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.
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.