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The Trifecta States

By Jim Ellis

In the trifecta of political parties controlling the House, Senate and Executive branches in a state, how many will actually benefit from that power in the redistricting process?

Oct. 11, 2021 — As the redistricting cycle moves forward, predictions are being made as to which party will benefit most through the decennial district boundary drawing process. Most analyses favor the Republicans as the party best positioned to gain under 2021 redistricting largely because of the number of states they control outright, but this could be an over-statement.

When a state features one party in control of the governor’s mansion, state House, and state Senate, the horse racing term of “trifecta” is used to describe such a political situation. Since Republicans hold 23 trifectas and Democrats just 15, it appears on the surface that the GOP will be the big gainer in redistricting.

Let’s look a bit closer because the aggregate trifecta number doesn’t tell the whole story.

On the Republican side, though they control 23 states, their redistricting position is lessened when examining their ability to extract a net gain of congressional seats.

Of their 23, in one, West Virginia, they are a sure bet to lose a seat. In this case, Republicans hold all three of the state’s CDs, but reapportionment reduces the Mountain State to two districts. Therefore, Republicans will unavoidably absorb the loss.

In two of their states, Arizona and Montana, a non-politician commission will draw the maps. In another dozen (Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming) the GOP is already at the max level of partisan members and can’t stretch the new plan further.

In Iowa and Texas, though Republicans have trifecta control, legislative rules lessen their complete power; hence, the redistricting outcome is affected.

Finally, the GOP only has effective redistricting control in six states, and in two of those, Oklahoma and Tennessee, it could arguably backfire if the party tries to expand their ratio further. Therefore, it is in really just four states, Florida, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Ohio where we could see Republican redistricting gains.

The Democrats find themselves in similar position. From their 15 trifectas, they only have redistricting control in five, possibly, and realistically, three states. In five of their 15 (California, Colorado, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington) redistricting goes to a citizens’ commission.

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Bass for Mayor; Redistricting Update

By Jim Ellis

California Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles)

Sept. 29, 2021 — Reports were surfacing last week that California Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), who had been on candidate Joe Biden’s short list for the vice presidential nomination, was deciding whether to eschew re-election next year for a chance to run for LA mayor. Now, she has made the decision. On Monday, Rep. Bass formally entered the citywide race.

The mayor’s election likely will be semi-open. Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) has been nominated as US ambassador to India, and upon obtaining his Senate confirmation, the City Council will be empowered to appoint an interim mayor. That individual will have the opportunity of then seeking a full four-year term during the regular election cycle. Certainly, Rep. Bass could be a potential appointee. Should Mayor Garcetti not receive a timely confirmation as ambassador, he would be ineligible to seek a third term, so in any event, the mayor’s contest will be highly competitive.

From a federal perspective, Bass running for mayor means her 37th Congressional District will be open. Of the 18 congressional districts that are wholly or partially contained within Los Angeles County, 17 of them need a population influx. With California losing a seat, it appears that the Los Angeles area will absorb the reduction.

Since Rep. Bass is the first Golden State House member to announce that he or she won’t seek re-election, her 37th District that needs 38,173 people to meet the state’s CD population quota of 760,350 people for the new 52 district map – a west Los Angeles County seat centered around the Culver City community – now becomes a prime target for elimination.

In the mayor’s race, Bass will at least face Los Angeles City Council President Pro Tempore Joe Buscaino, LA City councilman and former state Senate president and ex-US Senate candidate Kevin de Leon, and LA City Attorney Mike Feuer. It is likely others will enter the race once the political situation surrounding Mayor Garcetti is defined, and the congressional and legislative redistricting picture becomes clearer.

Redistricting Update

Several states are making progress in drawing new congressional maps. Colorado will send a final plan to the state Supreme Court as early as today. Indiana and Maine are close to finalizing maps that will strengthen both states’ political divisions, 7R-2D in the Hoosier State, and 2D-0R in the latter.

Oregon is also moving toward completion of a map that may prove a reach for the Democratic majority. Gaining a sixth seat in national reapportionment, the Democrats are trying to craft a 5D-1R map. Though Republicans have a significant base in the state, the Democrats maintain a tight grip on the statewide races thanks to dominant Portland, which serves as the lynchpin to their Beaver State political success.

Therefore, though the Dems have a clear edge in five of the new CDs, the early partisan analysis figures suggest that the Republicans would have at least an outside chance of prevailing in one of the districts, most likely that of Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Canby/Salem), and possibly in the new 6th District open seat. More will be known when in depth political data is available and candidates begin to come forward.

The Texas Republican Senate’s congressional map was unveiled yesterday. As predicted, the GOP map drawers used the state’s two new seats as somewhat of a buffer, at least in the Austin area, to strengthen districts that were showing weakness. Should this map be enacted, Reps. Chip Roy (R-Austin), Michael McCaul (R-Austin), John Carter (R-Round Rock), and Roger Williams (R-Austin) all receive much stronger Republican seats. In exchange, one of the new seats goes to Travis County and will await a new Democratic inhabitant.

The other new seat appears destined for Harris County. There, sophomore Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D-Houston) moves from a political marginal district to a rock solid Harris-Ft. Bend County Democratic District. This allows the second new seat to fall to a Republican and be fully contained within Harris County. In the northern part of the region, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Houston) receives a substantially better district, and assumes part of Republican Montgomery County.

In the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, the region doesn’t get a new district, but a reconfiguration allows all incumbents, both Republicans and Democrats, to improve upon their present internal political standing.

This Texas map is a long way from enactment. The state House Democrats are unified to vote against any Republican map, and while the GOP has the strength to pass what they want in the Senate, the state House is a different story. It is likely we will see the current 30-day special session end in deadlock, with another 30-day session to follow. The Democratic strategy is to force the redistricting process to court, while the Republicans will attempt to pass a series of maps into law. Expect this story to be with us for many weeks to come.

The New Mexico Ploy

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 15, 2021 — During the last week reports were surfacing that suggested the New Mexico State Democratic leadership was considering ways to turn the current 2D-1R congressional map into a 3D-0R plan. This might be easier said than done, however.

New Mexico is one of the Democrats’ 15 “trifecta states,” meaning the party controls all three legs of the redistricting stool: the state Senate, state House, and governor’s mansion. Republicans have 23 trifectas. Therefore, if the Democrats are to minimize the redistricting damage, or even possibly come out slightly ahead, they must fully use their political leverage in the states they control.

Of the Democrats’ 15 trifectas, however, five of the states handle redistricting through a commission, and in another five the party already controls all the congressional seats. Therefore, if they are to make a national redistricting play they must take maximum advantage in Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon. The lay of the land, however, makes it very difficult to expand their fortunes in Nevada and possibly Oregon, which is why trying to take an extra seat from New Mexico makes some sense from a national Democratic perspective.

New Mexico has three congressional seats, all of which a freshman represents. The 1st (Rep. Melanie Stansbury; D-Albuquerque) and 3rd Districts (Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez; D-Santa Fe) in the northern part of the state are safely Democratic.

The southern 2nd District (Rep. Yvette Herrell; R-Alamogordo), which encompasses almost all of the territory south of Albuquerque, has performed as a Republican seat at the congressional level in 19 of the last 21 elections. Democrats picked up the district in their recent wave election years (2006; 2018) with open seat victories, but the voters favored the Republican challenger in both successive elections. This, despite NM-2 being a majority Hispanic district: 53.7 percent of the overall population according to the previous census data.

Additionally, the current seats are not widely out of population balance. The 1st District needs to gain just 11,264 people, while the 2nd must shed 8,181 individuals, and the 3rd must relinquish 3,082 residents. Therefore, a radical re-draw that results in a sweep of the three districts for one party when the population swings are so small would certainly draw a political gerrymandering lawsuit upon adoption of the new map. Whether such a lawsuit would succeed of course is a question that can only be answered when the final map is drawn and enacted.

Likely, the only way to draw a 3D-0R map in New Mexico would be to keep the northern 3rd District Democratic seat virtually intact, and then draw the Republican 2nd into Albuquerque. This would cause the city and Bernalillo County to be split resulting in the 1st and 2nd then appearing as southwestern and southeastern seats that divide Albuquerque, and subsequently stretch all the way to the Mexican border.

Even this draw might make it difficult to create three Democratic seats because the southeastern district would still have the potential of being Republican enough to make the party’s candidate, in this case Rep. Herrell, strong enough to have a chance of winning a general election.

New Mexico is a good example as how a largely internal state exercise can transform itself to help achieve a national partisan goal. It remains to be seen just how bold the New Mexico Democrats will be, as this small and sometimes obscure state steps into the national redistricting limelight.

Census by District

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 17, 2021 — We can now see exactly where each congressional district in the country stands in terms of population. The Census Bureau delivered the state redistricting data last week, and the Daily Kos Elections site data team segmented the numbers into individual congressional districts.

Below is a chart of the 38 states that have more than two districts, isolating the CDs that are the most over and under populated. The “High” column depicts the district that is the most over-populated in the state, while the “Low” is the one requiring the most new residents. The “+/-” column shows how many districts in the particular state are over and under populated.

The most robust district is that of Texas freshman Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Richmond). His southwest Houston seat houses just under one million people, at an exact count of 972,309. The least populated seat is West Virginia’s 3rd District (Rep. Carol Miller-R): 326,267 people under quota. With all of the Mountain State seats seriously down, it is clear as to why West Virginia lost a seat in reapportionment.

There are only two states, Colorado and Oregon, where all of the current districts are over-populated. Both entities gain one seat in reapportionment. On the other end of the spectrum, Michigan and Pennsylvania saw all districts falling below their new population quota, and in Illinois, 17 of their current 18 do as well. All three states are losing a district.

It is not surprising that California lost a seat for the first time in history. A total of 35 of their current 53 seats require more population versus 18 that must shed residents. New York barely lost a seat, by just 89 people statewide, which is surprising when seeing 23 of their current 27 districts requiring additional population.

The states are now converting their new data into their redistricting software systems. After that, most will hold hearings for public input prior to district construction beginning.

STATE DIST INCUMBENT HIGH LOW +/-
Alabama 5 Mo Brooks (R) 43,348 4, 3
7 Terri Swell (D) -53,143
Arizona 5 Andy Biggs (R) 86,414 3, 6
2 Ann Kirkpatrick (D) -50,133
Arkansas 3 Steve Womack (R) 86,266 2, 2
4 Bruce Westerman (R) -66,283
California 45 Katie Porter (D) 53,645 18, 35
-1 40 Lucille Roybal-Allard (D) -70,139
Colorado 4 Ken Buck (R) 148,823 7, 0
+1 3 Lauren Boebert (R) 36,543
Connecticut 4 Jim Himes (D) 25,627 2, 3
2 Joe Courtney (D) -21,288
Florida 9 Darren Soto (D) 186,381 21, 6
+1 13 Charlie Crist (D) -41,756
Georgia 7 Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) 94,304 8, 6
2 Sanford Bishop (D) -92,108
Illinois 7 Danny Davis (D) 10,986 1, 17
-1 17 Cheri Bustos (D) -79,907
Indiana 5 Victoria Spartz (R) 50,921 5, 4
8 Larry Bucshon (R) -38,579
Iowa 3 Cindy Axne (D) 61,382 1, 3
4 Randy Feenstra (R) -31,730
Kansas 3 Sharice Davids (D) 57,816 1, 3
1 Tracey Mann (R) -33,697
Kentucky 6 Andy Barr (R) 33,300 4, 2
5 Hal Rogers (R) -57,592
Louisiana 6 Garret Graves (R) 40,173 3, 3
4 Mike Johnson (R) -47,947
Maryland 4 Anthony Brown (D) 26,772 6, 2
7 Kweisi Mfume (D) -68,401
Massachusetts 7 Ayanna Pressley (D) 18,714 4, 5
1 Richard Neal (D) -50,635
Michigan 11 Haley Stevens (D) -17,368 0, 14
-1 5 Dan Kildee (D) -104,476
Minnesota 3 Dean Phillips (D) 24,586 5, 3
7 Michelle Fischbach (D) -39,978
Mississippi 4 Steven Palazzo (R) 37,196 3, 1
2 Bennie Thompson (D) -65,829
Missouri 3 Blaine Luetkemeyer (R) 35,121 6, 2
1 Cori Bush (D) -54,618
Nebraska 2 Don Bacon (R) 47,170 2, 1
3 Adrian Smith (R) -53,152
Nevada 3 Susie Lee (D) 79,374 2, 2
1 Dina Titus (D) -73,332
New Jerseyy 8 Albio Sires (D) 47,314 5, 7
2 Jeff Van Drew (R) -41,606
New Mexico 2 Yvette Harrell (R) 8,181 2, 1
1 Melanie Stansbury (D) -11,264
New York 12 Carolyn Maloney (D) 34,717 4, 23
-1 23 Tom Reed (R) -83,462
North Carolina 2 Deborah Ross (D) 165,703 12, 1
+1 1 G.K. Butterfield (D) -6,238
Ohio 3 Joyce Beatty (D) 23,119 2, 14
-1 6 Bill Johnson (R) -99,512
Oklahoma 1 Kevin Hern (R) 36,806 3, 2
2 Markwayne Mullin (R) -69,793
Oregon 1 Suzanne Bonamici (D) 157,843 5, 0
+1 4 Peter DeFazio (D) 117,399
Pennsylvania 10 Scott Perry (R) -5,379 0, 18
-1 15 Glenn Thompson (R) -90,540
South Carolina 1 Nancy Mace (R) 87,689 3, 4
6 Jim Clyburn (D) -84,741
Tennessee 4 Scott DesJarlais (R) 62,976 5, 4
9 Steve Cohen (D) -77,122
Texas 22 Troy Nehls (R) 205,322 28, 8
+2 13 Ronny Jackson (R) -59,517
Utah 4 Burgess Owens (R) 65,265 1, 3
3 John Curtis (R) -31,190
Virginia 10 Jennifer Wexton (D) 100,750 6, 5
9 Morgan Griffith (R) -87,917
Washington 7 Pramila Jayapal (D) 28,862 6, 4
6 Derek Kilmer (D) -33,730
West Virginia 2 Alex Mooney (R) -275,777 0, 3
-1 3 Carol Miller (R) -326,627
Wisconsin 2 Mark Pocan (D) 52,678 2, 6
4 Gwen Moore (D) -41,320

Redistricting Is Now Underway

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 13, 2021 — Now four full months past the original deadline, the Census Bureau finally is scheduled to deliver to the states their census tract data, thus enabling the map-drawing process to begin.

While data was received yesterday, it will still be awhile before the public begins seeing even preliminary maps. The data must first be configured to the individual state’s redistricting software. Secondly, most state processes mandate hearings for public comment once the data is released. Each of these factors will happen prior to actual map construction. This notwithstanding, the critical element for each state, having the necessary data, is at long last occurring.

At the end of last year, we published a redistricting outlook that suggested Republicans, even though they control the process in a preponderance of states, could still find themselves down several seats in reapportionment and redistricting simply because of what could happen in the states that are gaining and losing congressional seats. (Go to: Ellis Insight Redistricting Outlook)

Some notable changes have occurred since the original piece was written, and now it appears the tables have turned toward the GOP as the party in best position to benefit nationally from the decennial district reconstruction process.

Below is a recap of the state situations that have changed:


Alabama: The original reapportionment prognostications suggested that Alabama would lose a congressional district. Republicans, because they control all but a Civil Rights-protected seat, were sure to take the loss. Likely due to a population surge in the latter part of the decade, Alabama did not lose a seat, thus the GOP saves a sure net loss.


Colorado: Though Colorado has adopted a redistricting commission for the first time, the swing toward the Democrats suggested that their party would gain the new seat. The Colorado commission is the first to release a congressional map, based upon Census Bureau estimates, and while the new 8th District looked solidly Democratic, the newly configured 7th District, currently Democratic, slightly favors the GOP.

Though this map is just a preliminary draw, should this be the direction in which the commission heads Republicans could actually reap a one seat gain when the 2022 election cycle concludes.


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