Category Archives: Redistricting

Hahn Wins in California’s 36th CD Special Election

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D) won the special election for the right to succeed resigned Rep. Jane Harman (D) last night, though the margin suggests a potentially tough battle next year for the full term in a different Palos Verdes Peninsula-anchored district. Hahn scored a 55-45 percent victory over Republican businessman Craig Huey, a rather uninspiring win for a Democrat in a seat that gave 64 percent of its votes to President Obama in 2008 and saw only one national Republican candidate, George W. Bush in 2004, even reach the 40 percent plateau for a presidential election.

Mr. Huey, for his part, out-performed all expectations from the very start of this campaign. Barely qualifying for the special general under California’s new “top-two” election law – the two highest vote-getters in a primary election, regardless of political party affiliation advance to the final vote – Huey ran a better campaign than expected and is relatively well-positioned for a regular election campaign in the post-redistricting seat.

The California Citizens Commission on Redistricting crafted a proposed district for the South Bay region in Los Angeles County that is more favorable for the Republicans, even though the Democrats should continue to win here. The new district, as drawn but not yet adopted, is about 10 points more Republican than the current 2001 version. Since Huey came within 10 points of beating Ms. Hahn in the overwhelmingly Democratic seat, he has to be considered as a legitimate threat to unseat her in the more competitive district next year, assuming he again becomes a candidate.

The turnout for the special election was 76,221 voters, or 21.9 percent of those registered to vote. That number is expected to grow as California normally receives a large number of mail-in votes that will be counted post-election. The new House now stands at 240 Republicans and 193 Democrats with two vacancies. The next two special elections in NV-2 and NY-9 will both occur Sept. 13.
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Tennessee’s Redistricting Could Cause GOP Primary Challenges

With the Volunteer State’s redistricting process just beginning, rumors are flying that at least two of the state’s four freshman Republicans could be facing serious primary challenges once the districts are re-drawn.

In the Chattanooga-anchored 3rd district, freshman Rep. Chuck Fleischmann may be facing an intra-party challenge from Weston Wamp, son of former Rep. Zach Wamp (R). The latter Wamp served in Congress for 16 years, winning his first election in the Republican landslide year of 1994. He vacated the seat in 2010 for a gubernatorial run, falling in the GOP primary to now-Gov. Bill Haslam.

In the 4th district, which will likely change significantly, freshman Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R) may face stiff competition from state Sen. Bill Ketron in next year’s Republican primary. The new district is likely to be more to Ketron’s liking than are the current boundaries. As a member of the Senate State and Local Government Committee that has jurisdiction over redistricting, he will have a major say as to how the seat is drawn.
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California Congresswoman Woolsey Retires

Today, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-6) formally announced that she will not seek an 11th term in Congress next year. Woolsey, a former Petaluma, Calif. city councilwoman before coming to Washington, first entered the House in 1992 replacing then-Rep. Barbara Boxer (D) who won election to the Senate that same year.

Ms. Woolsey becomes the 14th House member who is choosing to step aside in 2012, but only the second to retire. The other dozen are running for higher office. Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK-2) is the only other member who, so far, is voluntarily opting to leave politics.

Congresswoman Woolsey is one of the most liberal members of the House. She is the chair of the Progressive Caucus in the House and has consistently aligned herself on the far left spectrum of the Democratic Party. She came to fame for being the first former welfare recipient to win election to Congress. Since then, another member, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI-4), also claims the same distinction.

The new California redistricting map radically alters Woolsey’s 6th district. Previously anchored in the Bay Area’s Marin County, CA-6 covered only the aforementioned locality and part of Sonoma. Under the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s 2011 congressional redistricting plan, the Woolsey district will now stretch all the way from Marin to the Oregon border, taking in a large portion of Rep. Mike Thompson’s (D-CA-1) current territory. The new North Coast district is heavily Democratic but has a considerably different constituency for Woolsey. The congresswoman would likely have held the seat, but she could have been vulnerable in a Democratic primary to a state or local official more familiar with the new district. It does not appear, however, that the re-map is the driving reason why the 73-year-old veteran representative will be walking away from her position.

Considering the major redistricting shake-up that is proving challenging for more than a third of California incumbents from both parties, Woolsey’s retirement is likely the first of several more. Seeing his district split six different ways, House Rules Committee chairman David Dreier (R-CA-26) is a retirement possibility. So are Reps. Pete Stark (D-CA-13), Lois Capps (D-CA-23), Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-34). While none of the aforementioned has specifically said they will leave Congress, their new districts will either be substantially different from their current seats, or politically unfavorable to them in a primary or general election. After years of representing safe districts, being thrown into a seriously competitive situation late in their careers may send some or all of these members packing.

Since the Woolsey retirement had been rumored for some time, two Democrats had already begun assembling a congressional campaign, and others will likely follow. State Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D) said he would not run against the congresswoman, but was beginning to raise money for a federal race in case she decided not to seek re-election. Through March 31, Huffman had raised $123,000 for his potential federal campaign.

In addition to Assemblyman Huffman, author and leftwing activist Norman Solomon had also announced his candidacy, once again presuming the Woolsey retirement. He did not file a financial disclosure report in the first quarter.

Now that Ms. Woolsey has made her plans official, expect other state legislators, Marin and Sonoma County local officials, and individuals from the newly added smaller north coastal counties, to seriously consider making congressional bids. Regardless of who eventually wins the Democratic primary in the newly configured district, that person will succeed Ms. Woolsey as the region’s Representative. Should the proposed lines actually become the final district boundaries, rate the North Coast seat as “Safe Democratic.”
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The California Citizens Redistricting Commission

The newly formed California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CCRC) has almost completed its work. The 14-member bi-partisan group released the new congressional map in compliance with their stated duties on June 10, and it appears they have accomplished most of their key objectives. Currently, the congressional plan is published and available for public comment. Changes may be made before July 7; final passage must come before August 15. The Commission appears to be on time to meet the published schedule.

The CCRC was created through a vote of the people via ballot initiative. The purpose of the body is to take legislative and congressional redistricting power away from the state legislature in order to make the process less political and ostensibly more responsive to the public. The commission was also tasked with drawing districts more in line with community interests, without regard to the political fortunes of the current incumbents.

It appears the commission, comprised of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four Independents (each map must receive four Democratic votes, four Republican, and three Independent tallies – the specific congressional map in question actually earned the support of all 14 members), accomplished their objectives, at least in terms of creating compact, community specific districts and generating more political competition.

Most of the incumbents are not happy with the map. Of the state’s 53 incumbent representatives, 27 are actually paired with a fellow incumbent – that is, their places of residence are in the same district as another congressman. In fact, one seat in the Central Valley near Fresno, now has three incumbents. The vast majority of these members have another district in which to run, but many do face serious political situations.

The following is a list of the California incumbents who face a potentially precarious road to re-election in 2012:

  • Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D) – With her new district now stretching from her Marin County base all the way to the Oregon border along the California coast, Ms. Woolsey is reportedly set to announce her retirement early next week.
  • Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) – Will have a choice of opposing Rep. Pete Stark (D) in a Bay Area seat, or running in the San Joaquin Valley seat, far from his political base, but a solidly Democratic seat. He could face significant primary opposition.
  • Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D) – One of the trio of members placed in the same district, Rep. Cardoza does have a neighboring seat in which to run, but it is a more marginal seat than his current 18th district. He becomes more vulnerable to a Republican challenger.
  • Rep. Jim Costa (D) – Fresh from a highly competitive 2010 election in which he survived in a close tally, Rep. Costa finds his new seat to be even more marginal. A strong Republican candidate has the potential to give Costa a serious run.
  • Rep. Lois Capps (D) – The new Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo district becomes a 50/50 seat for Democrats and Republicans. Capps currently has a safe Democratic coastal seat. A strong Republican candidate will have a chance to win here.
  • Rep. Elton Gallegly (R) – Currently placed in the same seat with fellow GOP Rep. Buck McKeon, Mr. Gallegly will also have the opportunity to run in a marginal district labeled “East Ventura.” Gallegly is a retirement candidate.
  • Rep. David Dreier (R) – The House Rules Committee chairman may have the most difficult political situation of any California incumbent. His current 26th district is now spread among six new seats. All of his options are difficult. He could possibly survive in the new Ontario district, but will already face stiff opposition from state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D).
  • Rep. Brad Sherman (D) – Will likely face another incumbent either in the Democratic primary or the general election. His choices are challenging Rep. Howard Berman in the West San Fernando Valley seat or running against Gallegly in East Ventura. Even if Gallegly were to retire, the East Ventura seat is so marginal that it is difficult for both sides to win consistently, so Sherman would not be guaranteed victory even as the sole incumbent running.
  • Rep. Howard Berman (D) – Could face Rep. Sherman in the Democratic primary. The new West San Fernando Valley seat is 51 percent of Sherman’s current territory versus just 19 percent of Mr. Berman’s.
  • Rep. Xavier Becerra (D) / Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard – This is a legitimate pairing, as neither member can easily move to a new district. Both will have to run for the “East Los Angeles” seat and it appears obvious that one of the two will not return to the next Congress.
  • CA-36 Special Election Winner – Should Democrat Janice Hahn win the July special election, as expected, she will find herself in more Republican district in which to seek re-election. The Democrats should hold the seat, but it will be more competitive.
  • Rep. Laura Richardson (D) – Paired with Rep. Linda Sanchez (D) in the Long Beach Port seat. Ms. Richardson, however, can slip over to the Hawthorne-Gardena district, but will face a serious Democratic primary challenge from state Assemblywoman Isadore Hall.
  • Rep. Linda Sanchez (D) – Paired with Rep. Richardson, but will likely only face state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D) in a serious Democratic primary battle for the Long Beach Port seat.
  • Rep. Ed Royce (R) – Receives a less Republican district, but one he can win, at least early in the decade. Could move to the Orange County South district, but that would mean challenging fellow Rep. John Campbell (R) in a Republican primary.
  • Rep. Gary Miller (R) – Sees his safe Republican seat become a likely Democratic district. Rep. Miller has few good options. He could possibly move into the Ed Royce district should the veteran Congressman move south. But, even here Miller would be potentially vulnerable in both a Republican primary and the general election.
  • Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) – Currently paired with Rep. John Campbell (R). If Royce does move into the Orange County South district, Rep. Rohrabacher could find himself in a Republican primary battle with Campbell in the Orange County Coastal seat.
  • Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D) – This Orange County seat is another one that gets more competitive under the new map. Rep. Sanchez could find herself in a highly competitive general election campaign.
  • Rep. John Campbell (R) – Again, if Rep. Royce moves south, then Mr. Campbell will have a choice of facing him in a Republican primary campaign, or Rep. Rohrabacher in a similar situation but in a different district.

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The Weiner Scandal Winner: Rep. Joe Crowley

The Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY-9) sexting scandal could be paying long-term benefits for a neighboring Borough of Queens congressman. Because New York is losing two seats in reapportionment, Rep. Weiner’s once personal, now very public, exploits have made his 9th Congressional District (CD) the No. 1 target in New York for collapsing. Of the state’s 29 CD’s, all of which will require more population in the 2011 redistricting process (which is the fundamental reason for the delegation losing two seats), five of the top 10 under-populated districts reside in New York City.

The current scenario favors neighboring Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY-7), because his Queens/Bronx seat is becoming more heavily minority. This make him potentially vulnerable to a primary challenge from a Hispanic Democrat in the ensuing decade, thus he will want more territory from Queens and less from The Bronx in his new district. Since approximately 70% of Weiner’s district encompasses Queens’ territory, it is easy to combine pieces from both NY-7 and NY-9 into a seat totally within the Borough of Queens.

Of the five CD’s that contain all or part of Queens, Rep. Gregory Meeks’ 6th district is the only seat fully contained within the borough. Adding another Queens-specific CD is at least one of the arguments Mr. Crowley’s personal lobbyist will make in Albany when he attempts to secure a favorable district for the seven-term congressional veteran. Three NY Representatives — Crowley, Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) and Brian Higgins (D-NY-27) — each have hired a personal lobbyist to make specific redistricting arguments to the governing powers in the legislature.

But, what if Weiner resigns? Crowley has that covered, too. In New York, as we have seen in the four other special congressional elections held in the state during the past election cycle, the local county chairmen are the people who choose mid-cycle election nominees. Who is the Borough of Queens Democratic chairman? None other than Rep. Joe Crowley. So, should Weiner resign, it is Crowley who will virtually decide the identity of the next congressman, meaning he will choose someone who won’t run for a full term, making it a virtual certainty that the current 9th district will be one of the disappearing seats.

The other collapsed district will likely come from upstate. The Buffalo/Rochester area seats, numbered 28 (Rep. Louise Slaughter) and 27 (Higgins) need to gain the greatest number of people. Chances are the upstate loss will come from the Republicans.

With a late September primary, New York is typically one of the last states to complete its redistricting process, so the final lines will not be known until well into next year. Since Democrats control the governor’s office and the state Assembly, and Republicans hold the state Senate, the chances of redistricting ending in a legislative deadlock are high — meaning a court-drawn map likely will be the eventual solution.

Regardless of who draws the map, it is relatively clear that one of the lost seats will come from New York City and the other from upstate, with the Long Island districts all moving west, closer to New York City.

While the Weiner scandal is destroying the congressman’s career within the House, its timing is also poor from his personal political perspective. While he may stay in office to finish the current term, Weiner’s long-term congressional career prospects, because of the reapportionment and redistricting scenario described above, are highly unfavorable.
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