Redistricting Washington: Can you think like a commission?

It’s hard to tell how a nonpartisan commission will draw maps. As we’ve seen with Iowa’s first round of maps, they can make some unusual choices. For this map, I tried to hew as closely to the existing districts as possible, within reason; there are some odd territorial splits (such as WA-09 jumping across Puget Sound) that might make more sense to a local than to a East Coast resident like myself.

I tried to limit city and county splits where possible, but sometimes it was unavoidable. The biggest split is Tacoma, half of which I had to put in WA-06 and half in WA-09. I also tried to either ignore partisan data or encourage competitive districts. Thanks to the way the map is set up currently, the latter was pretty easy to accomplish; there are five districts that I would consider competitive (WA-02, 06, 08, 09, and 10).


Seattle area

WA-01 (blue) – Instead of jumping across Puget Sound, it stretches across northern King County and farther up into Smohomish. Old district: 56.2% Murray, new district: 56.5% Murray.

WA-02 (green) – Expands very slightly, picking up a little bit of Snohomish and dropping the one random descent into eastern King County. Old district: 50.5% Murray, new district: exactly 50.0% for each (the margin is 118 votes in favor of Rossi).

WA-03 (purple) – This one probably changes the most. Northern end of the district is chopped off, and it moves east to Yakima. Old district: 52.5% Rossi, new district: 55.5% Rossi.

WA-04 (red) – Moves east, losing Yakima and gaining Walla Walla. Old district: 64.4% Rossi, new district: 63.9% Rossi.

WA-05 (yellow) – Loses Walla Walla, gains bits of Franklin County. Old district: 58.6% Rossi, new district: 58.4% Rossi.

WA-06 (teal) – Drops part of Tacoma, picks up islandy parts on the west side of Puget Sound. Old district: 53.1% Murray, new district: 53.0% Murray.

WA-07 (grey) – Seattle and a bit of the suburbs south of it. Old district: 81.0% Murray, new district: 81.5% Murray.

WA-08 (light purple) – Loses Pierce County. Adds a bit of the inner Seattle-area suburbs. Old district: 50.8% Rossi, new district: 53.0% Murray.

WA-09 (sky blue) – Loses the southwestern swath of territory, picks up a bit on the northern and eastern borders. Old district: 52.8% Murray, new district: 54.1% Murray.

WA-10 (magenta) – The new seat. Most of Pierce County, all of Thurston County, and some parts south and southwest of Thurston. 50.9% Rossi.

I don’t know if anyone got drawn out of their districts, but the only incumbent that would probably be seriously miffed is Reichert. Losing Pierce County would be a blow to his re-election chances. He could always move to the new WA-10, though.

Analysis of the Proposed Virginia House of Delegates Map

See the map here. Overall, it’s going to be pretty brutal for Democrats in the House of Delegates over the next decade.

The Democrats currently have 39 seats in the House. Three of them have had their districts removed (Bud Phillips in the 2nd, Ward Armstrong in the 10th, and Paula Miller in the 87th). In addition, Al Pollard in the 99th is retiring, which is pretty much a guaranteed Republican pickup.

That puts the Democrats at 35 seats. 28 of those seats are safe, because any district that voted for Deeds is almost assuredly going to elect a Democrat. (Overall, the Republicans left NoVa Dems alone, preferring to go after Democrats in Hampton Roads and SWVA, while attempting to shore up the seats they picked up in 2009.) In addition, the 12th went from 58% Deeds to 49% Deeds, but the reason for that drop is Deeds’ home territory was removed from the district; I would count it as safe, as it’s based in Blacksburg. So that’s 29 seats.

This leaves 6 Democrats in >51% McDonnell districts. The 37th and 41st are in Fairfax and both gave Deeds 47%, so I would count them as pretty secure. The 100th is based on the Eastern Shore, and the incumbent there, Lynwood Lewis, has enough personal popularity to survive there fairly easily (and his district was slightly improved with new precincts in Norfolk).

That gives the Democrats a pretty solid base of 32 seats. The remaining three districts are trouble: Robin Abbott in the 93rd saw her district shrink from 47% Deeds to 43%. Everyone else is writing her off as done for; I think she can still win, but it would be tough. The other two districts, however, are much trickier. Both the Isle of Wight-based 64th and extreme southwestern 4th are gone the second the incumbents retire, and a strong challenger could unseat the incumbents.

As for offense… It doesn’t look good. Obviously Dems have to go after all the NoVa seats, because that’s where they do best. Tom Rust in the 86th remains the most vulnerable Republican, though he saw his district go from 49% to 47% Deeds. The 34th, 42nd, and 67th districts are also ones that should be contested, though again, the numbers have been massaged to get an extra point or two of Republican performance. Of the three new seats in NoVa, the 2nd and 87th would be good targets; they clock in at 41% and 42% Deeds, respectively. They’d be tough to win, but not impossible. Beyond that, there might be outside shots at the 13th, 21st, and 31st. So the Democrats are probably locked into somewhere between 32-40 seats for the next ten years, unless they start to do better again in the more rural parts of the state. Pretty sad, but what can you do?

Sortable tables of the district performances are below (Democrats first, then Republicans; the four Democrats drawn out of their districts are starred):

District New Deeds % Old Deeds % Change Incumbent
71 79% 75% 4% McClellan
69 77% 75% 2% Carr
89 71% 70% 1% Alexander
92 70% 71% -1% Ward
70 70% 75% -5% McQuinn
49 69% 69% 0% Ebbin
47 67% 67% 0% Hope
74 66% 71% -5% Morrissey
80 66% 69% -3% James
90 66% 62% 4% Howell
77 66% 63% 3% Spruill
57 65% 65% 0% Toscano
95 64% 67% -3% BaCote
46 63% 64% -1% Herring
45 62% 61% 1% Englin
63 59% 58% 1% Dance
48 59% 63% -4% Brink
36 58% 56% 2% Plum
53 58% 57% 1% Scott
38 56% 56% 0% Kory
11 56% 57% -1% Ware
44 55% 52% 3% Surovell
43 54% 52% 2% Sickles
52 52% 48% 4% Torian
79 51% 52% -1% Joannou
35 51% 48% 3% Keam
39 51% 49% 2% Watts
75 50% 50% 0% Tyler
12 49% 58% -9% Shuler
41 47% 45% 2% Filler-Corn
37 47% 47% 0% Bulova
93 43% 47% -4% Abbott*
100 43% 41% 2% Lewis
2 42% 36% 6% Phillips*
87 41% 43% -2% Miller*
10 38% 34% 4% Armstrong*
99 34% 34% 0% Pollard
64 34% 40% -6% Barlow
4 30% 27% 3% Johnson
District New Deeds % Old Deeds % Change Incumbent
86 47% 49% -2% Rust
34 43% 46% -3% Comstock
42 42% 46% -4% Albo
67 42% 43% -1% LeMunyon
31 40% 40% 0% Lingamfelter
21 39% 40% -1% Villanueva
13 39% 35% 4% Marshall
60 38% 39% -1% Edmunds
94 38% 39% -1% Oder
14 38% 41% -3% Marshall
51 38% 44% -6% Anderson
19 38% 26% 12% Putney
32 38% 39% -1% Greason
50 37% 39% -2% Miller
24 37% 36% 1% Cline
68 37% 39% -2% Loupassi
83 37% 38% -1% Stolle
28 36% 37% -1% Howell
16 36% 33% 3% Merricks
85 36% 36% 0% Tata
76 36% 36% 0% Jones
84 36% 36% 0% Iaquinto
73 35% 38% -3% O’Bannon
40 35% 39% -4% Hugo
27 35% 40% -5% Robinson
91 35% 31% 4% Helsel
7 35% 37% -2% Nutter
61 34% 34% 0% Wright
58 34% 39% -5% Bell
54 34% 32% 2% Orrock
20 34% 30% 4% Bell
72 34% 32% 2% Massie
33 34% 37% -3% May
17 33% 35% -2% Cleaveland
8 33% 33% 0% Habeeb
82 33% 32% 1% Purkey
62 33% 30% 3% Ingram
18 33% 32% 1% Athey
81 33% 30% 3% Knight
59 33% 40% -7% Abbitt
9 32% 31% 1% Poindexter
96 32% 32% 0% Pogge
30 32% 31% 1% Scott
88 32% 30% 2% Cole
25 32% 28% 4% Landes
55 32% 25% 7% Cox
98 31% 30% 1% Morgan
26 30% 29% 1% Wilt
78 30% 30% 0% Cosgrove
23 30% 38% -8% Garrett
22 30% 23% 7% Byron
3 29% 33% -4% Morefield
29 29% 29% 0% Sherwood
56 29% 31% -2% Janis
5 28% 27% 1% Carrico
6 28% 32% -4% Crockett-Stark
65 27% 24% 3% Ware
15 26% 28% -2% Gilbert
1 26% 23% 3% Kilgore
66 25% 26% -1% Cox
97 22% 29% -7% Peace

Redistricting Arkansas: One map! Two maps! Three Glorious Maps!

Everyone was aghast at the proposed map that came out of one of the houses of the Arkansas legislature recently. The consensus seemed to be that it was a dummymander, as likely to end up with a 4-0 Republican delegation as it was a 3-1 Democratic delegation. I would argue that  2-2 split would be the safest, and sanest, way to draw the map. So I’ve come up with a few maps that would likely give that split.

Map 1: A Bipartisan Compromise

AR-01 (blue) – 65 McCain, 32 Obama

AR-02 (green) – 51 McCain, 48 Obama.

AR-03 (purple) – 64 McCain, 34 Obama.

AR-04 (red) – 56 McCain, 41 Obama.

In this map, AR-01 is ceded to the Republicans, AR-02 is made more of a swing district, AR-03 remains pretty much the same, and AR-04 is made slightly more Democratic.

The problem with this one is that AR-04 remains vulnerable. With Ross exiting the seat in 2014 to run for Governor, it would be a tough seat to hold. On the other hand, AR-02 becomes easier to pick up.

Map 2: Let’s Make the White Democrats Unhappy

This map includes the Fayetteville tentacle from the proposed map. AR-02 is redrawn into a black-heavy Mississippi+Little Rock district. I don’t have numbers on this one handy, unfortunately, but AR-02 easily becomes an Obama district, probably around 55-44 Obama. AR-04 moves slightly to the Democrats, I’d guess it’s about 57-41 McCain.

This would please the black Democrats in the legislature; they’ve been pushing for a district that gives them a shot of electing one of their own to Congress. Of course, the white Democrats would not be happy with this arrangement, as many of them would be shut out of the chance to go to Congress.

Map 3: Let’s Make the Black Democrats Unhappy

AR-01 (blue) – 53 McCain, 45 Obama

AR-02 (green) – 66 McCain, 32 Obama

AR-03 (purple) – 64 McCain, 34 Obama

AR-04 (red) – 53 McCain, 45 Obama

Third and finally is a map designed to elect two Blue Dog type Democrats. In this map, Little Rock is added to Mike Ross’s district (putting Griffin in with him, but Griffin could just move to the safe Republican AR-02), while AR-01 is reconfigured by shedding some of the Crawford-friendly counties to the north and adding some Dem-friendly counties to the south. Ross would probably not be happy with Little Rock in his district, but he’s only got one more primary to get through until he can go run for Governor and be out of our hair. The advantage here is an open AR-04 would not be an almost-automatic flip to the Republicans; the Democrats would have a good shot at retaining the seat.

Now, as the white Democrats got the shaft in the last map, this map gives it to the black Democrats. AR-01’s VAP is only 28% black, and AR-04’s is 23% black, which would make it tough for one of the black legislators to win a primary in either district.

So there you go, three ideas, all of which are, in my opinion, better than the one proposed by the actual legislators.

Another look at the Virginia Senate: 24-16?

Last time around, I tried to draw a “realistic” map, i.e. one that takes into account incumbents. This time, I’ve made a map based on pure, hard numbers; I didn’t take into account more than one or two incumbents (since they’re the only ones that could hold the district). I’ve come up with a map that cold potentially go as well as 24-16 for the Democrats. I colored all the Republican districts in varying shades of grey, so you can ignore them (they’re essentially an afterthought) and focus on the potential Dem seats.

I’m the first to argue that the Obama numbers are not an accurate representation of the kind of turnout you get in a State Senate election, but it was either using them or squinting at precinct maps on the Virginia Public Access Project site. Either way, once you get up to high-50s Obama performance, the district is going to be pretty solidly Democratic.

The districts are all kept well within the usual 5% deviation allowed for state legislative districts, and most of them have deviations of under 1,000 (which would be about 0.5%).

State view:

Southwestern VA:

Red SW District – This is one of the seats I alluded to in the intro. Sen. Phil Puckett is an extremely conservative Dem, but he’s the only one who could hold this seat, so I left it more or less the same. It’s 62.0% McCain.

Magenta Roanoke/Blacksburg district – 57.8% Obama, this would be no trouble for Sen. John Edwards to hold, since it’s mostly how his district looks today.

Red Charlottesville-area district – Obviously, Sen. Creigh Deeds is drawn out of this one, but like I said, it’s just theoretical. It’s 60.2% Obama.

Green Martinsville/Danville/Emporia district – Here’s where you have to get creative. A district that spans Southside Virginia, taking in as many black voters as possible (the black VAP is 43.8%), creates a district that could be held by most Democrats, not just the current Martinsville-area incumbent, Sen. Roscoe Reynolds. It’s 57.9% Obama.

Richmond/Hampton Roads:

The challenge here is maintaining the 5 majority-black districts, protecting the two other incumbents, and carving out one or two new seats.

Blue Richmond district – This is a new Dem seat carved out of western Richmond and its inner suburbs. It’s 60.1% Obama.

Magenta Richmond district – One of the two majority-black seats, the African-American VAP is maintained at 50.3%. It’s 71.0% Obama.

Light Green Richmond district – Same here, 51.4% black VAP, 73.4% Obama.

Brown Newport News/South Hampton Roads district – Sen. John Miller would go here; it’s much better than his old district, which went for McCain. Now 57.1% Obama.

Pink Hampton district – Another African-American district, 52.3% black VAP. 67.2% Obama.

Orange Portsmouth/Suffolk district – See above, 51.3% black VAP, 65.6% Obama.

Green Norfolk district – Ditto, 50.3% black VAP, 65.2% Obama.

Purple Norfolk/Eastern Shore district – This would be Sen. Ralph Northam’s district. Pretty similar to how it was before; improved Obama performance from 53% to 56.3%.

Yellow Virginia Beach district – Again, one must get creative to preserve the state Senate majority. This district cuts through Virginia Beach’s most Democrat-friendly neighborhoods. Someone like former Del. Joe Bouchard could run here and win. It’s 55.9% Obama.

Northern Neck/Fredericksburg district:

This would probably still be a little Republican-leaning, but it’s 53.8% Obama, and Sen. Edd Houck could probably hold it pretty easily, though you’d have to draw his home in Spotsylvania into the district.

Northern Virginia:

For the five inner-most localities (Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Alexandria, and Arlington), I tried to limit the Republicans to two seats and to keep the Dem seats as solid as possible (hence the strips from Alexandria/Arlington to outer Fairfax).

Brown Loudoun district – 55.2% Obama.

Blue McLean/Reston district – 60.1% Obama.

Green Chantilly/Centreville district – 58.4% Obama.

Purple Fairfax City/Falls Church district – 57.8% Obama.

Red Arlington/Annandale district – 62.0% Obama.

Yellow Arlington/Springfield district – 64.8% Obama.

Green Alexandria/Eastern Fairfax district – 65.3% Obama.

Pink Alexandria/Eastern Fairfax district – 68.7% Obama.

Purple Burke/Eastern PW district – 61.3% Obama.

Sky Blue Clifton/Manassas/Eastern PW district – 57.3% Obama.

Redistricting the Virginia State Senate: Can Democrats Maintain a Majority?

The problem: Democrats are going into redistricting with a 22-18 advantage in the Virginia State Senate. They have to either hold on to 21 of those seats or carve out new seats that they can win. The question is, can they succeed? I’ve tried my best to come up with a map that gives Democrats a good chance at holding their majority.

State Map

Click for bigger view.

As you can see, it ain’t pretty. I attempted to maintain as much population equality as possible, trying to keep districts under 1,000 population variance; with districts that are targeted around 194,000 people, this is well within the normal variance allowed for state legislative districts. The Democrats may be able to massage the numbers some more than I was willing to try. To compare, you can see the 2007 results and existing Senate districts at the Virginia Public Access Project.

We’ll start in Southwestern Virginia and work our way around the state.

SD-40, incumbent: William Wampler Jr. (R)

Not much you can do with this part of the state. It’s pretty much the same as the existing district, except expanded a bit to the east to up the population.

SD-38, incumbent: Phil Puckett (D)

Believe it or not, Puckett went unopposed in 2007. Given the extreme shift away from the Democrats that this part of the state has undergone in the past couple years, I can’t imagine that will be the case this year. Again, there’s not much you can do here; the best I could do was stretch the district out to pull in Radford from SD-22.

SD-20, incumbent: Roscoe Reynolds (D)

Reynolds did have an opponent in 2007, but trounced him. I tried to help him out by putting Danville into the district, along with some parts of Pittsylvania County that have a high African-American population. The district’s black population is 25%.

SD-21, incumbent: John Edwards (D)

No, not that John Edwards. This is the one safe Democratic district this far south, as it contains Montgomery County, Roanoke, and not much else.

SD-22, incumbent: Ralph Smith (R)

Smith knocked off the incumbent in a primary in 2007, then barely beat the Democratic candidate. Rather than try to replicate that feat (because, quite frankly, if they couldn’t win it in 2007, they’re not going to win it in 2011), I just dumped all of the Roanoke suburbs into the district, so it will be safe for the Republicans.

SD-23, incumbents: Steve Newman (R), William Stanley (R)

A district had to be eliminated and spirited off to Northern Virginia, and the obvious choice is the existing 19th, as it has some Dem-friendly parts that can be appended to the 20th, and Stanley is the junior-most Senator, having just been elected this month. This is an extremely Republican district consisting of a rural swath of land between Lynchburg and Roanoke.

SD-15, incumbent: Frank Ruff (R)

Another very Republican district dominated by Lynchburg and Amherst County. It stretches down to the North Carolina border because Ruff lives in the very southeastern tip of the district.

On to Southside and Richmond…

SD-13, incumbent: none

This is where the Democrats need to get creative. The 13th used to be Republican Fred Quayle’s district, stretching from Portsmouth to Hopewell; I’ve created a district to replace it centered in Emporia, Petersburg, and the Southside counties with high black populations. In fact, this district is very narrowly majority-black (50.2%). It should be a prime pickup opportunity for the Democrats.

SD-11, incumbent: Stephen Martin (R) (possibly)

Martin’s residence is just listed as “Chesterfield County” on Wikipedia, and there’s nothing on his campaign website that says where in the county he lives, but this is the district he would run in. It’s a solidly Republican district that takes in Amelia and Nottoway Counties as well as part of Chesterfield.

SD-10, incumbent: John Watkins (R)

Watkins does live in this district. It’s another solidly-Republican suburban Richmond district.

SD-12, incumbent: Walter Stosch (R) (possibly)

Again, Stosch is just listed as being in Henrico County, which is chopped up between four districts. This is an attempt to create as Dem-friendly a district as possible. It’s still a Republican-leaning district, but it’s more likely a 55-45 district than the 60-40 district it is now.

SD-16, incumbent: Henry Marsh (D)

Marsh’s district was drawn to soak up as many black voters as possible. I’ve dropped it down to 51% black, as it loses the southern end of the district, including Petersburg. Still safe Dem.

SD-9, incumbent: Don McEachin (D)

This one loses part of Richmond and gains more of Henrico. Still majority-black, at 52%, and safe Dem.

Now we’re on to my part of the state, Hampton Roads.

SD-1, incumbent: John Miller (D)

Miller barely beat a nutcase back in 2007, so he really needs a better district. I axed the Poquoson/York/Hampton part of the district, gave him all of Newport News, and ran the district up to Williamsburg and across the James River to Surry/Sussex/Franklin. It should make his district much less Republican.

SD-2, incumbent: Mamie Locke (D)

Locke’s district consists of all of Hampton and the southern end of Newport News. Remains majority-black at 53%. Safe Dem.

SD-18, incumbent: Louise Lucas (D)

Maintains the African-American majority (53% black) without the ridiculous stretched-across-a-third-of-the-state shape that it has currently. Most of Portsmouth and part of Suffolk.

SD-5, incumbent: Yvonne Miller (D)

Another majority-black district; it’s the minority-heavy parts of Norfolk, Chespeake, and a few precincts from Virginia Beach. 55% black, safe Dem.

SD-6, incumbent: Ralph Northam (D)

Northam’s district is the white-majority half of Norfolk, the Eastern Shore, and one or two precincts in Virginia Beach. It’s 27% black. Should be pretty safe for Northam.

SD-7, incumbent: Frank Wagner (R) (possibly)

Wagner may or may not live here, I have no idea. He’s somewhere in Virginia Beach. This was an attempt to create as Dem-friendly a district as you can get in Virginia Beach. It’s certainly more diverse than the city at-large; it’s 60% white, 23% black, 7% Asian, and 7% Hispanic. It would still be an uphill climb for a Democrat to win here, but it is at least possible.

SD-8, incumbent: Jeff McWaters (R)

I’m pretty sure McWaters lives here, though. It’s the very Republican Virginia Beach/Chesapeake district.

SD-14, incumbent: Harry Blevins (R) (possibly), Fred Quayle (R)

Again, Blevins lives in Chesapeake, but I have no idea where. Quayle lives in Suffolk, but he’s probably retiring regardless of how the map looks, so that doesn’t matter. This district takes in the white parts of Chesapeake, Suffolk, Portsmouth, as well as parts of Sussex, Southampton, and Isle of Wight Counties. It should be a pretty Republican district.

Okay, that was a lot. Let’s move on to the Tidewater area.

SD-3, incumbent: Tommy Norment (R)

Norment gets a district consisting of a swath of Republican areas between Newport News and the Northern Neck.

SD-4, incumbent: Ryan McDougle (R)

This district actually shrinks, which is a good thing, because it contains some swing counties that I needed for the 17th. It’s centered in the Hanover County exurbs, which are bright-red.

SD-17, incumbent: Edd Houck (D)

A ridiculous snake of a district that attempts to shore up Houck as much as possible. He lives in Spotsylvania, and it stretches from Culpeper in the northwest down to King & Queen and Essex Counties in the southeast.

SD-28, incumbent: Richard Stuart (R)

Northern Neck to Stafford. Actually shrinks, since it used to go all the way up to Fauquier. Should remain in Republican hands; Del. Al Pollard would be about the only candidate to make it competitive, and he lost when the seat was open in 2007.

Okay, two more regions to go. First is the Shenandoah Valley.

SD-25, incumbent: Creigh Deeds (D)

The Deeds district. Pretty much the same as before, should remain safe Dem, as the population is centered in Albemarle/Charlottesville.

SD-24, incumbent: Emmett Hanger (R)

Not much changes here; still a heavily Republican district in Augusta/Rockingham.

SD-26, incumbent: Mark Obenshain (R)

Same as above. Stretches up to Frederick County to pull some territory out of the 27th.

SD-27, incumbent: Jill Holtzman Vogel (R)

JHV narrowly won in 2007, but she’ll be happy with this district; it cuts out the parts that she didn’t win that year (Loudoun and Clarke Counties and Winchester).

And finally, here’s Northern Virginia.

SD-19, incumbent: none

A new district formed out of parts of the 27th and 33rd. The parts from the 27th were won by the Democratic candidate, Karen Schultz. It also takes in the southern end of the 33rd. This is a winnable district for Democrats, but it would likely depend on the candidate quality and the climate.

SD-33, incumbent: Mark Herring (D)

Herring’s district is reconfigured to span Leesburg to Sterling, and Herring should be pretty happy with that.

SD-29, incumbent: Chuck Colgan (D)

Colgan is expected to retire, and I can’t say that’s a whole lot you can do with his district. The areas around Manassas are the most Dem-friendly parts of the old district, but with Del. Jackson Miller, a Manassas native, a likely candidate for the seat, it’s going to be tough for Democrats to hold it.

SD-36, incumbent: Toddy Puller (D)

Puller’s district remains one that stretches from Mt. Vernon to southern Prince William County.

SD-39, incumbent: George Barker (D)

After the 29th, this is probably the most vulnerable district in NoVa. I tried to strengthen it by running it up to inner Fairfax. It might just be a good idea to give up on the 29th and put as much of Prince William in that district, while making the 39th a mostly-Fairfax district.

SD-37, incumbent: Dave Marsden (D)

Marsden’s district, as currently drawn, is intended to be as polarized as possible. Redrawn, it’s centered around Marsden’s home of Burke, so it will be much safer for him.

SD-34, incumbent: Chap Petersen (D)

Chap lives in Fairfax City, and should have little trouble holding down this district.

SD-32, incumbent: Janet Howell (D)

Howell’s district currently stretches from Reston, through Great Falls, and into McLean. This district stretches from Reston around to the southwestern edge of the county. It might be somewhat less Democratic now, but someone’s got to take those Republican precincts.

SD-31, incumbent: Mary Margaret Whipple (D)

This district is currently mostly Arlington, but I decided to stretch it out to Great Falls. You’d think you could unpack these districts more, but it’s tough when all the surrounding territory is Democratic.

SD-30, incumbent: Patsy Ticer (D)

Arlington/Alexandria, probably the most Democratic district in this map.

SD-35, incumbent: Dick Saslaw (D) (possibly)

Saslaw lives somewhere in Fairfax, but where, I don’t know. It may require some precinct swapping to get him in this district. Either way, it’s safe.

So there you have it. I’m not sure if I can answer my question, because there are a lot of variables in play here. The Democrats’ majority is hanging by a thread, and there are a lot of Democrats in tough districts (at least as currently drawn). It’s going to be interesting to see how they proceed.

2011 Virginia General Assembly Elections – An Early Look

The 140 seats of Virginia’s general assembly are all up in 2011. This will be one of the first post-redistricting elections in the country; redistricting will take place next spring in Virginia, and must be submitted to the Department of Justice for VRA pre-clearance. This will likely result in a compressed campaign season, as the composition of the maps will not be known until March or April, and they won’t be approved until June or July. This is especially frustrating, as many legislative seats hang in the balance due to the explosive population growth in the Northern Virginia exurbs.

The Virginia Public Access Project has posted maps that estimate the current population variance of the existing legislative (and Congressional) maps. A quick look at the maps makes the population trends in Virginia readily apparent: the state is experiencing huge amounts of growth in the outer NoVa suburbs of Loudoun and Prince William Counties, as well as the more exurban parts south of Prince William (Culpeper, Fauquier, Spotsylvania, and Stafford Counties). The Richmond suburbs (Chesterfield and Henrico Counties and some of the more rural counties to the north) and outer Hampton Roads areas (Isle of Wight and York Counties and the city of Suffolk) are also experiencing growth, although not as significant.

This growth comes at a cost: the rural areas of Southwestern and Southside Virginia are taking a beating, as well as Richmond proper and the older, more urbanized cities of Hampton Roads (Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, and Portsmouth). Even Northern Virginia is not immune to these trends: growth has stagnated in the inside-the-beltway areas of Alexandria, Arlington, and inner Faifax.

What does all this mean? The obvious answer is that reapportionment is going to draw seats away from these areas and towards the outer ring of D.C. suburbs and exurbs. In the short-term, this is likely going to hurt Democrats; although they had some success in these areas during the Bush administration, capped by Obama’s double-digit wins in Loudoun and Prince William, the areas have swung back to the Republicans in the past couple years. The Democratic Party can’t take these places for granted — they’re filled with fiscally conservative, socially moderate voters who have no problem voting for a Republican over a Democrat when it comes to pocketbook issues.

Having said all that, I’m now turning my attention to the State Senate, where Democrats hold a 22-18 edge. The Democrats will find defending all 22 seats a challenge; currently the map is maxed out for them, there are no realistic targets for picking up Republican seats. That may change in redistricting, but of course, I can’t guess what the map will look like. For now, I’ll run down the Democrats in the Senate that may be vulnerable in 2011, ranked from most vulnerable to least vulnerable. The district numbers are linked to VPAP’s breakdown of each district by locality and statewide performance.

1. SD-01 (John Miller, elected in 2007) – In 2007, Miller beat a fairly nutty Republican who knocked off the popular, moderate incumbent in a primary. Sound familiar? As it stands, Miller’s district is a pretty conservative one; although Kaine and Obama did come close to winning it, it includes the extremely Republican city of Poquoson and carves out the most Republican parts of Newport News. If I had to hazard a guess, the next map will likely trade out the York/Poquoson areas in exchange for the Newport News/Williamsburg portion of SD-03. Either way, Miller will be in for a tough fight next year.

2. SD-29 (Chuck Colgan, elected in 1975) – Colgan, the President Pro Tem of the Senate, may retire next year. At 84 years old, it would be hard to blame him. The district is one that on paper favors Republicans, being a swath of central Prince William County. However, Colgan’s long tenure in office has helped him hold on, although his margins in recent elections have not been impressive: he won 55% in 2003 and 54% in 2007. Democrats might try to draw a better district, given that the 29th has to shed quite a few voters, but it will be tough to hold this one even if Colgan doesn’t retire. Colgan hasn’t raised a whole lot of money so far — about $150k, with only $43k in the bank.

3. SD-17 (Edd Houck, elected in 1983) – Houck is one of the few “old guard” Democrats left. A 27-year veteran of the Senate, he chairs the Education and Health Committee, and represents a conservative district that spans from the sleepy, rural counties of Madison and Orange to the growing exurbs of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County. Houck has been facing decreasing margins of victory over the years; in 1999 he won 60%; in 2003, 59%; and in 2007, 56%, despite outspending his opponent nearly 3-1. With $300,000 in the bank, Houck seems likely to run for another term, but it will be a struggle. The district needs to shed voters, but I don’t really see how it can be made much better for Houck; Fredericksburg is the only real Democratic bastion in the district. Regardless, Houck will be in for a fight next year.

4. SD-38 (Phil Puckett, elected in 1998) – Puckett is probably the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, and it’s not surprising to see why: he represents a chunk of Southwestern Virginia that has voted for exactly two statewide Democrats in the past six years, Creigh Deeds in 2005 and Mark Warner in 2008. Again, not to sound like a broken record, but this is a part of the state that is becoming extremely unfriendly to Democrats. Pucket hasn’t had an opponent in the past two contests, which probably won’t be the case this time. Of course, he could turn out to still be a safe bet, but given what has happened over the last two years in this part of the state, I wouldn’t put money on it.

5. SD-20 (Roscoe Reynolds, elected in 1996) – Reynolds is a conservative Democrat representing a swath of Southside Virginia that stretches from Martinsville to Wythe County. He has won handily in each of his three election contests, but this is an area that has been sharply trending away from the Democrats in the past few years. Not helping things is the fact that this district, like all of those in this part of the state, is going to have to expand in order to meet population requirements. I’m not sure what the districts in the area are going to look like next year, but if Republicans don’t mount a strong challenge to Reynolds, they’re missing a big opportunity.

6. SD-06 (Ralph Northam, elected in 2007) – Northam easily defeated Republican Nick Rerras in 2007. He’s a moderate Democrat with a great bio: he grew up on the Eastern Shore, went to VMI, and is a pediatric neurologist at CHKD. The district is split between the white parts of northern Norfolk and the Eastern Shore, and Northam has ties to both parts of the district. I don’t expect this one to change that much, though it may have to expand east into SD-07 (which may benefit Northam, as there are some precincts in western Virginia Beach that are generally favorable to Dems). Northam is definitely favored for re-election, but as a freshman in a swing district, he should be watched carefully.

7. SD-33 (Mark Herring, elected in 2006) – Herring picked this seat up in a special election in 2006, and though his margin slipped the next year, he still won by a double-digit margin. The concern, of course, is that Loudoun County has swung back to the Republicans in the past couple years, kicking out both of its Democratic Delegates in 2009. There are two good bits of news for Herring, though: first, the district is going to have to shed about half its voters, which means Democrats should be able to draw a much safer district. The other good news for Herring is the cast of characters running against him: Dick Black, a long-time embarrassment who lost his House seat in 2005, Patricia Phillips, who lost to Herring in 2007, and some guy who came in third for a Board of Supervisors seat in 2007.

8. SD-39 (George Barker, elected in 2007) – Barker’s district is located mostly in southern Fairfax with some of Prince William County. I don’t think he should be in too much trouble, but I’m including him here because he’s a freshman in a fairly swingy district, though the Democrats might be able to shore him up a bit.

Bipartisan Redistricting in Virginia

With the election over, I thought I’d take a stab at what a bipartisan incumbent protection map might look like in Virginia. The plan is to protect all 11 incumbents; the only district that would likely be competitive in an open seat situation under this map is VA-10.

Click for huge.

VA-01 (Rob Wittman – R) – Hasn’t changed a whole lot; takes in some more of Prince William, loses part of Stafford/Spotsylvania, and adds the two Eastern Shore counties (they were in VA-01 prior to the 2000 map).

VA-02 (Scott Rigell – R) – Snakes up the shore to take in some Republican territory (Poquoson, parts of York and Gloucester), picks up the VA-01 bit of Hampton, and loses the Eastern Shore. Should move the needle to the Republicans by a couple points.

VA-03 (Bobby Scott – D) – Takes Petersburg out of VA-04, mostly unchanged. 62% black.

VA-04 (Randy Forbes – R) – Also not changed a whole lot, aside from losing Petersburg, which should flip the district to McCain.

VA-05 (Robert Hurt – R) – Removes Charlottesville and most of Albemarle, adds the rest of Bedford, Lynchburg, and Amherst. Should be no trouble at all for the Republicans to hold now.

VA-06 (Bob Goodlatte – R) – Snakes up from Roanoke, where Goodlatte lives, through the Shenandoah Valley, and pulls in Charlottesville and Albemarle and some outer NoVa counties. Shouldn’t endanger Goodlatte.

VA-07 (Eric Cantor – R) – Actually a little less ridiculous now, it’s a solidly-Republican suburban Richmond/Fredericksburg area district. Still should be solidly Republican.

VA-08 (Jim Moran – D) – Remains solidly Dem; continues to hold the trifecta of Alexandria, Arlington, and Falls Church, but goes west instead of south. Maybe a couple points less Democratic, but still a safe D district.

VA-09 (Morgan Griffith – R) – Not much changed here; added Salem, Martinsville, and some more of Roanoke County. Safe R.

VA-10 (Frank Wolf – R) – Added almost all of Shenandoah County, and removes some parts of Fairfax. Retains the most Republican parts of Fairfax. Safe for Wolf, should lean Republican in an open seat, unless it’s a particularly good Dem year.

VA-11 (Gerry Connolly – D) – Replaces the Republican PW County parts with the solidly-Dem SE PW County. Should be a pretty safe Dem seat.

The State of Statewide Officeholders: 2010 Elections

Today’s downballot statewide officeholder is tomorrow’s Senator or Governor. Though these offices tend to get lost in the shuffle of sexier races, they’re important for party-building. So I’ve taken a look at what statewide races are on the ballot to see where each party stands.

A very big chart in png format (I couldn’t find an easy way to convert a spreadsheet with background colors to html) follows. Sorry, smaller monitored folks.

Note: Incumbents with primaries on 9/14 include DE-Treasurer, RI-Lt. Governor, RI-Secretary of State, and WI-Treasurer.

As the key says, dark red is for offices with Republican incumbents, light red is for open Republican seats, dark blue for Democratic incumbents, and light blue for open Democratic seats. I’ve also noted which seats have incumbents that were appointed to their position, and which seats are unopposed by the other party. And for the “Other” category, I’ve specified what the other officeholder’s title is.

Interestingly, despite the surfeit of Republican candidates, seven statewide posts were left unchallenged, only one less than the number of seats the Democrats didn’t field candidates for.

Trouble spots for the Democrats include the number of open spots in Georgia and Oklahoma. Not a lot of vulnerable open Republican seats, though — FL-Attorney General, VT-Lt. Governor, and OH-Auditor seem to be the best chances. I’m not nearly familiar enough with the incumbents to make any judgments there, though.

The State of the State Legislatures, Part Two: Chambers Held by Republicans

In part one, I looked at the state legislatures currently held by Democrats. This time around, I’m taking a look at state houses held by the Republicans. Unfortunately for Democrats, it’s not very fertile ground for pickups. Most of the state legislatures that the Democrats had a chance at in 2006 and 2008 are out of reach now, given the worse climate and number of struggling governors and open gubernatorial seats.

Same notes as last time; Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia will have their elections in 2011, while the Kansas and New Mexico Senates are both elected in Presidential years, and the Nebraska unicameral is nonpartisan. For the current composition, Democrats are listed first, Republicans second, and independents/others listed third. Vacancies are not noted, and the numbers were pulled from Wikipedia, so they’re not perfect. Also, I am using the generic term “House” for the lower house of each legislature. I know some are called Assembly, it’s just simpler to do it this way.


Montana Senate (Currently 23/27) – One of the chambers that flipped to the Republicans in 2008, the Montana Senate is like the House, closely divided. With no major statewide election on the ballot (just Denny Rehberg, who won’t have a serious challenger), it’ll be down to legislative candidates to get voters out.

Lean Republican

Alaska Senate (Currently 10/10) and House (Currently 18/22) – Even as the McCain/Palin ticket dominated the statewide vote, the Democrats actually managed to pick up a seat in each of the houses of the legislature. Everpresent ethics problems have been dogging the VECO-lovin’ Republicans, and the Senate Republicans are so divided that a coalition of all ten Democrats and six of the ten Republicans governs the chamber, leaving the other four Senators out in the cold. It’s looking less and less likely that the gubernatorial race will be competitive, thanks to Sean Parnell’s ability to not be Sarah Palin, but the narrow margins in the legislature should be watched.

Michigan Senate (Currently 16/22) – Thanks to term limits kicking in, a ridiculous number of seats will be open in 2010 — 29 of the 38 seats, 17 Republicans and 12 Democrats. This pretty much makes the chamber up for grabs, although Republicans have the advantage due to currently having the majority, plus winning Mark Schauer’s open Senate seat last year.

Likely Republican

Kentucky Senate (Currently 17/20/1) – Steve Beshear has been playing Godfather with Senate Republicans, giving them offers they couldn’t refuse (judgeships with great pension plans) in exchange for the shot at picking up their seats. His magic seems to have worn off, however, with the last special being a Republican hold. Of the seats up in 2010, Democrats are contesting eight out of 11, while Republicans are going after six of the seven Democrat-held seats. The Independent is up too, and it looks to be a three-way affair. While it will only take two seats for the Democrats to tie, and three to take over, I’m not sure where they can find them.

Safe Republican

Arizona Senate (Currently 12/18) and House (Currently 24/36)

Florida Senate (Currently 14/26) and House (Currently 44/75)

Georgia Senate (Currently 22/34) and House (Currently 74/105/1)

Idaho Senate (Currently 7/28) and House (Currently 18/52)

Indiana Senate (Currently 17/33)

Kansas House (Currently 49/76)

Missouri Senate (Currently 11/23) and House (Currently 74/89)

North Dakota Senate (Currently 21/26) and House (Currently 35/58)

Ohio Senate (Currently 12/21)

Oklahoma Senate (Currently 22/26) and House (Currently 39/62)

Pennsylvania Senate (Currently 20/30)

South Carolina Senate (Currently 19/27) and House (Currently 52/72)

South Dakota Senate (Currently 14/21) and House (Currently 24/46)

Tennessee Senate (Currently 14/19) and House (Currently 48/50/1)

Texas Senate (Currently 12/19) and House (Currently 73/77)

Utah Senate (Currently 8/20) and House (Currently 22/53)

Wyoming Senate (Currently 7/23) and House (Currently 19/41)

Not much to say here. If the Democrats couldn’t win these bodies in 2006 and 2008, it’s not happening in 2010. The Tennesee and Texas Houses are close, but 2010 is looking likely to be a bad year for Democrats in Tennessee, and in Texas, Democrats failed to challenge 55 of the 77 Republicans in the House, while Republicans are contesting about half of the 73 seats held by Democrats.

The State of the State Legislatures, Part One: Chambers Held by Democrats

With redistricting looming, one of the most important parts of the 2010 elections (at least for most states) is the race for the state legislatures. Democrats won big in 2006 and 2008, but with the national climate souring, local Democrats may find themselves dragged down by their Washington counterparts. So I thought I’d take a look at the state legislative elections going on this year; first, I’ll be looking at the chambers controlled by the Democrats, and second, I’ll take a look at Republican-held chambers. Some of this is still pretty tentative, as filing deadlines for most states have yet to pass, so candidate recruitment is still a question.

A few notes first: there are a few legislatures not up this year: Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia will have their elections in 2011, while the Kansas and New Mexico Senates are both elected in Presidential years. Finally, the Nebraska unicameral is, of course, nonpartisan.

Also, for the current composition, Democrats are listed first, Republicans second, and independents/others listed third. Vacancies are not noted, and the numbers were pulled from Wikipedia, so they’re not perfect. Also, I am using the generic term “House” for the lower house of each legislature. I know some are called Assembly, it’s just simpler to do it this way.

Finally, I obviously don’t have my ear to the ground in all 40-odd states that I’m covering, so a local perspective is always welcome.

Democrats are going to be mostly playing defense this year, defending legislatures they won in 2006 and 2008, states where their popularity is lagging, like North Carolina, and states where the Republicans at the top of the ticket are expected to have a good year, like Pennsylvania and Ohio. I’ve ranked them based on the likelihood of flipping, and comments follow all except the safe legislatures.

Lean Republican takeover

Indiana House (Currently 52/48) – Democrats were expected to lose this chamber in 2008, but thanks to the strong Obama campaign, they were able to actually increase their caucus by 1 seat. It seems much less likely that, in the negative national climate for the Democrats, they will manage to pull off that feat again. Compounding problems is the fact that Democrats are only contesting 18 Republican seats, while Republicans are running against 41 of the 52 House Democrats.

Pennsylvania House (Currently 104/99) – Democrats have managed to cling to a slim majority through the last two cycles, thanks to Democratic landslides at the top of the ticket. With Corbett on track to clean up in 2010, the trend will likely reverse itself.


Alabama Senate (Currently 21/14) and House (Currently 60/45) – One of the remnants of the Old South, the Alabama legislature has remained in the hands of the Democrats since the end of Reconstruction. The Republicans have had several special election victories lately, shaving away at the Democrats’ majorities in each chamber. The Democrats here have weathered plenty of bad election cycles, but it is unclear whether they will be able to do so again in 2010.

Iowa House (Currently 56/44) – Before 2006, the Iowa legislature remained split almost evenly, with voters selecting narrow Republican majorities. The Democrats, of course, had two great election cycles, winning a majority in 2006 and narrowly expanding the majority in 2008. Unfortunately for them, Terry Brandstad looks likely to decimate Chet Culver in the gubernatorial election, which may spell doom for the House majority.

Montana House (Currently 50/50) – The Montana House is split right down the middle, with only Brian Schweitzer giving the Dems control. The Republicans will only need to net one seat to win it back.

New York Senate (Currently 32/30) – Possibly the most dysfunctional state house in the country, the New York Senate’s pro-Republican gerrymander has almost entirely survived three successive Democratic landslides, with the Republicans needing only one seat to tie and two to take back control. Democrats will have to guard all their seats in order to prevent another decade in the weeds.

North Carolina Senate (Currently 30/20) and House (Currently 68/52) – North Carolina’s government is extremely unpopular, from Governor Bev Perdue down to the state legislature. The Republicans are hoping to finally take control of the legislature, which I believe they have failed to do since Reconstruction. They are contesting every Democratic seat in the Senate and nearly 60 of the 68 Democratic House seats, while the Democrats have left a majority of the Republican seats uncontested.

Ohio House (Currently 53/46) – Another Republican gerrymander which finally broke in 2008, Democrats are defending a narrow majority. Term limits will give Republicans a shot at ten open Democratic seats, and a number of freshmen are up also. Compounding matters for the Democrats is Gov. Ted Strickland’s fall in popularity; they don’t have a 60-38 margin to back them up this time.

Wisconsin Senate (Currently 18/15) and House (Currently 52/46/1) – The Wisconsin Assembly was another house where Democrats gained a narrow majority in 2008, while they picked up the Senate in 2006. In the Senate, they will be defending four freshman who scored narrow wins in 2006, while in the House the Republicans will need to pick up four seats to regain control (there is an independent who is retiring in 2010, but I’m not sure which party he caucuses with, if any).

Lean Democratic

Colorado Senate (Currently 21/14) and House (Currently 37/27/1) – Democrats were riding high in Colorado earlier this decade, winning two Senate seats, three House seats, the Governor’s mansion and the state legislature. Bill Ritter’s retirement is probably a blessing to them, as John Hickenlooper is looking to be a much better candidate under which the legislature can run. I won’t be surprised to see the margins narrow in the 2010 election, but Republicans still have an uphill climb to win back the legislature, especially since they have Dick Wadhams running the show.

Delaware House (Currently 24/17) – It took Democrats a long time to scrape together a majority here; the previous Speaker of the House, Republican Terry Spence, served in that capacity for over two decades, just to give you an idea of how solid the Republican majority had been. But, times change, and the Delaware Republican Party is on the ropes, given that Mike Castle is their only candidate able to win a major statewide election these days. Good news for Democrats is a couple of Republicans in vulnerable districts have opted to retire, giving them offensive opportunities as they defend their current 24 seats.

Maine Senate (Currently 20/15) – Although solidly Democratic on the Presidential level, Maine remains more competitive on the local level. Republicans controlled the House up to 2006, while the Senate has remained closely-divided in recent years, with the Democrats only hitting 20 seats in the 2008 elections. Democrats should be favored to hold the Senate, but with the race for Governor still nebulous, it’s hard to say what party will have coattails.

New Hampshire Senate (Currently 14/10) and House (Currently 223/176) – It was an historic win for New Hampshire Democrats in 2006; the state legislature hadn’t been controlled by the Democrats since the 19th century. Of course, a big swing one way can swing right back in a bad year. Luckily for Democrats, John Lynch will be leading the ticket again, likely winning an overwhelming majority of the vote.

Likely Democratic

Iowa Senate (Currently 32/18) – While Democrats have a large majority in the Senate, 19 of the 25 seats up this year were won by Democrats in 2006, giving the Republicans ample targets. Boosting the Republicans’ chances is Terry Branstad’s likely landslide in November. However, it still requires a 7-seat swing to tie, which is a tall order regardless of the number of potential targets.

Michigan House (Currently 66/43) – With John Cherry out of the picture, Michigan Democrats actually have a fighting chance at the governor’s mansion, which is good for Dems downticket; there will be no double-digit victory pulling them over the finish line this time, but neither will they be facing a tsunami in the other direction.

Nevada Senate (Currently 12/9) – With only 11 of the 21 seats up, and only five of the 11 held by Democrats, Republicans would need to pick up two of the five while not losing any of their own seats to take control of the Senate. Not an impossible task, but very difficult, given that the Democrats have at least one or two seats targeted as well. The unpopularity of the Reid boys would be the only thing that could drag the Senate’s Democrats down.

Oregon Senate (Currently 18/12) and House (Currently 36/24) – Democrats don’t hold an overwhelming majority in the Oregon legislature, but it looks like Democrats in Oregon have managed to escape the poor national climate. With John Kitzhaber and Ron Wyden leading the ticket, they shouldn’t have too much problem retaining their majorities.

Safe Democratic

Arkansas Senate (Currently 27/8) and House (Currently 72/28)

California Senate (Currently 25/14) and House (Currently 49/29/1)

Connecticut Senate (Currently 24/12) and House (Currently 114/37)

Delaware Senate (Currently 15/6)

Hawaii Senate (Currently 23/2) and House (Currently 45/6)

Illinois Senate (Currently 37/22) and House (Currently 70/48)

Kentucky House (Currently 65/35)

Maine House (Currently 95/55/1)

Maryland Senate (Currently 33/14) and House (Currently 104/36/1)

Massachusetts Senate (Currently 34/4) and House (Currently 144/16)

Minnesota Senate (Currently 46/21) and House (Currently 87/47)

Nevada House (Currently 28/14)

New Mexico House (Currently 45/25)

New York House (Currently 106/42/2)

Rhode Island Senate (Currently 33/4/1) and House (Currently 69/6)

Vermont Senate (Currently 22/7/1) and House (Currently 94/48/8)

Washington Senate (Currently 31/18) and House (Currently 61/37)

West Virginia Senate (Currently 26/8) and House (Currently 69/31)

Democrats hold significant majorities in all of these legislatures, and even in states where Republicans are experiencing unprecedented chances at Congressional seats, they are hampered by poor candidate recruitment downticket.