Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Lamb Decision Affects Redistricting

Pennsylvania Congressional Districts


By Jim Ellis

Aug. 2, 2021 — Last week’s news reports indicating that western Pennsylvania US Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Mt. Lebanon/Pittsburgh) will enter the open Senate race on Aug. 6, could mean the congressional district he leaves behind becomes a redistricting victim.

Assuming the reports are accurate, and the congressman does launch a Senate campaign, he will be the only Pennsylvania US House delegation member to create an open seat. All others appear poised to run for re-election. This means the Lamb district will likely become the top option for elimination since reapportionment reduces by one the 18-member Keystone State delegation.

The Census Bureau is now telling the states they will finally begin receiving their redistricting data the during the week of Aug. 16. It appears the total data transmission will come in two waves, so all states should have what they need to begin holding public input hearings in early September, and then drawing districts. This is more than six months behind a typical redistricting calendar.

Based upon the latest available information, the state will have 17 congressional districts with a population number of what appears to be just under 765,000 individuals. Looking at the current 18 districts, all must gain population, hence the reason the state is losing another CD. Since 1930, Pennsylvania has lost more congressional districts than any other state.

The region requiring the least new population is Pennsylvania’s southeastern sector, in and around the city of Philadelphia. The western segment is the area that needs the most population with the exception of Rep. Scott Perry’s (R-Dillsburg/Harrisburg/York) south-central 10th District that will require the lowest human increase, most likely fewer than 20,000 persons.

The three seats needing the greatest influx are all in west Pennsylvania, surrounding the city of Pittsburgh. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson’s (R-Howard) predominantly rural 15th CD looks to be the district most in need of additional residents, likely over 85,000 individuals. Next is Rep. Mike Kelly’s (R-Butler) 16th District that begins north of Pittsburgh and moves all the way to Lake Erie. This seat would need approximately 80,000 more people. Third is the district south of Pittsburgh to the West Virginia border, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler’s (R-Peters Township) 14th CD, that must also gain another 80,000 bodies.

Lamb’s 17th District that encompasses almost half of Allegheny County, all of Beaver County, and a sliver of Butler, needs over 50,000 more people, which pairs well with Rep. Mike Doyle’s (D-Pittsburgh) downtown 18th District that will likely require approximately 65,000 new residents. Therefore, eliminating District 17 with now no incumbent to protect it would allow the downtown seat to be filled and remain solidly Democratic, but also meet the population needs in the districts to the south, southeast, and north of Pittsburgh.

Politically, such a configuration would likely change the 9R-9D delegation to 9R-8D, and that will be a hard sell for the Republican legislature to make to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, especially when he knows a partisan Democratic state Supreme Court could well have the final say once the inevitable lawsuits are filed.

Such a configuration involving the elimination of current District 17 works fairly seamlessly, though, particularly if the final map improves for the Democratic incumbents in the politically marginal eastern PA seats of District 7 (Rep. Susan Wild-D; Allentown/ Bethlehem/Easton), and 8 (Rep. Matt Cartwright-D; Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre/Mt. Pocono). This might be enough to sell a map that forces the Democrats to take the one-seat loss in the west.

There are many ways to re-configure congressional maps, and we will soon see many versions coming from Pennsylvania and all other multi-district states. Rep. Lamb’s move to the Senate race, however, if in fact he ultimately makes the statewide jump, will significantly change the course of Pennsylvania congressional redistricting.

Senate: Recapping the Latest

By Jim Ellis

June 21, 2021 — We have seen quite a few recent US Senate moves that help set the picture for a very competitive 2022 election cycle that will almost certainly break the current 50-50 chamber tie. Below is a recap of the action:

Alabama: Katie Britt (R), the former president and CEO of the Alabama Business Council joined the race and immediately secured the endorsement of her former boss, retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R). Before joining the Business Council, Britt was the senator’s chief of staff. She joins Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and former US Ambassador Lynda Blanchard in the GOP field. No Democrat has yet announced.

Arizona: Two-term Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) announced his candidacy in the past week, giving the GOP a candidate who has won statewide to face freshman Sen. Mark Kelly (D), who stands for a full six-year term in 2022 after winning the 2020 special election. Also in the Republican field are retired Air Force Major General Mick McGuire and solar energy company executive Jim Lamon. Venture capitalist Blake Masters and US Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert) remain as possible candidates.

Florida: US Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando), the former police chief whose husband is mayor of Orange County and the former county Sheriff, formally announced her US Senate challenge to Sen. Marco Rubio (R). Former congressman Alan Grayson and Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell are also Democratic US Senate candidates, among others.

Georgia: Former University of Georgia football star and NFL player Herschel Walker (R) is re-locating back to his home state from Texas ostensibly to soon announce a challenge to freshman Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) who, like Sen. Kelly in Arizona, must stand for a full six-year term in 2022 after winning a 2020 special election. Also in the GOP nomination race are state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, construction company owner Kelvin King, and financial executive and former Trump White House staff member Latham Saddler.

Iowa: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R), who will be 89 at the next election, appears poised to seek an eighth term. At this point, state Sen. Jim Carlin (R-Sioux City) is an announced Republican primary challenger, and ex-Crawford County Supervisor Dave Muhlbauer (D) is the lone Democratic announced candidate. Former one-term US Rep. Abby Finkenauer is a potential candidate along with current US Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines), and Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart.

Missouri: Six-term US Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville/Columbia) is the latest Republican to join the open field with Sen. Roy Blunt (R) retiring. She will oppose former governor, Eric Greitens, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and St. Louis attorney Mark McCloskey, with US Reps. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin), Billy Long (R-Springfield), and Jason Smith (R-Salem) remaining as possible candidates.

Former St. Louis area state Sen. Scott Sifton is the lone prominent announced Democrat. Ex-governor, Jay Nixon, and Kansas City Mayor Quentin Lucas are potential Democratic candidates.

Nevada: The Republican leadership believes that former Attorney General and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt, grandson of the late former Sen. Paul Laxalt (R), will soon announce his Senate candidacy to oppose first-term Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D).

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Census Delays: Some Ramifications

By Jim Ellis

June 1, 2021 — As we know, the Census Bureau has delayed in meeting its public reporting deadlines, which causes ramifications in the political world. As a result, the state officials responsible for redistricting could well find themselves placed behind the proverbial eight ball as the new year approaches.

Reapportionment is the term used to explain the entire decennial process. Reapportionment, as the US Supreme Court defined it in their 1999 ruling on the US Census Bureau v. House of Representatives case, is basically divided into two parts. The first, which was finally completed and released on April 26, is the allocation of congressional seats to the states. The second is the re-drawing of congressional, state, and local district boundaries most often referred to as redistricting.

To complicate matters even further, the delayed allocation proved much different – affecting six seats to be exact – than predictions. It was believed for at least two years that Texas would gain three seats in the 2020 reapportionment and Florida two, with Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon adding one seat apiece. The actual numbers found Texas gaining two, Florida one, and Arizona none. The other one-seat gaining states were correctly predicted.

Conversely, Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia were all expected to lose one seat apiece. The actual report found Alabama, Minnesota, and Rhode Island each retaining the same number of seats they held in the 2010 reapportionment, while the others did lose a single district apiece.

The Census Bureau claims that COVID is largely responsible for their delays, but the state of Alabama, in their pending lawsuit against the federal statistical entity, disagrees. Alabama claims the deadline violations occurred because of the Bureau’s attempt to impose, for the first time in history, differential privacy over the data. This means, under the argument of protecting individual privacy, data would be deliberately scrambled, and certain information not publicly released.

Differential privacy alone would make redistricting extremely difficult for state map drawers because the released census tract numbers, now by definition, wouldn’t equal the state population figures brought forth earlier in the year. The effect would cause political havoc throughout the country. A court ruling on the Alabama case is expected shortly.

Because of a successful legal challenge from Ohio, the Census Bureau has agreed to make the data necessary for redistricting available to the states by Aug. 15 instead of the Oct. 1 date indicated when allocation was announced.

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Latest Senate News – Part II

By Jim Ellis

May 28, 2021 — Today, we complete our two-part series pertaining to the latest Senate happenings, covering the latter half of the alphabet from New Hampshire through Wisconsin.

• New Hampshire: If Gov. Chris Sununu (R) decides to challenge Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), then the Granite State will likely become the Republicans’ best national conversion opportunity. In the only two publicly released polls this year testing such a pairing, Gov. Sununu leads in both.

Though New Hampshire has trended more Democratic at the top of the ticket in the past few elections and President Biden scored a better than expected 53-45 percent win here in November, Gov. Sununu has claimed three consecutive elections, including a 65 percent victory last year. The governor indicated he will make a decision about a Senate challenge during the summer. Should Sununu not make the race, Sen. Hassan becomes a clear favorite to win a second term.

• North Carolina: In another key Republican open seat, the North Carolina race appears to feature tough primaries in both parties. For the Republicans, whose eventual nominee will attempt to hold retiring Sen. Richard Burr’s (R) seat, former Gov. Pat McCrory, Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance), and ex-Rep. Mark Walker reside in the top tier, with the former state chief executive enjoying big leads in early polling.

For the Democrats, the primary appears to be winnowing down to a contest between former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who lost her seat in November by just 401 votes statewide, and state Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte).

This will be another toss-up, top-tier Senate race regardless of who emerges from each of the competitive nomination contests.

• Ohio: The Buckeye State’s open US Senate race is beginning to crystallize. The Democratic side is headed for consensus around US Rep. Tim Ryan’s (D-Warren/ Youngstown) candidacy.

The Republicans look to have at least four strong candidates, former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken, ex-state Treasurer and 2012 US Senate nominee Josh Mandel, author J.D. Vance, and possibly state senator and Cleveland Indians baseball club co-owner Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls).

Businessmen Michael Gibbons and Bernie Moreno are also announced candidates, but they appear as second-tier contenders at this time. US Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) remains a potential candidate. It appears that former US representative and 2018 US Senate nominee Jim Renacci is moving toward a Republican primary challenge against Gov. Mike DeWine in lieu of again running for the Senate.

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Rep. Murphy to Challenge Sen. Rubio

By Jim Ellis

Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park)

May 14, 2021 — According to the Axios news site, insiders close to Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) say that she has made the decision to challenge Sen. Marco Rubio (R) next year and will formally announce her campaign next month. The move had been expected for some time.

Rep. Murphy, a native of the country of Vietnam, was first elected to the House in 2016, defeating veteran Republican incumbent John Mica after the state Supreme Court had re-drawn the Florida congressional districts and made the 7th CD more Democratic. She unseated Rep. Mica 51-49 percent, and then scored re-election victories of 58 and 55 percent in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

A strong fundraiser, Rep. Murphy obtained over $3 million for both of her incumbent re-election campaigns. She ended the 1st quarter 2021 with a cash-on-hand figure of $1.43 million. Sen. Rubio posted $3.9 million in his campaign account during the same reporting period.

Assuming Murphy does enter the race next month, Democrats will have a credible challenger to Sen. Rubio, but one who still must be considered a decided underdog. In 2010, Sen. Rubio, then a state representative, defeated then-governor Charlie Crist, who was running as an Independent, and Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek by a 49-30-20 percent margin. He was re-elected in 2016 with a 52-44 percent vote spread over then-congressman Patrick Murphy (D).

Florida races, as we know, are always competitive and usually very close, though the state has been trending more Republican over the past several elections. A Rubio-Stephanie Murphy race promises to become a national campaign.

With the Democrats apparently attracting a strong candidate in Florida, it is a good time to review the other key races.

In Pennsylvania, both parties are headed for very crowded primaries as each works to nominate a candidate to hopefully succeed retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R). Afghan War veteran Sean Parnell entered the Republican primary earlier this week, but his only venture into elective politics was recording a two-point loss to Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) last November in an Allegheny County suburban district.

Rep. Lamb, himself, may join the Democratic Senate campaign, meaning both parties are going to host political dogfights for the party nomination. In any event, however, the Pennsylvania race will be a top-tier national campaign.

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