Gerrymandering is as much about shoring up vulnerable incumbents as it is targeting the other party, and with a huge House freshman class and control of the majority of statehouses, the GOP is looking to protect its own.
While some Democratic incumbents stand to benefit from redistricting, most of the lucky incumbents are Republicans. Many big states, including New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Washington have yet to finish their redistricting plans — and in all those states incumbents stand to benefit from the new maps. At this point, here are the top 10 House incumbents most likely to benefit from redistricting:
10. Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.)
Young beat then-Rep. Baron Hill (D) in a Republican-leaning Southern Indiana district Hill had held from 1999 to 2005 and then again from 2007 to 2011. During redistricting, which was controlled by the GOP, his allies in the state legislature raided next-door freshman Rep. Larry Bucshon’s (R) district for Republican pockets, shoring up Young and making Bucshon more vulnerable.
The House Budget Committee chairman’s district has trended a bit Democratic in recent years and went narrowly for then-candidate Obama in 2008, making it a swing district. While Ryan has remained personally popular in the district and has topped 60 percent in every one of his reelections, his plan to privatize Medicare had made Democrats hopeful they could make an example of him this year. But Republicans in control of the statehouse rushed through a redistricting plan ahead of the state Senate recalls that made Ryan’s district a few points more Republican. Since then there has been little talk from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee about targeting Ryan.
8. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.)
Connelly won a Democratic-trending Northern Virginia seat in 2008 and was expected to cruise to reelection in 2010, but held on by slightly more than 1,000 votes. Republicans hope to push through a redistricting plan that will shore up neighboring Virginia GOP incumbent Rep. Frank Wolf. In doing so, the GOP would inadvertently also shore up Connolly’s district. If the Republicans can win two seats to take control of the state Senate this November, they will push through their incumbent-protection plan. If not, Democrats hope to tie up the process and let the courts draw the map, which will likely have little impact on Connolly’s district.
7. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.)
Duffy won a Democratic-leaning northwest Wisconsin seat that had been held by Democratic Rep. David Obey from 1969 until his retirement this year, and Democrats have him in their crosshairs next cycle. The GOP state legislators helped him out by swapping some more Democratic territory south of his district with Republican areas, making the district a toss-up and giving him a better chance of holding on to the seat.
6. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.)
Walberg, a staunch conservative in a Republican-leaning district, beat a centrist Republican in 2006 en route to winning the seat, but lost it to centrist Rep. Mark Schauer (D) two years later. He then beat Schauer in a rematch by 5 points last election, not a huge margin in such a strong Republican year. The Republicans who controlled Michigan’s redistricting made sure to cut Schauer’s home base out of the district and make it a few points more Republican. Schauer said that he will not run for a rematch because of the new map.
5. Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.)
Scott beat former Rep. Jim Marshall (D) in 2010 by 6 points in a district that is always more Democratic in presidential years because of higher African-American turnout. Georgia’s Republican-controlled legislature passed a map last week that moves many African Americans to neighboring Rep. Sanford Bishop’s (D-Ga.) district, giving Scott a safe seat.
4. Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.)
Bishop barely held on to his seat last election, winning by just 3 points. But Republicans who desired to shore up Scott also helped Bishop by making the district more heavily African American. He’s unlikely to face another serious threat going forward.
3. Rep. Franco ‘Quico’ Canseco (R-Texas)
Canseco beat Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D) by 5 points in a Republican-leaning but heavily Hispanic district stretching hundreds of miles along the Texas-Mexico border. Republicans were careful when they redrew the district not to bring down the district’s Hispanic percentage in order to avoid violating the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voters, but craftily switched out high-voting Democratic Hispanic areas with areas that have lower turnout. If the district stands up to legal scrutiny, Canseco will be in a better position heading into next year’s election.
2. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.)
Ellmers narrowly beat former Rep. Bob Etheridge, a conservative Democrat, by fewer than 1,500 votes last election. Democrats had drawn the district to be as Democratic as possible in 2001, and the GOP has paid them back by taking it from a slightly GOP-leaning district to one that’s more solidly Republican.
1. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas)
Farenthold was one of 2010’s biggest surprises — he edged former Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas) by fewer than 1,000 votes in a heavily Hispanic border district where midterm election turnout is a perennial problem for Democrats. The new GOP map moved his district into white, heavily Republican Corpus Christi. Assuming no Republicans decide to challenge him in a primary and the new map stands up to Voting Rights Act challenges, it will transform Farenthold from an accidental winner into a second-term incumbent in a safe district.
A partial list of other incumbents who have been or could be helped: Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas), Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Dan Benishek (R-Mich.), Joe Heck (R-Nev.), Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Mike Turner (R-Ohio), Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), Mike Kitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Dave Reichert (R-Wash.).