Tag Archives: Texas

TX-6: Rep. Wright’s Widow to Run

By Jim Ellis

The late Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX) is sworn-into Congress Jan. 3, 2021 by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (left) as Wright’s wife, Susan Wright, holds the Bible. Rep. Wright, 67, had been hospitalized with COVID-19; Susan Wright also had been hospitalized after contracting COVID-19. (Photo/Facebook)

Feb. 24, 2021 — The Texas Tribune newspaper broke the story this week that Susan Wright, widow of deceased Congressman Ron Wright (R-TX), will announce her candidacy as soon as this week for the yet unscheduled special election to succeed her late husband.

Ms. Wright will be the second recent widow running this year. Rep-Elect Luke Letlow’s death has led to a March 20 Louisiana special election in that state’s northeastern 5th District. Julia Letlow (R), the late-congressman-elect’s wife, is a candidate in that race and the favorite to prevail.

In US history, 39 widows have succeeded their late husbands in the House, and another eight in the Senate. One such widow, Doris Matsui (D-CA), is currently serving her ninth congressional term.

A large Republican potential field of candidates was thought to be building for the Texas special election, but with Susan Wright’s intention on becoming a candidate, that may block some of the local officials from the race. Freshman state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie), who opposed Mr. Wright in the 2018 election and forced him into a runoff, and Katrina Pierson, the former Trump campaign spokeswoman, remain likely candidates, however.

At least two Democrats, 2018 congressional nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez and school district official Shawn Lassiter, have announced their candidacies and both are likely to remain in the race. The 2020 party nominee, Stephen Daniel, has also not ruled out running.

Now that the congressman has been laid to rest, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) will schedule the special election. The most likely date will be May 1st, in order to conform with the Uniform Election Day, which hosts local elections from around the state. All 6th District candidates will be on the same ballot and if any one candidate receives majority support, that individual will be elected outright. Otherwise, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff election that will be part of Abbott’s scheduling pronouncement. Assuming a May 1 special election, the secondary runoff would occur in late June or early July.

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More Redistricting Delays – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 17, 2021 — The Census Bureau announced just before the Presidents’ Day holiday break that there will be yet another long delay in transmitting the census data to the states. Without the new numbers, redistricting becomes unachievable.

The new target date is Sept. 30, postponed from their first postponement date of July 30. At this point, the postponed apportionment release date remains April 30, long after the statutory deadline of Jan. 1. Apportionment is the first critical step in the redistricting process since this informs the states how many congressional seats they will be awarded for the current decade.

The late September target (and there’s no guarantee even this date will be met) will make it difficult for many states to finish their redistricting on time, and could force the process into the courts if state legislatures are unable to convene or meet a legislative calendar in terms of allowing public input. Even now, at least several states will have to enact emergency legislation to change deadlines to avoid violating pre-existing legal redistricting deadlines.

The delays have already changed the political situation in New Jersey and Virginia. With both states having odd-numbered year state legislative elections, the two are always the first to receive their new census data. In both states, legislative elections will now proceed under the 2011 maps with previously enacted amendments. When the lines are eventually completed, it is possible that new elections, possibly for 2022, will be ordered in Virginia. New Jersey voters passed a referendum in November that allows redistricting to occur before the 2023 state legislative elections.

Another problem could be lawsuits filed against the eventual apportionment. Apparently, the principal problem for the delays is exactly which people to count and where they are placed. College students, for example, are typically counted at the university campus on which they reside. Now, however, so many are not attending in-person classes. Therefore, arguments are ongoing as to where this group should be counted, either at school or back at their primary residence.

Additionally, one of President Biden’s new executive orders reversed Trump Administration policies about whether or not to count non-citizens. This change of direction has also created further delays.

Based upon these controversies, and others, it is probable that at least one potential losing state – apparently Alabama is on the cusp of losing a seat but may not depending upon the counting criteria – could sue over the apportionment conclusion meaning even further delays as various potential lawsuits wind their way through the judicial process toward final determination. All of this could conceivably mean redistricting is postponed until the 2024 election cycle.

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More Redistricting Delays

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 29, 2021 — The Census Bureau announced at mid-week yet another postponement in releasing the national apportionment figures, this time until April 30. Reapportionment should have been completed by Dec. 31, but the Bureau previously announced that March 6 would be the new release date due to COVID-related problems. Now, we see further delays.

Reapportionment is the process of creating a new census data algorithm in order to project the number of congressional seats each state will be awarded for the coming decade. It appears that 10-12 seats could change states, with the northeast and Midwest typically losing districts to southern and western states. This time, however, California, for the first time in history, is reversing their trend and appears headed for the losing list.

Once the apportionment numbers are known and the individual data dispersed, the states can begin the redistricting process. The Census Bureau further stated that individual states won’t be receiving their particular data necessary for redistricting until at least July 30. This will clearly set the redistricting cycle back significantly, which could cause major problems for the coming election cycle.

In the past, the Census Bureau has prioritized the states with early primaries to be first to receive their data. This meant that New Jersey and Virginia initially received their new population numbers ahead of the others because they have odd-numbered year state legislative elections. Texas and Illinois were next to receive since they traditionally schedule their regular primaries in March of the election year.

Knowing that the numbers would not be available for them in 2021, New Jersey and Virginia took preparatory action. Garden State officials placed a referendum on the November ballot asking voters for approval to postpone legislative redistricting until 2023. The measure passed.

The Old Dominion leaders decided they would run their 2021 state Delegate elections on the amended 2011 map but could conceivably call elections again for next year once they receive their updated data and can draw district boundaries. Virginia state senators do not stand for election until 2023, so it is unlikely the redistricting delay will affect those campaigns.

The data distribution and processing delay could place most legislatures in a conundrum. Most will be adjourned when the data is received, so special sessions will have to be called in most cases to complete the process prior to the 2022 candidate filing deadlines. This suggests that the states having redistricting commissions might prove to be in better position to complete the task because they won’t have to deal with legislative politics, priorities, or calendars, all of which result in a lengthy process.

Additionally, since almost every map is challenged in court, we could well see a plethora of lawsuits being filed late in the year that keep the redistricting process tied in figurative knots for months.

The states in the most difficult situations will be those gaining and losing congressional representation. Because the number of districts these particular states will have differ from their current allotments, they do not have the option of reverting to the current map once 2021 apportionment becomes final.

In the case of gainers and losers not having completed maps, we may see at-large races for the House. This would be particularly difficult for the losing states because we may see all members in the affected places having to run at-large for seats in their House delegations.

Unofficially, the gaining states appear to be Texas (3 seats), Florida (2), Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon. The losers may be New York (possibly 2 seats), Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. Reports suggest that the closest developing situation concerns whether Alabama loses a seat or New York drops two.

President Biden’s executive order that mandates non-citizens be counted in the census will certainly affect the final data projections and may be another reason for this latest delay.

The only certainty about 2021 reapportionment and redistricting is the many moving parts in these various states will likely produce surprising political results.

Early House Outlook – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 21, 2021 — Continuing with our electoral stage preview for the US House, today we look at 12 states in the country’s central region. Tomorrow and the following Monday, we move further east.


• Arkansas – 4 Seats (4R)

Arkansas holds four Republican districts, and the GOP controls the redistricting pen. They will obviously attempt to draw a new map that protects all four incumbents, and they should be able to do so with relative ease as the state continues to move toward the ideological right.

Arkansas had previously received Justice Department approval to draw a map where all of its 75 counties whole within the individual congressional districts, and thus exceeding the plus-or-minus one individual congressional district population variance requirement.


• Iowa – 4 Seats (1D3R)

Iowa has a hybrid redistricting system. The legislature voluntarily cedes power to a particular legislative committee, which then draws the four congressional districts based upon a mathematical population algorithm without regard to incumbent residences or political preferences. The legislature must then approve or reject the map without amendment.

The current map has produced competitive districts as is evidenced in the 2nd District being decided by just six votes in the 2020 election. Three of the state’s four CDs have seen both Republican and Democratic representation during this decade. It is likely we will see the process produce a similar map later this year.


• Kansas – 4 Seats (1D3R)

Both parties have seats at the redistricting table as Republicans control the state House and Senate while Democrats have the governorship. Republicans will attempt to at least protect the status quo but Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly can be expected to hold out for a 2R-2D plan. Any prolonged impasse will send the map to either a state or federal court in order to produce an interim map for the coming 2022 election.


• Louisiana – 6 Seats (0D4R; 2 Vacancies)

The more immediate political task Louisiana sees is filling its two vacant congressional districts. The New Orleans-Baton Rouge 2nd District has no representation because Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-New Orleans) resigned to accept a White House appointment from the Biden Administration. Rep-Elect Luke Letlow (R) tragically passed away after his election and before he was officially sworn into office. Therefore, both seats will be filled in a two-tiered March 20/April 24 special election calendar.

Republicans control the legislature, but Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) holds the veto pen. The number of seats will remain constant since the population appears relatively even through the state’s six districts. The 1st (Rep. Steve Scalise-R) and the 6th (Rep. Garret Graves-R) are over-populated while the 4th (Rep. Mike Johnson-R) and the 5th (Letlow vacancy) will need to gain residents.
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Florida Data

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 18, 2020 — Continuing with our project this week of analyzing statewide data now that official final election results are being published from around the country, today we look at the Sunshine State of Florida, another key redistricting state.

Though having only three-quarters of Texas’ population, the Florida presidential turnout came within only a few hundred to equaling that of the Lone Star State (FL: 11,067,366; TX: 11,315,056).

On the statewide tally, President Trump carried Florida with a 51.2 – 47.5 percent margin over former vice president Joe Biden. The result represents a net 2.2 percentage increase for the president when compared with his 2016 statewide total, while Biden’s performance registered a decline of 0.3 percent from Hillary Clinton’s Sunshine State aggregate vote.

The House performance detected in California and Texas, showing that the average victorious congressional candidate performed better within their particular district than President Trump, was not nearly as pronounced in Florida.

On average, Texas US House Republican candidates ran 2.8 percentage points better than Trump, and the average California GOP House candidate ran 4.2 points ahead of the president’s statewide percentage. In Florida, however, the number was virtually equal to the president’s, with the average House Republican contender running just 0.2 percent above Trump’s statewide total.

Because two of the Republican incumbents, Reps. Neal Dunn (R-Panama City) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Miami/Hialeah), ran either without Democratic opposition (Dunn) or totally unopposed (Diaz-Balart) the Florida Secretary of State does not record votes in such a district. Therefore, for purposes of this exercise, a projected result of 65-35 percent for the two congressional districts was added as an estimated total. This percentage spread was extrapolated when comparing the performance of Republican and Democratic congressional candidates in similar Florida districts.

To review, in California, Democratic House incumbent performance fell below their 2018 recorded vote in 33 of 44 districts, while results improved for four of the six Republican incumbents on the ballot. In Texas, vote percentages for 11 of the 16 Republican incumbents seeking re-election improved from 2018, while the Democratic incumbent performance index declined for all 13 who ran for a succeeding term.

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