Politics

Morning Digest: Expected delay in census data release could wreak havoc with redistricting timelines

New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice released an in-depth report in 2020 looking at which states have deadlines that are in conflict with a potentially delayed data release schedule and what the impact of a delay may be. The most directly affected states are New Jersey and Virginia, which are the only two states that are set to hold legislative elections statewide in 2021 and would normally redraw all of their legislative districts this year.

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However, New Jersey Democrats passed a constitutional amendment in 2020 that will require legislative redistricting be delayed until the 2023 state elections if the census doesn’t provide the necessary data by Feb. 15, 2021, which is now virtually guaranteed. In Virginia, primary elections are currently planned for June 8, but if redistricting data isn’t released until August, it would be practically impossible to conduct redistricting, hold delayed candidate filing, and hold a delayed primary with enough time before November, meaning that the current legislative districts drawn in 2011 would likely remain in place for November’s elections.

The situation isn’t much better for several other states that have constitutionally mandated redistricting deadlines set to kick in this summer before they could feasibly draw new districts if data isn’t released until late summer. Every state constitution requires a lengthy process for amendments that includes a required voter referendum, passage in multiple years, or both, and it’s thus too late to amend these constitutions to alter those deadlines this year, increasing the likelihood of litigation over failure to meet key deadlines.

One major state in particular that could be thrown into turmoil due to a delayed release of census data is Illinois, whose constitution sets a deadline of June 30 for passing new legislative districts following a census year. If legislators fail to adopt new districts by the June 30 deadline, legislators would cede control over legislative redistricting to a bipartisan backup commission where the tiebreaking member is chosen in a 50-50 game of chance between the two parties. Democrats currently hold the legislature and have been expected to have total control over redistricting, but if the process reverts to the backup commission, Republicans would have even odds of controlling legislative redistricting in this blue state.

However in the case of Illinois, the situation pivotally would depend on which year would be categorized as the census year. Normally, that would be a year ending in zero—i.e. 2020—but the Brennan Center details how Illinois leaves open the possibility for 2021 to instead be considered the census year, which would give lawmakers until June 30, 2022 to draw new legislative districts (congressional redistricting does not use the same timeline or process as legislative redistricting). It’s unclear how such a determination of the census year is made, and litigation over it is a strong possibility.

Meanwhile, nearly every state has different procedures and timelines for congressional redistricting than they do for legislative redistricting, and the delayed release of census data will be less disruptive nationally at the congressional level than it may be for state legislatures.

Senate

FL-Sen: Oh, vom. Politico reports that former Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson is making calls about a possible challenge to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, and when asked about it, Grayson’s only response was, “Repeal Rubio. That’s all I have to say.” Anyone but Grayson—that’s all we have to say.

KS-Sen: Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who last month did not rule out a bid for governor next year, just accepted a position at a conservative think tank in D.C., which is not the kind of gig you usually take if you’re planning to run for office in your home state. It’s certainly not impossible, though—we’ve seen politicians do brief stints as Washington lobbyists before staging comebacks—so don’t count Pompeo out just yet.

OH-Sen: Team Blue is hoping that Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s surprise retirement will give them a better shot at prevailing in a state that has been trending the wrong way, and more Democrats are publicly and privately discussing running. One familiar name who told CNN he was considering the contest is Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor, who lost two close 2018 races in the conservative 12th Congressional District against Republican Troy Balderson.

State House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, who would be the state’s first Black senator, also said she was thinking about entering the Senate race. Sykes previously expressed interest last month in campaigning to succeed cabinet nominee Rep. Marcia Fudge, if there’s a special election for the safely blue 11th District, and it’s not clear if she’s also considering running there.

Cleveland.com’s Seth Richardson also relays that former state health director Amy Acton is considering running as a Democrat, though she hasn’t said anything publicly. Acton attracted state and national attention during the opening months of the coronavirus crisis through her prominent place at Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s afternoon briefings, and Richardson writes that she impressed many through her “her frank discussion of the dangers of coronavirus and the need for mitigation.” Acton, who was also the target of conservative attempts to undermine her, as well as antisemitic attacks, stepped down in June.

On the GOP side, 2018 nominee Jim Renacci said Tuesday he was interested in another Senate bid and would “be exploring my options to reenter public office over the next 60 days.” Renacci, who previously served four terms in Congress, has spent the last several months talking about challenging DeWine for renomination in part over the governor’s efforts to limit the spread of the pandemic. Republicans who remember his 53-47 loss to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, though, probably won’t want him as their standard bearer for either race.

State GOP chair Jane Timken also confirmed Wednesday that she was “seriously considering” a Senate run. Timken, who won her post in early 2017 by unseating an incumbent with the Trump campaign’s support, is also part of a prominent donor family in state party politics.

Two other Republicans who had shown some interest in getting in, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and former Rep. Pat Tiberi, each said Wednesday that they wouldn’t enter the race. Several unnamed Republicans also suggested to Cleveland.com’s Andrew Tobias that others could stay out should Rep. Jim Jordan, a key Trump sycophant, get in, including 2012 nominee Josh Mandel. However, some unnamed observers pointed out that Jordan has talked about running statewide but never done it, and they predict that 2022 will be no different.

VT-Sen: Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, who was hospitalized for a few hours on Tuesday after suffering what he described as muscle spasms, said on Wednesday that “of course” he’ll continue to serve out the rest of his term but said he wouldn’t make a decision about whether to seek a ninth term until the end of the year.

“You all know this, I never make up my mind until November or December the year before and I’m not going to now,” said the 80-year-old Leahy. “Usually when we start skiing and snowshoeing then we talk about it.” Leahy, who is currently the longest-serving member of the Senate, sounded ready to run again, saying “the latest polls show me winning easily.”

Retirement Watch: With Ohio Sen. Rob Portman’s surprise announcement on Monday making him the third GOP senator to retire so far in this young election cycle, Republicans are nervously waiting to see how many more of their brethren might also call it quits. Among those on the watch list:

AL-Sen: Richard Shelby is 86 and has been in office since 1987. After last year’s elections, Shelby promised a decision by January, but now he tells Roll Call‘s Bridget Bowman that he won’t say anything more until after Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, which will not begin until Feb. 8. When asked about his plans this week by CNN, Shelby would only say, “I’ll let you know.” Bowman says the senator “is not expected to run for reelection.”

AR-Sen: John Boozman, 70, said a year ago that he’s planning to run for a third term, and he repeated that intention this week to CNN. However, the senator has experienced some health problems that required heart surgery in 2014 and again in 2017, and he hasn’t yet announced a re-election bid.

IA-Sen: 87-year-old Chuck Grassley, who was first elected in 1980, said in February of last year that he’d come to a decision eight to 12 months before Election Day 2022, though now he seems to have moved his timetable up. In new remarks, he says he’ll make an announcement in “several months.” If Grassley were to run and win again, he’d be 95 years old at the end of what would be his eighth term.

ID-Sen: Mike Crapo, 69, also told CNN he plans to run for a fifth term but likewise hasn’t actually kicked off a campaign. He was treated for prostate cancer in 2000 and 2005.

MO-Sen: A spokesperson for Roy Blunt, 71, said in November that the senator would seek a third term, but now he’s sounding less definitive. Blunt told Roll Call’s Bowman that he’s “planning on reelection, but I haven’t made a final statement on that yet.” In separate remarks about his plans to Politico, Blunt said, “I really have not been thinking much about it to tell you the truth. … I keep thinking there will be a little breathing space, so far it’s not happening.”

SD-Sen: John Thune, whose 60 years of age put him just below the senatorial average of 63, would only tell CNN that he’ll make an announcement about a fourth term “at some point in the future.” Trump exhorted Republicans to primary Thune late last year after the senator said that efforts to overturn the Electoral College “would go down like a shot dog.”

WI-Sen: Ron Johnson, 65, pledged prior to his last election in 2016 that he would only serve one more term if he won, but now he’s contemplating going back on his word. However, he still hasn’t made up his mind about whether to break his promise and run for a third term, saying, “I don’t think I have to for a while.”

CNN also notes that Kansas’ Jerry Moran and South Dakota’s John Hoeven have not launched re-election bids yet, but both are in their mid-60s—relatively young by Senate standards—and joined the Senate in 2011.

Governors

CA-Gov: Tech billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya has announced that he’ll run to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in the event a recall election moves forward, though he didn’t specify which party banner, if any, he’d fly. Palihapitiya has given $1.3 million to Democratic candidates and causes over the last decade, along with one $5,000 donation to Ted Cruz in 2011.

MD-Gov: Unnamed advisers to Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, who previously did not rule out a run for governor, say Olszewski is now considering a bid for the Democratic nomination. Another Democrat, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, is also not ruling out the race, according to Maryland Matters. Meanwhile, 2018 Democratic nominee Ben Jealous, who last year said he had not “closed the door on running for governor again,” is staying involved in Maryland politics by taking the helm of a new marijuana reform initiative.

SC-Gov: 2018 candidate John Warren recently refused to rule out a second GOP primary bid against incumbent Henry McMaster, and The State’s Maayan Schechter reports that he might not be the only Republican looking at this race.

Schechter writes that there’s “buzz” that state Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey could challenge the governor, and that he would not comment for her story. Massey has been a loud critic of McMaster’s response to the pandemic: Last month, Massey was one of several Republicans to prepare bills that would give legislators the final say over emergency orders.

Catherine Templeton, who also ran in 2018, said back in August that she was likely to run, though we haven’t heard anything from her since then. A runoff would take place if no one wins a majority in the first round of the primary, so McMaster couldn’t slip by with a plurality.

South Carolina has been a very tough state for Democrats especially in recent years, but a few local politicians have shown some interest in running. Former Rep. Joe Cunningham told Schechter he would consider his future “[o]ver the next few months.” Cunningham also expressed interest last year in seeking a rematch with Republican Nancy Mace, who narrowly unseated him in November, though redistricting could make that contest less attractive.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, who would be the state’s first Black governor, has also been mentioned as a prospective candidate for years, and he once again did not rule it out when asked. Benjamin and McMaster faced off in the open 2002 race for attorney general, a race McMaster won 55-44. Benjamin is up for re-election this year, and he hasn’t said if he’ll seek a fourth term.

State Sens. Marlon Kimpson and Mia McLeod also said they were thinking about a gubernatorial bid as did 2018 contender Marguerite Willis, an attorney who lost that year’s primary to James Smith 62-28. Schechter also lists former state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, who was Smith’s candidate for lieutenant governor, as considering, though there’s no quote from her.

VA-Gov: A second rich dude, former private equity executive Glenn Youngkin, has entered Virginia’s Republican primary for governor, just days after another finance guy, Pete Snyder, did the same. Snyder, by the way, has already released a TV ad, which the National Journal says is backed by a $250,000 buy, complaining about the slow pace of reopening schools and calling himself a “disruptor.” It’s not clear who he’s trying to reach with this sort of advertisement, though, given that the GOP nomination will be decided by, at most, just a few thousand delegates at the party’s May 1 convention.

House

CA-21: Former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys, who was last seen taking a distant third in the GOP primary for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District last year, has announced a challenge to Rep. David Valadao, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump earlier this month. Fresno isn’t located in California’s 21st Congressional District either, though it is closer than New Mexico.

CA-39: Democrat Jay Chen, a Navy Reserve officer and local community college trustee, has announced a bid against freshman Republican Rep. Young Kim. Chen previously ran for California’s 39th Congressional District in 2012, losing 58-42 to Republican Rep. Ed Royce, though the area was considerably redder back then: That same year, Mitt Romney carried the district 51-47, while in 2020, Joe Biden won it 54-44.

Chen also briefly ran here in 2018 after Royce retired, but to help avoid a disaster in the top-two primary, he took one for the team and dropped out in order to reduce the number of Democratic candidates and, thereby, the chance that a fractured voted would allow two Republicans to advance to the general election.

PA-07: Republican Lisa Scheller, who lost to Democratic Rep. Susan Wild 52-48 last year in Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, has filed paperwork with the FEC in anticipation of another congressional bid, though it’s not clear exactly where she might run. Redistricting is set to scramble Pennsylvania’s map, and mindful of that, Scheller changed the name of her campaign committee from “Scheller for PA-07” to “Scheller for Congress, Inc.” (no, we don’t know why she thinks she’s running a corporation). She’s promised “a more formal announcement” about her plans over the summer.

PA-10: Politico reports that, according to an unnamed source, the DCCC is trying to recruit 2020 nominee Eugene DePasquale for another go at Republican Rep. Scott Perry in Pennsylvania’s 10th District. DePasquale, whose press list has understandably been largely dormant since November, recently put out a statement calling on his former opponent to resign after the New York Times reported that he played a central role in trying to overturn last year’s presidential election.

Perry, the Times said, introduced Donald Trump to a Justice Department attorney who proposed ousting acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and directing the DOJ to pressure Georgia officials into altering their state’s results. The congressman later confirmed the report. DePasquale wound up losing to Perry by a 53-47 margin last year but he insisted to Politico that the surge in Republican enthusiasm generated by Trump’s presence on the ballot “will not be in play in 2022.”

Legislatures

Special Elections: Here’s a recap of Tuesday’s special election in Iowa:

IA-SD-41: Republican Adrian Dickey defeated Democrat Mary Stewart 55-45 to hold this seat for the GOP. An unusual complicating factor arose on Election Day when a major snowstorm hit southeastern Iowa, and Democrats were reportedly leading in mail ballots heading into Tuesday. This was enough to make Dickey himself nervous about the final outcome, but the red tilt of this district was enough for him to prevail.

While Stewart did worse than in her first bid for this seat, a 52-48 loss to Mariannette Miller-Meeks in 2018, she was able to once again improve upon Hillary Clinton’s 57-38 loss here in 2016.  

This chamber moves to a 32-18 advantage for Republicans with no other vacancies.

Mayors

Detroit, MI Mayor: Incumbent Mike Duggan got his first notable opponent for the August nonpartisan primary on Tuesday when Anthony Adams, who served as deputy mayor in former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s administration, launched his campaign.

Adams, who is also a former school board president, argued that “there is a dramatic need for mayoral change in the city of Detroit.” Adams also played down his ties to Kilpatrick, who resigned in disgrace in 2008, saying, “I am my own man and I’m running on my own record.” Kilpatrick, who was later sentenced to 28 years in prison for corruption, was in the news last week after Donald Trump commuted his punishment, a decision that Duggan praised.    

Meanwhile, school board member Sherry Gay-Dagnogo said this week that she planned to sit the contest out. The former state representative didn’t quite rule out a bid, though, saying instead that she wouldn’t run “[u]nless there is a massive cry for me to reconsider.” The candidate filing deadline is April 20.

New York City, NY Mayor: Businessman and 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang has released a survey of the June Democratic primary from Slingshot Strategies that gives him a 25-17 lead over Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, with City Comptroller Scott Stringer in third with 12%, though a hefty 32% of respondents are initially undecided. The survey then simulates the instant runoff process and shows Yang defeating Adams 61-39 on the 11th and final round of voting. This poll, which was in the field Jan. 15-19 and sampled 800 people, is the first survey we’ve seen since Yang joined the race earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Marine veteran Zach Iscol announced this week that he was dropping out of the race and would instead run to succeed Stringer as controller. Around that same time, though, businesswoman Barbara Kavovit, who was a regular on the “Real Housewives of New York City,” kicked off her own campaign for the Democratic mayoral nomination.

Seattle, WA Mayor: Colleen Echohawk, who leads the nonprofit Chief Seattle Club, announced Monday that she would run to succeed retiring Mayor Jenny Durkin this year. Echohawk, who is a member of both the Kithehaki Band of the Pawnee Nation and the Upper Athabascan people of Mentasta Lake, would be the first woman of color to lead Washington’s largest city.

Echohawk has not run for office before, but she has been prominent in local government. In addition to serving on the Community Police Commission, she also founded the Coalition to End Urban Indigenous Homelessness and previously served on the Downtown Seattle Association’s board.

Echohawk joins Lance Randall, the director of economic development of the nonprofit SEED, and architect Andrew Grant Houston in the August nonpartisan primary, though it remains to be seen if either of them have the connections to run a serious bid. The candidate filing deadline is in May.

Other Races

New York City, NY Comptroller: The City’s Rachel Holliday Smith takes a look at the June Democratic primary to succeed Scott Stringer, who is running for mayor, as New York City comptroller, a post that has plenty of influence over the nation’s largest city. Democrats have controlled this office since 1946, and Team Blue’s nominee should have no trouble holding it.

First, though, Smith discusses what the comptroller actually does. Among other things, the office is responsible for reviewing contracts, auditing and overseeing city agencies, and “[e]nsuring transparency and accountability in setting prevailing wage and vigorously enforcing prevailing wage and living wage laws.” The comptroller is also one of only a trio of citywide elected offices: The other is public advocate, where Democratic incumbent Jumaane Williams doesn’t face any serious opposition for re-election this year.

What the comptroller’s post hasn’t been, though, is a good springboard to the mayor’s office. The last person to successfully make the jump was Democrat Abe Beame, who was elected mayor in 1973 on his second try and lost renomination four years later. Since then four other comptrollers have unsuccessfully campaigned for the city’s top job, a streak Stringer will try to break this year.

Six notable Democrats are competing in the June primary, which will be decided through instant runoff voting. The two with the most cash by far are City Councilman Brad Lander and state Sen. Brian Benjamin, who have both brought in enough to qualify for matching funds (a system we explain here).

Benjamin, though, earned some unwelcome headlines earlier this month when The City reported that multiple donors said that they had not actually contributed any money to his campaign, and some even volunteered that they had never even heard of Benjamin. One of his unwilling donors said that he didn’t blame Benjamin for what happened and instead said the problem rested with his former employer. Benjamin’s team soon announced that they would give the New York City Election Campaign Finance Fund $5,750, which represented 23 donations of $250 each.

Assemblyman David Weprin, who unsuccessfully ran to succeed the disgraced Anthony Weiner in the 2011 special election for what was numbered the 9th Congressional District at the time, and state Sen. Kevin Parker have also been campaigning for a while. Neither of them have the resources that Lander or Benjamin do at the moment, though they could receive a big boost if they qualify for matching funds: The New York Times reports that Weprin has likely brought in enough, though the campaign finance board needs to confirm this before it dispenses any public money.

Two other Democrats also joined the race this week. Marine veteran Zach Iscol, a moderate who is close to Hillary Clinton, abandoned his mayoral bid to run here. Iscol will be able to transfer the cash he raised for his previous campaign to his new race, which could matter quite a bit: While he fell about $20,000 short of the minimum needed to qualify for public money for mayor, the Times reports that he’s likely already hit the lower threshold needed for the comptroller contest.

The other new contender is Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC anchor who challenged Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in last year’s Democratic primary. Caruso-Cabrera, who ran well to the congresswoman’s right, raised millions from AOC haters nationwide and self-funded over $1 million, but she lost by a lopsided 74-18 margin.

Data

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide hits Kentucky. You can find our detailed calculations here, a large-size map of the results here, and our permanent, bookmarkable link for all 435 districts here.

Donald Trump won the Bluegrass State 62-36, which was pretty similar to his 63-33 performance in 2016, and he once again carried five of Kentucky’s six congressional districts. The one exception was, as before, Rep. John Yarmuth’s 3rd District in Louisville, which is also the only Democratic-held seat in the commonwealth: Joe Biden took the seat 60-38, compared to 55-40 for Hillary Clinton four years earlier, a shift due in part to the decline in third-party voting.

The closest constituency was again the 6th District in the Lexington area, where Trump’s margin shrunk a bit from 55-39 in 2016 to 54-44 in 2020. Republican Rep. Andy Barr won re-election in 2018 by beating Democrat Amy McGrath just 51-48 in a very expensive race, but Barr had a much easier time last year and prevailed 57-41.

Trump took at least 65% of the vote in the remaining four GOP-held seats. His strongest performance in the state was his 80-19 romp in veteran Rep. Hal Rogers’ 5th District in rural eastern Kentucky, which makes this the Trumpiest of the 345 seats we’ve released numbers for so far. (The seat that got displaced for that title, though only just, was Texas’ 13th District, which backed the top of the ticket 79-19.) Believe it or not, though, Trump’s 2016 margin in this coal country constituency was slightly larger at 80-17.

The 83-year-old Rogers has decisively won re-election 20 times, but this area was extremely divided when he was first elected in 1980. The current version of the 5th District contains several ancestrally Democratic areas that favored Team Blue even in tough years, including Elliott County, which famously never supported a Republican presidential nominee from the time of its formation in 1869 through 2012—the longest streak of Democratic support in any county in the country. Those days are long gone, however, as Trump carried Elliott County with 70% in 2016 and 75% last year.

The 5th is also home to areas that were deep red even when Democrats were the dominant party statewide, as they were at the time Rogers was first elected. This includes Jackson and Leslie Counties, which have not once backed a Democrat for president since they were created in the 19th century. They’re not likely to start anytime soon, either, as Trump won close to 90% in both.

Kentucky Democrats, thanks in large part to their downballot dominance in parts of the eastern part of the state, ran the state House nonstop from the early 1920s through the 2016 elections, which always gave them at least a seat at the table for redistricting. The GOP took firm control of the legislature for the first time ever when Trump first won the state, though, and they have more than enough votes to override any possible veto by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and pass their own maps for the first time.




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