The Incumbent Pairings

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 30, 2021 — At this point in the national redistricting process, six sets of incumbents have been paired together, mostly in nomination battles, while an additional five incumbent combinations have been averted.

Over half the states have either completed the district re-drawing process or are well down the road to finishing. Illinois leads the nation with two sets of incumbent pairings, one set for each party. An additional four states have single pairings. A total of three Republican primary pairings are on the board, two feature Democratic incumbents, and one, in North Carolina, is a potential pairing with a member from each party.

Retirements have largely averted several more pairings. Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), Tom Reed (R-NY), Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), and Conor Lamb (D-PA) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), not seeking re-election have likely prevented obvious pairings in their states.

Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa), deciding to seek re-election in the new 1st Congressional District, has avoided a Republican primary pairing with her freshman GOP colleague, Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion/Cedar Rapids).

Below, we review the individual pairings.


GA-7:

• Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) vs. Rep. Lucy McBath (D)
Candidate Filing: March 11
Primary: May 24
Runoff: July 26

The surprise pairing of the early cycle occurs in the Atlanta suburbs. The Republican map drawers changed Rep. McBath’s 6th District back into a seat that favors the GOP, and instead of running an uphill campaign in a general election, McBath immediately announced that she would launch a primary challenge to freshman Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in a politically marginal district that was made safely Democratic.

This will be one of the more interesting pairings. Rep. Bourdeaux represents most of the new 7th’s constituency, but Rep. McBath will likely be viewed as the stronger Democratic base candidate. Bourdeaux starts with an early edge, and with each candidate already approaching $2 million in their respective campaign accounts, this primary campaign will be an old fashioned political shoot out. The winner earns a virtual free ride in the general election.


IL-6:

• Rep. Sean Casten (D) vs. Rep. Marie Newman (D)
Candidate Filing: March 14
Primary: June 28

The second Democratic pairing is the result of the party’s map drawers creating a second Chicago Hispanic district. This led to freshman Rep. Marie Newman standing without her own district. Instead of challenging Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago) in the original urban Hispanic seat, the district in which her La Grange residence was placed, she decided to instead oppose Rep. Sean Casten in the safely Democratic suburban 6th CD.

Though the seat carries Rep. Casten’s 6th, a bit more of the constituency belongs to Rep. Newman. The early resources favor Casten, as his $1 million in the bank is more than double Rep. Newman’s Sept. 30th filing deadline cash-on-hand total. This race will be one that turns sharply left, as both members identify with the party’s leftward faction. Rep. Casten is likely to attract more Chicago establishment support whereas Rep. Newman will get the bulk of leftward social issues coalition backing.

On paper, it appears that Rep. Casten would have at least a slight edge, but we can count on seeing a major campaign contest all the way to the June 28 primary.


IL-12:

• Rep. Mike Bost (R) vs. Rep. Mary Miller (R)
Candidate Filing: March 14
Primary: June 28

The second Land of Lincoln pairing features two Republican incumbents in the state’s southern sector. Typically, in a gerrymandered state the minority party inherits several very safe districts. Such is the case for the GOP in the new IL-12.

Most of Rep. Bost’s current 12th District constituency is in the new 12th, but the eastern part of a district that now encompasses all of the southern Illinois territory currently belongs to freshman Rep. Miller. The early financial edge also goes to Rep. Bost, but the two begin this race separated only by approximately $200,000.

Both members come from the rightward faction of the Republican Party, and each will enjoy support from various ideological coalition segments. Though Bost should have the geographical advantage, the winner here will likely be the candidate who runs the best campaign.


MI-4:

• Rep. John Moolenaar (R) vs. ?
Candidate Filing: April 19
Primary: Aug. 2

The Michigan map won’t be completed until the end of the year, but it is clear that Rep. Moolenaar will have a decision to make. Because of population loss in the north and central parts of the lower peninsula, the seat Michigan loses in reapportionment will almost assuredly come from this region.

Rep. Moolenaar’s 4th District, lying in the middle of at least six affected CD stands to be the member who draws a pairing. While it is possible the Republican pairing could feature Reps. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) and Bill Huizenga (R-Holland), the more likely incumbent vs. incumbent battle will involve Moolenaar.

Among his potential opponents could be Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Flint), Upton, or Huizenga, and possibly Reps. Jack Bergman (R-Upper Peninsula), Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids), or Tim Walberg (R-Tipton). Once the final map is adopted around the beginning of the new year, we will see who is paired with whom. It is highly likely, however, that Republicans will absorb the delegation’s lost seat.


NC-11:

• Rep. Virginia Foxx (R) vs. Rep. Kathy Manning (D)
Candidate Filing: Dec. 17
Primary: March 8
Runoff: May 17

Currently, this is the only inter-party pairing, as Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk) and Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) were placed in the newly configured 11th District. It is unclear what Rep. Manning will decide. Her current 6th CD is segmented into several parts, all in newly created Republican districts. This gives her approximately four choices regarding where she could run, but none are in her favor.

It remains to be seen what she decides, but wherever Rep. Manning chooses to run she will begin as a clear underdog in her first re-election campaign.

Multiple legal challenges will be filed against the North Carolina map, and Manning will need to see a quick route to the state Supreme Court for one of the cases in order to reverse her current political fortunes.


WV-2:

• Rep. David McKinley (R) vs. Rep. Alex Mooney (R)
Candidate Filing: Jan. 29
Primary: May 10

It became evident that Republicans, despite controlling the state’s political apparatus, would absorb West Virginia’s lost seat. Therefore, it became inevitable that two of the state’s three Republican incumbents would be forced to square off for only two seats. With Rep. Mooney being in the middle, he would have his choice of whether to challenge Rep. McKinley or Rep. Carol Miller (R-Huntington). He chose the northern seat, now numbered 2, in order to face-off with with McKinley.

While McKinley has the territory advantage as most of the area that he has represented for 12 years lies in the new 2nd, Rep. Mooney has a huge edge in financial resources. With a $2.7 million to $628,000 cash-on-hand advantage at the Sept. 30 campaign finance disclosure deadline, Mooney will have the resources to equal at least some of Rep. McKinley’s inherent advantages.

On paper, Rep. McKinley begins as the favorite to win the pairing, but expect this race to transform into a major primary campaign. The eventual Republican nominee will have little trouble in the general election.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.