Talk is already beginning about which of the newly elected and veteran House members will be on the hot seat in 2012, but little will be clear until redistricting is complete. Remembering that all multi-district states will change their congressional maps in 2011 (or early 2012), it is virtually impossible to project today which of the current incumbents will have bumpy re-election roads in 2012.
Looking at the reapportionment formula, a calculation that will be final and official before the end of this year, where will both Republicans and Democrats either protect a large number of their current seats or make substantial gains?
One of the top such states had not been decided until just before Thanksgiving. The New York state Senate is the key to the state’s redistricting process and it appears that Republicans have won enough undecided races to claim a small majority. If the GOP Senate majority becomes official, then count on a court-drawn 2012 map as they will have the necessary votes to block the Democratic plan coming from the House. Assuming NY-1 holds for the Democrats (the lone outstanding congressional race in the country), the GOP gained six seats in the 2010 election giving them a grand total of eight in the state, still a rather paltry total for a delegation of 29 members but an improvement over the 27-2 split from the current Congress. New York will lose at least one seat in reapportionment and, considering the probable population trends, the representation reduction should come from either New York City or Long Island. If the Democrats gain control of the Senate, a prospect that now appears unlikely, watch for a map that allows their party to regain some of the seats they lost in November.
If you’re looking for a place where Republicans are poised to make gains, watch North Carolina. With Democratic Gov. Bev Purdue having no veto over redistricting legislation, the new Republican legislature has full control of the map drawing process. The Tar Heel State is the place where the GOP has the opportunity to gain the largest number of US House seats. With Republicans usually winning the statewide vote, Democrats control the congressional delegation 8-5, and the GOP only pulled to within this number with Renee Ellmers’ upset win over Rep. Bob Etheridge in NC-2. The Republicans’ first priority will be to improve Ellmers’ seat and then look to give several Democratic incumbents more difficult seats. Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7), Larry Kissell (D-NC-8), Heath Shuler (D-NC-11), and Brad Miller (D-NC-13) could all find themselves in much more competitive political situations under a Republican-drawn map.
Expected to gain four seats, Texas will again attract great redistricting attention. Republicans now enjoy a 23-9 margin in the congressional delegation and it will be hard to exceed this ratio, even when considering the four new seats with which an enlarged GOP legislative majority can play.
Republicans also control the pen in the more Democratic or marginal states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio. This helps the GOP dramatically, because each state will lose at least one district. Ohio appears headed for a two-seat reduction. Since the GOP has virtually maximized the size of their representation in at least PA and OH, they will need such power just to protect what they have.
The Democrats will certainly take a loss in Massachusetts, as the Bay State’s 10-member Democratic delegation will be reduced by one seat. This Democratic loss, however, will be offset in Louisiana as the 6-1 Republican line-up will drop to 5-1. The lone Democratic seat, the New Orleans-based 2nd district, enjoys Voting Rights protection and will not be collapsed.
California, which could be a Democratic gain state, and Florida, the site of the best GOP map of the 2001 redistricting cycle, are big question marks. Ballot initiatives created a redistricting commission in California and made stringent map-drawing requirements upon the legislature in Florida, so the current outlook in both states is cloudy.
Much will happen in the coming redistricting year making early 2012 congressional predictions most difficult and unreliable. Those who thought the 2010 cycle was long and grueling haven’t seen anything yet.