Category Archives: Redistricting

Challenger Emerges in Texas;
Top Dem Declines to Run in Louisiana;
SCOTUS Redistricting Action in NC; Rep. Jackson Lee to Run for Mayor?

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023

House

Army veteran Kyle Sinclair (R)

TX-28: New Rep. Cuellar (D) Challenger Emerges — Army veteran Kyle Sinclair (R), who lost 68-32 percent against Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) in Texas’ 20th District last November, announced he is moving to the 28th District to challenge veteran Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo). The congressman’s most serious vulnerability is in the Democratic primary; however, as illustrated in his 2022 victorious race for renomination decided in a May runoff by just 311 votes. We can expect to see more political action next year in this CD that stretches from San Antonio to the Mexican border.

Governor

Louisiana: Dem Chair Won’t Run — Though candidate filing for the Louisiana governor’s race doesn’t close until Aug. 10, the open-race field is already winnowing. At the end of last week, Louisiana Democratic Party chair Kate Bernhardt announced that she will not become a gubernatorial candidate after considering the possibility of entering. The top candidates appear to be Attorney General Jeff Landry (R), state Treasurer John Schroder (R), and state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson (D). Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) is ineligible to seek a third term. The state’s jungle primary is Oct. 14, 2023, with a runoff on Nov. 18 if no contender receives majority support in the first election.

States

North Carolina: State Supremes Schedule Action — The North Carolina state Supreme Court is sending clear signals to the US Supreme Court over the state’s election and redistricting law challenges. Before departing at the end of their term in January, the former NC Supreme Court panel, with a 4D-3R majority, declared the state Senate map a partisan gerrymander and overturned the NC voter identification law. On Friday, the new 5R-2D court announced it will hear arguments to overturn those rulings in the middle of March.

The move is significant since SCOTUS is considering the North Carolina political gerrymandering case and will rule before July 1. The state court, however, potentially taking action on similar cases before the US Supreme Court ultimately decides, could allow the latter panel simply to yield to the state’s decisions. At the end of the process and regardless of which court sets the final parameters, it is probable that we will see a complete redistricting of the North Carolina political boundaries before the 2024 election.

Cities

Houston: Rep. Jackson Lee Considering Mayor’s Race — Reports are emanating from Houston that veteran US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) is conducting citywide polling to determine her chances in the open mayor’s race scheduled for November of this year. Incumbent Sylvester Turner (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

At this point the leading contender appears to be state Sen. John Whitmire (D), who was first elected to the legislature in 1972. He served 10 years in the state House of Representatives before moving to the state Senate in 1982. He is Texas’ longest-serving state senator.

If no candidate receives majority support on Nov. 7, a runoff between the top two finishers will be scheduled. The mayor’s race is non-partisan in that candidates’ party affiliations are not listed on the ballot. Other major candidates are City Councilman Robert Gallegos, former city councilwoman and 2020 US Senate candidate Amanda Edwards, and Houston Metro Board Member Chris Hollins.

McCarthy’s Win Even Closer

By Jim Ellis — Jan. 9, 2023

House

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Silt)

Speaker: A Dive Into the Numbers — The internal US House voting process that elected California’s Kevin McCarthy as Speaker Friday night on the 15th roll call was arguably even closer than the final 216-212-6 tally suggested. 

The two closest congressional elections, those of Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and John Duarte (R-CA), both would have affected the Speaker race outcome had the pair not won their tight November electoral contests. 

Though Boebert supported other members on the first 13 roll calls, her “present” vote on the last two helped make the difference in McCarthy’s marathon campaign for the Speakership. Rep. Boebert won her western Colorado re-election campaign with only a 546-vote margin. Duarte was victorious with a similar 564 vote spread in central California. Combined, the aggregate 1,110 vote victories ultimately provided what McCarthy needed to finally reach majority support.

In all, 25 November US House races were decided by less than 10,000 votes apiece. Of those, Republicans won 15 and Democrats 10. In 15 of these 25 elections, we saw the winning candidate flip the district from the previous party’s representation to his or her own. 

It is likely that most, if not all, of these 25 closest 2022 contests will become targeted races in the 2024 election cycle. Throughout the long election cycle, we will be paying particular attention to the 10 districts where the electorate voted opposite of the prognosticators’ pre-election calculation.

The FiveThirtyEight data organization, for example, rated all 435 House districts using past election trends, voter registration, and other statistics to formulate a point spread favoring a nominee of one party or the other.

The following 10 members over-performed their party’s projection and won a close contest in a seat that was expected to favor the opposite party’s nominee:

  • Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA-3; R+11)
  • Rep. David Valadao (R-CA; D+10)
  • Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY; D+10)
  • Rep. John Duarte (R-CA-13; D+7)
  • Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY-17; D+7)
  • Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA; R+4)
  • Rep. Yadira Caraveo (D-CO-8; R+3)
  • Rep. Wiley Nickel (D-NC; R+3)
  • Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR; D+3)
  • Rep. Brandon Williams (R-NY; D+2)

Redistricting may very well be back on the table for the 2024 congressional cycle, however. Irrespective of the US Supreme Court deciding the Alabama racial gerrymandering and the North Carolina partisan gerrymandering and legal jurisdiction cases before the end of June, we can expect redraws occurring in certain states.

The legislatures will likely redraw interim court-mandated maps in New York, North Carolina, and Ohio. Based upon a recent federal three-judge court ruling, South Carolina has been ordered to produce a new congressional map by March 31. The impending SCOTUS rulings could force Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana, and North Carolina (if not already done so by the time the high court rules) to change their maps.

The redraws would potentially help Republicans in Illinois and North Carolina, and Democrats in Alabama, Louisiana, New York, and South Carolina. The Ohio situation is unclear, at least for now.

With impending map changes coming in the aforementioned states, and possibly several more depending upon just how far-reaching the future SCOTUS decisions prove, we could again see a large number of seats falling into the competitive realm. This, in addition to the aforementioned 25 close likely targets from the previous election cycle. 

Those members are listed in their entirety below:

Electoral College — Left Coast, Right Coast; Republicans Choose Nominee in VA-4; North Carolina Supreme Court Rejects Map

Electoral College Votes Per State, 2022 — blue moving more left, red moving more right


By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022

President

Electoral College: West Moving Left, East Moving Right — The researchers at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics have completed a study regarding the country’s ideological shift during the past 20-plus years. Tracking all 50 states’ presidential votes from the 2000-2020 elections, we first see all of the western states now voting Democratic in greater percentages with the exception of Wyoming. The biggest shifts came in Alaska, California, Colorado, and Utah, though two of those four states still regularly produce at least smaller majority or plurality Republican victories.

Conversely, the south and east have trended more Republican with the strongest swings generally occurring in central south with only Maryland, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia becoming more Democratic. Mid-Atlantic states such as New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have moved decidedly more Republican, though two of these four continue to regularly deliver clear Democratic majorities. Remaining constant in their voting pattern during this entire 20-year span are Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and South Carolina.

House

VA-4: Republicans Choose Special Election Nominee — Republicans re-nominated their 2020 and 2022 candidate in the Saturday, Dec. 17 “firehouse primary” through Ranked Choice Voting. The local 4th District Republican Party leadership did not release the actual results, only to say that pastor and US Navy veteran Leon Benjamin had defeated former Mecklenburg School Board member Dale Sturdifen, and non-profit advocacy organization director Derrick Hollie. Benjamin now advances to the Feb. 21 special general election to replace the late Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Richmond). He will again be a decided underdog in a district that the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates D+30.

The Democratic firehouse primary will be held today. Four candidates filed to run: state Sens. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) and Joseph Morrisey (D-Richmond), former state Delegate Joseph Preston, and businessman Tavorise Marks. While the special election will be held in late February, Gov. Glenn Younkin’s (R) call required the parties to choose nominees by Dec. 23.

In another development, Colette McEachin, the late congressman’s widow, announced her endorsement of Sen. McClellan, joining most of the Virginia Democratic establishment who has already done so.

States

North Carolina: NC Supreme Court Tosses State Senate Map — The North Carolina state Supreme Court, with the 4-3 Democratic majority on the cusp of expiring, rejected the NC Senate map on a partisan vote as a partisan gerrymander. But, the action is likely to be short-lived and adds fuel to the speculation that the new legislature will re-draw all of the state’s redistricting maps after commencement. Doing so may well render moot the partisan gerrymandering case that the US Supreme Court recently heard.

Under North Carolina legislative procedure, the governor has no veto power over redistricting legislation, so whatever the legislature passes will become law. Because of the current court’s farewell action, the state Senate map must be re-configured. Since Republicans gained two seats on the state Supreme Court in the November election and will have a 5-2 majority beginning in January, the likelihood of not only the Senate map being redrawn but also the state House and congressional delegation plans is greater. The latter two maps are court-drawn interim placeholders, which the legislature can replace at any time.

North Carolina Redistricting Again Front and Center: A Deeper Dive

North Carolina Congressional District Plan Court-Ordered in 2022, used for the 2022 election (click on map to go to the state’s interactive map)


By Jim Ellis — Friday, Dec. 9, 2022

Redistricting

North Carolina: Redistricting Under Scrutiny — During the past decade, no state has been forced to draw more redistricting maps than the Tar Heel State of North Carolina. Since the 2010 census, the Republican legislature and the Democratic state Supreme Court have gone back and forth over what is a partisan gerrymander or a legal district.

The North Carolina partisan gerrymandering case was heard before the US Supreme Court on Wednesday, and it is a potential landmark case — but some North Carolina state political sources suggest the arguments may go by the proverbial wayside. The high court will rule before the end of June, but before such a decision is rendered the new North Carolina legislature may draft updated redistricting plans for the US House, state Senate, and state House of Representatives. Since the current set of court maps are only interim plans, the legislature can replace them with permanent draws at any time. 

One of the Republicans’ more important victories in the November election was winning a majority on the North Carolina state Supreme Court. Now, with five Republican justices and two Democrats, many in the legislature believe the time will be right to craft new redistricting maps, plans they believe will this time pass legal muster through a different and more favorable state Supreme Court. 

If this occurs as described, and new maps are enacted – remember, in North Carolina, the governor has no veto power over redistricting legislation – it is possible that the action could render as moot the case before SCOTUS. If so, the issue of whether the Constitution views state legislatures as solely independent when handling redistricting could well go unanswered.

The North Carolina state Supreme Court rejected the Republican legislature’s plan again last year. Under that draw, which the court deemed a partisan gerrymander, the Republicans could have won 10 of the state’s 14 congressional districts. North Carolina was one of the states that earned a new seat in national reapportionment. Therefore, a 10-4 split would have meant a net gain of three Republican seats when compared to the previous court map upon which the 13-member NC congressional delegation had last run.

Instead, under the state Supreme Court’s draw, the new Tar Heel State delegation features seven Democrats and seven Republicans. The map awarded the new 14th District to the Charlotte area as a safe D+11 seat according to the FiveThirtyEight data organization calculation. State Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte), who was originally a 2022 candidate for the US Senate, won the new district with an easy 58-42 percent victory.

The other seat to go Democratic was the created open 13th CD, located in the south Raleigh suburbs that stretched to include the Democratic city of Fayetteville. The court balanced the district by adding Republican Johnston County. FiveThirtyEight rated this seat R+3, but Democratic state Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Raleigh) defeated Republican Bo Hines by a 51.6 – 48.4 percent margin.

The other major affected area that changed between the original Republican map and the state Supreme Court’s draw was the Greensboro-anchored seat of Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro). Under the Republican plan, this district would have favored a Republican candidate, and Rep. Manning would have had a difficult run for re-election. The Court altered this seat, too, thus giving Rep. Manning an even better district than the one to which she was originally elected — a 6th District seat now rated as D+9.

If the congressional map is in fact re-drawn early in the new state legislative session, we can expect these geographic areas again to be the most affected. If the Republican legislative leaders make a move to finalize permanent redistricting maps, then it might be some time before the issue of independent state legislatures relating to redistricting again comes before the high court. 

Or, if SCOTUS still issues a ruling on the North Carolina case irrespective as to what the legislature does, it could force even further changes in what may again be a new Tar Heel State congressional map.

NY Overreach = GOP Majority

CNN’s New York state redistricting map (more coverage on CNN)

By Jim Ellis — Nov. 22, 2022

House

New York State: Redistricting — There is an argument to be made that the New York Democratic redistricting brain trust helped create the new Republican US House majority. With their over-reach on the original map that the legislature and governor enacted, the end result became so egregious that even the Democratic lower and upper courts rejected the congressional map as a pure partisan gerrymander.

The original enacted plan would have yielded a 22D-4R partisan split in the NY congressional delegation of 26 members, thus costing the Republicans four of the eight Empire State seats they control in the current Congress.

Once the votes were cast on Nov. 8 in the districts that the judges’ special master drew to replace the legislature’s plan, the end result saw Republicans not losing four seats but rather gaining three in relation to the current map and seven when compared to the Democrats’ original draw.

Therefore, instead of the intended 22D-4R plan, the New York delegation now headed to Washington is comprised of 15 Democrats and 11 Republicans. With a small Republican majority of what ultimately may be 220-222 seats once the outstanding California and Alaska races are finally projected, the NY swing is arguably the difference in determining which party controls the House.

The Democrats’ map would have reduced the Republicans to just one seat on Long Island, taken the lone district they have in New York City, turned the GOP’s Syracuse seat strongly Democratic, and collapsed the southwestern Upstate seat of resigned Rep. Tom Reed (R) as the lost district in national reapportionment.

You will remember that New York lost a congressional seat by just 89 people when the Census Bureau announced each state’s congressional district compilation under the national reapportionment formula.

After striking down the legislature’s map and replacing it with their own special master’s plan, the court in effect restored much of New York to its historic congressional district pattern.

Under the legislature’s plan, Long Island’s 1st District (Rep. Lee Zeldin) was drawn from the far eastern part of Suffolk County all the way into Queens. This led to stashing a preponderance of the region’s Republican voters in Rep. Andrew Garbarino’s (R-Sayville) South Shore 2nd District. The concept then allowed the map architects to make Districts 3 and 4, both open in 2022 with Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) running unsuccessfully for governor and Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) retiring, safely Democratic. The court undid this design.

Now, the 1st District returns to a Suffolk County anchored seat, a CD that Republican Nick LaLota, a former local official and Navy veteran, won to succeed Rep. Zeldin. Rep. Garbarino is back but with a less Republican South Shore seat, which then created a marginal North Shore District 3 seat that Republican George Santos won 54-46 percent in a domain that the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates D+4.

The biggest surprise in New York, and perhaps the country, came in Rep. Rice’s open 4th CD, where Republican Anthony D’Esposito defeated heavily favored Democrat Laura Gillen, 52-48 percent, in a district that actually became more Democratic under the court map at D+10.

The other Republican gains came in the Hudson Valley, where state Assemblyman Mike Lawler (R-South Salem) upset Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chairman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Cold Spring) in a D+7 District 17, and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro (R) rebounded from a special congressional election loss in August to claim a 51-49 percent win in a new 19th District rated as R+1.

In the 18th District, state Assemblyman Colin Schmitt (R) came within a percentage point of sweeping the Hudson Valley seats for the GOP, but Rep. Pat Ryan (D-Gardiner) held onto the 18th CD seat after he had won the 19th District special election three months earlier.

The Republican victory string ended with tech executive Brandon Williams (R) defeating former intelligence officer Francis Conole (D) by a percentage point to hold the open Syracuse seat, and former New York Republican Party Nick Langworthy easily won the new 23rd District from which Rep. Reed resigned and Rep. Joe Sempolinski (R-Canisteo) is serving as a caretaker.

The New York 2022 election cycle illustrates just how important map drawing and judicial decisions are in determining US House elections. The New York courts, for example, created a much more competitive political playing field, which certainly led to different results than we would have seen under the legislature’s partisan draw.

Considering that the US Supreme Court is likely to make landmark Voting Rights Act rulings on the Alabama and North Carolina cases before June ends next year, we will likely see new redistricting maps being drawn in several states, and New York could be one of those places. Any newly constructed map would take effect in the 2024 election. A major Supreme Court decision will add yet another dimension to what already promises to be another hot House campaign cycle coming in the new term.

House Updates – Including Gerrymandering: AL, CO, NM, NJ & NY

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022

House

Alabama redistricting map

Redistricting: Supreme Court Hears Alabama Case — In one of the first cases on the US Supreme Court’s new term docket, oral arguments were heard for the Alabama racial gerrymandering redistricting case, which could result in a landmark ruling relating to future interpretation of the Voting Rights Act.

The state of Alabama is arguing its reasons for keeping the state’s congressional map, which features one strong majority minority district. The US government is arguing that a second minority seat can be drawn. The presentations consumed more time than usual for Supreme Court oral arguments, and now it is up to the nine justices to craft a definitive ruling, which will be released sometime before June next year.

In November, the high court will hear oral arguments on the North Carolina redistricting case, which will lead to a definitive ruling pertaining to judicial power over the constitutional authority of state legislatures.

CO-3: Rep. Boebert’s Slight Lead — Despite representing a relatively safely Republican western slope 3rd Congressional District, Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Silt) looks to have a competitive race on her hands as we begin the campaign cycle’s final weeks. Colorado-based Keating Research conducted a poll for the Adam Frisch (D) campaign (Sept. 28-Oct. 2; 500 likely CO-3 voters; live interview & text). The ballot test results found Rep. Boebert’s lead shrinking to 47-45 percent, down from Keating’s 49-42 percent spread detected in its July survey.

Expect to see countering numbers from either the Boebert campaign or the National Republican Congressional Committee to soon be released.

NM-2: Gerrymandered District Yields Dem a Slight Edge — The Global Strategy Group, polling for the Gabe Vasquez (D) campaign, tested the NM-2 electorate to determine the state of the race featuring freshman Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-Alamogordo) and Vasquez, a Las Cruces City councilman. The GSG survey (Sept. 20-26; 500 likely NM-2 voters; live interview) sees Vasquez pulling ahead of Rep. Herrell, 45-43 percent.

The result is not particularly surprising in that the Democratic legislature and governor crafted the new 2nd CD to flip. Before redistricting, the FiveThirtyEight data organization rated the seat, R+14. Post-redistricting, we see a D+4 categorization. This district will still yield a close finish, and voter turnout will tell the ultimate tale.

NJ-7: Rep. Malinowski Internal Poll Shows Dead Heat — The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research organization conducted a congressional poll for two-term Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill), who is again in a tight battle with former state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R). In 2020, Kean held Rep. Malinowski to a 51-49 percent re-election win in a district that was more Democratic than the new 7th. The GQR survey (Sept. 20-26; 500 likely NJ-7 general election voters) sees both candidates now attracting 48 percent of the vote. The Democratic pollster, however, also detects a partisan generic party label split of 50-45 percent favoring the Republicans. NJ-7 is a key Republican conversion opportunity seat.

NY-22: Republican Breaks Ahead — The Syracuse-anchored 22nd District is open in the 2022 election cycle because Rep. John Katko (R-Syracuse), one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump, is not seeking a fifth term. Ironically, the court-drawn map actually makes this district two points more Republican than the seat the Rep. Katko consistently won.

Siena College conducted an independent poll for the Spectrum News Service (Sept. 25-28; 453 likely NY-22 general election voters) and sees Republican technology company executive Brandon Williams jumping out to a five point, 45-40 percent, advantage over former intelligence agency analyst Francis Conole (D).

With the respondents believing the country is on the wrong track by a 25:63 percent margin, it is not particularly surprising to also see Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) falling behind Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley/East Long Island) in this Upstate District. NY-22 is a must-win for the GOP in November.

Laxalt Leads in Four Consecutive Nevada Senate Surveys; Many Polls, Many Results in Arizona; Hassan in New Hampshire Senate Driver’s Seat

By Jim Ellis — Monday, Sept. 26, 2022

Senate

Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, current Republican Senate candidate

Nevada: Four in a Row — As the plethora of polls keep coming, we now see Republican Adam Laxalt taking a small lead over Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) in four consecutive surveys. From Sept. 8-20, Emerson College, Data for Progress (D), The Trafalgar Group (R), and Insider Advantage (R) posted leads for Laxalt at one to four percentage points.

Unlike Arizona polls (see next item) that find inconsistent margin results for Sen. Mark Kelly, these four pollsters all arrive at basically the same conclusion. Additionally, the senator fails to break a highwater mark of 46 percent in any of the surveys, a bad sign for any incumbent.

Arizona: Many Polls, Many Results — During the period of Sept. 6-19, six different pollsters tested the Arizona Senate race, and the results were wide ranging. All six agree that Sen. Mark Kelly (D) has a lead over venture capitalist Blake Masters (R), but the advantage span moves all the way from one to 12 points.

Three of the research entities — Emerson College, The Trafalgar Group (R), and Data for Progress (D) — find the Kelly margin at two points (Emerson) or one (Trafalgar; DfP). Another, Insider Advantage (R), pegs the Kelly lead at six points. Fabrizio Lee (R) / Impact Research (D) for AARP, posts the senator to an eight-point edge. Finally, Arizona-based OH Predictive Insights sees the largest Kelly margin, 47-35 percent. With such a diverse polling result universe, it is difficult to accurately depict this race’s true status.

New Hampshire: Sen. Hassan in Driver’s Seat — It appears that Gov. Chris Sununu (R) and various Republican strategists and consultants were correct to forecast that retired Army Gen. Don Bolduc (R) would not be a strong opponent against Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) in the November election. Three polls have now been released since the state’s Sept. 13 primary election — from Emerson College, the American Research Group, and the University of New Hampshire. The surveys were conducted within the Sept. 14-19 period. All three pollsters find Sen. Hassan leading the race with margins between 8 and 13 percentage points.

House

FL-2: Closer Than Expected — When the Florida redistricting map was adopted, most agreed the incumbent getting the worst draw was three-term Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee), who saw his Tallahassee to Jacksonville 5th District split into several parts. Left with tough choices, Rep. Lawson chose to seek re-election against Republican incumbent Neal Dunn (R-Panama City) in the new 2nd District.

The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates this seat that stretches from Tallahassee to the Emerald Coast as R+17. The Dave’s Redistricting App data group calculates the partisan lean as 54.5R – 43.8D.

A new David Binder Research (D) poll (Sept. 14-18; 600 likely FL-2 general election voters; live interview & online) finds Rep. Dunn holding only a 49-43 percent lead, however, which is a closer result than one would expect from a district with such strong Republican base numbers.

Governor

Nevada: Sheriff Lombardo Gaining Momentum — Three polling firms have tested the tight Nevada governor’s race between incumbent Democrat Steve Sisolak and Republican challenger Joe Lombardo, the Clark County sheriff. Emerson College, Data for Progress (D), and The Trafalgar Group (R), all see a race falling within the margin of error.

While Trafalgar finds Lombardo holding a three-point lead, the other two research entities see the candidates at even strength. Like Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) as covered above (see Nevada Senate above), Gov. Sisolak is far short of attracting majority support. In these three polls conducted within the Sept. 8-20 period, the governor fails to break the 45 percent support level.