Tag Archives: Tennessee

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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The Tennessee Rumor

Tennessee Congressional Districts (click on image to see larger)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 13, 2021 — Unconfirmed stories from Democratic sources are flying around the Internet suggesting that the Tennessee Republican state legislative leadership is in the process of drawing a new congressional map that would shred Rep. Jim Cooper’s (D-Nashville) seat and convert the current 7R-2D map into 8R-1D.

This may well be happening, but when looking at the population densities in each of the state’s nine congressional districts, drawing such a map may be unavoidable and not entirely partisanship-driven. The problem for Cooper and the Democrats is not the congressman’s Nashville-anchored 5th District. Rather, the Memphis seat of Rep. Steve Cohen (D) is the source of their difficulty. It is this 9th District, with a major population shortage and unfavorable geographic boundaries from a redistricting perspective, that could adversely affect Rep. Cooper.

Despite Tennessee ranking as the 17th fastest growing domain during the previous decade, the Volunteer State did not gain a new congressional seat in reapportionment. Additionally, and the fundamental problem for Rep. Cooper, middle Tennessee is experiencing explosive growth, while the east and the west are inhabitant deficient, at least from a congressional district equivalency perspective. Rep. Cohen’s Memphis anchored seat is the least populated of the nine CDs and must gain 77,122 people to meet the new Tennessee congressional district population requirement of 767,871 individuals.

As you know, Memphis sits in the far southwestern corner of Tennessee. Therefore, the Cohen district is bordered by Arkansas to the west and Mississippi to the south. Thus, the people needed to fill the 9th can only come from the north and east. To further complicate matters, the TN-9 is a Voting Rights majority minority district and must remain with relatively constant minority population numbers.

Additionally, the 8th District of Rep. David Kustoff (R-Georgetown), that stretches from Kentucky to Mississippi and the only place from where the 9th District can annex the people it needs, is also under-populated. To meet its own population requirements, the 8th CD must gain 51,524 inhabitants, hence having to stretch closer to the Nashville area districts, which is how Cooper’s Nashville seat factors into Memphis’ population swing problem. Combined, these issues making drawing western Tennessee difficult.

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Community Activist Odessa Kelly Gets Backing From Justice Democrats to Challenge Tennessee Rep. Cooper

By Jim Ellis

Community activist Odessa Kelly (Photo: Odessa Kelly campaign)

April 7, 2021 — In what could be the beginning of a national trend developing against perceived moderate Democratic incumbents, community activist Odessa Kelly on Monday announced a party primary challenge against veteran Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville).

What makes this candidacy potentially more serious is her backing from the Justice Democrats national political action committee that posted a successful 2020 election cycle. The group is most closely associated with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx) and the other members of “the Squad” — Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

The Justice Democrats successfully backed Jamaal Bowman’s successful Democratic primary challenge of 16-term New York Rep. Eliot Engel, and they won another New York primary election with attorney Mondaire Jones in an open race to succeed retiring Rep. Nita Lowey (D).

They also supported two other individuals who upset Democratic incumbents, Illinois challenger Marie Newman, opposite then-Rep. Dan Lipinski, and Cori Bush in St. Louis who defeated 20-year congressional incumbent Lacy Clay (D-MO). Overall, they endorsed nine non-incumbent Democratic challengers in primaries and were successful in five races.

Their two biggest losses came in Massachusetts and Texas. The failed to dislodge House Ways and Means Committee chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and veteran Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), though both campaigns were highly competitive.

Combined, the nine non-incumbents who the Justice Democrats supported spent an average of $2.25 million, meaning that a potential Odessa Kelly candidacy in Tennessee against Rep. Cooper could well become serious, at least in terms of available resources.

Tennessee’s 5th District contains the capital city of Nashville and all of Davidson County. The CD also includes to the west the neighboring county of Dickson and three-quarters of Cheatham. Demographically, the seat is 60.4 percent non-Hispanic white, 25.0 percent black, and 9.2 percent Hispanic. The gender division breaks 51.7 percent female. A total of 12.3 percent of the population is foreign born, which is a high number when compared to other districts around the country.

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Analyzing the 2020 Turnout Increase

By Jim Ellis

March 29, 2021 — As we know, election year 2020 produced the largest voter participation level in history, including a substantial increase from the last presidential turnout in 2016. Now that all states have reported finalized election numbers, we know that a total of 158,507,137 individuals cast ballots in the 2020 presidential election, a number that shattered even the highest pre-election turnout predictions.

The figure also represents a 15.9 percent turnout increase when compared with 2016, which, at that time also set a record for raw number voter participation. Attempting to explain the large jump, the proponents of the election system overhaul legislative package in Congress, HR-1/S.1, credit the rise to the heightened use of early and mail voting, and therefore want to make permanent most of the court ordered COVID-19 pandemic response procedural changes. Digging deeper, however, we find that there are other factors present that help explain the voting uptick.

While all but five states (Alabama, Connecticut, Mississippi, Missouri, and New Hampshire) employed some form of early voting, another five conducted their elections only through the mail. The usual all-mail states of Colorado, Oregon, and Washington were joined by Hawaii and Utah according to the Ballotpedia election statistics organization that regularly publishes related data.

All five of these latter states saw turnout growth rates that exceeded the national average, including the state posting the highest increase, the Aloha State of Hawaii, which saw a whopping 32.5 percent rise in voting.

As stated earlier, the national average turnout increase when comparing the 2020 figures with 2016 is 15.9 percent. Eighteen states saw an increase greater than the national mean average, while 32 states and the District of Columbia fell below that number. All 51 entities, however, reported an upsurge in voting from 2016. The median average calculated to an increase of 12.8 percent.

Let’s concentrate on the 10 states with the highest increase from 2016. They are:

STATE        PERCENT INCREASE
Hawaii 32.5%
Arizona 31.6%
Utah 31.5%
Texas 26.2%
Idaho 25.8%
Nevada 24.9%
California 23.4%
Washington 23.2%
Tennessee 21.8%
Georgia 21.5%

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Early House Outlook – Part IV

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 24, 2021 — Concluding our electoral US House preview, today we look at the final dozen states in the country’s southern region.


• Alabama – 7 Seats (1D6R)

Alabama is on the cusp of losing one of its seven seats in reapportionment. Sources suggest the final numbers are very close and the state may sue over how the figures are tabulated should apportionment take away one of the Republican seats. The Democrats have only one CD in the state, which is a majority minority seat (Rep. Terri Sewell-D) that is a certainty to remain as part of the delegation.

Should Alabama lose a seat in reapportionment, the state’s southeastern region, most particularly the Montgomery anchored 2nd District, would probably the most affected since this is the least populated area of the seven CDs.


• Delaware – 1 Seat (1D)

The home of new President Joe Biden was once a relatively conservative state, but no longer. Delaware is growing but won’t come anywhere near gaining a second seat. Therefore, three-term Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Wilmington) will have an easy electoral ride for the foreseeable future.


• Florida – 27 Seats (11D16R)

The Sunshine State is one of two entities perched to gain multiple new districts. Florida is projected to add two seats, which should give the GOP map drawers the opportunity of protecting the newly won South Florida District 26 (Rep. Carlos Gimenez) and 27 (Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar) while maximizing the Republican compilation of Florida seats. Winning the aforementioned Miami-anchored CDs might result in conceding one of the new seats to the Democrats, however, in order to off-load a significant portion of their left-of-center voters, which would make both seats more Republican.

Holding the governor’s office, both houses of the legislature, and now a majority on the state Supreme Court will allow the GOP to become the big winner in redistricting. The fact that 25 of the 27 districts are over the estimated per district population projection of approximately 740,000 residents provides statistical evidence for expanding the delegation.

Rep. Darren Soto’s (D-Kissimmee) 9th District is the most over-populated seat with more than 931,000 people. Only Reps. Neal Dunn’s (R-Panama City) and Charlie Crist’s (D-St. Petersburg) seats are slightly below the projected population target. Twelve of the current 27 districts now hold more than 800,000 constituents. Expect the new seats to be added in South Florida, most likely toward the Gulf Coast side of the peninsula, and in the Orlando area.


• Georgia – 14 Seats (6D8R)

Though Republicans will control the redistricting pen as a result of holding both the legislature and governor’s office, the party map drawers will be hard-pressed to construct a map that allows their members to dominate the delegation as they did 10 years ago. Gaining a seat in 2010 reapportionment, the GOP began the decade with a 10-4 advantage in the House delegation only to see two Atlanta suburban seats slip away as a result of demographic and political changes in the metropolitan area.

Georgia is expected to remain constant in this reapportionment with their 14 seats. The GOP will attempt to make at least one of the seats they lost, District 6 (Rep. Lucy McBath) or District 7 (Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux) more Republican and thus give themselves a chance to re-claim a seat for the coming decade.

Expect a move to make one of these two seats, probably District 6, more Democratic in order to make District 7 more Republican especially since the latter CD is the most over-populated seat in the state with more than 844,000 residents and will have to shed close to 90,000 individuals to other districts.
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