat in the special election. Ideally, from a Democratic Party perspective, Miller will want to make it easy for Angle to enter the race. She will be a strong Independent candidate and could split the vote to the Democratic nominee’s advantage.

Democrats looking at the political picture here will certainly want to do what they can to encourage an Angle candidacy, hoping for a similar result as what happened in the Senate race. It is important to note, however, that Angle did beat Sen. Reid in the 2nd district portion of the state, which is a sobering fact for Democratic partisans thinking they can take advantage of a fractured 2nd district GOP and steal a victory. With Democratic control in the legislature, however, the party leadership could definitely draw a new 2nd district that would help Angle win a GOP primary, especially if another Republican wins the special election, thus throwing the seat into further chaos in the 2012 regular campaign.

Events will begin to unfold quickly after Ensign officially leaves office and Heller secures the Senatorial appointment.

No matter what eventually happens here, many twists and turns can be expected before the final votes are cast.
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Latham will Challenge Boswell in Iowa

Current Iowa congressional districts.

The new Iowa congressional lines have yet to be officially approved but Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA-4), whose district is apparently being collapsed in reapportionment, already has made his electoral decision for 2012. In an email announcement to supporters this past Friday, Mr. Latham said he will challenge Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3) next year. On paper, the vast majority of Latham’s current seat is in the new 4th CD that map drawers combined with fellow GOP Rep. Steve King’s 5th district; signs pointed to an intra-party face-off. That Latham chose to run against Boswell, even though just three counties carry over from his current district, certainly provides the best move for the Republican Party.

Iowa chooses to redistrict by empowering a legislative committee staff to construct new districts via a mathematical formula without regard to incumbency. Their 2011 work product has resulted in the pairing not only of Latham with now Boswell, but also Democratic members Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) and David Loebsack (D-IA-2), whose homes were placed together in the new 1st district. Loebsack, despite his Linn County (Cedar Rapids) power base being added to IA-1, says he will run in the new 2nd, which has the majority of his current territory.

Latham’s move against Boswell makes sense from several perspectives. First, as previously mentioned, it greatly helps the Republican Party, because a divisive primary is avoided. Second, Latham conceding the GOP nomination in the new northwestern 4th district to King also helps the party prepare for the general election there because this new seat is not as solidly Republican as his (King’s) current 5th district. Third, in the person of Rep. Latham, the Iowa Republican Party now has its strongest possible candidate against Boswell who has been weakened in several close elections but never succumbed to defeat.

Another Latham advantage will be his huge campaign war chest. The asset is more important in a general election than for a primary battle opposite King because spending is less for a nomination battle and the latter has a strong Tea Party grassroots network that can independently turn out its own vote.

The new IA-3 is the Des Moines-Council Bluffs seat. Polk (Des Moines) is the largest county in the district and the biggest population center in Iowa, housing 429,439 people. It is the only county that remains from the current 3rd. Boswell’s present district begins in Polk County and stretches to the northeast. The new 3rd also launches from Polk but stretches to the southwest, all the way to the Nebraska border.

Historically, the 3rd has been a politically marginal district. Former President George W. Bush carried the region in 2004 by just a few votes over John Kerry, but Pres. Barack Obama rebounded to score a much higher 54-44 percent win over John McCain four years later. The new 3rd district becomes even tighter, as it skews approximately three more points in the Republicans’ favor. Obama carried the new configuration 52-46 percent, while Bush would have scored an identical percentage and margin of victory back in ’04. The shift should definitely play to Latham’s favor in 2012.

Rep. Boswell, first elected in 1996, is 77 years old and has had previous health issues. Long speculated about as a potential retirement prospect, the congressman confirmed even before the redistricting process began that he would be a candidate for re-election. He’s averaged 54.2 percent of the vote over eight terms, but hit just 50 percent in 2010. Changing the voting pattern and geography of the district to give the GOP a small boost means the race will begin as a pure toss-up.

Though King dodges a bullet by not having to face Latham, he may not yet be out of the woods. Christie Vilsack, wife of US Agriculture Secretary and former Governor Tom Vilsack, has been saying she will run for Congress in 2012. Because of redistricting it was not clear who she might oppose, especially since the family home is in Rep. Loebsack’s 2nd district. Word is now forthcoming that Mrs. Vilsack is seriously considering hopping into the new 4th district, at the opposite end of the state, to challenge King.

While the new 3rd becomes more Republican in redistricting, the new 4th gets slightly more Democratic. King’s current 5th district gave McCain a 54-44 percent victory, and George W. Bush notched a more impressive 60-39 percent win in 2004. The new 4th brings these numbers closer together. McCain’s performance in the just-configured northwest region was 50 percent as compared to Pres. Obama’s 48 percent. Bush would have carried the seat 55-44 percent. King would be favored against Mrs. Vilsack, but the race certainly has the potential of becoming highly competitive.

Now that redistricting is virtually settled, it is clear that 2012 will feature a very active congressional election cycle in the Hawkeye State.
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Fayetteville Finger Falls

The current layout of Arkansas' congressional districts. (govtrack.us)

The Arkansas legislature officially sent Gov. Mike Beebe (D) a new congressional district map, but the attempt to annex the city of Fayetteville to Democratic Rep. Mike Ross’ 4th district failed. This is a victory for the northwest Arkansas-area legislators who insisted that the city stay as the anchor of the 3rd district. The controversy surrounding Fayetteville erupted because of a proposal that featured a jutting protrusion, dubbed the “finger,” beginning in the southern part of Arkansas and stretching all the way to Fayetteville in the northwest. This was done to put more liberal voters into Rep. Ross’ 4th district to better secure the seat for future Democrats. Ross is expected to run for governor in 2014, thus creating a potentially competitive open seat three years from now. The Fayetteville “finger” would have cemented the seat for the Ds.

The new map secures AR-3 for Republican Steve Womack, but the 4th could now become competitive after Ross departs. The 2nd district remains relatively intact, which is good news for freshman Rep. Tim Griffin (R). The GOP could take a hit, however, in the 1st district that will now cover the entire eastern portion of the state. The inclusion of more Democratic votes in Arkansas’ southeastern delta region will likely make freshman Rep. Rick Crawford’s seat highly competitive. Liberal activists are generally upset with the map, believing that the Democratic legislature and governor should have drawn a plan to return to a 3D-1R advantage, instead of the current split that features the exact opposite 3R-1D division. To summarize, the new Arkansas congressional map has two marginal seats and two that will likely remain Republican, thus the source of angst for the Democratic partisans.
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2012 Senatorial Candidate Announcements Coming Soon

Although no one has yet officially declared his or her candidacy for the nation’s highest office, several people are moving closer to making an announcement for the Senate. It is being reported from both public and private sources that Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-2) will announce a Senatorial run as soon as this weekend or early next week. Franks will oppose fellow Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) in the Republican primary. Sen. Jon Kyl (R) is retiring. Both men running statewide will have a huge effect upon Arizona congressional redistricting. The two have the most over-populated seats in the state (both have more than 261,000 people to shed) and with no incumbent influence for either district, both seats can be disassembled. The result could lead to a radical re-draw. Complicating matters even further, Arizona also gains a new seat.

Turning to the Midwest and Indiana, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) is sounding more like a Senatorial candidate. He is seriously considering challenging Sen. Richard Lugar (R) next year in hopes of taking advantage of what appears to be a difficult Tea Party-induced challenge for the six-term senator in the GOP primary. That Donnelly is still publicly flirting with the Senate almost assures that he will run. The congressman’s statements to-date already give Republican map drawers the impetus they need to re-craft his northern Indiana congressional district into a more Republican-friendly seat. Former state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R), who held Donnelly to a one-point win in 2010, has confirmed that she will run again, thus pressuring the congressman even further.
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Special Election Candidates Set in NY-26

Upstate New York Democratic Party county chairmen, in action taken just last night, officially nominated Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul to carry the party banner in the special congressional election now scheduled for May 24. The seat was vacated when second-term Rep. Christopher Lee (R) resigned earlier in the year. Erie County has the largest block of registered voters (149,643) in its portion of the 26th congressional district. Seven full and partial counties comprise the seat.

The Republicans nominated state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin back in late February, giving her a head start in constructing a campaign organization in a district that normally votes for GOP candidates. The 26th, along with Rep. Peter King’s 3rd district, gave John McCain his strongest performance in any New York CD (52%). By contrast, Pres. Barack Obama posted a 62-36% victory statewide.

In recent days, both the New York Conservative and Independence parties have cross-endorsed Corwin. This should give her the necessary right-of-center support to avoid splitting the electorate. The Green Party, now with an official ballot line in New York after posting more than 50,000 votes for their 2010 gubernatorial candidate, did not endorse the Democratic nominee, now Hochul. Rather, the Greens have their own special election candidate, Ian Murphy, who is likely to draw away critical votes from the Democrat, thus further reducing Hochul’s chances of winning.

Jack Davis, the multi-millionaire who sued the federal government over the so-called “millionaire’s amendment” to the McCain-Feingold law and successfully overturned the provision in one of his two previous congressional runs, filed as an independent under his own “Tea” label, though he is not part of the actual Tea Party movement. David Bellavia, carrying the Federalist Party label, is the fifth contender and the more genuine Tea Party activist. Davis and Bellavia are independents, but can identify themselves under a party name.

The GOP holds a 241-192 margin in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives. Retaining the New York seat is important in order to maintain their current House margin. Additionally, with the Empire State losing two seats in
apportionment, the GOP must keep as many seats in the congressional delegation as possible, particularly if the legislative redistricting process cannot produce a final map without going to court. Today, Democrats dominate the New York congressional contingent, 21-7, with the one Republican vacancy.

Now that the Democrats have nominated a candidate, the New York special election campaign is officially underway. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Assemblywoman Corwin should have a relatively easy road to Congress. Rate this seat as “Likely Republican.”
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