The 4th gave Trump his best showing in any of the 411 congressional districts we’ve released 2020 data for so far, and we’re confident there’s no chance that it’ll get displaced when we finish calculating results for our two remaining states, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. And the result is no surprise: In 2016, Trump also earned his biggest share of the vote nationwide in the 4th, though his net margin was just a touch higher in Texas’ 13th.
There are a few reasons why Alabama’s 4th is so deeply conservative. The district is both extremely rural and heavily white, but what makes it singular is that it has the highest percentage of evangelical residents in America, with approximately 54% of residents identifying as such. It’s also in the bottom quintile in the nation both in terms of diversity and its level of educational attainment, a category exclusively occupied by deeply Republican districts.
However, while it’s now impossible to imagine Aderholt being threatened by a Democrat, he only barely won his first election for a previous version of the 4th nearly a quarter century ago. In 1996, Aderholt ran to succeed retiring Rep. Tom Bevill, who was a prominent member of a powerful bloc of conservative Democrats nicknamed the “boll weevils.” Bevill himself had won his final term two years before without any opposition even as Republicans were flipping numerous Southern districts en route to taking their first House majority in 40 years, and local Democrats still demonstrated strength further down the ballot.
The Democrats nominated former state Sen. Bob Wilson, who had narrowly lost re-election in 1994 but was still capable of putting up a strong fight. Wilson argued he’d secure needed appropriations for his seat “in the Tom Bevill tradition,” but he also focused on his opposition to abortion and his membership in the NRA.
Aderholt, who was a local judge at the time, tied Wilson to the national Democratic leadership and argued that he’d be no substitute for Bevill. Both parties saw the race as a priority, and Speaker Newt Gingrich stumped for Aderholt in a cycle where his newly minted majority seemed to be on the line. Ultimately, Aderholt pulled off a 50-48 victory as Bob Dole was defeating Bill Clinton 48-43 in the district.
Wilson sought a rematch in 1998 but lost his primary to Donald Bevill, the son of the former congressman. The general election wasn’t so competitive this time, though, as Aderholt won 56-44. That didn’t quite bring an end to Democratic attempts to win back their old turf, but the next cycle did: Former Alabama First Lady Marsha Folsom lost the 2000 election to Aderholt by a punishing 61-37 spread as George W. Bush was pulling off a 59-39 victory. Team Blue didn’t field a challenger two years later, and Aderholt has been completely safe ever since.
Trump didn’t come close to matching his high-water mark elsewhere in Alabama, but he still won at least 63% of the vote in the state’s five remaining GOP-held districts. Biden, meanwhile, scored a 71-28 victory in Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell’s 7th District, a constituency that Republican map makers drew to take in as many African American voters as possible.
Finally, there’s one methodological issue we want to address in Alabama, which, like many other states, does not assign every vote to a precinct. This is not a new issue, and we have techniques that estimate how to divvy up unassigned votes like these between districts.
However, the coronavirus pandemic led to a major expansion in the number of votes cast before Election Day, and in Alabama, that meant that a much larger than usual proportion were not assigned to a congressional district: In 2016, these unassigned votes only made up 4% of the total vote in the seven counties that are split between multiple districts, but that figure swelled to 14% in 2020.
Even with this issue, there’s no question which presidential candidate won each of the state’s House seats; still, we strive to make our estimates as precise as possible. Luckily, Alabama does include the total number of unassigned votes cast in each district in each county (though not their breakdowns by candidate), which is important information that is rarely available.
For example, in Jefferson County, which is the largest in the state, approximately 327,000 ballots were cast, with about 50,000 not assigned to any precinct. However, thanks to the state’s data, we do know that 26,000 of these unassigned ballots were cast in the 6th Congressional District and the balance cast in the 7th.
We use this information to more accurately assign these votes by congressional district. We start by assuming that how a candidate’s supporters choose to cast their ballots is similar no matter where they live. For example, if 30% of Biden voters choose to vote absentee in District A, we assume somewhere around 30% of Biden voters will also choose to vote absentee in District B. (We’ve validated this assumption by testing it in other states that make more detailed vote breakdowns available.) This assumption is then used to calculate an initial estimate of votes for each candidate in each district in a county.
We then use the total number of unassigned votes cast in each district in each county to adjust our initial estimates so the totals match. Finally, we adjust the number of votes again so the number of unassigned votes for each candidate in the whole county matches the official results.
These estimates are not perfect, and they do introduce some error into our final numbers; we suspect the error for Alabama districts is about one percentage point or less for a candidate’s vote share district-wide, based on calculations in other states where vote count by type of ballot is known. However, we believe this method allows us to assign these previously unassigned votes as precisely as possible to their proper congressional district.
● GA-Sen: Former Republican Sen. David Perdue confirmed on Tuesday that he’s exploring a comeback bid against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who captured Georgia’s other Senate seat in last month’s legendary special election. Perdue filed paperwork with the FEC on Monday ahead of a possible run, which an unnamed advisor said he’s “leaning heavily toward.” Another aide said Perdue would make a decision in March followed by a formal kickoff in April if the answer is yes.
Whatever unfolds, Perdue certainly hasn’t gotten over his stunning loss to Democrat Jon Ossoff, whose name he’s still incapable of uttering. In a statement, he took loser-speaker to new heights (depths?) in declaring that the only poll that counts is the one on Election Day—i.e., the Nov. 3 election he failed to win. “Five million Georgians, the most ever, voted in that General election and it is the best poll of where Georgia is right now,” claimed Perdue, despite the fact he lost the only election that actually mattered: the one on Jan. 6, when a rather impressive 4.5 million voters cast ballots.
He also argued that “[m]ore than 52% of Georgians rejected my opponent and the liberal Democrat agenda” in November, but the problem there is that 50.3% of Georgians also rejected Perdue and his far-right Trumpist agenda (oh, plus, did we mention that he lost the one race that actually mattered?). Perdue even went so far as to suggest that the runoff itself was unfair, carping that Ossoff and Warnock “do not fairly represent most Georgians.”
Perdue’s complaints about the runoff process are particularly rich coming from a Republican, since it was Republican lawmakers themselves who reinstituted general election runoffs in 2005 after Democrats had repealed them a decade earlier, knowing that Black voters—who disproportionately favor Democrats—tend to turn out at lower rates whenever there’s a second round of voting. That pattern of low Black turnout hurting Democrats held true in every statewide runoff from 2006 to 2018, but of course now that the first and only runoff has happened that favored Democrats, Perdue has suddenly found flaws in the process.
As the New York Times‘ Alex Burns put it, Perdue is undoubtedly “among the best-known candidates Republicans could plausibly field and money wouldn’t be a problem.” But, added Burns, he’s also “one of very few living republicans who has proven capable of losing a senate race in [G]eorgia.” The other, of course, is Kelly Loeffler, who, along with former Rep. Doug Collins, is reportedly waiting to see what Perdue does before deciding whether to run.
● IA-Sen: Far-right state Sen. Jim Carlin, who just launched a Senate bid even though fellow Republican Chuck Grassley hasn’t yet announced his re-election plans, says he’ll stay in the race no matter what the incumbent decides. “I appreciate [Grassley’s] service, as anybody does,” Carlin told Brianne Pfannenstiel of the Des Moines Register. “But I didn’t get in the race to drop out.”
● PA-Sen: Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb, who’d long been mentioned as a possible candidate for either Senate or governor, says he “will look at” a possible bid to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Lamb didn’t offer any sort of timeline for a decision but did tell MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt that he had not spoken to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Meanwhile, Republican businessman Jeff Bartos, who was the GOP’s nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018, has filed paperwork with the FEC and also just stepped down as board chair of a new nonprofit founded last year to help small businesses during the pandemic. Bartos previously promised an announcement would come in mid-March.
● IL-Gov: Politico’s Shia Kapos reports that Republican Reps. Rodney Davis and Darin LaHood both have not ruled out bids against Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, depending on how redistricting shapes up for them, though neither man is directly quoted. Kapos also says that another Republican, state Sen. Darren Bailey, “is expected to announce his candidacy next week.” Meanwhile, attorney Richard Porter, an RNC member who’s previously been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate, says he’ll decide this summer whether to run.
● PA-Gov, PA-Sen: Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, a Trump die-hard who was censured last year by his fellow commissioners for calling Black Live Matters “a radical left-wing hate group,” announced a campaign for governor on Tuesday. Gale, however, seems to be more interested in running for governor of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, since he declared that his first priority would be to “hold bad Republicans accountable not just by naming names, but by supporting primary challenges against those who undermine a common-sense conservative agenda.”
Gale previously had not ruled out a bid for Republican Sen. Pat Toomey’s open seat, but his brother, attorney Sean Gale, said on Tuesday that he would run for Senate instead. The siblings previously ran together for spots on the Montgomery board in 2019, but Sean Gale failed to make it out of the primary while Joe secured re-election only because one of its three slots is always reserved for the minority party. Joe Gale also tried to run for lieutenant governor in 2018 but was booted off the ballot for being under the required minimum age of 30.
● LA-02: In her special election bid for Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson has been endorsed by the state Democratic Party, which she chaired for many years before stepping down last September. The all-party primary for this dark blue seat in New Orleans is on March 20, with a possible runoff on April 24.
● MA-04: The Boston Globe reports that progressive activists are trying to recruit former Brookline Selectwoman Jesse Mermell for a rematch with freshman Rep. Jake Auchincloss, who beat her just 22-21 in last year’s jam-packed Democratic primary. Mermell notably declined to provide any sort of comment to the paper.
● NC-09: Democratic state Rep. Charles Graham announced a challenge to Republican Rep. Dan Bishop over the weekend, though redistricting’s impact on North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District won’t be known for some time. The Associated Press describes Graham, who is the lone Native American member of the legislature, as “among the more conservative Democrats” in the state House, with a history of voting for Republican bills.
● NV-03: Republican attorney April Becker, who lost a close race for Nevada’s 6th State Senate District last year, has filed paperwork with the FEC for a possible bid against Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in the 3rd Congressional District. However, just 4% of the Senate seat she sought in 2020 overlaps with Lee’s district.
● TX-06: Communications consultant Jana Lynne Sanchez announced her entry into the special election for Texas’ 6th Congressional District on Tuesday, making her the first notable Democrat to do so. Sanchez ran here in 2018 and lost 53-45 to Republican Ron Wright, whose death due to COVID-19 earlier this month left this seat vacant. Sanchez’s campaign says she’s already raised $100,000, putting her on a much faster pace compared with her prior campaign, when she brought in $730,000 all told.
According to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections, Donald Trump carried this district by a fairly slender 51-48 margin, potentially making for a competitive special election (whose date has yet to be set).
● WI-03: Republican Derrick Van Orden declined to rule out a rematch with Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, telling the Badger Project, “Nothing is off the table.” Kind held off Van Orden by a narrow 51-49 margin last year.
● Fort Worth, Arlington, & Plano, TX Mayor: Candidate filing closed over the weekend for the May 1 nonpartisan primaries in several large Texas cities; a runoff would take place on a later date in any election where no one takes a majority of the vote. We recently ran down the race for mayor of San Antonio, and we’ll now take a look at three open seat contests in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
We’ll start with Fort Worth, which is the largest of the three cities. Republican Mayor Betsy Price is not seeking a sixth two-year term, and Democrats are hoping to score a pickup. Eleven candidates have filed here, and there appear to be two serious contenders from each party.
On the Democratic side, the contenders to watch are City Councilwoman Ann Zadeh and Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairwoman Deborah Peoples, who ran against Price in 2019 and lost 56-42. The two main Republicans are nonprofit head Mattie Parker, who served as chief of staff for the mayor and council under Price, and City Councilman Brian Byrd, who has the support of local Rep. Kay Granger.
There’s also a crowded race for a two-year term next door in Arlington, where eight candidates are running to succeed termed-out Republican incumbent Jeff Williams. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes that most of the contenders are people of color, and one longtime observer called this the most diverse local race he’s ever seen here.
Jim Ross, who is a business owner and former police officer, has the support of Williams and former Mayor Richard Greene. The field also includes City Councilman Marvin Sutton; former City Councilman Michael Glaspie; and five others.
Finally in Plano, three Republicans make up the field running for a four-year term to replace another-termed out incumbent, Harry LaRosiliere. (LaRosiliere is also a Republican, though he’s been an ardent supporter of LGBTQ rights.)
City Council member Lily Bao lost to LaRosiliere 52-42 in 2017 but was elected to her current post two years later with Gov. Greg Abbott’s endorsement. We also have John Muns, who unsuccessfully challenged Collin County Judge Keith Self in the 2010 GOP primary and recently finished a stint as chair of the Plano Planning & Zoning Commission, and former economics professor Lydia Ortega, who ran for lieutenant governor of California in 2018 and took 6% in the all-party primary.
● New York City, NY Mayor: 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s campaign announced that he’d collected enough small donations to qualify for the city’s matching-funds program. The city Campaign Finance Board still needs to verify that Yang has raised at least $250,000 from city residents who contributed between $10 and $250 before he can receive any public financing, though, and one of Yang’s intra-party opponents learned the hard way on Tuesday just how complicated this process can be.
Attorney Maya Wiley said a month ago that she’d raised enough to unlock matching funds, which would have allowed her to collect at least $2 million at Tuesday’s meeting. The Board, though, announced this week that it could not confirm that she’d hit the necessary threshold.
The New York Daily News notes that it’s possible that the denial is due to “technical issues in data her campaign submitted to the Campaign Finance Board” that Wiley could correct. However, even if Wiley did raise the requisite $250,000 from small donors and fixed any issues, she would not be able to receive any public money until March 15. The only two contenders who have officially qualified for public financing so far are City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
Meanwhile, Republican billionaire John Catsimatidis made a slight concession to reality this week when he announced that he would not switch parties to seek the Democratic nomination for mayor. We say slight because Catsimatidis, who is an ardent Trump supporter, did not rule out running for Team Red as a “Republican-Liberal.” That “Liberal” refers to the Liberal Party, which infamously endorsed Rudy Giuliani in 1993 and went on to lose its automatic spot on the ballot nearly a decade later.