By Jim Ellis
Aug. 27, 2021 — In the past few days, Democratic leaders and news sources in two states, New York and Illinois, are suggesting that the party redistricting strategists will attempt to maximize Democratic US House gains. Republicans will then counter in similar states that they control.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), on her first official day in office after replacing resigned Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), bluntly answered a reporter’s question to the affirmative when asked if she would use her newfound power to maximize Democratic congressional gains through the redistricting process.
Earlier this week, news sources were reporting that Illinois Democratic map drawers, though no preliminary congressional map has yet been released, are attempting to draw a new 14D-3R map that would likely collapse Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon) and Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) into a strong Democratic seat for the former and pairing for the latter with another downstate Republican.
Doing this would put added national pressure on Republicans in states such as Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Georgia – places where the GOP has full control of the redistricting process. Here, the states are either adding seats or in position to carve a sitting Democrat into unfriendly political territory.
With New York losing one seat, the prime district for elimination would appear obvious since Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) has already announced his retirement and his 23rd District is the lowest in population among all New York seats. Adjacent Rep. Claudia Tenney’s (R-New Hartford) 22nd CD is second lowest, so combining those two Upstate Republican districts into one appears to be a foregone conclusion. It remains to be seen if the Democratic leaders try to do more. The current delegation breaks 19D-8R but will reduce to 26 seats in the next Congress.
Of Illinois’ current 18 congressional districts, only one, that of Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago), is over-populated and only by 10,986 people. While the Kinzinger seat is 61,125 individuals short of the state quota of 753,677 for the new 17-district map, his is not even close to being the most under-populated. He, however, sits between two Democratic seats that the party needs to protect, those of retiring Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline), whose 17th CD is 79,907 residents under quota, and Rep. Lauren Underwood’s (D-Naperville) 14th, where she had a close call in 2020 but is only 482 people short of quota.
While the 14th does not need many more people, it does need significantly more Democrats and they can be found by dividing Kinzinger’s 16th CD into pieces.
Redistricting is always full of surprises, so this analysis is merely educated speculation. If, however, the Democrats come away with gaining a net three or four seats from New York and Illinois combined, then how do the Republicans retaliate?