The Political Report – 10/2/21

In Virginia, a new Fox News poll in Virginia finds Terry McAuliffe (D) leading Glenn Youngkin (R) in the race for governor, 48% to 44%.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s newest ad makes use of audio of Republican Glenn Youngkin saying of vaccines, “One of the things I encourage folks is if they do have an exemption policy and I encourage people to fill it out.”

In New Jersey, Stockton University’s first general election poll gives Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy a 50-41 lead over Republican Jack Ciattarelli. Another New Jersey school, Monmouth, recently found Murphy up 51-38, while a Ciattarelli internal showed the governor ahead only 45-42.

In Arizona, local pollster OH Predictive Insights has released another survey of next year’s Senate race in Arizona, pitting Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly against four potential GOP opponents. As he did in the firm’s May poll, Kelly leads all comers, some of whom weren’t tested previously:

  • 43-39 vs. state Attorney General Mark Brnovich (May: 46-36 Kelly)
  • 44-37 vs. retired Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire (May: 44-35 Kelly
  • 43-36 vs. businessman Jim Lamon
  • 44-35 vs. venture capitalist Blake Masters

OHPI also tested the Republican primary, finding Brnovich leading McGuire 27-14, with Masters at 6 and Lamon at 3.

Washington Post: “Just three states have approved new congressional maps for the next decade: Oregon, Maine and Nebraska. Forty-one states are still crowded around the drawing board.”

“But the patterns, and their political impacts, are already obvious. Where one party controls the process, it’s creating as little competition as mathematically possible. Where the power’s been handed to a nonpartisan commission, the maps may be more competitive than ever.”

“Maine Democrats and Nebraska Republicans had the unique ability to use redistricting to influence who wins the House in 2022 and the White House in 2024 — but neither were successful in locking in a noticeable advantage for their party,” Politico reports.

“The only two states in the country that allocate Electoral College votes by congressional district finalized this week maps that will remain in place for the next decade. But the new lines only modestly tweaked the battleground seat in each state.”

COLORADO REDISTRICTING — After a drama-filled meeting on Tuesday night that saw multiple deadlocked votes, Colorado’s new independent congressional redistricting commission approved a new map, with 11 members in favor and just one opposed. While lawmakers are now removed from the redistricting process thanks to a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2018, the state Supreme Court must still sign off on any new districts by Nov. 1. If the court rejects the new maps, the commission will get a second crack, but the justices must greenlight a final plan by Dec. 15.

With the court’s review still pending, we’ll hold off on a deep dive into the new districts, but a few important facts are worth noting now. Despite the commission’s independent nature, its map would favor the GOP by creating what would likely end up as four Democratic seats, three Republican seats, and one tossup district, the brand-new 8th. Republicans would therefore have a good shot at winning an equal-sized delegation even though Democrats have dominated statewide in Colorado for many years (Joe Biden carried the state 55-42 last year.)

The new 8th District, located in the Denver suburbs, is particularly problematic from the perspective of increasing Latino representation, a large and growing portion of the state. Only about 27% of the district’s voting eligible population would be Latino compared to the 66% that is white, and given traditional turnout patterns, the Latino share of the electorate would likely be even smaller. According to Dave’s Redistricting App, the 8th would have voted for Joe Biden by a small 51-46 margin and would in fact have supported Donald Trump 46-45 in 2016, meaning a Democratic candidate preferred by Latino voters could readily be defeated by the district’s white majority.

There’s no telling, though, whether arguments such as these will hold sway with the state Supreme Court, which will review the map to determine whether the commission engaged in an “abuse of discretion” by not adhering to the criteria laid out in the constitution. Perhaps the best avenue of attack is that the commissioners are required to, “to the extent possible, maximize the number of politically competitive districts,” though the map only contains one such seat.

MAINE REDISTRICTING — Democratic Gov. Janet Mills swiftly signed new maps for Congress and the state legislature that Maine lawmakers passed with the two-thirds supermajority required under state law on Wednesday. Those maps were drawn up by the state’s bipartisan Reapportionment Commission, a body made up mostly of legislators that completed its work earlier in the week.

The new congressional lines will make the competitive 2nd District, currently represented by Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, slightly bluer. According to our new calculations, the new version would have voted for Donald Trump by a 6-point margin, as opposed to the 7.4-point margin under the older lines. Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree’s 1st District would remain deep blue, voting for Joe Biden 60-37, virtually identical to its old performance. (The reason for the unequal changes is faster population growth in the higher-turnout 1st District, which had to shed population to the 2nd to balance the two.)

The legislative maps, meanwhile, largely maintain the status quo, but that state of affairs favors Republicans, even though Democrats currently control both chambers. While Biden would have won an 80-71 majority of districts last year per Dave’s Redistricting App, Trump would have won an 80-71 majority in 2016, despite losing the state, and the new median district is 6 points to the right of the state as a whole using 2020 presidential results. The Senate is not quite as skewed but still benefits the GOP: Overall the seat count would have gone 22-13 for Biden and 19-16 for Hillary Clinton, according to our preliminary analysis, but its 2020 median district is still 4 points to the right of the state, which Biden carried by 9.

Depending on the overall political environment next year, therefore, Republicans could return to power. That’s especially so in Maine, where politics is more volatile than in most places. The Senate, for instance, changed hands multiple times over the last decade, flipping from blue to red in 2010, then back to blue in 2012, then back to red again in 2014, before finally turning blue once more in 2018. Yet another transfer of power in either or both chambers is eminently possible once more.

WEST VIRGINIA REDISTRICTING — The Redistricting Committee in West Virginia’s Republican-controlled state Senate released a dozen proposed congressional maps on Wednesday, including a couple from Democrats. (The plans labeled “Trump” were not drawn with a Sharpie by That Guy but rather were submitted state Sen. Charles Trump, the committee chair.) Due to a decline in population, the state will drop from three districts to two, which means that two incumbents will face off against one another barring a retirement.

NEBRASKA REDISTRICTING — Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts immediately signed new congressional and legislative maps after Nebraska lawmakers passed them in a bipartisan vote on Thursday, making it the third state to complete the redistricting process this year. But despite support from a handful of Democratic senators, the House plan, shown at the top left in the set of maps above, goes to great lengths to shore up an existing GOP gerrymander in the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District, the lone competitive seat in the state.

A decade ago, Republicans sliced up the 2nd by excising the swingy suburb of Bellevue in Sarpy County, just outside of Omaha, after Barack Obama made history by becoming the first Democratic candidate for president to carry the district. (Nebraska, along with Maine, allocates some of its electoral votes by congressional district.) Bellevue had in fact been part of the 2nd for decades, but by removing it and adding redder rural areas farther from Omaha, Republicans kept the seat from becoming bluer, as it naturally would have otherwise.

That’s precisely what GOP lawmakers did once again this time. Instead of reuniting Bellevue with Omaha, which would have made for a more logical and compact map, they carved out still more of the Sarpy County suburbs and instead grafted on rural Saunders County, a piece of deep-red turf that has little in common with Omaha. (Douglas County, where Omaha is based, voted 54-43 for Joe Biden last year; Saunders went 71-26 for Donald Trump.)

The end result is the same as it was 10 years ago. The 2nd’s overall political lean will remain largely the same: The new version would have voted for Biden by about a 52-46 margin, according to Dave’s Redistricting App, just as the old one did. But a district free from partisan gerrymandering would likely have gone for Biden by nearly 10 points, and it would have continued to grow bluer: Bellevue went 55-38 for Donald Trump in 2016 but voted for him just 51-46 last year.

All of this effort is aimed at protecting Republican Rep. Don Bacon, a perennial Democratic target who has never won by more than 5 points and will remain vulnerable despite this latest gerrymander. But things could have turned out better. Democrats successfully filibustered the GOP’s first plan, which would have split Omaha between two districts. Had they maintained that blockade—an option that wasn’t available to them in 2011, since they lacked the numbers—the redistricting process would have fallen to the courts, which would have been unlikely to redraw the lines in the way Republicans did.

What’s most striking, though, is that on a partisan basis, the Republican proposal to carve out a chunk of Omaha was little different than the final plan: It, too, would have given Biden a 52-46 margin in the 2nd. It appears, however, that a sufficient number of Democrats were satisfied simply to keep Omaha whole, despite the other manifest flaws of the enacted map. It’s all a reminder that even if a redistricting plan preserves the status quo, it can undermine the cause of fair representation if the status quo itself is gerrymandered.

As for the legislative maps, Republican dominance remains unthreatened, as Trump would have carried 33 seats to 16 for Biden. Even though Nebraska’s lawmakers are elected on officially nonpartisan ballots, candidates’ political identifications are well-known.

TEXAS REDISTRICTING — Republicans in the Texas House released a draft map for their own chamber on Tuesday that would lock in GOP rule by reducing by six the number of districts where Black or Latino voters make up a majority and correspondingly increasing the number of white districts. In so doing, it would tilt the map considerably: According to the Texas Tribune, Donald Trump won 76 districts under the current lines while Joe Biden took 74, but with the new map, Trump would have won an 86-64 majority.

Republican lawmakers previously released maps this month for both Congress and the state Senate that would likewise shore up their majorities through partisan and racial gerrymandering.

WYOMING AT LARGE CD — “Harriet Hageman, who earned the endorsement of former President Donald Trump in her 2022 bid to challenge Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, once called her current opponent a ‘proven, courageous, constitutional conservative,” CNN reports

“In a speech endorsing Cheney’s 2016 congressional campaign Hageman attacked the ‘concerted efforts to force true conservatives to sit down and shut up,’ adding those efforts ‘have never worked on me and I know that they will not work on and have no effect on Liz Cheney.’”

CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR — Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Monday a bill that will require a special election take place next year for the final months of Vice President Kamala Harris’ Senate term, a contest that will take place concurrently with the race for a new six-year term. This means that voters in June will get the chance to vote in separate top-two primaries for the Senate, and that there will also be two general elections listed on the November 2022 ballot. All of this may not matter much for appointed Democratic incumbent Alex Padilla, though, as he has yet to attract any serious opposition.

NEVADA U.S. SENATOR — Republican Adam Laxalt has released a survey from WPA Intelligence that shows the very likely nominee edging out Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto 39-37. The only other poll we’ve seen here was a late August internal from VCreek/AMG for a conservative outfit called Americas PAC that found Laxalt ahead 42-32, a gaudy margin that looks even more ridiculous now that Laxalt’s own pollster is showing a tight race.

NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR — While there was some media speculation earlier this year that former Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, who unsuccessfully ran in the 2020 Democratic primary, could run again, he said Wednesday that he’d stay out of the race.

PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR — Republican state Sen. Dan Laughlin confirmed Tuesday that he would compete in next year’s open seat race for governor, though the somewhat-centrist candidate may have a tough time winning a primary in today’s day and age.

Laughlin, who formed an exploratory committee back in June, previously predicted he’d have a “clear path to the middle” if he got in and compared himself to two former moderate Republican governors, Bill Scranton and Dick Thornburgh. It doesn’t sound like he plans to depart from that pitch, as he said earlier this month, “One of my goals as a state senator is to moderate our party and bring it back to the middle.”

Laughlin, though, did sign onto the unsuccessful lawsuit to try to overturn Joe Biden’s win in Pennsylvania. Still, it doesn’t seem like he plans to campaign as a Trumpist, as he said that securing Donald Trump’s backing “is not at the top of my agenda.”

MAINE GOVERNOR — Despite an effort by unhappy progressive activists and dissatisfied labor unions to recruit state Senate President Troy Jackson to challenge Gov. Janet Mills in next year’s Democratic primary, it sounds like Jackson is not interested in taking a bite. Last week, in response to the launch of former Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s comeback bid, Jackson issued a statement praising Mills’ efforts to fight COVID and support education, saying that the governor had “proven to be a strong and capable leader” despite their “differences at times.”

Mills angered unions and the left this year when she vetoed a number of bills shepherded by Jackson, including one measure aimed at reducing prescription drug prices and another to increase worker protections. However, no notable Democrats have floated their names as potential opponents for Mills.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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