Significant redistricting action occurred in the following seven states during the holidays:
ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission adopted a new congressional map just before the year ended. It is similar to the controversial draft map in that it creates more competitive seats. Political numbers will be available shortly, thus giving us a better picture of what will happen in the 2012 elections. Looking only at the geographical divisions, it appears that four seats will be Republican, three Democrat, with one toss-up district. Among incumbents, it appears that Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ-1) may have received the most difficult draw, but it is possible he could hop over into the new 4th District, an open seat that should be solidly Republican. The most likely outcome for 2012, according to the earliest of projections, is a 5R-4D split, meaning the Democrats will gain one net seat.
GEORGIA (current delegation: 8R-5D; gains one seat) – The Justice Department granted pre-clearance to the Georgia map, virtually completing the Peach State redistricting process. Lawsuits will continue, but obtaining DoJ approval now makes it extremely difficult to dislodge the plan. Republicans will gain the new seat, labeled as District 9. Rep. Tom Graves (R) now goes to District 14, and Rep. John Barrow’s (D) 12th District becomes highly competitive. Republican District 1 (Rep. Jack Kingston) also becomes more competitive, while District 8 (Rep. Austin Scott) changes significantly but remains in the contested category.
MISSISSIPPI (current delegation: 3R-1D) – The three-judge federal panel, even before the new legislature convenes today, released a congressional map that changes very little among the four districts. Their biggest task was to balance the four seats from a population perspective. The 2nd District of Rep. Bennie Thompson (D) is officially 73,561 people low, meaning those individuals must come from the other three districts. The northern Mississippi 1st District (Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R) is the most over-populated of the four seats, having to shed 46,271 inhabitants. It remains to be seen if the new legislature makes any quick changes to the map. Candidate filing begins Jan. 13, thereby giving them a very small window in which to take action. The politics of the map will likely remain constant.
NEW JERSEY (current delegation: 7D-6R; loses one seat) – The New Jersey congressional redistricting commission comprised of five Democrats, five Republicans, and a tie-breaker (Republican former Attorney General John Farmer) released their congressional map just before 2011 ended. Tie-breaking member Farmer voted with the Republicans, thereby adopting the GOP-submitted map. On paper, the plan paired Reps. Scott Garrett (R-NJ-5) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ-9) into a new 5th District that contains 79 percent of Garrett’s current territory and only 21 percent of Rothman’s.
The practical outcome changed, however, when Rothman announced he will challenge fellow Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8) in the new 9th District, a seat that contains 54 percent of the former’s current seat, instead of running against Republican Garrett. The new 9th houses Pascrell’s home of Paterson, but only encompasses 43 percent of his previous 8th District. Rothman sees his home of Fair Lawn go to Garrett’s 5th, but his former political power base of Englewood carries over to the 9th. It remains to be seen if Mr. Pascrell, an eight-term incumbent who will be 75 years old at the end of the month, will forge the uphill challenge against Rothman or simply retire. In any event, it appears the Democrats will absorb the reapportionment casualty and the new delegation will most likely return six Republicans and six Democrats.
NEW MEXICO (current delegation: 2D-1R) – The New Mexico state court charged with drawing a new congressional map completed its work and returned a plan that looks almost identical to the current political landscape. The court made only small changes to the three districts after balancing the seats from a population perspective. Rep. Steve Pearce’s (R) 2nd District was the most out of balance, having to gain 22,437 people. The political numbers among the three districts are almost identical to those of the previous decade, meaning that the state will continue to hold one Democratic seat (NM-3; Rep. Ben Lujan), one Republican district (NM-2; Rep. Pearce), and a marginal Albuquerque-based 1st District that leans Democratic. Though the 1st CD will host a competitive open seat race in the fall, the eventual Democratic nominee will be tabbed as the general election favorite. The most likely outcome after the 2012 election will again yield a delegation comprised of two Democrats and one Republican.
PENNSYLVANIA (current delegation: 12R-7D; loses one seat) – Just before Christmas, Gov. Tom Corbett (R) signed the congressional redistricting legislation into law. The new plan pairs Democrats Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) and Mark Critz (D-PA-12) in a new western PA 12th District, a seat where President Obama tallied only 45 percent. This means the eventual Democratic nominee, either Altmire or Critz, will still face a stiff challenge in the general election.
Though the map is designed to elect 12 Republicans and six Democrats and could possibly stretch to 13R-5D, President Obama scored a majority of the vote in 10 of the 18 districts, including those represented by Reps. Jim Gerlach (District 6), Pat Meehan (District 7), Mike Fitzpatrick (District 8), Charlie Dent (District 15), and Joe Pitts (District 16). Rep. Todd Platts’ (R) safely Republican 19th District is re-numbered as District 4, since the state no longer possesses 19 districts. The Pennsylvania primary is scheduled for May 17.
WASHINGTON (current delegation: 5D-4R; gains one seat) – The Washington redistricting commission also completed its work, adopting a new congressional plan that should protect all eight of the state’s incumbents seeking re-election, gives the new district to the Democrats, and puts a new 1st District in play for Republicans.
In a state where Democrats routinely win at the statewide level, the Republicans would have come away with a national victory simply by protecting all four of its incumbents. Under this plan, however, they now have a chance to evenly split the delegation as the new 1st District becomes competitive. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA-1) is running for governor, so his CD will be open in 2012. The plan switches the focal point of the district from the northern Seattle/Puget Sound island area to the east, meaning it has a more rural and conservative political anchor. The new draw plays well for Republican John Koster, the former state legislator and county official who lost close congressional races to Rep. Rick Larsen (D) in the current 2nd District during both 2000 and 2010. Larsen’s CD-2 now moves into the Puget Sound islands, changing his political focus, but giving him a much more Democratic district. For his part, Mr. Koster announced that he will run in new District 1. He previously was gearing up for a re-match with Larsen in WA-2. Several of the Democrats who were planning to run to succeed Inslee may now find themselves displaced in this new draw.
All of the remaining political situations, including those of Reps. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA-3) and Dave Reichert (R-WA-8) who represent marginal areas, improve for the incumbent. The new 10th District is placed southeast of the Seattle metro area, between Tacoma and around and including the capital city of Olympia. Former state House Majority Leader Denny Heck (D), who lost 47-53 percent to Herrera Beutler in 2010, is the odds-on favorite to capture the new seat. He has already announced that he will run. The district heavily favors the Democrats. It is made up largely from Rep. Adam Smith’s (D) current 9th District and the most Democratic part of Herrera Beutler’s seat.
For his part, Mr. Smith draws a heavily Democratic district, but one that has a much higher minority complexion. Herrera Beutler’s current seat is over-populated to the degree of 106,894 people. Smith’s current seat needed to shed 50,675 bodies. The most over-populated of Washington’s congressional districts is that of Rep. Reichert, which sheds 138,300 inhabitants and becomes more rural and Republican.