Palin’s Iowa endorsement could hurt her in 2012

If Sarah Palin runs for president in 2012, she will regret endorsing Terry Branstad Thursday in the Republican primary for governor.

First thoughts on how this will play out are after the jump.

Before the scenario-spinning begins, here’s a question for SSPers: could an endorsement be any less substantial than what Palin wrote on her Facebook page?

   Iowa, your great state’s motto is “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.” That motto will be well served by voting for Terry Branstad for governor next Tuesday!

   Please join me in supporting Governor Branstad’s campaign. Visit his website here, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

That’s not an excerpt, that’s the entire Facebook post. I doubt Palin is prepared to answer specific questions about why Republicans wanting to safeguard their liberties and rights should vote for Branstad instead of Bob Vander Plaats or Rod Roberts. Does she even know the policy differences between the candidates, or the reasons many Iowa conservatives are uncomfortable with Branstad?

Endorsements are rarely “game-changers” under any circumstances, but at least James Dobson explained why he’s backing Vander Plaats, and his reasons reinforce the Vander Plaats campaign narrative. Chuck Norris will draw crowds and free media coverage for Vander Plaats this weekend in Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Council Bluffs, northwest Iowa and West Des Moines. If Palin had planned ahead, she could have done something similar for Branstad, but instead she threw up an empty Facebook post.

It seems likely that Palin expects Branstad to be the next governor and wants to be on his good side when she campaigns here in 2011 and 2012. At least, that’s how many politically engaged Iowans interpreted the move.

Vander Plaats campaign manager Eric Woolson told the Des Moines Register,

“I think that she’s seriously damaged her 2012 presidential prospects,” […] “This says to me she’s either not running for president or she doesn’t understand Iowa very well because she has just alienated herself from her natural base. If you look at her Facebook page, all of the comments are saying ‘Terry Branstad? Really?'”

Woolson has an interest in downplaying the endorsement, of course, but in this case I agree with him. Palin has discredited herself with her natural allies in Iowa. Conservative Shane Vander Hart, whose site Caffeinated Thoughts is part of the “Blogs 4 Palin” network, had this to say last night:

I get the emails from SarahPAC so I usually hear about this in a rather timely fashion. I was traveling today and just read the endorsement in my inbox.

I emailed SarahPAC for an explanation since the endorsement announcement was rather thin. I have to admit I’m surprised and rather disappointed since Branstad doesn’t meet up with her standards of being a “commonsense conservative.” I can understand a general election endorsement, but didn’t think she’d endorse during the primary since she hadn’t yet.

I’m thinking this isn’t an enthusiastic endorsement since it was brief, doesn’t give any explanation, and is rather last minute.

Vander Hart is backing Rod Roberts for governor, by the way.

Let’s look at how various outcomes in the governor’s race would affect Palin.

If Branstad wins the primary easily, Palin will not get credit, because she didn’t do much for him.

If Branstad wins the primary narrowly, many social conservatives will be angry that she helped him even in a small way.

If Vander Plaats surprises us all and wins the primary, everyone will know that Palin’s endorsement carries no weight with social conservatives. Even Branstad supporter Craig Robinson admits, “if Vander Plaats pulls off an upset next Tuesday, a potential caucus campaign would become exponentially more difficult [for Palin].”

No matter what happens in the primary, Republicans who voted for Vander Plaats or Roberts will remember that Palin did the politically expedient thing instead of standing up for the principles she outlined in her own book.

If Branstad wins the primary and loses to Governor Chet Culver, GOP activists will see the outcome as proof that Republicans should have nominated a “real conservative.”

If Branstad defeats Culver, I don’t see Palin getting a lot of credit from Branstad’s inner circle or the business wing of the Iowa GOP. Most of those people supported Mitt Romney in 2008 and would lean toward him again if he makes a play for Iowa in 2012. Romney endorsed Branstad weeks ago and kicked in $10,000 from his PAC.

More important, if Branstad is elected in November he will probably govern with a Democratic-controlled legislature. He is unlikely to deliver on many of his campaign promises and he probably won’t strike as confrontational a tone with Democrats as the GOP base would like. By late 2011 and early 2012, when Republican activists are deciding whom to caucus for, I doubt they will view Branstad as a conservative hero.

Remember also that caucus turnout in 2012 will almost certainly be lower than the turnout for next Tuesday’s primary. In 2002, about 199,000 Iowans voted in the three-way GOP primary for governor. Only about 116,000 Iowans took part in the 2008 Republican caucuses.

It’s possible that even if Branstad wins the gubernatorial primary with 50 to 60 percent of the vote, supporters of Vander Plaats or Roberts could comprise a majority in the universe of 2012 Republican caucus-goers. Vander Plaats has been winning straw polls across Iowa this spring, which reflects his strong support among dedicated party activists. Palin would have been in a better position to appeal to them if she had stayed out of our governor’s race.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette’s Todd Dorman read the Bleeding Heartland version of this post and responded:

I get all the arguments, that Palin’s pick looks bad if Vander Plaats wins and that Branstad’s camp, which is full of Romneyites, won’t give her much credit if TB wins etc. Seems logical.

But I don’t think picking a winner can be bad, especially when her candidate-picking track record lately has been spotty. And even if Vander Plaats wins, I don’t buy the notion that it will hurt her all that much if she runs for prez.

I’ve talked to people who love Palin and want her to run in 2012. They don’t care that she resigned halfway through her term, or that she doesn’t appear to grasp important issues or that her life is a soap opera filmed on a crazy train.

So I don’t think they’ll care if she picked the wrong horse in the primary.

If Palin had crafted an image as someone who picks winners, I would agree with Dorman. But she has spent the last year crafting an image as someone who stands on principle and is not afraid to go “rogue” against the power-brokers and conventional wisdom. She just undermined her own brand.

Maybe Palin isn’t planning to run for president and merely wanted to pick the likely winner in Iowa’s primary. Rand Paul, whom she endorsed, won the Kentucky U.S. Senate primary last month, but Palin’s preferred candidate just lost the primary in Idaho’s first Congressional district, and her pick in the Washington U.S. Senate race is probably going to lose too. Palin’s choice in the South Carolina governor’s race, Nikki Haley, is in a tough fight. If she loses next Tuesday but Branstad prevails here, Palin will at least be associated with one winner.

Speculate away in the comments.

Redistricting 2011: Oklahoma & Wisconsin

This is now Episode 12 of my seemingly never-ending redistricting series. (In reality, it has a definite end — after this diary, there are only 9 states I’m planning to address: California, Washington, New Mexico, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Kansas, and Tennessee. The other 15 states are either at-large states, or are unlikely to see substantive boundary changes.)

Today comes Oklahoma and Wisconsin. I struggled with whether to include Oklahoma at all, since my Oklahoma effort is barely different from the current map. But given the fluid partisan dynamics in Sooner State politics, and the potential issue over how to handle the “conservative Democratic” 2nd District, I thought it might be worth a look. On the other hand, I drew two maps for Wisconsin based on the highly changeable atmosphere in that state’s 2010 elections.

Previous efforts:

Diary 1: Massachusetts and Texas

Diary 2: Michigan and Nevada

Diary 3: Iowa and Ohio

Diary 4: Georgia and New Jersey

Diary 5: Florida and Louisiana

Diary 6: Pennsylvania and Utah

Diary 7: Illinois and South Carolina

Diary 8: Indiana, Missouri, and Oregon

Diary 9: Alabama, Arizona, and Kentucky

Diary 10: Colorado and Minnesota

Diary 11: Mississippi and New York

Hark, to the extended text!


In a few short years, the legislature has gone from an eye-poppingly enduring history of Democratic reign as of 2004 to full GOP takeover by 2008. The governor’s mansion will be open in 2010 as popular Democratic Gov. Brad Henry is term-limited. Fortunately, the Democrats have two strong candidates to retain that office, but Republicans are still even odds at worst for a pickup. So what would GOP control of redistricting mean in 2011? There is only one Democrat in the delegation, the rebellious Dan Boren of the rural (and Native American-heavy) 2nd District. But my gamble is that, even with Republican control, district lines will only be adjusted, and no real effort will be made to dismantle Boren’s territory.

I can’t say my confidence in this prediction is exceedingly high, but look at the signs: even though Tom Coburn won this heavily evangelical, highly socially conservative district for the Republicans as recently as the late 1990s, the GOP has made no effort to target the seat, even when it was open in 2004 (their sacrificial lamb back then lost to Boren 66-34%, and Boren’s two reelections have both topped 70%). Considering Boren racks up urban New England-like Democratic margins in a district that broke 2-to-1 for McCain, and that Oklahoma redistricting has historically revolved around the preservation of culturally cohesive regions, it would seem a dangerous overreach for the GOP to aim its fire at Boren at the risk of softening up less conservative turf around Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Other than completely breaking the traditional boundaries around Eastern Oklahoma, how would they crack his constituency, anyway? And how much worse would it be for Boren to compete for votes in Tulsa than to compete for them in Little Dixie?

So that’s my gamble. And as a result, the differences between this map and the current one are scarcely visible:


There’s not much to even describe here, except that the Oklahoma City-based 5th is contracting in area as the two most rural districts (especially the 3rd) expand.


As in neighboring Minnesota, circumstances of state politics pushed me to draw two possible maps for America’s Dairyland. The Democrats currently enjoy a redistricting monopoly here, but a tenuous one, with a narrow 52-47 edge in the Assembly, 18-15 in the Senate, and a controversial governor in Jim Doyle. Given the high possibility/probability that any one of these pillars of state power could flip to the Republicans in 2010 (the most likely loss being the governor’s mansion, Doyle’s approval rating hovering in the 30s), it seemed logical to draw a bipartisan compromise map to accompany a hypothetical Democratic gerrymander. Since it would be an incredible feat for the GOP to pick up all three levers in one election cycle, I thought it unnecessary to draw a Republican gerrymander map.

Democratic gerrymander first: this map creates two or three solid Democratic seats, just one solid Republican seat, and as many as five swing seats, all of which would have voted for Obama. Most importantly, it concentrates GOP areas in the 5th and pits two veteran Republican incumbents, Tom Petri of Fond du Lac and Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls, against each other. Petri’s 6th is then opened up for Democratic poaching, as is Paul Ryan’s 1st south of Milwaukee. It’s possible Petri could move north and run for the 6th, but when he retired, this iteration would be a prime pickup opportunity. Meanwhile, all five Democratic incumbents are kept about as solid as they were (Kagen gets a very slight boost, though none are pointedly shored up). In toto, a good year under this map might produce a 7-1 Democratic majority; an average year would result in 6-2, and a bad year might retain the standing 5-3 edge, either with the status quo remaining, or with Kagen’s seat traded for Ryan’s.


District 1 – Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) — with all of Kenosha and Racine Counties along with 36% of Milwaukee County, Ryan would face his first truly difficult race in 2012 under these lines (though many think he’ll bail for a gubernatorial try in 2010), and as an open seat this district would be likely to elect a moderate suburban Democrat.

District 2 – Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) — made only slightly less Democratic to help Dems in the 1st and 3rd.

District 3 – Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) — still somewhat Dem-leaning, as before. The three Dem seats in small town Wisconsin (Kind, Kagen, and Obey) are all only modest Obama districts, but seem to be a bit stronger for their incumbents.

District 4 – Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) — the other 64% of Milwaukee, plus 24% of GOP-friendly Waukesha County; a strong urban Rust Belt Democratic seat.

District 5 – Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls) vs. Tom Petri (R-Fond du Lac) — geography would seem to favor former Judiciary Chairman Sensenbrenner, and Petri might choose to move north in this scenario, but muddying the waters was clearly my goal. This packs Republican votes as well as can be expected anywhere in Wisconsin.

District 6 (open) — without Petri, this would be a fairly good shot to elect a Democrat, with Obama having performed somewhere in the neighborhood of 51-53%. But much like the current 6th, if Petri ran, it would be on loan to the GOP until his retirement.

District 7 – Dave Obey (D-Wausau) — as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Obey obviously has nothing to worry about, though Democrats have long noted the fairly marginal nature of the 7th. When he does retire, this will still probably be a somewhat Dem-leaning/Obama-friendly rural seat, but a slam dunk? No.

District 8 – Steve Kagen (D-Appleton) — I only had minimal room to strengthen his district, since most rural Wisconsin counties are competitively balanced, but made the necessary trades to up his chances a bit.

Now the bipartisan compromise map: this adhered to clean, simple, aesthetic district lines and made superficial efforts to help incumbents without going out of its way to do so. The reason I didn’t make an aggressive “incumbent protection” map is that the current lines are fairly incumbent-friendly, especially as Democratic strength has increased in the once-Republican 8th. So my primary goal for this scenario was pretty boundaries, with a dash of Petri, Ryan, and Kagen protection thrown in (for Petri, I had no concerns about his ability to be reelected, but rather about the GOP’s chances of holding the open seat). Needless to say, I’d rather see the Democrats retain control, but at least this map appeases my “good government” instincts.


Redistricting 2011: Mississippi & N.Y.

After a couple-week hiatus, I’m back to Episode 11 of my redistricting series! On tap for tonight’s episode: a magnolia founds the next world empire! Or, rather, I’ve paired two unlikely diary neighbors, New York and Mississippi.

There were a number of people who earlier asked me why I hadn’t yet covered New York, one of the obvious choices for an early redistricting diary. The reason is that back in March I drew a map for NY that assumed Jim Tedisco would win NY-20 and be primed for elimination in 2012. Just tonight I redrew New York to, on the contrary, make the 20th more Democratic to help Murphy (though the news wasn’t all good, and I’ll get to that momentarily).

Previous efforts:

Diary 1: Massachusetts and Texas

Diary 2: Michigan and Nevada

Diary 3: Iowa and Ohio

Diary 4: Georgia and New Jersey

Diary 5: Florida and Louisiana

Diary 6: Pennsylvania and Utah

Diary 7: Illinois and South Carolina

Diary 8: Indiana, Missouri, and Oregon

Diary 9: Alabama, Arizona, and Kentucky

Diary 10: Colorado and Minnesota

The chasm lies below…


With only four districts and a Democratic legislature offset by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, the goal here was simple: help Travis Childers and make his 1st District considerably more Democratic without noticeably diluting the 2nd (a VRA-protected black-majority district). Much like ArkDem’s Mississippi map from some time ago, mine keeps the 2nd solidly black-majority while moving the needle in the 1st several points in the Democrats’ favor. Unfortunately, there seems to be literally no way to prevent Gene Taylor’s 4th, in 2008 McCain’s strongest district in the state, from eventually flipping to the GOP. The Gulf Coast counties are just too absurdly Republican (little-known fact: Trent Lott represented the 4th not long before Taylor, who won a 1989 special election when Lott’s GOP successor died).


District 1 – Travis Childers (D-Booneville) — the overwhelming Republican nature of Mississippi’s northernmost counties prompted me to make a truly audacious move (hat tip to ArkDem on this) in removing DeSoto County, a major source of GOP votes, from this district and putting it instead with the mostly black, Delta-based 2nd. This district carefully grabs more marginally Republican counties that were previously with the 3rd and some black counties that were in the 2nd without, I think, overreaching. McCain would likely have still won here, but not with 62% as before (since my methods are so low-tech, I can only guesstimate, and I’ll say with only minimal knowledge that this variation of the 1st is probably about 55-57% McCain, enough to keep Childers solid and keep the district well in play for a future Democrat).

District 2 – Bennie Thompson (D-Bolton) — other than its two-county northern reach, this district is heavily Democratic and hopefully at least 60% black, with an Obama percentage somewhere around 63-65%.

District 3 – Gregg Harper (R-Pearl) — once I had set aside most available Democratic turf for Thompson or Childers, and drawn a logical Southern Mississippi seat for Taylor, this constitutes what was left over (hint: a lot of white Republicans, who easily overwhelm the significant minority of black Democrats).

District 4 – Gene Taylor (D-Bay St. Louis) — I hoped against hope that there was a way to bring the McCain share under 60%, even under 65%, but that’s impossible as far as I can tell. Consider this district a loan that can be deferred only as long as Taylor chooses to stay.

New York

Well, then…I had to eliminate one seat (it’s possible the Empire State will lose two, as in the last reapportionment, but all models currently project that its 28th slot will barely be saved). Murphy winning NY-20, much as it thrilled me, put a real monkey wrench in my plans and forced me to start over with the upstate districts, especially since there are a handful of upstate Democrats with marginal districts needing protection (damn all those votes being wasted in the city!). I started my do-over looking for a way to eliminate Pete King without jeopardizing shaky Democratic strength on Long Island…turns out, not a good idea. Population loss is mostly confined to upstate, so any NYC or Long Island seat elimination will cause havoc with the necessarily illogical lines. Simply put, the dropped seat will have to be upstate. If New York ends up dropping two, maybe King can be drawn out.

I tried drawing upstate a few different ways, each messier and more gerrymandered than the last, until deciding to try something a little controversial: put Mike Arcuri at risk. Of course, I started this process wanting to shore up Arcuri, just like Massa, Murphy, Maffei, and Hall, but eventually discovered that his district would be the most difficult to shore up based on pure geography. It’s not hard to move the 20th north, or put a little Rochester into Massa’s district, but with so many narrowly GOP-leaning and swing counties in the middle of the state, helping Arcuri would have been a lot tougher.

So I paired Arcuri with veteran Republican John McHugh in a relatively even-handed district. That may bode ill for Arcuri (whose first reelection in 2008 was shockingly close) against the longtime incumbent from up north, but with Obama likely to again command some coattails in 2012 New York, maybe he has a good shot. On the flip side, McHugh hasn’t faced a tough race in forever and may bow out rather than test his probably rusty survival skills. So my proposed 23rd is a tough call, and Democrats in the legislature might prefer to seek a certain GOP loss, but they’ll be forced to resort to some mighty contortions of mapmaking to derive that result.

Other than that risky move, my other choices were, I think, logically conceived and beneficial to the Democrats. Murphy and Massa are the big winners in this map, as are Hall and Maffei to a lesser degree. It was hard not to spread upstate Dem votes too thin, especially since upstate counties tend to be within 55% one way or the other (unlike the overwhelming Democratic margins in the city), but I think I may have pulled it off, at least as well as I could while equipped with such minimal redistricting tools.


You can’t easily see the urban districts, which is good because I wasn’t able to be very precise with them (what with only a calculator, Excel, and Paint to guide me). In fact, my changes to the NYC and Long Island districts were so minimal that there’s little point to addressing each district individually. Suffice to say that, other than maintaining VRA racial protections, the only “downstate” district I thought carefully about was the 13th, which in my map comprises all of Staten Island plus a small portion of Brooklyn. Beginning at the bottom of the Hudson Valley, then:

District 17 – Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) — stretches from the Bronx to Orange County. I diluted Democratic strength a little bit to help John Hall, but the 17th stays a safe seat.

District 18 – Nita Lowey (D-Harrison) — entirely within Westchester County, safely Democratic.

District 19 – John Hall (D-Dover Plains) — 91% of Dutchess, 28% of Orange, all of Putnam, and 23% of Westchester = Dem-leaning and more clearly Dem-trending suburban/exurban district.

District 20 – Scott Murphy (D-Glens Falls) — altered not just to become more Democratic (and it obviously is, in this iteration) but specifically to strengthen Murphy, by grabbing more of the rural north and dropping most of Saratoga. Perhaps Murphy will do well in Saratoga in 2010, without a regional pol as his opponent, but since Obama’s numbers were stronger up north than in Saratoga anyway, this seemed like a sensible choice.

District 21 – Paul Tonko (D-Albany) — a bit less Democratic, this district still includes all of Albany County but also all of Schenectady and 79% of Saratoga. Tonko would represent three major upstate towns under my map, which may present occasional conflicts of interest, but certainly appeases the “geographical compactness” fetishists.

District 22 – Maurice Hinchey (D-Hurley) — sheds a few Democrats to help Arcuri and Massa, but stays Dem-leaning and reasonably compact. The toughest pill to swallow for Hinchey would be ceding liberal Tompkins County (Ithaca) to Arcuri/McHugh while picking up some moderate Republican turf in the Hudson Valley. This is what I mean about having to balance the interests of different Democrats upstate. Hinchey, and a future Democrat, should still be just fine here.

District 23 – John McHugh (R-Pierrepont Manor) vs. Mike Arcuri (D-Utica) — combines some of McHugh’s rural northern counties (the more Democratic of which were given to Murphy) with Arcuri’s Oneida County base and some overwhelmingly Arcuri-friendly territory down in Ithaca. Knowing McHugh’s moderate reputation, popularity with military interests, and seniority advantage, I went out of my way to give Arcuri a fighting chance. For whatever it’s worth, this district would have voted for Obama, as did both of the current districts — Arcuri’s 24th and McHugh’s 23rd.

District 24 – Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse) — what was involved with this district was more tinkering than careful strategy, as any reasonable take on Maffei’s district will result in something Onondaga County-heavy and Dem-leaning.

District 25 – Chris Lee (R-Clarence) — a true “leftovers” district after I had done everything within reason to put Massa’s 28th in the Obama column while keeping Slaughter and Higgins rock-solid. Other than Chautauqua County and some Buffalo-area neighborhoods, this district should be plenty Republican. And yes, I know some of you would have liked me to eliminate Lee, but there are enough GOP votes in this part of New York that Massa (or Higgins) would have been doomed for defeat under that plan.

District 26 – Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) — literally stretches from Buffalo to Niagara Falls, for a Rust Belt-ish industrial and Democratic-leaning district.

District 27 – Louise Slaughter (D-Fairport) — much like its current form, this covers most of the “lakeshore curve” in Western New York, stretching east from Niagara Falls to Rochester (about 2/3 of Monroe County is here, with the other third given to Massa, who definitely could use the electoral aid, while Rules Committee Chairwoman Slaughter is safe as can be).

District 28 – Eric Massa (D-Corning) — if this district were a tourism ad, its slogan would be “where West and Central meet”. The Rochester portion of the district likely puts Massa in a much more advantageous position and results in a slightly Obama-supporting district (the current 29th voted for McCain). Monroe County is easily the largest population source, with Ontario, Steuben, Chemung, and Cayuga (88% of which is here) rounding out the top five. Though it’s far from a Democratic stronghold, this district may be my most effective upstate seat in terms of the overall change in its partisan composition.

Overall, this map does what we’d all like in somewhat solidifying a three-seat ceiling for the Republicans (a very bad year might result in defeats for Massa and either Hall or Murphy, but the average year would preserve at least 25 Democratic seats out of 28), one of which is quite vulnerable. More sophisticated technology would doubtlessly allow me to create more precise boundaries and more accurately estimate the partisan dynamics of each district, but given the limited resources I have, I think I did pretty okay.

Thoughts on either state? What else do you want to see from this redistricting series?

Redistricting 2011: Colo. & Minnesota

I am now on Episode 10 of my redistricting series, if you can believe it! Tonight we cover Colorado and Minnesota. I drew two maps for Minnesota — one if the Republicans hold Tim Pawlenty’s governorship in 2010, and the other if Democrats manage a gerrymandering monopoly. (The Dems have solid state legislative majorities, so that element seems set in stone.)

Previous efforts:

Diary 1: Massachusetts and Texas

Diary 2: Michigan and Nevada

Diary 3: Iowa and Ohio

Diary 4: Georgia and New Jersey

Diary 5: Florida and Louisiana

Diary 6: Pennsylvania and Utah

Diary 7: Illinois and South Carolina

Diary 8: Indiana, Missouri, and Oregon

Diary 9: Alabama, Arizona, and Kentucky

Jump below, if and only if you dare!


The process here is fairly straightforward. Whether Democrats hold their current monopoly in 2010 or lose the governor’s mansion (the state legislature seems locked-in), incumbent protection will be the name of the game, aimed especially at solidifying Democratic Reps. Betsy Markey and John Salazar (most pointedly the former). Democrats would be foolish to try for a 6-1 majority and no one seems to think they’ll try it.

My map definitely solidified Markey without hurting DeGette, Polis, or Perlmutter, but it didn’t go as far as I hoped in protecting Salazar (my 3rd remains quite rural and is more of a swing district, but far from strongly Dem-leaning). Given the need to dole out favorable Denver suburbs to Polis, Perlmutter, and Markey, there’s little Denver-area turf left to give Salazar. What to do?


District 1 – Diana DeGette (D-Denver) — all of Denver and 19% of Arapahoe preserves a solidly liberal district.

District 2 – Jared Polis (D-Boulder) — it may look rural and Rocky-heavy on the map, but the population anchors are Boulder County, which is kept whole, and Adams County, of which 35% is included. Less strongly Dem than before, but still plenty safe, with a moderate-liberal bent.

District 3 – John Salazar (D-Manassa) — my disappointment is that I only moved the needle a couple points in Obama’s direction here. It’s still very rural, and competitive in an open seat situation. There are big pockets of population in Grand Junction, Pueblo, and Jefferson County.

District 4 – Betsy Markey (D-Fort Collins) — New and improved for enhanced Democratic performance! 100% of Larimer, 65% of Adams, and 53% of Weld make for a safe district.

District 5 – Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) — meant to pack Republicans tightly.

District 6 – Mike Coffman (R-Littleton) — ditto in that this low-elevation “Colokansas” district packs GOP votes efficiently. I did cause some mischief by putting Coffman’s home in the 7th.

District 7 – Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) — decidedly Democratic suburban Denver seat comprising half of Arapahoe and 80% of Jefferson.


This is the first state for which I drew two maps, one a Dem gerrymander and the other a bipartisan compromise map. Since Minnesota is expected to lose a seat for a new total of seven, there were some key differences in how I handled the dropped district (as well as how I drew the urban/suburban Twin Cities seats). Collin Peterson’s new 6th and Jim Oberstar’s new 7th are configured similarly in both maps, with Oberstar’s diluted a bit and Peterson’s shored up a tad to create two mildly Dem-friendly rural districts (though Peterson’s is still tough, especially with its geographical identity changing as population loss forces it to leech toward the Iowa border!).

I will run through the bipartisan map first since Republicans currently hold the gov’s mansion:

Minnesota Split

District 1 – Tim Walz (D-Mankato) vs. John Kline (R-Lakeville) — honestly, Walz vs. Kline was the only logical, not-too-awkward bipartisan incumbent showdown I could seem to configure. This district would be more or less evenly divided in partisan performance and evenly weighted in population between Walz’s southern base and Kline’s exurban territory.

District 2 – Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) — this map being the bipartisan variation, Paulsen gets a clearly more Republican district comprising Anoka County, 35% of Hennepin, and 26% of Carver.

District 3 – Betty McCollum (D-St. Paul) — anchored in Ramsey County, safely Democratic.

District 4 – Keith Ellison (D-Minneapolis) — 65% of Hennepin County, and that’s it, for a mostly urban Minneapolis district.

District 5 – Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater) — I wanted to soak up all the Republicans I could find (and Bachmann will need them if she keeps up this way).

District 6 – Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) — how to protect Peterson without giving Oberstar an untenable district? Knowing the district would have to extend south, I tried to improve the PVI a bit by taking some rural Dem counties from his neighbor, but not move the needle too dramatically as that would jeopardize the esteemed Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman.

District 7 – Jim Oberstar (D-Chisholm) — more of a swing district than before; Oberstar would be safe but Dems would have to fight for this as an open seat. Is it worth shoring up Peterson’s seat at the cost of making this one equally swingy? I’m no longer convinced.

Overall summary: two safe Dem seats (McCollum and Ellison), two relatively safe GOP seats (Paulsen and Bachmann), two swing seats that would remain safe for their current Dem incumbents (Peterson and Oberstar), one battleground (Walz v. Kline in the 1st).

And now, the hypothetical Democratic gerrymander should luck break our way in the governor’s race (and that certainly didn’t happen in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, or 2006, but I suppose the DFL is overdue for some good fortune in this given area):

Minnesota Dem

The two North Country districts certainly don’t look much different, but the other five, I think, would be quite altered under a Democratic plan.

District 1 – Tim Walz (D-Mankato) — this version mostly steers clear of the Twin Cities area and is heavier in small towns and southern counties that know and like Walz. I can’t knowledgeably estimate the presidential numbers here, but assume Obama would have still won, as I pointedly tried to avoid weakening Walz for other Democrats’ benefit.

District 2 – John Kline (R-Lakeville) vs. Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater) — yay, a chance to eliminate Bachmann! Except that, based purely on factors of geography, media coverage, and name recognition, Bachmann would have a good fighting chance in a Republican primary here. Oh well, at least it’s an eliminated GOP seat.

District 3 – Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) — given how hard it will be to shore up Collin Peterson land without undermining Oberstar’s Iron Range seat, you can bet the Democrats would milk the Twin Cities for every vote they’re worth, and that means messing with Paulsen. Here his district comprises 58% of Anoka, 20% of Dakota, and 42% of Hennepin, for a moderately Dem-leaning/Obama-friendly suburban seat.

District 4 – Betty McCollum (D-St. Paul) — Give and take, give and take. So the 4th gets diluted a bit as it suburbanizes; it’s still plenty solid, but doesn’t waste votes as before.

District 5 – Keith Ellison (D-Minneapolis) — extends into Anoka County to hurt Paulsen but remains liberal and overwhelmingly Democratic.

District 6 – Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) — not a heck of a lot different than in the bipartisan map.

District 7 – Jim Oberstar (D-Chisholm) — ditto.

This map only includes one super-safe GOP seat, two very safe Dem seats, three swing seats that would be strong for their Dem incumbents (Walz, Peterson, Oberstar), and one swing seat that would be vulnerable to ousting its GOP incumbent (Paulsen).

Thoughts on either state are much appreciated!

Redistricting 2011: Ala., Ariz., & Ky.

Here is Episode 9 of my never-ending redistricting series, in which I cover three states (Alabama, Arizona, and Kentucky) with little in common demographically other than all voting for John McCain.

Previous efforts:

Diary 1: Massachusetts and Texas

Diary 2: Michigan and Nevada

Diary 3: Iowa and Ohio

Diary 4: Georgia and New Jersey

Diary 5: Florida and Louisiana

Diary 6: Pennsylvania and Utah

Diary 7: Illinois and South Carolina

Diary 8: Indiana, Missouri, and Oregon

Jump below!

Note that Arizona was originally intended to share a diary with New York, but the delay in the NY-20 election has forced me to put off a final New York plan (if Tedisco wins, my NY map applies, but if Murphy pulls it out in the final count, I need a do-over).


The overriding goals here were clear, and are regardless of which party wins the governor’s mansion in 2010. Either a Republican or Democratic Governor will contend with a legislature controlled by conservative Democrats, and so protecting Rep. Bobby Bright of Montgomery will be Priority #1 (a major flaw in my reasoning here: if Bright loses to a Republican in 2010, a very real possibility, the 2nd will be preserved more or less as-is or made more Republican to accommodate the hypothetical freshman GOPer). Anyway, I assumed Bright survives 2010 and is the big winner from redistricting. As a direct result of protecting Bright, another winner is made clear, Republican Mike Rogers of Anniston (his district was carved to elect a Democrat in 2002 and, well, that didn’t work out, so for the sake of helping Bright, Rogers will get more favorable turf).

The other districts weren’t altered much; Artur Davis’ VRA-protected 7th was made a tad less heavily African-American but should still be about 60% so, keeping it clear from controversy, and the other four seats barely change at all in partisan or racial composition.

Alabama (split) width=500

District 1 – Jo Bonner (R-Mobile) — heavily Republican Gulf Coast districts stays mostly unchanged.

District 2 – Bobby Bright (D-Montgomery) — again, this map assumes he survives in 2010. Race tracking closely with partisan behavior in this state, the obvious tack was to boost the 2nd’s black population, so I dumped the district’s southernmost counties and anchored it in the eastern half of Alabama’s Black Belt, with the main population band stretching from Selma almost to the Georgia border, adding an arm up in Talladega.

District 3 – Mike Rogers (R-Anniston) — Rogers would now represent the only clear gerrymander in the state, and its lines are, I assure you, only as ugly as they are for a good purpose: I had to connect the heavily Republican counties northeast of Talladega with the heavily Republican counties bordering Florida’s Panhandle, so that meant creating a skinny north-south band along the Georgia line, in counties that were otherwise reserved for Bright. It’s unaesthetic, yes, but it gets the job done, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see legislative Democrats and Republicans agree on a plan like this for the mutual benefit of helping both Bright and Rogers.

District 4 – Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) — heavily Republican Appalachia-Tuscaloosa-exurban Birmingham mix.

District 5 – Parker Griffith (D-Huntsville) — as before, it’s socially conservative and mostly white, but with a good bench of local Democrats. Unlike Bright’s district, the 5th couldn’t be shored up much since there are no African-American areas nearby that aren’t necessary to keep the 7th VRA-protected.

District 6 – Spencer Bachus (R-Vestavia Hills) — meant to soak up every possible Republican between Birmingham and Montgomery.

District 7 – Artur Davis’ (D-Birmingham) replacement — Davis is running for Governor in 2010, but whichever Democrat succeeds him will retain a black-majority district anchored in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and the heavily black counties of western Alabama.


The nonpartisan redistricting commission typically seeks to draw districts with geographical communities of interest in mind, and does little or nothing to protect incumbents. This means we shouldn’t expect a plan that explicitly shores up any of the three marginal Democratic districts (the rural 1st, suburban 5th, or mixed urban-rural 8th). While the 2001 plan created a new Hispanic-majority district for the Democrats and a competitive new rural seat (dubbed the 1st), I found that 2011’s map is due for a GOP seat in the suburban/exurban Phoenix area, based in fast-growing Pinal County. Since Arizona will be gaining two seats, the other may be of a less predictable nature, though everyone expects that it, too, will be based in metro Phoenix. My proposed 10th is a mixed Phoenix district with a considerable Hispanic population (one problem: said Hispanic pop. under my plan may be big enough to move the VRA-protected 7th out of majority-Hispanic status, which would be a non-starter).

One thing that made my numbers less-than-perfect was the lack of reliable data on Hopi Reservation population in northern Arizona (Hopi and Navajo areas are kept in separate districts due to traditional tensions between the two tribes). I used rough statistical guesstimates to separate the reservations into the 2nd and 1st, respectively. This, and my lack of certainty regarding the Hispanic percentage in Grijalva’s 7th District in this map, are the two potential demographic issues present here (and note that I used 2007 Census estimates, before 2008 numbers were available, making the data already obsolete).

All those caveats aside, I think the general spirit of Arizona’s next district map is present here:

Arizona (I) width=500

District 1 – Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) — still rural with the highest Native American population in the state. Personally, as someone who is admittedly ignorant about Hopi/Navajo history, I think it unfortunate that the tribes insist on being separated, since moving the Hopi reservation into this district would put its Native population over 25% and possibly close to 30%, a clear VRA opportunity when coupled with the district’s Hispanic and other minority populations.

District 2 – Trent Franks (R-Glendale) — though it appears rural, this district is a lot more Maricopa County-heavy than one might assume.

District 3 – John Shadegg (R-Phoenix) — Republican neighborhoods of Phoenix and suburban Maricopa County keep Shadegg in the clear, for the near future at least.

District 4 – Ed Pastor (D-Phoenix) — combines the Latino neighborhoods of Phoenix to remain a strong VRA seat.

District 5 – Harry Mitchell (D-Tempe) — as before, this comprises traditionally Republican Phoenix suburbs that are trending the other way with time. In Mitchell’s current 5th, Obama garnered a respectable 47%, though I haven’t a clue how he would have fared in my 5th since my method is so low-tech and crude.

District 6 – Jeff Flake (R-Mesa) — weary though I am of this guy and his precious privileged resolutions, this 6th would stay safe for him.

District 7 – Raúl Grijalva (D-Tucson) — if the Hispanic pop. is under 50-55% in this proposed Maricopa-free iteration (and it may indeed be), then it is worth a reconfiguration, this time using 2008 stats. Regardless how accurate my map may or may not be, the commission will ensure a VRA majority-Hispanic seat for Grijalva.

District 8 – Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson) — now very Tucson-dominated and free of Hispanic-majority Santa Cruz County.

The new District 9 – anchored in Pinal County with significant chunks of Maricopa and Pima for a Republican-leaning suburban/exurban seat between Phoenix and Tucson.

The new District 10 – entirely within southwest Maricopa County, possibly Hispanic opportunity (but cannot dilute the Hispanic pop. in District 7, so I question whether the commission would draw something quite like this…I’m a bit more certain of the rough boundaries for a new GOP seat in District 9).

This being a commission-run redistricting process, no incumbents are deliberately protected, and only logic, geography, and racial consideration go into the process. It’s a double-edged sword, really, but makes a private citizen’s map-making simulation much simpler (no gerrymandering to help Congressman X, that is). Other than my possible trespass in District 7, I’m not aware of any probable controversy with boundaries roughly akin to these.


Like Alabama, the process here is likely to be split between the parties, and Democrats are assured a strong hand by holding both the governor’s mansion and the House. Even if redistricting is delayed after the 2011 elections and a Republican is elected Governor, the Democratic House majority seems too large to overcome in a couple cycles, making it likely that Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Versailles) will be protected (and that, of course, assumes he doesn’t run for another office in 2010 or 2011). Making Chandler’s 6th a tad more Democratic for future insurance was the only clear priority of this map, which otherwise leaves lines mostly unaltered.

Kentucky (split)

District 1 – Ed Whitfield (R-Hopkinsville) — expands in area due to lagging population growth, but remains strongly Republican and mostly rural or “small town”.

District 2 – Brett Guthrie (R-Bowling Green) — changes only minimally, remains GOP-friendly with several pockets of urban population and (somewhat outnumbered) Democratic votes.

District 3 – John Yarmuth (D-Louisville) — comprises 99.7% of Jefferson County, and that’s it. Talk about simple!

District 4 – Geoff Davis (R-Hebron) — looks virtually identical to its prior incarnation as an Ohio River-based, heavily GOP district.

District 5 – Hal Rogers (R-Somerset) — heavily rural and Republican, possibly the most socially conservative seat in Kentucky, but drops some traditionally Dem areas for the 6th’s benefit, picking up the slack elsewhere.

District 6 – Ben Chandler (D-Versailles) — McCain won Chandler’s current 6th 55-43 but the incumbent is very popular and is likely unbeatable. Still, he has long held statewide ambitions, and one of these days he will vacate for bigger things, making it a priority for House Democrats and the Governor to shore up the 6th for a future Democratic candidate. Thus, an equestrian-heavy Central Kentucky seat is reconfigured as a Frankfort-Lexington-coal mines district with stronger Dem history. McCain may still have won here, but not with more than 51-53%, making it that much easier for a future Dem to win.

Other states I hope to cover soon include: Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. There are some key states (among them, California, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin) that could or will require two maps each based on different hypothetical outcomes regarding seat distribution or partisan control. It isn’t clear what the seat count will be in California, North Carolina, or Washington, and in the other four states, partisan control of redistricting is utterly up in the air between now and after the 2010 elections. So most likely, these states will be those that I cover last.

Redistricting 2011: Ind., Mo., & Oregon

This, Episode 8 of my never-ending redistricting series, is a diary of firsts. It is the first time I have covered three states instead of the customary two (the reason being that I was pairing a larger state with a smaller one, and this diary covers three mid-sized states), and the first time I have covered a state not expected to either gain or lose seats in the next reapportionment (Indiana, which should hold even at 9 seats).

Previous efforts:

Diary 1: Massachusetts and Texas

Diary 2: Michigan and Nevada

Diary 3: Iowa and Ohio

Diary 4: Georgia and New Jersey

Diary 5: Florida and Louisiana

Diary 6: Pennsylvania and Utah

Diary 7: Illinois and South Carolina

Jump below!

First, why these three states? Well, they are three states of contrast. Number-crunchers anticipate that Oregon will gain a seat, Missouri lose one, and Indiana hold even after the 2010 Census and resulting reapportionment. (I should note that Oregon and Missouri are both on the fringes; a slowdown of Midwest-West migration in the next year could easily keep both at their current sizes, preventing Oregon from hitting 6 seats and saving Missouri from dropping its 9th spot). Further, the map in Oregon is likely to be drawn by Democrats, in Indiana by Republicans, and in Missouri through bipartisan negotiation (Republicans dominate the legislature, but the Governor is Democrat Jay Nixon, and his veto authority should force a relatively incumbent-friendly map).

First, Indiana

As if the redistricting process weren’t already enough of an ego-driven, virulently partisan power grab in most states, Indiana makes it worse; even though the Democrats run the state House, Republicans are almost assured to ram through a GOP-friendly gerrymander. This is because Indiana gives the legislature two ways to go about drawing maps: the chambers can work together to pass a consensus map (since the Senate is in GOP hands and the House under Dem control, this would likely mean incumbent protection), or if one party has both the governor’s mansion and one chamber of the legislature, that party has the power to draw the maps regardless of who runs the other chamber. This is a unique provision, from what I can tell, and not one of which I particularly approve (why have two chambers if one of them can bypass the other by dealing with its own party’s governor?). But at least you can’t accuse the Republicans alone of abusing it; Democrats rammed through their own map in 2001, which a large part of why Joe Donnelly and Brad Ellsworth are now in Congress. Since GOP leaders in the Senate are unlikely to want a feel-good compromise after seeing the Dems get their way last round, I’m counting on the most aggressive possible GOP map in the state.

The good news is this: the Democrats have three marginal districts, and because of trends in the state, I believe the Republicans can only dismantle two. Who are the unlucky two? As I see things, they are Donnelly and Baron Hill. (I don’t remember which poster here on SwingStateProject originally suggested such a situation to me, but whoever you are, I now think you’re 100% right!)

“What?”, the astute SSP junkie is thinking. “Obama won IN-02 easily and tied in IN-09…why wouldn’t they go after Ellsworth, whose district McCain won by a modest margin?”

The answer is two-pronged: first, wrecking Donnelly’s seat is not that hard, even if Northern Indiana does lean Democratic nowadays. Dem votes can easily be packed into Pete Visclosky’s already-safe and very slow-growing district, leaving the 2nd District a lot more Republican and small town/rural-dominated. But in Southern Indiana, there is enough Democratic support between the 8th and 9th Districts that both cannot reasonably be cracked. Between Obama nearly winning the 9th, and doing respectably in the 8th, an effective gerrymander will ruin Dem chances in one seat while packing blue-leaning counties into the other. The reason for solidifying Ellsworth and targeting Hill? Ellsworth has a proven track record of hugely over-performing the Democratic base vote, while Hill’s bipartisan popularity is less established. That, and many of the Dem-friendly cities in the region (Terre Haute, Evansville, Bloomington) fit better geographically in the 8th. I believe Republicans see Ellsworth as more capable of surviving an unfriendly map than Hill, which is why they will do the unthinkable by effectively ceding (for the next few cycles, anyway, or as long as Indiana remains a closely-divided state) the famed Bloody 8th to the Democrats.

Here’s what I see in the cards:

Indiana (R)

District 1 – Pete Visclosky (D-Merrillville) — with all of Lake and Porter Counties, and nearly half of LaPorte, this is a quintessential Democratic seat along the lakeshore.

District 2 – Joe Donnelly (D-Granger) — outside of Dem-leaning St. Joseph County being intact, there’s little for Donnelly to like about this district. The Obama vote is still probably in the mid-40s here, but no doubt this is would be a Republican seat in most election cycles. Donnelly should take a serious look at statewide office if he gets dealt a hand like this.

District 3 – Mark Souder (R-Fort Wayne) — solid GOP seat centered on Allen County.

District 4 – Steve Buyer (R-Monticello) — I thought of diluting this hyper-GOP district a bit to hurt Ellsworth but realized that the lines would start to get bizarre and that, as mentioned in the intro, there are too many Democrats in western and southern Indiana to be cracked up without influencing at least one district.

District 5 – Dan Burton (R-Indianapolis) — I think the current lines in this district are silly and prefer my more compact version, still safely Republican but not so “stretchy”.

District 6 – Mike Pence (R-Columbus) — to help the odious Pence just a tad (he doesn’t need much), I gave Obama-supporting Madison County to Burton to split up the swingy/moderately Dem-friendly Anderson/Muncie/Richmond area between two GOP districts.

District 7 – André Carson (D-Indianapolis) — entirely within Marion County, as before, and still strongly Democratic.

District 8 – Brad Ellsworth (D-Evansville) — all Ellsworth seems to need to win easily is the combined electoral power of Terre Haute and Evansville, so putting on my bizarro world GOP thinking cap, knowing that it would be easier to dislodge Hill, I attempted to give Ellsworth an actual Democratic seat, one that would have voted for Obama. The coup de grâce, both for packing the 8th with Democrats and for cracking the 9th, was the addition of Monroe County (Bloomington) with its Obama-crazed college students. For a Republican mapmaker, making Ellsworth Congressman-for-life is a small price to pay for winning back the 9th (possibly with Mr. Déjà Vu himself, Mike Sodrel).

District 9 – Baron Hill (D-Seymour) — He is likely toast as these lines are drawn, since his tougher battles (2002, 2004, 2006) were all made or broken by Dem GOTV in Bloomington. While the district lacked Bloomington back in its 1990s iteration, southeast Indiana was also very accustomed to Lee Hamilton back then, and Hill was clearly the beneficiary of some lingering Hamilton popularity both in 1998 and 2000. As for this take on the 9th, a couple of its Ohio River counties are traditionally Democratic, but the district is more rural and conservative than ever before, so conditions would be just right for Sodrel to finally triumph after losing three of his last four races against the venerable Hill. With a district this unfriendly, Hill might also consider statewide office. He ran respectably against Dan Coats in 1990…and Richard Lugar will be 80 years old in 2012. I’m just saying!

While this map is bad from a Dem standpoint, its worst possible scenario is a 6-3 GOP edge, not as bad as the 7-2 delegation seen between 2004 and 2006. Back then we fretted about the real possibility of 8-1, given Julia Carson’s repeated underwhelming performance in the 7th…thanks to Indianapolis turning deep blue and most of southern Indiana moving into swing territory (with some clear Democratic strongholds), 6-3 seems bad in the context of Indiana circa 2009. So, from a broad perspective, Obama genuinely changed the game for the Democratic Party in Hoosierland. And who knows…by 2012, maybe even this unfriendly version of the 2nd District could be held.


With a GOP legislature and a Dem Governor, this is an entirely different story. The Show Me State should shed a seat if projections are accurate, but actually surprised demographers a bit by growing sufficiently between 2007 and 2008 to regain a notional loss from 2006. So it wouldn’t be too odd if Missouri rebounded enough before the 2010 Census to barely hang on to that 9th seat, possibly depriving a state like Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, or Texas from adding another.

The real question for me was which districts to combine. With power balanced between the parties, it was obvious that one Republican and one Democrat had to face off in a “fair fight” district, leading to an obvious solution: a suburban St. Louis seat forcing Todd Akin (R) and Russ Carnahan (D) together. I tried to draw a district that would be as close to 50-50 as possible for this purpose, knowing the legislature won’t draw anything too friendly for Carnahan’s south-of-the-city base, and that Gov. Nixon would balk at a map too heavy in Akin’s northern suburbs.

The other problem in Missouri was what to do with Ike Skelton’s (D) heavily Republican district spanning the rural areas between Kansas City and Columbia. I figured that a bipartisan plan means incumbent protection, and the Democrats know Skelton will be 81 when the 113th Congress convenes and is not far from retirement. I thus drew a swing district stretching from the close-in Kansas City suburbs to college town Columbia that would not only easily reelect Skelton, but provide a future Dem with a decent shot at holding the 4th District.

I do have one question, though, about this: Missouri redistricting authority was split in 2001, with a Democratic Governor and House, and a narrowly GOP-controlled Senate. Bipartisan plans almost always help incumbents; why on earth didn’t Skelton get a stronger district then? Perhaps mapmakers knew he would be around for the duration of the decade, and didn’t care to gerrymander more friendly territory for future insurance?

Anyway, other than eliminating a St. Louis seat and shoring up the 4th, this map doesn’t do a lot else of interest. As a result of Blaine Luetkemeyer’s inconvenient choice of residence in Miller County, and Ike Skelton’s wholesale capture of Boone County, the 6th is unaesthetic, but the other districts are reasonably shaped.

Missouri (split)

District 1 – William “Lacy” Clay, Jr. (D-St. Louis) — all of the city of St. Louis as well as 39% of St. Louis County. VRA-protected as a black-majority seat, so if my lines don’t fit those guidelines, ignore them and assume I preserved an African-American majority here.

District 2 – Todd Akin (R-Town and Country) vs. Russ Carnahan (D-St. Louis) — I realize Carnahan lives in St. Louis itself, but compactness suggests keeping the city whole in District 1, so he’d do well to move to the county. The remaining 61% of decidedly Democratic St. Louis County is here, along with 37% of Akin-friendly St. Charles, so clearly I was aiming for a swing seat either man could win.

District 3 – Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-St. Elizabeth) — the loss of Dem-leaning Boone County is counteracted by the addition of most of Jefferson County, but overall the district favors a Republican, ideally from the greater St. Louis area.

District 4 – Ike Skelton (D-Lexington) — you can’t imagine what it took to get a swing seat out of this territory without violating population equality laws! I don’t know why legislators didn’t try to protect the 4th for future Democrats back in 2001, but with Skelton’s exit from Capitol Hill just a cycle or two away, now is the time to dramatically reshape the 4th’s boundaries, whether the rurally inclined Armed Services chairman likes it or not. Between the competitive counties north of Kansas City and the Dem base in Columbia, this district could actually be held when Skelton retires, unlike the current Charlie Stenholm-like rural monstrosity he represents. If Skelton announces his retirement ahead of redistricting in 2011-12, there’s actually a good chance the district will be eliminated entirely, but without that foresight I had to attempt a genuine shoring-up.

District 5 – Emanuel Cleaver (D-Kansas City) — I’m proud that I was able to help “blueify” the 4th while respecting the ideal of compactness in putting Jackson County whole in the 5th. It would have been a lazy solution to split Kansas City itself between the districts, and so I did otherwise, while still moving the 4th’s PVI a good 10 points more Democratic.

District 6 – Sam Graves (R-Tarkio) — because Skelton picks up its Kansas City burbs, this is now a big blob of rural Missouri goodness, as heavily Republican as ever.

District 7 – Roy Blunt (R-Strafford) or his 2010 replacement — still the heavily evangelical southwest Missouri seat, the most conservative district in the state.

District 8 – Jo Ann Emerson (R-Cape Girardeau) — other than a couple exurban St. Louis-area counties, this district is dominated by small towns and is safely Republican.

So there would be four safe Republican seats, two safe Democratic seats, and two swing seats (one of them safe for an incumbent Democrat as long as he chooses to run). Believe it or not, this is probably the closest thing to a Dem-friendly map one could get from today’s Missouri legislature.

Finally, Oregon

While Democrats must defend the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the state legislature in 2010, observers tend to agree that they have the upper hand to retain the monopoly heading into redistricting, giving them the opportunity to decide how to configure the state’s likely new seat. The only problem is that Dem strength is already more or less maximized, with a lopsided 4-1 delegation in a 57-40 Obama state.

Is it realistic to try for 5-1, or should Democrats aim to protect what they have and concede a likely 4-2 split? I initially thought that the latter solution was inescapable, but upon crunching the numbers myself, concluded that it was possible (if risky) to carve five Dem-leaning seats and one ultra-Republican district.

Under my plan, one of the five seats could, however, easily switch to the GOP in an unfriendly election cycle. In a downright terrible year like 1994, two easily would. But in a generic stalemate election year, a 1998 or 2000 sort of situation, and certainly in a Democratic wave year like 2006 or 2008, 5-1 would be the expected outcome.

I weakened both Portland incumbents, David Wu and Earl Blumenauer, to help Kurt Schrader and allow for the creation of a new Dem (or swing, at worst) seat based in Washington County. As notanothersonofabush pointed out, diluting Blumenauer’s district may not have been the greatest idea considering his staunchly liberal voting record, but with a strong Portland base mostly intact, he should be okay under my map.

While Greg Walden would probably choose to run in the über-Republican 2nd I drew, I did choose to mess with him a bit too by putting his home, in heavily Democratic Hood River County, in Blumenauer’s 3rd. All in a day’s work…

Oregon (D)

District 1 – David Wu (D-Portland) — The 37% of Multnomah County included dominates, with 50% of Marion County serving as a secondary population anchor. I wanted to give Wu as diluted a Dem-leaning district as possible given the need to milk every last precinct in Oregon redistricting.

District 2 – Greg Walden (R-Hood River) — Move, Congressman, and get yourself life tenure in Congress under my plan. Medford/Ashland is the only obvious source of Democratic strength anywhere in this vast rural seat.

District 3 – Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) — I’m actually a little worried about Blumenauer, one of my personal favorites in Congress, in this map. With 31% of Multnomah along with Hood River and Wasco Counties, he should have enough of a Dem base to win, but might he be too progressive for this district? Splitting Portland three ways was meant to “spread the love” and help Schrader, while splitting the more conservative areas around Salem was meant to do the opposite (“share the pain” to lessen its influence), but have I diluted Democratic numbers out of Multnomah too much to give them power in all three districts?

District 4 – Pete DeFazio (D-Springfield) — Lane County is intact and the conservative reaches of southern Oregon are gone; even the solid liberal that seeks to succeed DeFazio some years down the road will be safe here.

District 5 – Kurt Schrader (D-Canby) — oddly, I probably made it safer than Blumenauer’s district by drawing a district for Schrader that stretches from Lincoln County/Corvallis to Portland. Knowing what I know now, I might not have gone so out of my way to shore up the 5th and instead work to prevent extreme dilution of the 3rd and its Portland base.

And the new District 6 – Washington County and 27% of Clackamas — this is designed to elect a moderate Washington County Democrat; it should be the swingiest of the five Dem seats, but with a narrow yet distinct lean akin to the 3rd’s. Oregonians will be more familiar with the local bench than I.

At the very least, this admittedly flawed map creates five districts that voted for Obama and one that packs McCain votes. But Obama performance does not necessarily equate to Democratic performance at the congressional level. The 3rd, and especially the 6th, could be disposed to a charismatic, moderate Republican in certain cases. The good news is that the entire West Coast from Puget Sound to San Diego has been trending liberal for the past 20 or so years and is getting less and less tolerant of even the most likable Republican candidates. Thus time is working against the viability of GOP candidates in traditional “swing districts” in a state like Oregon, and assuming Democrats retain control of the redistricting process, they will have an unprecedented chance to get aggressive in the Beaver State (even if the legislature deadlocks with the governor on forming a plan, the Secretary of State, Democrat Kate Brown, is authorized to draw her own map). So before too long, even my arguably marginal 3rd and 6th Districts should be out of reach for GOP contenders.

Redistricting 2011: Illinois & South Carolina

Here is Episode 7 in my redistricting series. Episode 7 was meant to be Arizona & New York, but with NY-20 undecided and likely to be for a time, I thought it was time to press ahead with other states I’ve drawn. So here we have it: the Land of Lincoln and the founding state of the Confederacy, wrapped together at last in one diary!

Previously covered:

Diary 1: Massachusetts and Texas

Diary 2: Michigan and Nevada

Diary 3: Iowa and Ohio

Diary 4: Georgia and New Jersey

Diary 5: Florida and Louisiana

Diary 6: Pennsylvania and Utah

Jump below to read what I was doing at 3:00 AM last night!


First, the basics about Illinois: the Democrats control the redistricting trifecta and, I believe, still will after 2010. The state should lose a seat for a total House delegation of 18; though the current slowdown in migration may just save the state its 19th spot, most number-crunchers believe Illinois will just miss out on holding steady.

With Democrats in control of the process, I got to draw my first bona fide hypothetical Democratic gerrymander for 2011. The first key was to ensure that the lost seat was a Republican one, and since this decade, it looks like Chicago will suffer the loss rather than downstate, I chose the ever-frustrating Mark Kirk of Highland Park. His district is cracked in this map between the new seats of Melissa Bean (D-Barrington) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston), both of which would decidedly favor Democratic incumbents. Kirk’s home would be in Schakowsky’s district, FWIW.

Knowing the dangers of overreaching or “getting too greedy” in gerrymandering, I don’t believe Democrats will or should go after every last GOP seat in metro Chicago, particularly with the need to protect Bean, Bill Foster (D-Geneva), and Debbie Halvorson (D-Crete). So I pushed Foster and Halvorson into Cook County and made their districts more compact/urban/suburban and less sprawling. While Obama’s popularity in his home state makes it very easy to put GOP incumbents in “Obama districts”, that kind of thinking all too easily leads to spreading Dem votes thinly and often backfires.

From this map, Democrats can expect a 12-6 majority, with an outside shot at 13-5. Which district did I soften up? Actually, Aaron Schock’s downstate…making his district more competitive was fairly easy compared to the tortuous work that would be required to dislodge Peter Roskam while protecting Foster, Halvorson, and Bean.



By the way, don’t pay too much attention to my boundaries in the urban Chicago districts; the granularity at this level is absurd, and I drew these boundaries crudely, since I’m using Paint and a calculator rather than any real redistricting technology.

District 1 – Bobby Rush (D-Chicago) — VRA black-majority, South Side.

District 2 – Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Chicago) — VRA black-majority, South Side.

District 3 – Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs) — entirely within Cook County, working- and middle-class close-in Chicago suburbs.

District 4 – Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) — VRA Hispanic-majority, takes in the heavily Latino areas of Chicago, Cicero, etc.

District 5 – Vacant — the North Side seat should be rock-solid for Quigley or any other Democrat.

District 6 – Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton) — entirely within DuPage County, Obama-supporting but traditionally Republican. Believe me, as one of Tammy Duckworth’s most active volunteers in 2006, I would have loved to draw Roskam a district he can’t win, but couldn’t find a way to do so without endangering Foster and Halvorson, and in partisan gerrymanders, safety comes first.

District 7 – Danny Davis (D-Chicago) — VRA black-majority seat: downtown Chicago, Oak Park, Maywood, etc.

District 8 – Melissa Bean (D-Barrington) — dominated by its 64% portion of Lake County, but takes in 5% of Cook to help Bean a bit.

District 9 – Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) vs. Mark Kirk (R-Highland Park) — the remaining 36% of Lake (including Kirk’s home base) and 9% of Cook (which dominates population-wise). With Schakowsky’s North Shore base intact and stronger numerically than Kirk’s turf in southern Lake County, I’d feel good about our chances in a match-up.

District 10 – Debbie Halvorson (D-Crete) — all of Will and a tiny, heavily black South Side portion of Cook is meant to protect Halvorson by allowing her to shed all that GOP-leaning exurban country to the west.

District 11 – Jerry Costello (D-Belleville) — the most Democratic downstate district, centered on metropolitan St. Louis and other traditionally Democratic areas like Carbondale. I caused a little mischief by putting John Shimkus’ home in this district, though I think he’d do well to move to the 18th since Costello would be a solid fit here.

District 12 – Judy Biggert (R-Hinsdale) — this monster reminds me of Lamar Smith’s 1990s district in Texas, designed to grab every possible Republican voter for the sake of Democratic incumbents in the area. This comprises the southern 23% of DuPage, 6% of Kane, 62% of Kankakee, and exurban counties DeKalb, Grundy, Kendall, LaSalle, and Lee, dramatically reshaping the district to remove GOP areas that would otherwise be represented by Foster and Halvorson. In a way, having one sprawling seat like this makes more sense than the previous incarnation that had Foster and Halvorson writhing all over the place in positively serpentine fashion.

District 13 – Bill Foster (D-Geneva) — 94% of Kane (Foster’s base) and 5% of Cook (to push his district bluer) = the likelihood of holding this seat when Foster retires.

District 14 – Timothy Johnson (R-Urbana) — other than Johnson’s native Champaign County, this could be the state’s most Republican district; if not, it’s nearly as much so as Shimkus’. Why make Johnson so overwhelmingly safe? Well, I was interested in weakening Schock a bit (or a lot), and it seemed logical to pack Republicans into Johnson’s district due to pure geography. Also, if I was going to help solidify a GOP seat, why not reward Johnson’s relative sanity compared to people like Schock?

District 15 – Donald Manzullo (R-Egan) — due to growth up there, Manzullo’s district becomes more compact and probably remains Obama-supporting, though I suspect it tilts quite Republican in most years.

District 16 – Phil Hare (D-Rock Island) — I’ve always disliked the current 17th and its embarrassingly gerrymandered lines, so sought to clean it up without hurting Hare. By losing its southern “Springfield leg”, it took in some normally GOP-leaning counties in the northwest, though the Obama numbers are probably better than before due to Obama’s superb performance in even exurban and rural northern Illinois. This is now something of a north-south Mississippi River seat, but should still favor a Moline-area Democrat.

District 17 – Aaron Schock (R-Peoria) — To hurt one GOP incumbent without rendering the must-protect Chicago-area Democrats, Schock was an obvious choice: he’s young, new, and rather obnoxious. This district still leans Republican, but is a heck of a lot more moderate, anchored by the Peoria area, Springfield, and Bloomington-Normal, with a small sliver of Champaign County. This district would have voted for Obama, and Schock would be vulnerable to a strong challenge from a conservative Democrat. Without hurting Hare and Costello, that’s the best I could do.

District 18 – John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) would run here — As I said, his home would be represented by Costello, but he’d choose to run here, a very strong GOP seat with only traces of moderation (Springfield and Decatur, mostly).

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this map. I think I handled the Chicago area fairly well (and after all, I did live there for four years), not overextending Democratic strength by getting greedy about Roskam or Biggert. I’m decently happy with my downstate reconfiguration, but am curious if Hare would still be safe enough. Obviously no Democratic gerrymander would result in a much-weakened seat for Hare, so perhaps I should have preserved Springfield and Decatur for him (then again, northwest Illinois needs to go somewhere!).

Anyway, an average year would result in a 12-6 split under this map, and a good year could see 13-5 should Schock fall. What about a bad year? Do you think Hare, Foster, Bean, and Halvorson would all be fine in a difficult year? Input needed!

South Carolina

And now for something completely different: this Deep Southern state experienced the highest domestic migration rate in the nation between 2007 and 2008. Monopolized by Republicans, I sought to draw a GOP gerrymander here that would protect the four current Republican seats and add a new one, while weakening John Spratt (D-York) if at all possible.

Knowing how Republicans love to pack minority votes, I drew Majority Whip Jim Clyburn the most heavily African-American district imaginable. It looks like a crab, actually, and yes, it’s exactly the kind of racial gerrymander Republicans would draw (interesting that we saw so many Democratic maps in the South that aimed for maximizing black representation thrown out by the courts as “racial gerrymanders” in the 1990s, but recent Republican racial packing in states like Florida and Texas has gone unnoticed).

One nit: with the state’s black population around 30%, the Justice Department might want a map that creates two VRA black-majority seats (two seats out of seven = 29%). That would involve diluting Clyburn’s seat a little and trading some turf with Spratt, rendering Spratt’s district a lot safer.

But I presumed only one VRA seat, so with that in mind:


District 1 – Henry Brown (R-Hanahan) — More compact and less coastal than Brown’s current district, it loses Charleston to aid him and prevent a future close call like he faced in 2008 from Linda Ketner.

District 2 – Joe Wilson (R-Springdale) — Heavily Republican, takes the white areas around Columbia from Clyburn, acting as a sort of Alabama 4th to Clyburn’s Alabama 7th.

District 3 – Gresham Barrett (R-Westminster) — also heavily Republican, with the cleanest lines I could possibly draw.

District 4 – Bob Inglis (R-Travelers Rest) — due to growth in the Greenville/Spartanburg area, this district is getting positively small!

District 5 – John Spratt (D-York) — while carving out GOP turf for Brown, Inglis, and Barrett, I tried my best to keep Spratt’s seat potentially GOP-friendly should he retire. But if the Justice Department demands two VRA seats, this could turn out very differently, with Spratt getting a solid Dem district for the first time in recent memory.

District 6 – Jim Clyburn (D-Columbia) — dominated by Columbia, taking every possible black-majority county. Truly a lawsuit-worthy gerrymander, but Republicans seem to get away with those (look at how the courts have reacted to Corrine Brown’s FL-03 versus their decisions in the 1990s about Cynthia McKinney’s GA-11, Cleo Fields’ LA-04, and Mel Watt’s NC-12).

The new District 7 – Designed for a Charleston/Beaufort County Republican due to growth along the coast. This seat would be GOP-friendly but trending Dem long-term and might need to be reconfigured in 2021 to stave off Democratic gains.

Overall, Republicans could hope for a 6-1 majority when Spratt retires, but in the mean time would have to settle for 5-2. When Spratt does go, the coast may be blue enough for a Democrat to win either District 1 or District 7. And if the state creates a new VRA seat, Republicans will make it Spratt’s to avoid ceding more territory. I do wonder how that map would look…

EDIT: It was brought to my attention that the current 5th is as heavily Democratic as any VRA district, and is essentially wasting votes. So I adjusted the lines a bit based on someone’s suggestion to create two skinny DuPage-Cook mix districts; the 5th would be Quigley land, and the 6th would be a more Democratic seat for Roskam. Thus this map could easily produce 13-5, not counting Schock.

Someone else suggested softening up Lipinski, but since that district is already somewhat socially conservative, and doesn’t link easily with Roskam’s, I chose to leave it alone. The 5th is needlessly packed in the current map, while the 3rd is significantly less solid. Here’s the adjusted map:


Which one do you folks like better? In this version, Roskam’s district has about 415K from DuPage and 301K from Cook, while Quigley’s district has precisely reversed numbers.

Redistricting 2011: Penn. & Utah

Episode 6 in my redistricting series. By this point I’m tired of having these maps and data lying around burning a hole in my Microsoft Word documents, especially in light of the new Census county estimates for 2008. So I’m knocking out all the already-completed states for your and my nerdy enjoyment. Today, some keystones with your Jell-O?

Previously covered:

Diary 1: Massachusetts and Texas

Diary 2: Michigan and Nevada

Diary 3: Iowa and Ohio

Diary 4: Georgia and New Jersey

Diary 5: Florida and Louisiana

Those strangest of bedfellows, Rust Belt Pennsylvania and booming Utah! (spelled with an exclamation point as on state license plates) just below the fold…


Needless to say, this is truly a state of contrasts, from the upwardly mobile, newly liberal-leaning Philadelphia suburbs to the numerically shrinking, increasingly Republican towns of western Pennsylvania. In the vast “T” between Pittsburgh and Philly lies some of the most conservative and rural territory in the entire old North, along with a Democratic island in the Penn State campus and its environs.

What will redistricting see in Pennsylvania? Hard to say. The least likely option is a Democratic gerrymander, thanks to a healthy 30-20 GOP majority in the State Senate. Republicans have an outside shot at a redux gerrymander thanks to the open governor’s mansion and narrow 104-99 Dem edge in the House. My money is on a continued power split, since it is tough (though quite far from unheard of) for a party to pick up both the governor’s mansion and a legislative chamber in one cycle in a competitive state. I drew my hypothetical Pennsylvania map (again, using 2007 stats) with according assumptions.

Split partisan power in redistricting usually means all-around incumbent protection, which particularly helps the Democrats and their weaker seats (the 10th, 3rd, 12th, 11th, et al.), but also the Republicans in at least two cases (the 15th and 6th). There is, of course, a wrinkle: Pennsylvania will be losing at least one seat in reapportionment; possibly two, but one seems more likely unless North-to-South migration really picks up in the next year. With much of the state’s worst population loss occurring in the west, and with Western Pennsylvania Democrats a bit overrepresented at the congressional level (at least considering trends in the region), it seemed likely that a relatively new Democrat would be eliminated, or at least put in a tough spot against an incumbent Republican. John Murtha’s seniority means his is likely not to be the unlucky musical chair, unless he’s finally ready to retire in 2012 at age 80. That’s a possibility, but I drew the map to combine Republican Tim Murphy and Democrat Jason Altmire in a competitive (but doubtlessly McCain-supporting) western district. Meanwhile, Murtha and Erie’s Kathy Dahlkemper are both strengthened. Of course, this assumes that Murtha, Dahlkemper, Altmire, and Murphy are all reelected in 2010, and all four have at one time or another been targeted recently.

One oddity in the west as a result of the eliminated district? Bill Shuster’s 9th moved all the way into former Murtha country, though it kept Shuster’s home in-district. (Yeah, doesn’t make much sense, but with the 12th trending GOP, and Murtha getting quite up there in years, you can bet Democrats will try to salvage all their strength in the Pittsburgh area). In the east, I did my best to shore up Chris Carney, whose district is darned difficult to gerrymander for a Dem, as well as 2008 underperformer Paul Kanjorski and Charlie Dent, whose 15th District tilts Democratic in its current form. I also attempted to make the Philadelphia-area districts more compact and logical, which may have been a case of my quixotic reformer instincts overreaching.

Now, every map has at least one Achilles heel, and mine is Tim Holden’s 17th District. I simply could not figure out how to make it Dem-leaning without some seriously ugly and disruptive lines. In fact, it got more Republican in this map…not my intention, I assure you. Also, Shuster’s district moving west meant that Platts and Pitts would see some major turf changes.

This isn’t my best map (I’m much happier with Texas and Ohio), but perhaps it isn’t the travesty Louisiana and Massachusetts were. I aimed to lessen Pennsylvania’s “emaciated serpent” factor while protecting potentially vulnerable newbies. Without a doubt, a state legislator with real redistricting software (rather than a calculator, Census estimates on Excel, and Paint) could draw something more effective and precise. But you can judge for yourself:


District 1 – Bob Brady (D-Philadelphia) — still ethnically mixed and heavily Democratic, the home of Rocky Balboa. (Cue Bill Conti and his horn section.)

District 2 – Chaka Fattah (D-Philadelphia) — the only VRA district in the state, still majority-black.

District 3 – Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Erie) — barely voted for McCain as-is, so I aimed to maximize the influence of Dem-friendly Erie County and competitive Mercer County. I also divided Butler County to further minimize GOP strength. This district would have voted for Obama by an inch, no more than 51-48 or 52-47, but I think that’s the best I could do.

District 4 – Jason Altmire (D-McCandless) vs. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) — both incumbents live in suburban Allegheny County, so the district includes a healthy 25% of that county along with the remaining 65% of Butler and all of Beaver and Lawrence. It’s nice and compact, and pretty competitive — my guesstimate is the numbers will actually be more Democratic than the McCain 55-44 stat seen in both Congresscritters’ current districts, which could bode well for Altmire.

District 5 – Glenn Thompson (R-Howard) — super-Republican “T” district, including one Obama base: Centre County and its many Penn State students. Why are these public university towns (State College, PA; Gainesville, FL; Athens, GA) always situated in a sea of red?

District 6 – Jim Gerlach (R-Chester Springs) — I simplified the lines to include 69% of Berks and 85% of Chester Counties, two of the more swingy counties in the Philly suburbs (compared to Delaware and Montgomery, each 60-39 for Obama). Gerlach would have a slightly more favorable seat here, but there is a huge caveat: he is exploring a 2010 run for Governor, which could be bad for our chances of holding the governor’s mansion but is probably good for our chances of picking up PA-06.

District 7 – Joe Sestak (D-Edgmont) — all of Delaware and 18% of Montgomery = a strong (and compact) Dem seat.

District 8 – Patrick Murphy (D-Bristol) — all of Bucks plus remainders of Berks and Montgomery; the vote here should be similar to my proposed 6th (about 54-45 for Obama), and if I’d wanted to gerrymander a bit, I could have made it more solid.

District 9 – Bill Shuster (R-Hollidaysburg) — now essentially a Western PA district! Not my slickest map-making, but I was worried about holding the 12th in future election cycles.

District 10 – Chris Carney (D-Dimock) — this was fairly well-done, OTOH, though I couldn’t be too aggressive for fear of weakening Kanjorski; I included 96% of Luzerne County and 28% of Lackawanna, while cutting out GOP-leaning (but Dem-trending) Pike; a 54-45 McCain district would hopefully be a lot closer to even now.

District 11 – Paul Kanjorski (D-Nanticoke) — I don’t know if Nanticoke would be in the 10th under these lines, so ignore them because the 4% of Luzerne left in the 11th would ideally include Kanjorski’s house. Other than Pike, every county in this district voted for Obama, and the expansion into Northampton County is intended to replace lost turf in Luzerne County. The district might technically be a hair less Obama-supporting than before, but there is a serious silver lining here for the incumbent: Lou Barletta’s Hazleton is no longer included.

District 12 – John Murtha (D-Johnstown) — this being the only district in America to switch from Kerry ’04 to McCain ’08 set off an alarm in my head; coupled with frequent controversy about Murtha himself, it was enough to prompt my version’s radical changes to the old lines. While the 65% of Westmoreland County doesn’t help, I’ve included all of Murtha’s native Cambria County along with competitive Indiana County and (this is key) 18% of Allegheny.

District 13 – Allyson Schwartz (D-Jenkintown) — 80% of Montgomery and the remaining 5% of Philadelphia for a compact, logical, and safe Dem seat.

District 14 – Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills) — entirely within Allegheny County.

District 15 – Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) — yes, it’s heavy in Democratic Lehigh County, but retains just 18% each of Dem-leaning Northampton and Berks, now including all of heavily GOP Lebanon and even 20% of GOP-friendly Lancaster. This might still have voted for Obama, but by a heck of a lot less than 56-43.

District 16 – Joe Pitts (R-Kennett Square) — stretches along the south from Adams to Chester Counties, but ruled by Lancaster County, of which it comprises 80%.

District 17 – Tim Holden (D-Saint Clair) — this is my biggest disappointment. It was drawn in 2002 for George Gekas to defeat Holden, and somehow I managed to make it more Republican than before, when it should have been easy to push into the Dem column through mild adjustments. Holden can win this district as I’ve drawn it, but when he retires, all bets would be off. There must be a way to grab some Philly suburbs for the 17th without drawing the lines too revoltingly.

District 18 – Todd Platts (R-York) — okay, so it’s a lot less compact and a lot more Shuster-ish. But it’s still dominated by his York County base and still safely Republican (more so, actually).

Mapping the Keystone State, and still failing in some of my goals, was migraine-inducing, so you can imagine how relieving it is to be switching gears here for a state with just four districts, a state like…


This was a cinch to draw, since the legislature already green-lighted (green-lit?) a plan called Plan L back in late 2006 when Utah pols hoped for lame-duck congressional approval of the D.C. House Voting Rights Act. Now, whether that bill will eventually become law is still up in the air given tensions over the poison pill gun issue, but regardless of the immediate outcome, Utah will get a fourth district in reapportionment, and the state is overdue for an urban Salt Lake seat in the next decade. The current map includes three districts that combine cities/suburbs along the populous Wasatch Front with isolated small towns and desolate rural areas. That was done to hurt Jim Matheson; but GOP lawmakers, who can genuinely approve any map they want to in this heavily Republican state, appear likely to give Matheson the most Democratic district possible in order to ensure hard-right GOP hegemony in the other three districts.

Why would they do this? Well, Salt Lake County is trending Democratic, even voting for Obama in 2008 after going to Bush by 20 points in 2004. A new urban district is likely to be concentrated around Salt Lake City, and should the popular Matheson run in a rural district, there would actually be a good chance of two Democrats in a four-member Utah delegation! Thus, the best solution for Republicans is to put Matheson in the urban seat and carve themselves deep red rural turf.

My 2nd District, designed for Matheson, concentrates just about all the Democratic areas in Utah other than Moab, and creates a new 4th along the western portion of the state that would favor a Republican from Salt Lake, or (if the Salt Lake vote was split) someone from the fast-growing St. George area who commanded rural support. (Trivia for those who haven’t been: most of the state is indeed known for its high elevations, dramatic snow-capped mountains, and pristine skiing, but St. George actually has palm trees and relatively hot, humid summer temperatures ideal for growing cotton! Weird, I know.)

Here’s the Utah map, probably one of the least controversial I’ve drawn (and again, though I’m using 2007 estimates and not 2000 Census data, the legislature’s prior work served as a clear blueprint for my plan):


District 1 – Rob Bishop (R-Brigham City) — the northwest corner of the state, dominated by Davis and Weber Counties along the Front.

District 2 – Jim Matheson (D-Salt Lake City) — considering it would comprise 60% of Salt Lake, 6% of Davis, and all of Summit, this district might have literally voted for Obama…yes, it’s now possible to draw a genuine Democratic seat in Utah! And while the legislature may not draw Matheson something quite as favorable, they are sure to stick him in a safe urban district to avoid introducing a new Democrat into the delegation.

District 3 – Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine) — the largest area in the state, but Utah County (Provo-Orem) reigns supreme.

New District 4 – Safe Republican, contains 40% of Salt Lake and all of Washington — odds would favor a second Salt Lake County Congressman here (a Republican to complement Matheson), but if rural areas stick together, there is room for someone from outside the Wasatch Front.

Comment away!

Redistricting 2011: Florida & Louisiana

Episode 5 in my redistricting series, and as you can see, I’m picking up the pace, having just covered Georgia and New Jersey yesterday. Because the Census released 2008 county estimates last week, I feel like knocking out these diaries for the states I already mapped using 2007 numbers. Of course, because they’re 2007 numbers, they’re not quite up to snuff, but in most cases, the lines wouldn’t look too dramatically different using newer stats.

Previously covered:

Diary 1: Massachusetts and Texas

Diary 2: Michigan and Nevada

Diary 3: Iowa and Ohio

Diary 4: Georgia and New Jersey

Geek out below!


Now, this is the single hardest state I had to tackle. More so than Texas, more so than Ohio, more so than Pennsylvania. That’s because Florida is perhaps the most masterful Republican gerrymander in the nation; a state that voted 51% to 48% for President Obama is represented in Congress by 15 Republicans and 10 Democrats, and before 2006, the skew was 18-7. Considering Democratic dominance in South Florida and clear Dem trends along I-4, that’s pretty astounding cartographic craftiness by the GOP.

Unfortunately, unless we pick up the governor’s mansion in 2010 (virtually impossible, IMHO, unless Crist runs for the Senate, and even then, the GOP bench in Florida is quite deep), Republicans are set for another round of redistricting monopoly in 2011-12 (one caveat: a nonpartisan commission initiative is on the ballot in 2010, but since it needs 60% to pass, I’m skeptical). While Republicans’ room for growth is limited, what with Dem trends in Central FL and the Cuban districts softening, there could be at least one Dem casualty along with a new GOP seat, for a 17-9 delegation, though 16-10 would be a lot easier for legislators to ensure, since it’s not exactly a cinch to dismantle a moderate I-4 Dem like Suzanne Kosmas. Note: there is an outside chance that Florida will pick up two seats in reapportionment, but the disastrous real estate market has brought that long-famed migration to the Sunshine State to a grinding halt. In 2008, even recession-battered California grew faster. So I’m betting on a one-seat gain; the explosive growth in Florida between 2000 and 2006 more or less ensures at least that one gain, but I can’t envision a sufficiently large uptick in growth between now and the Census for a 27th District.

To sum it up, I’m actually not very satisfied with this map. It’s revoltingly gerrymandered, though no worse than the current iteration, and I’m not sure about some of my boundaries (is Alcee Hastings’ 23rd still VRA black-majority with these lines?). But I tried to maintain the best possible lines for the Republicans (i.e. mostly the status quo), with an emphasis on incumbent protection. I may have done things a bit differently if I’d used 2008 numbers, so an eventual do-over on my part isn’t out of the question.

To the point: the GOP has a real problem along I-4: with Orange and Osceola Counties decidedly Democratic, and Adam Putnam’s soon-to-be-open seat a near-tie between McCain and Obama, they can only play offense so much. I figured that since Orlando is becoming so progressive, they would concede Alan Grayson’s seat (assuming he is reelected in 2010) and hurt Kosmas only by roughly maintaining the current, Feeney-drawn lines. Meanwhile, FL-12 (Putnam) is shored up by moving into some hardcore Republican territory, and a new 26th District is created from Central Florida leftovers (unfortunately for them, it only barely leans Republican in a neutral year as I’ve drawn it, and in a year like 2006 or 2008, might well elect a Democrat). Again, I tried my best to be devious, but when a state is already so gerrymandered for one party and the trends are running against that party in key regions of said state, “safety first” is the likely tack.

As for South Florida, my boundaries are imprecise, so the summary descriptions are a bit more informative. Basically, I tried to replicate the current boundaries in most of these cases, while cleaning up the 23rd (as I mentioned, though, it probably can’t be as cleaned-up as I drew it since it is a VRA seat). If more specific Census estimates were available, I could have known how to, for example, boost the Cuban-American percentage in Districts 18, 21, and 25, but instead, I was left with a sloppy, low-tech method as the Miami metro area goes.

For now, this is the map I’ve got:


Ugly? You bet. Want a logical map? The Sunshine State GOP wouldn’t hear of it.

District 1 – Jeff Miller (R-Chumuckla) — contracts in area; still the most conservative district in the state.

District 2 – Allen Boyd (D-Monticello) — still an old-school district of Jimmy Carter white Democrats who vote GOP for President. When Boyd retires, we will be in trouble here, as even the boosted black turnout of 2008 only resulted in a 54-45 McCain victory.

District 3 – Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville) — well, it’s not quite as grossly drawn as before, but it must remain a VRA African-American seat, so I had to get creative.

District 4 – Ander Crenshaw (R-Jacksonville) — random trivia: did you know there were Civil War battles in this district?

District 5 – Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Brooksville) — I tried to clean up this and the 6th, both previously with needlessly messy lines; this one stays safely Republican, but now only splits one county (Pasco).

District 6 – Cliff Stearns (R-Ocala) — stays heavily Republican but looks a bit more aesthetic. No, I don’t like Gainesville being represented by a Republican any more than you do, but it is a blue island in a sea of red (much like Athens, Georgia).

District 7 – John Mica (R-Winter Park) — by only encroaching a bit into Orange County and making St. Johns County the largest population source, I attempted to help Mica, but the long-term trends here are not advantageous to him. If he moved out of Orange County, he could be drawn a safer seat.

District 8 – Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) — entirely within Orange County, meant to soak up Democrats to allow for a Republican 26th and to prevent Kosmas from getting too comfortable. I think if there’s one painful concession the GOP will have to make, this is it.

District 9 – Gus Bilirakis (R-Palm Harbor) — jumps around north Tampa Bay looking for Republicans, doesn’t change too much.

District 10 – Bill Young (R-Indian Shores) — entirely within Pinellas, probably still a 50/50 district. This is a seat they may well lose when Young calls it quits. With both A) the need to protect Bilirakis, and B) Castor’s 11th being maxed-out on Democrats, it’s another uncomfortable decision for the Republicans not to shore this district up very much. As long as the aging Young stays on the ballot, they don’t have to worry.

District 11 – Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) — still the bay-dancing Tampa-St. Petersburg seat, concentrating Democrats and with a significant black minority.

District 12 – Adam Putnam (R-Bartow) — since McCain won here by a mere inch, and Putnam is leaving in 2010, I figured protecting the 12th for future elections will be a major priority (if a Dem wins in 2010, the GOP will seek to dismantle that person before targeting Grayson or Kosmas). So, even as slightly GOP-leaning Polk County dominates my 12th, Sumter, Hardee, and DeSoto put it over the edge to produce a McCain victory of at least 53-46.

District 13 – Vern Buchanan (R-Sarasota) — this is only a tad more Republican than before, with the whole inclusion of Manatee County aiding GOP numbers.

District 14 – Connie Mack (R-Fort Myers) — dominated by Lee County with remainders of Sarasota and Charlotte. Still the quintessential Gulf Coast GOP mecca.

District 15 – Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) — in retrospect, I’d do this differently, as this is one district the GOP would probably weaken a bit to harm Kosmas or solidify the new 26th.

District 16 – Tom Rooney (R-Tequesta) — stretches from Charlotte to Palm Beach, much like before. If Rooney is easily reelected in 2010, he will be another incumbent they loosen up to cement weaker districts.

District 17 – Kendrick Meek (D-Miami) — should stay the most heavily black, most overwhelmingly Democratic district in the state.

District 18 – Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami) — while Ros-Lehtinen can probably hold on quite a few more cycles, this is the only GOP district other than Bill Young’s 10th that voted for Obama, and as Miami Hispanics trend toward the Democrats, all three Cuban-American Republican seats will be endangered. What happens when Ros-Lehtinen and/or the Diaz-Balarts retire? I’m not exactly sure how to solidify these three seats, as the nearest turf they could grab is mostly liberal-leaning anyway. Perhaps they could snag some Gulf Coast Republicans, but that would dilute the VRA Hispanic percentages…

District 19 – Robert Wexler (D-Boca Raton) — the most liberal of the three “Jewish districts” (I say that, of course, tongue firmly in cheek, as the Jewish percentage is a distinct minority in all three seats).

District 20 – Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston) — the second of the three, nearly as Democratic as the 19th.

District 21 – Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Miami) — as with Ros-Lehtinen and the 18th, I don’t know how to shore up the three traditionally GOP Cuban seats.

District 22 – Ron Klein (D-Boca Raton) — still a coastal stretch; I think the GOP won’t change the lines much here, unless they can find a way to pack Democrats here who would otherwise be left in the 18th, 21st, or 25th.

District 23 – Alcee Hastings (D-Miramar) — regardless of how my lines appear, Hastings’ seat will stay majority-black under the VRA.

District 24 – Suzanne Kosmas (D-New Smyrna Beach) — the closest I could come to targeting Kosmas was to only take in 10% of Orange County, along with 64% of GOP-leaning Seminole and 67% of narrowly Dem-leaning Volusia. Once again, Republican gerrymandering in Central Florida can’t possibly get much more aggressive without sacrificing a couple seats.

District 25 – Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Miami) — see the 18th and 21st.

New District 26 – Central FL, Leans Republican — Osceola and St. Lucie Counties favor Democrats, so it is no accident that I made the largest pop. source here 56% McCain-supporting Lake County, cutting through heavily GOP Okeechobee. Due to the inclusion of Osceola, there will be a significant Hispanic minority here, and a Dem base vote of about 46-47%, rendering it vulnerable to a future loss. Is there a way to draw this that is better for the Republicans? Probably, and I’m sure their computers will find it…but Putnam, Posey, Rooney, Bilirakis, Brown-Waite, and Stearns all need to be protected at the same time. The balance along I-4 really is that tenuous for them.

Overall, my map is flawed, as is the current map in Florida. I intended for realism’s sake to create a masterful Republican gerrymander and ended up with a plan that would, at best, maintain the status quo with a 16-10 GOP edge (with the best possible scenario being an eventual 18-8 if Boyd retires, Kosmas is defeated, and every Republican seat stays intact…quite a tall order indeed). Unless Central FL swings decisively to the Republicans in 2010, there is minimal room for offense on their part…and how to stave off Dem advances in Miami-Dade? In the end, to everyone’s surprise, the biggest winners from the next map may be incumbent Democrats like Klein, Grayson, and Kosmas who picked up seats drawn to reelect Republicans. It really is in the GOP’s interest to salvage what they have in Florida rather than get too greedy.


This was a lot easier, though not exceedingly comforting for a Democrat. The severe population loss in the New Orleans area means that there may no longer be a strong Dem seat in Louisiana, let alone a VRA district. No doubt my proposed District 2 would retain a large black percentage, but I’m far from certain it would be anything near a majority. Might the same judicial system that once rejected Cleo Fields’ “Z district” as a racial gerrymander change its tune in the name of the Voting Rights Act?

As for the political dynamics in Louisiana, Jindal will still be Governor at least through 2011, when redistricting starts, and the legislature is perilously close to flipping to the GOP (the House is already run by a de facto GOP-friendly coalition, with a Republican Speaker to boot). Even if the Senate remains in Democratic hands, Louisiana Dems aren’t exactly known for their party loyalty.

But the task here is simple, and Democratic strength in the Pelican State has collapsed so rapidly that partisan considerations aren’t nearly as influential as they would seem. Everyone agrees that a New Orleans-area seat has to be eliminated, so here’s roughly what I imagine the somewhat Republican-esque legislature coming up with:


Note: Technically, Charlie Melancon’s home was put in the 1st for population reasons, but I would expect him to run in the 2nd instead.

District 1 – Steve Scalise (R-Jefferson) — had to expand in land, but stays heavily Republican.

District 2 – tentatively, Joseph Cao (R-New Orleans) vs. Charlie Melancon (D-Napoleonville) — Melancon would do well to move here, as the boundaries do vaguely resemble his old 3rd, but since the bulk of district population is in Jefferson and Orleans Parishes, it’s his seat that was cracked and eliminated. A New Orleans pol would be favored geographically, and I’m not sure what the political leanings would be here (my guess is competitive, with Dem strength in New Orleans offset by GOP dominance in Jefferson Parish). This might make a worthy court challenge, depending what the race stats are here (and I have no idea what they would be, nor does anyone else post-Katrina).

District 3 – John Fleming (R-Minden) — still quite Republican and trending more so.

District 4 – Rodney Alexander (R-Quitman) — other than the 1st, the most Republican district in the state.

District 5 – Bill Cassidy (R-Baton Rouge) — I thought including some more former Melancon territory might help Cassidy and lessen the influence of Dem-friendly Baton Rouge, but it might also prompt Melancon to move here and mount a long-shot challenge instead of battling it out with a New Orleanian in the urban/suburban-dominated 2nd.

District 6 – Charles Boustany (R-Lafayette) — expands in area, but is still the conservative Cajun seat.

Other than what happens with the eliminated seat, there shouldn’t be too much drama in Louisiana, since Jindal’s loyal GOPers and the conservative Dems will likely seek a consensus plan that somehow cracks Melancon’s seat and consolidates it with NOLA. Actually, the real drama may arise in the courtroom re: racial demographics in each district.

Coming soon: Pennsylvania and Utah, followed by Arizona and New York. Eventually I may tackle other states as well, but I haven’t even mapped New York yet.

EDIT: Clearly my Louisiana map is something of a flop, and I blame the fact that I drew it some weeks ago using 2007 estimates. If I’d known Orleans Parish had regained nearly 73,000 residents between 2007 and 2008, I would have drawn the lines a lot differently, and probably could have more easily retained that VRA New Orleans-area seat. I still imagine Melancon’s seat being cracked, but the majority-black 2nd will remain (just expand due to population loss from 2000).

Hopefully my Florida effort was less ill-informed?

Redistricting 2011: Georgia & New Jersey

Episode 4 in my series of diaries mapping out possible redistricting scenarios in the states is here! I was inspired to finally put it together after BigTentProgressive’s excellent Texas redistricting diary. On the agenda today: some peaches for the First Lady’s new garden. (Which is my not-so-clever way of saying that I’m covering Georgia and New Jersey in today’s diary.)

Previously covered:

Diary 1: Massachusetts and Texas

Diary 2: Michigan and Nevada

Diary 3: Iowa and Ohio

Unfortunately, my districts are based on county estimates from 2007, and just this week the Census released 2008 numbers. Since my maps were drawn before the 2008 release, they are worth taking with a grain of salt. Also, I am using projected seat totals for post-2010 redistricting that are equally subject to change.

Geeky playtime below the fold!


Sadly for those of us who live here, there is close to zero chance of a Democratic takeover in the legislature and only an outside chance of snagging the open governor’s mansion in 2010, as the Dem bench has become thinner and thinner since the state GOP’s rebirth in 2002. So I drew this map with a GOP gerrymander in mind, and as a result, it doesn’t look dramatically different than the 2005 map currently in place. With the Atlanta area providing the vast majority of growth in the state, a new 14th District is likely to be carved out of suburban counties, and should lean Republican given who will be drawing the lines.

One wrinkle to the plan in this state: the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bartlett v. Strickland means that the 2nd, 12th, and 13th Districts, all with black populations around 40-45%, will not be considered protected by the Voting Rights Act for purposes of future redistricting. Now, Sanford Bishop and David Scott are both black and have never been GOP targets, but John Barrow could be a casualty in future cycles (since his seat is under 50% black, the Supreme Court would not consider it VRA-protected). The real question is, would GOP mapmakers gerrymander Barrow’s district for a white Republican, or for a black Democrat? Given the sensitivity of the issue, and the need not to spread GOP votes too thin, I’m guessing the latter option would be more likely in this case, so I clearly tried to increase the 12th’s black % by including more of Augusta.

Barrow’s seat should stay Dem-leaning, probably getting even more so as its black population is boosted. Bishop, Johnson, Lewis, and Scott will all be protected by a GOP-drawn map (though I couldn’t figure out how to make Scott’s a VRA African-American seat as long as it resembles its current form). Then, of course, there’s Jim Marshall. Knowing Republicans will try again to mess with him, I cut out Dem-trending Newton County and added some rural Middle Georgia turf with the aim of getting his 8th District to be about 60% McCain instead of 56%. But as long as his Macon base isn’t split, it’s hard to make the 8th much more inhospitable. (One obvious option I didn’t consider to endanger Marshall: trade some of his southern turf with Jack Kingston, whose seat is already ridiculously safe. Perhaps only a real Republican would think of these things.)

Anyway, Marshall aside, the other five Dem seats are as safe as before, if not safer.

Enough ado, here it is:


District 1 – Jack Kingston (R-Savannah) — my Representative (cringe) will have the most heavily Republican seat south of the Appalachian hills. Savannah’s east side and islands do lean Republican, but it’s really the many rural counties of South Georgia that cause my travesty of congressional representation.

District 2 – Sanford Bishop (D-Albany) — may be right on the threshold of 50% black, but either way, it stays at least 54-45 Obama, somewhat rural but anchored in Columbus and Albany, and doubtlessly safe for Bishop.

District 3 – Lynn Westmoreland (R-Grantville) — these are some of the most Republican counties in the Atlanta area, so perhaps some of them could be reserved for the new 14th, but I found that after finishing the 13 incumbents, there was leftover population east of the city, not west of it.

District 4 – Hank Johnson (D-Lithonia) — still majority-black and overwhelmingly Democratic, but now entirely within DeKalb County.

District 5 – John Lewis (D-Atlanta) — also majority-black and overwhelmingly Democratic, but now entirely within Fulton County.

District 6 – Tom Price (R-Roswell) — probably remains the most educated and wealthy district in the state, and despite Democratic trends in Cobb and north Fulton, the whole inclusion of Cherokee County will protect Price and future Republicans here.

District 7 – John Linder (R-Duluth) — entirely within Gwinnett now, safe for him (for now) but trending the other way long-term. I guesstimate that McCain would have won only 54-57% in this district, so the GOP would probably draw it a bit differently than I, but there’s no escaping the inevitable: whether it involves Linder’s retirement or a competitive new 14th, eventually there will be a Democrat representing the eastern suburbs as long as the area continues its long-term diversification.

District 8 – Jim Marshall (D-Macon) — a bit more Republican than before; Marshall might survive in this conservative and military-heavy district, but a future Democrat probably wouldn’t.

District 9 – Nathan Deal (R-Gainesville) — some of the most conservative territory anywhere is in Appalachian North Georgia, so Deal gets the “safest Georgia Republican” prize.

District 10 – Paul Broun (R-Athens) — I hate Athens being in this hard-right district, but Republicans quite like the arrangement.

District 11 – Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta) — with Cobb County trending Democratic long-term, Gingrey can take solace in the rest of his district, with fast-growing but very conservative Paulding County now a secondary population base.

District 12 – John Barrow (D-Savannah) — intending to increase the black percentage here, I give Barrow 71% of Chatham and 83% of Richmond. Though Barrow is getting entrenched, a credible black primary challenger could give him a run for his money, and as an open seat this would be good territory for a black pol from either Augusta or Savannah. In any case, the district’s Obama percentage should be boosted a couple points into the high 50s.

District 13 – David Scott (D-Atlanta) — this is an ugly and meandering shape, but my intent was to keep fast-growing eastern suburbs together in a GOP seat and consolidate Scott’s Atlanta base. I don’t know the black population in this district (can’t be much more than 40-45%), but including the entirety of Clayton County, and 13% of Fulton, can’t hurt. Though it holds 66% of somewhat GOP-leaning Henry County, the other suburban areas are fairly Dem-friendly (25% of Douglas County, Smyrna and other towns in eastern Cobb).

And the new District 14 – runs clockwise from Forsyth County down to Henry County — the long-term trends in this district are blue, at least in its southern half, but with deep-red Forsyth the largest source of population, Republican X should be fine for a few cycles at least. As long as Gwinnett and Henry stay in the GOP column, Democrats can only make so much headway here by winning Newton and Rockdale. My guess is the 2008 vote would have been about 60-40 McCain here.

So the end result is an 8-6 GOP delegation if Marshall survives, 9-5 if he doesn’t. Now if only I could figure out how to put my home in Barrow’s district without disrupting the 12th’s delicate VRA balance…

New Jersey

In New Jersey, the game is rather different. A bipartisan/independent commission draws the lines, but unlike in Iowa, political considerations are very present in the mapping process. This being a bipartisan effort, incumbent protection is a top priority. My map focused on protecting all incumbents, especially two in South Jersey (Dem John Adler, whose district under my proposal would be about as solidly Democratic as Rob Andrews’, and Republican Frank LoBiondo, whom I gave the most Republican district I possibly could). I kept Albio Sires’ seat VRA Hispanic and Don Payne’s VRA African-American.

The pinch is this: New Jersey is expected to shed a seat, for a new total of 12. I was initially planning to force together two North Jersey Dems (Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman) then thought to instead put together two Republicans (Rodney Frelinghuysen and Leonard Lance), but realized that a bipartisan commission would likely seek a bipartisan fight. Thus my North Jersey districts are a bit ugly, especially Rothman’s 9th, but the solution was reached: Pascrell vs. Frelinghuysen in the new 8th, which probably would have favored Obama by a fair amount but is otherwise something of a swing district.

Again, apologies to Steve Rothman for the messy lines. He’s the new Frank Pallone in terms of representing an emaciated serpent in Congress:

New Jersey

District 1 – Rob Andrews (D-Haddon Heights) — still safely Democratic, but less so to help Adler, who would now represent 58% of Camden County, the home county of both Congressmen.

District 2 – Frank LoBiondo (R-Ventnor) — dominated by Ocean and Atlantic Counties, the most heavily Republican seat I could possibly carve out of South Jersey. It probably voted for McCain, though not by a lot, which is an improvement for the incumbent from a 54-45 Obama seat. Unlike before, Republicans would have a great shot at holding the 2nd when LoBiondo retires.

District 3 – John Adler (D-Cherry Hill) – 58% of Camden and 96% of Burlington = a safe seat.

District 4 – Chris Smith (R-Hamilton) — would now be not just more Republican, but more conservative too.

District 5 – Scott Garrett (R-Wantage) — sorry, folks, unless he’s a candidate for elimination, Garrett will be made safe by any commission-approved plan.

District 6 – Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch) — you must admit that these lines make a lot more sense.

District 7 – Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township) — I attempted to pick up if not the more Republican areas of North-Central Jersey, then at least the less Democratic ones. The current 7th only narrowly voted for Obama and I think what I constructed may have (barely) voted for McCain, but there’s only so much that can be done for an incumbent with a district trending the other way. For Lance’s sake, he should work to maintain a moderate reputation.

District 8 – Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) vs. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Morristown) — this is something of a quintessential North Jersey seat, with 67% of Pascrell’s home Passaic County, 59% of Frelinghuysen’s Morris, and the leftover 11% of Bergen. Since both Reps. have seniority and entrenched House careers under their belts, the real question is whether this district is liberal enough for Pascrell or conservative enough for Frelinghuysen. I have no idea how a real race would unfold here.

District 9 – Steve Rothman (D-Fair Lawn) — gerrymandered not for political expediency (Rothman has a safe seat, no question about it), but for pure numerical equalization.

District 10 – Donald Payne (D-Newark) — should still be majority-black and heavily Democratic.

District 11 – Rush Holt (D-Hopewell Township) — in the last round of redistricting, protecting Holt was the first consideration. Since his current district voted 58-41 for Obama, there’s little concern there, so my intent was to keep the district Dem-leaning and make it a little more compact.

District 12 – Albio Sires (D-West New York) — probably close to 50% Hispanic now due to demographic changes anyway, and including the leftover 27% of Union County shouldn’t much harm the district’s VRA legal status, particularly with all of Hudson County preserved in my proposed configuration.

11 incumbents are safe (most of them safer than before) in my plan, and the only real popcorn-worthy fight would be in the new 8th. New Jersey is one of the states I am least knowledgeable about demographically, so I’d greatly appreciate some insight into my hypothetical Pascrell/Frelinghuysen contest.