Redistricting Challenges – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 25, 2022 — Today we begin a two-part series about incumbent US House members who could be considered redistricting “victims”, meaning those who find themselves in districts with a largely unfamiliar constituency.

A total of 27 states have completed their redistricting process, and 41 incumbents seeking re-election in these places will be in new seats where a majority of the electorate has not previously seen their names on the congressional ballot.

Interestingly, many of the changes are positive for some of the members in question, because the new constituents are favorable to the incumbent’s party. Others, however, face potentially tough re-nomination or re-election battles, and some will see challenges coming from both Republicans and Democrats.

Interestingly, the four incumbents with the most new constituents, those having a district where a range from just 10 to 20 percent of their current electorates are present in the new CD, actually chose to run in the new places. Each eschewed a seat where they have a larger number of current voters.

Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) has the least carryover of any member from a redistricting completed state. Moving from his current 35th District into the new 37th CD means just 10.0 percent of his current constituents reside in the succeeding district. Placing Doggett here was not the intent of the map drawers, however, as the 37th was meant to be one of the state’s two new seats, a Democratic district fully contained within Austin’s Travis County.

Doggett’s 35th District is now the open seat, in a domain that again stretches from Austin to San Antonio. Had he stayed in the 35th, a total of 60.7 percent of his constituency would have remained constant, according to the Daily Kos Elections site statisticians who have calculated the redistribution percentages for all of the states that have completed redistricting.

Rep. Doggett faces little in the way of Democratic primary opposition, and the new 37th is a similar Austin-anchored seat to his original 10th District in which he began his US House career back in 1995.

North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-Hendersonville) chose to run in the 13th District, which was designed to be that state’s new seat. Despite having only 11.1 percent of his current constituency in the new district, Rep. Cawthorn likes his chances. The 13th lies closer to the Charlotte metro area in comparison to his current western North Carolina seat.

Assuming he can win the Republican primary, the new 13th is a stronger partisan district for Cawthorn than the new 14th District even though that domain contains 89 percent of his current 11th District constituency. The 14th, however, will be more competitive in the general election.

Instead of staying in her current 6th District that was drawn considerably more Republican, Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) has chosen to oppose fellow Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Suwanee) in a much bluer new district. McBath, however, only has a 12.1 percent voter base in the paired incumbent district as opposed to Bordeaux seeing 57 percent of her constituency carrying over to the new 7th CD.

Rep. McBath, despite being at a disadvantage in base voters believes she is stronger within the Democratic ideological segment, thus promoting that she can win a May 24 primary. State Rep. Donna McLeod (D-Lawrenceville) hopes the two sitting members split the vote in such a manner that she can slip into a runoff with one of them. Since neither House member actually resides in the new 7th CD, McLeod is making the argument the she is the only candidate who does.

In California, freshman Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Orange County) has chosen to seek re-election in the new 45th District that is slightly more Republican than the new 47th District that houses 61.8 percent of the current 48th District voters who elected her in 2020. Rep. Steel only sees 16.6 percent of her current constituents reside in the new 45th, but she represented much of the succeeding district as a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Steel, a Korean American, chose the district largely because the Asian population exceeds 41 percent. At this point, Community College Trustee Jay Chen (D) and former Cerritos City Councilman Joseph Cho (D) are the only announced candidates against the congresswoman.

Tomorrow, we will look at 14 members who didn’t fare as well as the aforementioned incumbents in their various redistricting situations.

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