Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Posts Tagged ‘Colleen Mathis’

State Redistricting Maps Released: AZ, MS, NJ

In Redistricting on December 23, 2011 at 11:48 am

Note: This is our last Political Update through the Christmas holidays. We will be back with an Iowa perspective for the January 3rd vote on Friday, December 30th. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s celebration.

The legal processes in three states produced congressional maps in the past two days, and all may become final by Dec. 31. In Connecticut, the joint legislative panel appointed to draw the congressional map has again failed, reaching the second extended deadline without defining district boundaries. Connecticut redistricting now transfers to the state Supreme Court, which will take responsibility for drawing a new 5-district map.

Arizona
The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission released a new map that will likely be adopted before Jan. 1. Accompanying political data is not yet available, but the geographic dispersion as it relates to the current districts has been made public. The draw is similar but not identical to the draft map released earlier in the year that ignited the controversy leading to Commission chair Colleen Mathis’ impeachment. When the state Supreme Court reinstated Ms. Mathis, the redistricting work continued.

The basic construct of the Arizona map is much different from the current plan. The numbers all rotate, and it looks like several marginal seats will feature competitive political campaigns for a number of ensuing elections.

Freshman Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ-1) appears to take the biggest hit, as the new rural 1st District includes 23 percent new territory from Democratic Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-7) and Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8). The 1st was a marginal district under the current map, meaning this new AZ-1 will likely swing toward the Ds.

The new 2nd District is Rep. Giffords’ former 8th CD. It is probable that this district was made a bit more Democratic after the draft version, which originally conceived it as a 50/50 seat. The southwestern Arizona 3rd District is that of Rep. Grijalva, converted from District 7. This seat will remain safely Democratic. The 4th District is the new seat the state receives from reapportionment. The new 4th is comprised of parts from six current districts, but primarily from the Republican districts of Reps. Gosar (AZ-1; 33.7 percent), Trent Franks (AZ-2; 33.0 percent), Jeff Flake (AZ-6; 20.6 percent) and the Democratic seat of Grijalva (AZ-7; 12.5 percent). This seat has no incumbent and the eventual Republican nominee will claim the district. It is conceivable that Rep. Gosar could run in this Phoenix metropolitan area-based CD instead of his more rural and politically marginal 1st District.

The new 5th District is completely composed of Rep. Flake’s current 6th CD. The 6th was over-populated by 261,509 people, the third-highest number of any congressional district in the country, so the old 6th fully contains 100 percent of the new 5th. It is likely that this open seat (Rep. Flake is running for Senate) will remain as a Republican district. The new 6th is largely the seat of Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ-3), and should remain a district that favors him. The new 7th is the inner city Phoenix seat that matches-up best with Rep. Ed Pastor’s current 4th District. The territory remains Democratic.

The new 8th District is largely the former 2nd District of Rep. Trent Franks and will remain Republican. The new 9th District is a hodgepodge of four districts, 61 percent of which comes from the current CD-5 of freshman Rep. David Schweikert (R). Another 17.3 percent is extracted from Rep. Quayle’s current 3rd District, and 16.2 percent is in Rep. Flake’s seat. The remaining 6 percent of the new territory is from Rep. Pastor’s 4th CD. It is likely that Mr. Schweikert will run here.

We will have better information when the political statistics become available.

New Jersey
The official New Jersey congressional map could be approved as early as today. It is already clear, however, that Reps. Scott Garrett (R-NJ-5) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ-9) will be paired in a northern NJ seat. Both Democrats and Republicans have submitted maps featuring this configuration. The Republican map gives the edge to Garrett; likewise, the Democratic plan favors Rothman. The commission can accept either map as drawn or construct something different. The fact that both sides have agreed upon the pairing makes it a virtual certainty that such will be the final outcome.

Mississippi
Despite the new legislature being sworn into office prior to the January candidate filing deadline, the three-judge federal panel with Mississippi redistricting jurisdiction stepped in and drew a new map. It is a least-change map, almost identically reflecting the current configuration. The 2nd District (Rep. Bennie Thompson-D) was the most out of balance, needing to gain more than 75,000 people from the other districts. The remaining three are all over-populated by varying degrees.

It remains to be seen if the legislature takes action when they convene soon after next year begins.

Arizona Redistricting Court Ruling

In Reapportionment, Redistricting on November 18, 2011 at 11:42 am

The Arizona Supreme Court late yesterday overturned the previous action that impeached the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission chair, thus reinstating Colleen Mathis as a member of the IRC. The state Senate and Gov. Jan Brewer (R) removed Mathis from office for “dereliction of duty,” but the high court said such petition did not legally demonstrate the charge.

The draft congressional map has now been before the public for the required 30 days, and many boundary changes have been suggested. Now that Mathis is back on the commission, the necessary three votes to pass a map, probably an amended one, will likely be attained. The original map is politically competitive but could elect five Democrats to four Republicans over the course of the decade. The current delegation stands at five Republicans and three Democrats. Arizona gains one seat in reapportionment. The proposed map features four solid Republican districts, two Democrat districts, and three competitive seats – all of which will likely trend away from the Republicans over time.

Weekly Redistricting Outlook

In Redistricting on November 15, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following six states during the past week: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, and Virginia.

ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – The Arizona state Supreme Court failed to grant impeached Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) chair Colleen Mathis (I) a stay over the state Senate and governor’s decision to remove her from office. The Court has agreed to hear Mathis’ motion to overturn her removal, but the judicial body won’t allow her to return to the Commission before the case is heard. Thus, the Arizona congressional map is on hold for an indefinite period of time.

Mathis supporters and the Democratic Party were hoping the high court would reinstate her so the Commission would have time to pass the map that had been previously laid out for comment. The public is allowed 30 days to express opinion after which changes can be made. That period ended just days after Mathis was removed, thus denying the panel a clear majority to enact the plan. Over the course of time, the Mathis map would likely produce a 5D-4R Democratic majority in the Arizona delegation.

Should she lose her legal maneuvering, the process to fill the Mathis vacancy would begin anew as a different chairman would be chosen as defined through the procedures governing commission membership. By law, the IRC must have two Democrats, two Republicans, and an Independent who becomes the chairman.

COLORADO (current delegation: 4R-3D) – The state court drawing the de novo map released its plan and basically adopted the Democratic outline. This is not a surprise, as the Colorado courts have repeatedly favored the Democrats in previous decades. The most endangered member of the delegation now appears to be sophomore Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6), as his Arapahoe County-based district now wraps around into Adams County, northeast of Denver, and adds a much higher number of Democrats to what was his safe Republican seat. The 6th District goes from 46 percent Obama in the 2008 presidential contest to 54 percent Obama, suggesting that the district will become highly competitive in the 2012 election and likely beyond.

The big winner for the GOP is freshman Rep. Cory Gardner in the 4th District. Formerly a safe Republican seat, the 4th went Democratic for one term prior to Gardner’s victory in 2010. His eastern Colorado seat goes from 49 percent Obama to 42 percent Obama, representing a substantial jump in Republican voters.

The other districts remain in about the same partisan ratio as they were during the previous decade. This means the 3rd District of freshman Republican Rep. Scott Tipton remains as a swing seat. CD-4 changes from 47 percent Obama to 48 percent. The map, which is unlikely to be challenged, will create an even more competitive plan than in the past decade.

The state court was forced to draw the map because the legislature deadlocked over the congressional plan during the regular session.

NEVADA (current delegation: 2R-1D; gains one seat) –
It appears the Republicans will not challenge the lower court-drawn congressional map. Petitioning the state Supreme Court would be the next step in the process. It is unlikely the high court would overturn what the lower court devised, so such action is futile, Republican leaders apparently believe. The court created a 1D, 1R map with two seats rated as competitive.

OHIO (current delegation: 13R-5D; loses two seats) – Republicans are still trying to put a two-thirds coalition together in both houses of their legislature to pass a modified congressional map. At this writing, the chances of forming such a consensus appear slim. Failure to pass a new map means reverting to the previous enacted plan over which Democrats are currently gathering petition signatures to force a ballot referendum. If successful, the map will go to the voters in the general election of 2012, meaning a court will draw an interim 16-seat Ohio map for the current election cycle.

SOUTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 5R-1D; gains one seat) –
A new Voting Rights lawsuit was filed against the state’s recently enacted congressional map that should return six Republicans and one Democrat to Washington. The lawsuit, brought by a group of African-American voters, claims that too many black voters were packed into Rep. Jim Clyburn’s (D) 6th District. Because the US Justice Department has already granted pre-clearance to the South Carolina congressional plan, any lawsuit charging illegalities over minority representation is unlikely to succeed.

VIRGINIA (current delegation: 8R-3D) –
As expected, now that Republicans will assume control of the state Senate, the new leadership announced they will wait until the next legislative session, when they are officially in control, to move a congressional map. Expect the 8R-3D ratio to be strengthened and remain locked for the ensuing decade. The new session begins in January.

Weekly Redistricting Outlook

In Redistricting on November 8, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following four states during the past week:

ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – Redistricting chaos has broken out. (Read more background in our Nov. 2 post.) Gov. Jan Brewer (R) and the Republican state Senate last week impeached Independent Redistricting Commission chair Colleen Mathis, as they have the power to do under the voter initiative that created the special panel in 2000. The commission is comprised of two Republicans, two Democrats, and one Independent, the latter of whom automatically becomes chairman. Ms. Mathis, the Independent, was impeached by two-thirds of the state Senate, which Gov. Brewer approved. Officially, the impeachment related to the way in which Mathis discharged her duties as commission chair but, in reality, it was because she basically became the commission’s third Democratic member, siding with the Ds on all key votes. She helped draft a map that will likely lead to a Democratic majority within the state’s nine-member federal delegation at some point during the decade.

The Democrats argued that the map would elect four Republicans, two Democrats, which would leave three seats as competitive in districts that either party could win. Considering demographic growth patterns in Arizona, the three toss-up seats would likely trend Democratic if not in 2012, then in later elections. GOP freshmen Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ-1) and David Schweikert (R-AZ-5), in particular, received unfavorable draws and would have difficult paths to re-election.

After the impeachment, Mathis filed suit with the state Supreme Court to overturn the removal action. The high court has agreed to hear the case. Their first ruling will likely come next week, when they decide whether or not to stay the impeachment pending the judicial review. Invoking a stay would be interesting, since such a move would basically restore Mathis to her role as chairman, at least for the short term. That might be enough time, however, to actually adopt the draft map. The initiative law mandated that any draft map must be opened to a public comment period for 30 days, a period that has now expired. Actually adopting the congressional map will give the plan a greater legal standing, since an eventual lawsuit against whatever becomes final is inevitable.

MASSACHUSETTS (current delegation 10D; loses one seat) – The proposed Massachusetts congressional map was released yesterday and, to no one’s surprise since 1st District Rep. John Olver (D) has already announced his retirement, the 1st and 2nd Districts, the two western-most seats in the Bay State, were combined into a new 1st District. All nine Democrats seeking re-election should have no trouble, as most of the new map is similar to the current plan, sans western Mass. The new 7th District (formerly the 8th) of Rep. Michael Capuano (D) loses the city of Cambridge, long the district’s population anchor dating back to the days when John Kennedy and Tip O’Neill represented the seat, while annexing several minority communities. Rep. Barney Frank’s (D) 4th District loses the cities of New Bedford and Fall River to Rep. Bill Keating’s new 9th District, thus making the former’s seat a bit more Republican as he some GOP-leaning suburbs were then added. This map, or a version close to it, will be enacted and all incumbents should remain in what will likely be a 9D-0R delegation for the decade.

NORTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 7D-6R) – The North Carolina congressional map approved by the state legislature earlier in the year received pre-clearance from the U.S. Justice Department. It is clearly the Republicans’ best map in the country. Immediately, several lawsuits, including one from a group of plaintiffs led by former Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC-2), were filed. Having pre-clearance from the Obama Administration clearly gives the state a strong argument to win these court challenges. It is likely that the pre-cleared map will eventually become final, meaning that 2012 elections will be conducted within the boundaries of this plan. Heavily endangered are Democratic incumbents Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7), Larry Kissell (D-NC-8), and Heath Shuler (D-NC-11). Reps. David Price (D-NC-4) and Brad Miller (D-NC-13) are paired in a new District 4 that stretches from Raleigh to Fayetteville. Republicans could gain as many a four seats in the Tar Heel State, neutralizing similar losses from the Democratic map in Illinois.

OHIO (current delegation: 13R-5D: loses two seats) – The GOP plan to redraw the congressional districts in order to attract enough African-American Democratic support in the state House of Representatives to pass the map via a two-thirds vote has failed. Though the state has enacted a map, Democrats won a court ruling that gives them the ability to place the measure before the 2012 general election voters via referendum. Had the GOP garnered a two-thirds vote in both houses, a referendum would not have been a legal option. The mark was attained in the state Senate but fell a few votes short in the House.

In a ruling against the Democrats, the court did not extend the signature gathering period to qualify the referendum. The party had asked for the longer period because the regular referendum qualifying period is already half over. Even with the shortened time frame, the Democrats should be able to qualify the measure for a vote.

If they are successful, then an interim map will have to be used for 2012. Ohio loses two seats, so a new 16-district map must be in place for the upcoming elections. The enacted map would likely elect 12 Republicans and four Democrats. It is likely that a court-drawn map would not reflect as favorable a Republican split, though the GOP will ask the eventual court of jurisdiction to install the official plan as the interim map.

Ohio is a critically important redistricting state, especially for the Republicans, so the eventual outcome here will greatly affect the national political picture.

Arizona Redistricting Explodes

In Redistricting on November 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm

The Arizona state Senate, acting in a special session that Gov. Jan Brewer (R) called earlier in the day, impeached Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) chair Colleen Mathis, throwing the state’s redistricting process into chaos.

The GOP had long been upset with Mathis, the Independent member among the five commissioners. By law, the IRC is comprised of two Republicans, two Democrats, and the one Independent. Ms. Mathis initially raised the GOP’s ire when she sided with the Democratic members in choosing the Commission legal counsel and special master map drawers, both over intense Republican objections. The GOP leaders uniformly believed that those chosen for these two most important administrative positions were highly partisan Democratic activists.

The timing of the impeachment action will likely prevent the remaining IRC members from approving the draft congressional map. The Commission could not vote on a final map until the public had 30 days to make comments once the draft plan was released into the public domain.  That period ends tomorrow, but without Mathis they don’t have the necessary three votes for passage.

Republicans were unhappy with the congressional draw, a plan that would likely give the Democrats a 5-4 delegation majority over the course of the decade. The current split is 5-3 Republican. The state gains one seat in reapportionment.

Democrats countered that the map actually creates four Republican seats while only two are safely in their party’s column. The other three seats are marginal, competitive for either party to claim, they said. The state’s demographic trends, however, and the way in which this map was constructed would likely trend Democratic, if not in the 2012 election, then certainly in subsequent votes.

Previously, Attorney General Tom Horne (R) had filed suit against the Commission, claiming the panel had violated the state’s open meetings law. Late last week, the judge hearing the litigation removed Horne as the lead plaintiff ruling that the Attorney General’s office had advised the IRC about complying with that very set of laws. The Maricopa County Attorney replaced Horne as lead plaintiff, so the lawsuit continues.

Gov. Brewer took the bold action yesterday morning, by summoning the legislature into special session. Under the initiative passed by voters in 2000 creating the Commission, the governor and state Senate has the power to impeach and remove any IRC member for failure to properly perform their duties. The action requires two-thirds of the 30-member Senate to vote in favor of such a legislative maneuver. Republicans control the chamber 21-9, one more than needed so long as virtually very GOP Senator supported the motion to impeach.

For a time, however, it looked like the governor’s move would fail. State Sen. Frank Antenori (R) seemed to have enough votes to stop the impeachment under the reasoning that he believed the people, and not the Senate and governor, should have the power to disband the IRC in a vote during the current election cycle. He claimed to have four other senators following his lead. Things between Antenori and the governor got ugly before the vote was called. The senator was quoted as saying, “I’m not going to let this freaking governor push me around. This is pure, stupid, stubborn Jan Brewer,” he told a liberal blog reporter. But, in the end, Brewer carried the day as Antenori and the entire Republican caucus voted in favor of impeachment, and the motion carried 21-6 with three Democratic members not voting.

Democrats are countering, threatening recall petitions against certain GOP senators, while Mathis and the Democratic Commissioners are filing their own lawsuits against Brewer and the Republicans.

With the process collapsing to this degree, it appears that Arizona congressional redistricting will be on hold for the foreseeable future. It is difficult to predict the final outcome here, but it does appear that the draft Commission map will never again see the light of day. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess as to what happens next.