Early House Outlook – Part III

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 22, 2021 — Continuing with our electoral preview for the US House, today we look at 13 states in the country’s northeastern region. Monday, we conclude in the south.

• Connecticut – 5 Seats (5D)

With all of the Nutmeg State’s five congressional districts venturing past the 700,000 resident mark, each of Connecticut’s CDs appear secure after the state lost a seat in 2010 reapportionment. With Democrats holding the redistricting pen, expect only perfunctory changes in the congressional delegation map with each incumbent being awarded a safe seat. All were re-elected in 2021 within a vote percentage range between 56 and 65.

• Illinois – 18 Seats (13D5R)

Democrats have a big advantage in the Illinois delegation and, with the party leaders in control of the redistricting pen, their edge is positioned to expand. Despite the Republicans holding less than half of the number of Democratic seats comprising the delegation, it is one of the Dem’s members who is likely to be paired with another incumbent.

The state has actually lost population (approximately 250,000 residents) when compared with the 2010 census, meaning Illinois will certainly lose one CD with the outside possibility of dropping two. Since the major population loss is coming from the downstate area, the Democrat map drawers will have little trouble taking the seat from the Republicans and can justify such a draw based upon the region losing so many people. This, even though Rep. Cheri Bustos’ (D-Moline) seat has the lowest population figure in the state.

The Chicago area gives the Democrats some redistricting challenges, however. Three of their metro incumbents, Reps. Marie Newman (D-La Grange), Sean Casten (D-Downers Grove), and Lauren Underwood (D-Naperville) scored re-election percentages of 56.4, 52.8, and 50.7 respectively, meaning all three will be lobbying to add more Democrats to their districts. Their lower win percentages are a clue that the metro districts are already stretched to the maximum from a Democratic perspective, so it’s possible such an over-reach could have backfire potential.

• Indiana – 9 Seats (2D7R)

The nine Hoosier State seats also appear secure from a population standpoint, so Indiana looks to be a sure bet to retain all of its nine congressional districts. One seat to watch from a competitive perspective is that of freshman Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Noblesville), who won an Indianapolis suburban CD in a tight 50-46 percent margin. Democrats will target her in 2022. All of the veteran incumbents seeking re-election broke the 61 percent mark. Freshman Democrat Frank Mrvan (D-Highland/Gary) succeeded retiring Rep. Peter Visclosky (D) with a 57-40 percent victory margin.

• Maine – 2 Seats (2D)

The Pine Tree State again holds two districts with smaller base population figures for the coming decade, one from the north and the other south. Democrats hold both and will control the redistricting pen but with only approximately 30,000 people needing to move from the southern 1st District (Rep. Chellie Pingree-D) to the northern 2nd (Rep. Jared Golden-D), the map will only change marginally. The 2nd CD is the more competitive seat of the two and will again be contested but the state’s Ranked Choice Voting system tends to give the Democrats an added advantage.

• Massachusetts – 9 Seats (9D)

The Bay State, home to one of the Democrats’ most loyal constituencies in the entire country, will retain its nine districts after dropping a seat in the 2010 reapportionment. All nine Democratic incumbents are safe and will continue to be so. The victory percentage range fell between 58-74 percent for the nine current Democratic incumbents, all but one of whom was running for re-election.

• Michigan – 14 Seats (7D7R)

Michigan redistricting will be different in 2021 with the introduction of a voter-passed redistricting commission. The citizen members will be tasked with reducing the 14-member delegation to 13, and Republicans will likely find themselves on the short end. Rep. John Moolenaar’s (R-Midland) 4th CD looks to be the most vulnerable. The districts in the northern part of the state all must gain population, and with Rep. Moolenaar’s seat being surrounded by the rest, his is the most likely to be split in pieces order to feed the others.

Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly/Lansing) and Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills), with respective 2020 win percentages of 50.9 and 50.2, will be in need of more Democrats that may not be forthcoming. Therefore, we could see a more competitive Michigan congressional delegation at least in the early part of the new decade.

• New Hampshire – 2 Seats (2D)

The Granite State will again keep a pair of districts, one of which, the eastern 1st District, is the most consistently competitive House CD in the country. Since 2002, the district has re-elected its incumbent just three times including current incumbent Chris Pappas (D-Manchester) winning a second term this past November.

With the district population figures separated by just under 14,000 people, we can expect little in the way of redistricting change. Therefore, the 1st District will continue to be a quintessential swing seat while the western 2nd District also lies in the competitive realm. Incumbents Pappas and Annie Kuster (D-Concord) recorded respective winning percentages of 51.3 and 53.9 in the 1st and 2nd Districts last November.

• New Jersey – 12 Seats (10D2R)

When the current Garden State map was drawn, the first election in 2012 produced a split congressional delegation of six Democrats and six Republicans. The delegation held in this relative configuration until 2018, when Democrats blew the doors off weaker Republican seats. With Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis Township/Atlantic City) changing parties and winning re-election in 2020, the delegation splits 10-2 in the Democrats’ favor.

New Jersey is a commission state, featuring an equal number of partisan members from each party and a tie-breaking commissioner appointed by vote of the panel members. If an impasse results over choosing a chairman, the group submits two names to the Chief Justice of the New Jersey State Supreme Court who makes the final choice.

Since the commission’s partisan members have traditionally all voted their party lines, the tie-breaking member is usually the key to how the map unfolds.

• New York – 27 Seats (19D7R – 1 Vacancy)

Before even looking at whether New York State will lose one or two seats in reapportionment, they first must settle who won the 22nd District in the 2020 election. Here, 116th Congress incumbent Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) and former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) are still locked in a tight battle – at last published count, Tenney led by 29 votes – with over 1,700 ballots being contested. Final legal arguments are due this Friday with an expected initial ruling coming next week. A legal fight will likely ensue regardless of who is declared the initial winner.

Ironically, the eventual winner may have a shortened tenure. In the middle of a region, low on population, and going through a horrendous post-election period that still hasn’t concluded, the 22nd may be the logical seat to be eliminated.

The Upstate is the most unstable political area, so most of the redistricting and 2022 competitive campaign contests will likely come from here. The apportionment decision as to whether the state will lose only one seat or two is obviously major in determining how the map will unfold and which party will absorb the seat loss.

• Ohio – 16 Seats (4D12R)

Ohio is another of the states expected to lose another CD, as they did in the past two redistricting cycles. With a 12-4 Republican advantage in the delegation, it appears on paper that the GOP would lose the seat as they did ten years ago. This time, however, the situation may be different. The majority minority 11th District is seriously low on population meaning that the Cleveland-Akron seat will have to gain 60,000 people or more.

The most logical place for this district to gain is from the Akron area, which would seriously weaken Rep. Tim Ryan’s (D-Warren/Youngstown) sea, which shares part of the Akron community. If its Akron portion is transferred to District 11, Rep. Ryan’s 13th CD becomes highly vulnerable to a Republican opponent. Therefore, with the GOP controlling the redistricting process, it is Rep. Ryan who could be on the political hot seat.

One Republican priority will be to strengthen the state’s 1st District for Republican Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati). This district has become competitive particularly in the past two election cycles, so expect more Republicans to be added to this district even though the seat likely won’t need much of a population influx.

• Pennsylvania – 18 Seats (9D9R)

The Pennsylvania delegation was significantly changed when the State Supreme Court imposed a new map upon the state prior to the 2018 election. This brought the Pennsylvania delegation to even strength for the parties. Once again, this state will lose a congressional seat, as they have in almost every apportionment. None has lost more seats than Pennsylvania since the Depression era when they held 36 congressional seats. In the coming apportionment, the delegation will drop to 17 seats.

Republicans control the legislature, while Democrats have the governorship and the state Supreme Court. This likely means the seat reduction will come from the Republican column, probably from western Pennsylvania where the population growth has lagged behind to the greatest degree.

All 18 incumbents ran for re-election in 2020 while four members, three Democrats (Reps. Susan Wild, Matt Cartwright, and Conor Lamb) and one Republican (Rep. Scott Perry) won with less than 53 percent of the vote.

• Rhode Island – 2 Seats (2D)

Rhode Island looks to be one of the losing states, meaning the two-member delegation will revert to at-large status for the next decade. With Democrats holding both seats, it becomes obvious that they will take the loss.

Most believe that Rep. David Cicilline (D-Providence) would have the inside track in a fight between he and 11-term Rep. Jim Langevin (D-Warwick) even though both districts have virtually the same size population base. Rumors are strong that Langevin may is considering entering the governor’s race as opposed to squaring off with Rep. Cicilline.

• Vermont – 1 Seat (1D)

With only 623,000 people, Vermont is nowhere close to earning a second seat as it ranks 50th in population (including the District of Columbia), and ahead of only Wyoming. No change in the map means that veteran at-large Rep. Peter Welch (D-Norwich) will again cruise to re-election for however long he chooses to stay.

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