Category Archives: Redistricting

Rep. Hahn Won’t Challenge Waxman in California

On Monday, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission approved the final version of the Golden State’s congressional and legislative maps. Surprisingly, a resulting electoral situation that appeared likely to occur apparently won’t.

One of the many congressional incumbent pairings looked to feature Democratic representatives Henry Waxman and Janice Hahn squaring off against each other in the new 33rd CD. Though Hahn’s home was placed in the new 44th and Waxman’s in the new 28th, it is CA-33 that contains the preponderance of both of their old districts. Though Hahn would not be paired in the 44th district, the territory is overwhelmingly minority and a good bet for either an African-American or Hispanic state legislator or local official to win.

Waxman was placed with fellow Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff in a district that is largely comprised of the latter’s political base. Thus, it seemed that the best scenario for Hahn and Waxman was to oppose each other in the district where both were more familiar to area voters. Yesterday, Rep. Hahn announced she will stay in the 44th district and seek re-election there, ending speculation that she and Waxman would tangle.

Ms. Hahn, just elected to Congress in a July special election, has no easy path to re-election next year. The district she has chosen is heavily Democratic, but not an area that she has previously represented. The racial complexion suggests an Anglo candidate will have difficulty. The non-Hispanic White percentage of those over 18 years of age is only 9.02 percent. Hispanics dominate the district, registering 64.5 percent of the eligible voting population. Blacks are a full 18.5 percent.

Already, African-American Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D) has announced his intention to run for Congress. Rep. Laura Richardson, another Los Angeles-area Democratic congresswoman who did not receive a favorable redistricting draw, could also run in the 44th.

Rep. Hahn has made a rather eye-opening choice. The state’s new primary law that advances the two top vote-getters into the general election regardless of political party means that Hahn is likely to face a minority opponent one-on-one in the November election, should she get that far. Pure mathematics suggest that such a match-up would likely be unfavorable to Ms. Hahn and will limit her congressional tenure to less than one full term.

The candidate filing deadline is still months away, so decisions made now can certainly change. Today, however, Janice Hahn has likely made herself an endangered political species.
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The California Redistricting Quake is Coming

Assuming they formally adopt the latest version of the congressional redistricting map with few changes on Aug. 15, the new California Citizens Redistricting Commission will wreak havoc upon the Golden State’s congressional delegation. The state’s most senior and powerful members, other than House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-8), didn’t receive particularly favorable treatment from the new map drawers and with such people as House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-CA-26), Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA-30), and Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA-28) all facing more challenging political situations, substantial change is on the horizon.

Despite the state not receiving at least one new seat in reapportionment (CA didn’t gain a new district for the first time in history; in the 1990 census, for example, seven seats were added), the redistricting commission created five new open seats. Two other incumbent members, Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-6) and Bob Filner (D-CA-51) are retiring and running for another office, respectively, meaning a minimum of seven California congressional districts will be open in 2012.

Mr. Dreier has few options. His home is placed in new District 32. In this seat, 50 percent of the voting age population is Hispanic; 21 percent non-Hispanic White; 15 percent Asian; 4 percent African-American. Politically, 47.3 percent are registered Democrat versus just 28.3 percent Republican. President Obama scored 61 percent in the new 32nd; Governor Jerry Brown 57 percent. The other seat that contains a large portion of his current 26th district is new District 35. This option is actually even worse for Dreier. More than 65 percent of the resident voting age population is Hispanic; just 19 percent non-Hispanic White; 8 percent African-American, and 7 percent Asian. Here, 48.5 percent are Democrats compared to 28.5 percent who register Republican. Obama carried 62 percent of the new district’s votes; Brown 57 percent. Additionally, state Sen. Gloria McLeod (D), who already represents a large portion of the new 35th in the legislature, has announced that she will become a congressional candidate.

The only conceivable scenario that places Mr. Dreier in a winnable district is if Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24), currently paired with Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA-25) in the new 25th CD, either retires or runs against his GOP colleague, thus leaving the new Ventura County based 26th district open. A large portion of Gallegly’s current constituency is in the new 26th, so spinning into this new district is an option for him. This seat shows a D-R registration breakdown of 41.2-35.4 percent, respectively. Obama posted 57 percent in the new 26th, but the Republican nominees for governor, US senator, and attorney general all carried the district. Without an incumbent running, Rep. Dreier could conceivably move to this seat and become competitive.

Another interesting story is the backdrop surrounding Waxman (D-CA-30) and Berman (D-CA-28). Back in the 70’s, when both men were in the California Assembly, the two joined forces to elect other Los Angeles area Democrats to various offices. Their political partnership was tabbed the “Waxman-Berman Machine” and utilized state-of-the-art fundraising and political communication tactics, as directed by Berman’s brother Michael, to dominate the mega-county’s political landscape.

Now, decades later with both reaching 70 years of age, Waxman and Berman find themselves in challenging re-election situations. The Waxman pairing with newly elected Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA-36) came about as a result of a new LA County Democratic political power base, the rapidly growing Hispanic community, flexing its muscle.

The original commission map paired Hispanic Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-31) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-34) into one district. Waxman had a winnable district to himself and Berman was paired with Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA-27) because the huge Hispanic growth in western LA County led to the creation of a new Hispanic seat made mostly from the former’s current 28th CD. The Berman-Sherman match-up is already being termed a “shoot-out” because the intra-party campaign will become a political brawl.

After completing the public comment and lobbying phase of the process, the commission released the latest version of the congressional map. Under its confines, both Becerra and Roybal-Allard now get a safe Democratic seat and Hahn, the daughter of the late Kenneth Hahn who dominated LA County local politics during his tenure as chairman of the County Board of Supervisors and herself a longtime veteran of the LA City Council, is placed in a heavily minority district (new District 44). The bulk of her current district, the seat she just won in a special election last month, which includes the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the beach cities of Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, and El Segundo, now goes to Waxman. This will force Hahn to challenge Waxman in the Democratic primary if she wants to continue her new congressional career. It further means that Waxman will have to run a serious campaign for the first time since his original election to the House back in 1974.

But, that is not all. Though heavily Democratic, the new Waxman-Hahn district (#33) can conceivably vote for a Republican. In the very close 2010 attorney general’s race, a campaign decided in the Democratic nominee’s favor by less than one percentage point statewide, the GOP candidate actually carried the new 33rd by two points. Though a Republican victory here is unlikely at the congressional level, it is possible that Waxman, should he fend off Hahn’s challenge, could see general election competition, too.

In a 53-district state that featured only one incumbent defeat during the entire last decade, the new California map will feature serious primary and/or general election competition in at least 20 districts in 2012. Quite a change is coming.
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Ross, Wu to Retire

Two more Democratic House members announced they will not seek re-election in 2012, but for very different reasons.

Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR-4), first elected in 2000 and whose eyes are set on a gubernatorial run in 2014, announced yesterday that he will end his congressional career when the current term concludes. The 4th district was made more competitive in redistricting, so not seeking re-election and possibly risking a closer result than in 2010 (Ross’ margin over Republican Beth Anne Rankin was 57-40 percent) will not weaken his standing in the gubernatorial contest. Already, several Democratic and Republican state and local office holders are expressing interest in running for the new open seat. The succeeding campaign will likely be highly competitive.

In Oregon, Rep. David Wu (D-OR-1) who had been the subject of news stories questioning his mental health and now facing an ethics probe of sexual harassment accusations says he won’t seek re-election in 2012. It was clear that Mr. Wu is in a weakened political state, but the large number of Democrats publicly contemplating filing against him could have allowed him to slip through with a small plurality of support since the anti-Wu voters would be split. Expect many Democratic candidates to file in this new open seat.

The Democrats will retain the district as it is unlikely to become competitive even in an incumbent-less race.
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The House Open Seats

As we approach the midway point in the national redistricting process, it is a good time to check the status of the House open seats. Because reapportionment creates a dozen new seats, the incumbent-less district count is already 29. An average election cycle features about 35 open seats, although the last two elections have broken the 40 mark. Should the proposed maps in California and North Carolina pass, at least three more vacancies will be added to the 2012 total. And if Utah Reps. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) along with Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) run statewide, as they are considering, then three more would be added.

To review, the following are the announced open seats:

AZ-6 Jeff Flake (R) Running for Senate
AZ-9 New Seat
CA-6 Lynn Woolsey (D) Retirement
CA-51 Bob Filner (D) Running for San Diego Mayor
CT-5 Chris Murphy (D) Running for Senate
FL-26 New Seat
FL-27 New Seat
GA-14 New Seat
HI-2 Mazie Hirono (D) Running for Senate
IN-2 Joe Donnelly (D) Running for Senate
IN-6 Mike Pence (R) Running for Governor
MO-2 Todd Akin (R) Running for Senate
MT-AL Denny Rehberg (R) Running for Senate
NV-1 Shelley Berkley (D) Running for Senate
NV-2 Vacant Rep. Dean Heller appointed to Senate
NV-4 New Seat
NM-1 Martin Heinrich (D) Running for Senate
NY-9 Vacant Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned
ND-AL Rick Berg (R) Running for Senate
OK-2 Dan Boren (D) Retirement
SC-7 New Seat
TX-14 Ron Paul (R) Running for President
TX-33 New Seat
TX-34 New Seat
TX-35 New Seat
TX-36 New Seat
UT-4 New Seat
WA-1 Jay Inslee (D) Running for Governor
WA-10 New Seat

Of the 29 open districts, 12 are new seats, nine current incumbents are running for Senate, two are running for governor, another pair are retiring from politics, one is seeking the U.S. Presidency, and one more is running for mayor of San Diego. Two members resigned their seats; one because of being appointed to the Senate; one due to scandal. Nine of the vacating incumbents are Democrats, six are Republicans. The two vacant seats split evenly, one from each party.

Most of the current seats will stay within the designated party control, but at least six (IN-2, Donnelly; MT-AL, Rehberg; NV-2, Vacant – special election Sept. 13; NM-1, Heinrich; OK-2, Boren; and TX-14, Paul) will likely join the competitive ranks.

With already a large number of open seats in the 2012 election cycle, it would not be surprising to see the total number approach 50 before filing closes in each of the states. Should this happen, added to the 97 members currently serving their first term, a full one-third of the House will have two terms of seniority or less in the next Congress.
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Ron Paul Won’t Seek Re-election

Presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX-14) announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election to the House in 2012 regardless of how his long-shot presidential campaign turns out. Mr. Paul was originally elected to the House of Representatives in April 1976, winning a special election from his southeastern Texas suburban/rural combination seat. He then went on to lose the regular election later that year to Democrat Bob Gammage, as Democratic presidential nominee Jimmy Carter carried Texas against President Gerald Ford. Two years later, Mr. Paul defeated Rep. Gammage and held onto the seat until 1984, when he vacated it to run unsuccessfully for the Senate. He returned to the House in 1996 from the Victoria-anchored seat, just southwest of his previous district. He defeated Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Greg Laughlin in the latter’s first primary election as a member of the GOP. Mr. Paul has held the seat ever since.

The new redistricting plan took large portions of Rep. Paul’s current 14th district and moved it to the new 27th CD, thus giving freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold (R) more Republican territory. This takes the new 14th closer to Houston and changes the rural complexion of the seat, making it more suburban and Democratic, though it still should elect a Republican in virtually every election. With the Victoria portion of the seat now removed, the new 14th encompasses part of Paul’s home county of Brazoria, then moves further northward to gain parts of Galveston and Jefferson Counties (Beaumont), a region that has never been particularly kind to Republicans. In an open seat situation, Democrats chances of winning improve.

Since Mr. Paul is announcing his plans long before the December filing deadline, Republicans will have every opportunity to find a candidate that has appeal across the political spectrum. The new 14th district, even as a 2012 open seat, is still decidedly Republican, though competitive, but the eventual GOP nominee will get a bump in a region where President Obama is not likely to perform well.
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