By Jim Ellis
Dec. 10, 2021 — Continuing our redistricting report about the 20 multi-congressional district states that have completed the re-drawing process, today, we look at the domains from Montana through West Virginia.
The Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission for the first time had a congressional map to draw. The state rose from at-large status to gaining a new district in reapportionment due to strong population growth. Montana is the first multi-district state to ever fall into at-large status, as it did in the 1990 census, and then regain a second district.
Though more Democratic maps were filed for commission consideration, the main Republican offered map was adopted. One of the Democratic commissioners voted for the plan, which allowed the GOP version to prevail. Still, all of the maps created an east and west seat, with the new western seat, labeled District 1, being the more competitive.
At-large Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Glendive) will run in the safely Republican eastern District 2, while former congressman and ex-US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appears to be the early leader in the western district both in the Republican primary and general election. While relatively competitive, the 1st District will clearly nominate a Republican who will be the general election favorite.
The unicameral legislature and Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) enacted a new congressional map that should again deliver a 3R-0D delegation. Rep. Don Bacon’s (R-Papillion/Omaha) marginal 2nd District – Joe Biden carried the district by more than 22,000 votes – is strengthened for the incumbent, but it still remains a competitive congressional domain.
The Democratic legislature and Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) enacted a map that is designed to produce a 3D-1R map but, in attempting to maximize the Democratic stake, possibly all three of the party’s intended seats now fall into the potentially competitive realm.
In 2020, Clark County hosted two of the 53 districts nationally where the winning candidate scored less than 52 percent. In 3rd District Rep. Susie Lee’s (D-Las Vegas) case, her victory percentage was less than 49 percent. Fourth District incumbent Steven Horsford (D-Las Vegas) fared only slightly better at 50.7 percent. In order to strengthen these two districts, a large number of Democrats had to be taken from the previously safe seat of 1st District Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas).
The end result is three Democratic seats in the lower 50s. In a Republican year, and considering the GOP is beginning to score better with Hispanics who comprise more than 31 percent of the Clark County population, all three seats could conceivably host competitive challenge campaigns. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City), the lone Republican incumbent in the Nevada delegation, gets a safe northern state seat.
The courts have been playing ping pong with the North Carolina map this week. A three-judge panel first issued a stay order on the Tar Heel State’s Dec. 17 candidate filing deadline pertaining to a redistricting lawsuit before the court. A day later, the full 15-member state Appellate Court overturned the panel’s ruling, and restored the original filing deadline. Just this week, the state Supreme Court quickly reinstated the candidate filing stay and ordered the March 8 primary postponed until May 17.
The North Carolina map is the national Republicans’ best to date. If it survives the legal challenge, the GOP could net as many as three seats in the delegation. It appears that five seats will be open, with Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-Wilson) and David Price (D-Chapel Hill) retiring, Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) running for Senate, and with two more seats beign created through reapportionment and the map-drawing process.
Under the enacted map, Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) and Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk) are paired in a new 11th District, which would heavily favor the GOP nominee.
The legislature and Gov. Mike DeWine (R) recently approved a new congressional map that may net the Republicans a one-seat gain, or could conceivably yield the Democrats a similar outcome. Three of the state’s 15 new districts are highly competitive — Ohio lost one seat in reapportionment — with two currently in Democratic hands and one under GOP control.
Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati), Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo), and the open 13th District seat of Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren), now located on the west side of Cleveland, are all tightly constructed partisan districts. In the remaining seats, Republicans hold a significant 10-2 advantage. Retiring Rep. Anthony Gonzalez’s (R-Rocky River) 16th District has effectively been collapsed.
As predicted, the Oklahoma political establishment created a 5R-0D map, with the major change coming in freshman Rep. Stephanie Bice’s (R-Oklahoma City) 5th District. Bringing Rep. Frank Lucas’ (R-Cheyenne) western 3rd CD into Oklahoma County to absorb some Democratic voters and adding more rural territory to the 5th makes the latter previously competitive seat safely Republican.
The Democratic legislature and Gov. Kate Brown (D) created a new six-district map that they hope will produce a 5D-1R Democratic advantage. Attempting to maximize the delegation could prove costly, however. With Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield) retiring, his new 4th District, Rep. Kurt Schrader’s (D-Canby) 5th CD, and the newly created 6th District (remember, Oregon gained a seat in reapportionment) could become competitive.
The 5th District, in particular, where Rep. Schrader’s Democratic base shrinks and more than half of the district population is new to him, will be hotly contested in 2022. The new map, likely to prevail over any eventual lawsuit, will feature a newfound burst of activity coming from a normally moribund Oregon Republican Party.
The Texas redistricting process went more smoothly than expected. The state House Republicans were able to forge a coalition to pass their own map, which was the most controversial of the three, and later the congressional map, which protected all current incumbents seeking re-election and split the two new seats the Lone Star State earned in reapportionment.
Republicans could gain what is now an open border district as Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen) is leaving his 15th CD to run in the Brownsville-anchored 34th District, the seat from which Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville) is retiring. Former President Trump would have carried the new 15th by approximately three percentage points.
The biggest news, an expected development, is the US Justice Department filing a lawsuit against the congressional map under the Voting Rights Act relating to the minority districts draw. It remains to be seen if the federal court will take any action before the early Texas political cycle fully begins. The candidate filing deadline is Dec. 13 for the associated March 1 state primary.
The Utah legislature and Gov. Spencer Cox (R) enacted a new congressional map that splits the Salt Lake City metro area into all four of the state’s CDs. This is a common approach for a small state housing one dominant population center. The effect of the map turns the state’s most competitive district, the 4th CD of freshman Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Salt Lake City), into the safest Republican seat of the four.
The task was made easier because the 4th was forced to shed 65,409 people while the other three districts needed to gain population. Holding 817,904 individuals per congressional district, Utah’s CDs will be the third largest in the nation when the new Congress convenes in 2023.
Though the Republicans have a legislative trifecta in West Virginia, controlling the governor’s office, the state Senate, and the state House, the GOP will lose a seat in redistricting. West Virginia lost population during the decade, and as a result, the state’s delegation was reduced from three Republican seats to two. This forces Rep. Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town) to either run in the northern district against veteran Rep. David McKinley (R-Wheeling) or the southern seat of two-term Rep. Carol Miller (R-Huntington).
Mooney chose to square off with McKinley in the 2022 Republican primary, which will feature a highly competitive congressional contest to be settled May 10. Regardless of how that primary turns out, the Mountain State will send a 2R-0D delegation to the next Congress.