Congress’s lines are being redrawn, putting some longtime incumbents in a tough spot heading into next year’s election.
Several incumbent lawmakers face uncertain futures and potential match-ups against fellow members under California’s new map of congressional districts, which has been all but finalized.
Democrats are likely to pick up one to three seats under the redistricting plan, but the map could have more far-reaching consequences — a slew of competitive House races in the state over the next decade.
The biggest factor is the uncertainty: Lawmakers will be running in districts that have suddenly become competitive, and will have to introduce themselves to new constituents added to the voter rolls because of the shifting boundaries.
“It’s much more volatile,” said Tony Quinn, a redistricting expert who advises Republicans. “Nobody’s ever run a campaign in these seats for Congress when they were competitive.”
The chaos was caused by the new bipartisan California Citizens’ Redistricting Commission, which was created by a ballot proposition last year to undo California’s heavily gerrymandered congressional and state House maps.
The map has yet to be finalized, but strategists from both parties don’t expect much to change before they are released this Friday. There will then be a two-week waiting period before the map is officially approved by the commission. No one expects the commission to vote down the map, or that any group will challenge it in court.
University of California-Berkeley Professor Bruce Cain has identified 13 districts that could be in play under the new map. That stands in stark contrast to California’s current congressional boundaries: Of the state’s 51 seats, only one has changed parties in the last decade.
At-risk House members include Democratic Reps. Howard Berman, Lois Capps, Janice Hahn and Laura Richardson, and Republicans David Dreier, Elton Gallegly and Ed Royce, all of whom will have their districts drastically altered.
Royce and Berman are in the most danger, as their districts all but disappeared in the new map and they don’t have a logical place to move to for a new run. Royce may challenge Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) for a seat that has a small part of his current district. Berman may challenge Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) in a district that contains many more of Sherman's voters than Berman's or could run further west in a Hispanic-majority seat.
Dreier is also at high risk — his current Republican-leaning district becomes a Democratic-leaning one, and a fast-growing Hispanic population means that even if he manages to win next year, the area could become harder and harder to hold in subsequent elections.
Hahn, who just came into office in July’s special election, has said she might run in a heavily African-American district in Compton, which could put her in a primary against Richardson, an African-American lawmaker. Richardson has faced tough primaries before, but she’s also facing questions about allegations she required staff members to work campaign events, which is a violation of federal law.
Capps and Gallegly hail from the same centrist area north of Los Angeles, but their districts were gerrymandered to be safe. Now they are both toss-ups. Capps will likely face former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, a Republican with a half-million dollars in his campaign account.
Other incumbents who should be concerned include Democrats Linda Sanchez and Jim Costa, and Republicans Brian Bilbray, Dan Lungren and Mary Bono Mack.
Costa’s seat becomes about 10 points more Republican, and while it still leans slightly Democratic, the Hispanic voters he relies on often don’t always show up in midterm elections. There are rumors he might move north to run for the seat of his good friend, Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D), who could be considering leaving Congress.
Lungren’s district still leans Republican but is not quite as red as it used to be. The four-term lawmaker has faced tough races the past two elections and is an underwhelming campaigner and fundraiser. Physician Ami Bera (D) came within 7 points of beating him in 2010, a Republican year, and is one of Democrats’ top fundraisers so far. Assemblywoman Alyson Huber (D) is also eyeing the seat, and both Democrats and Republicans say she could be formidable.
Sanchez will have to run in unfamiliar territory east of her current district, in an area that is not as liberal.
Bono Mack’s district remains Republican-leaning, but she has faced serious challengers the last few elections as a large number of Hispanics have moved into the area. While she will have the edge in any race and is known as a centrist, if the demographic change in that part of the state continues, she could face tough competition in future elections. One thing working for her: The commission created many new Hispanic-majority House and state House seats nearby, which would be more attractive for up-and-coming Democrats in the area.
The map also resulted in at least one retirement. Democratic Rep. Bob Filner will leave the House to run for mayor of San Diego — the map would make his district heavily Hispanic and he would likely have faced a tough primary challenger.
Adding to next year’s election confusion, another proposition California voters passed creates a “Jungle Primary,” where the top two vote-getters in the first round go on to the final round, meaning two Democrats or two Republicans could square off in a general election.
This new law and the new map could combine to make politicians of both parties seek the center.
“It presents an opportunity for the Republican Party to alter its course … and do what the Bush wing of the party has been wanting to do and nominate some moderate Republican Hispanics that can win in places like the Central Valley and Inland Empire,” Cain said.
Quinn agreed that the reforms “actually worked” in creating more seats where centrists can win. “The Capps seat and the Gallegly seat, and this new Riverside seat, invite moderates to run,” he said. “The same thing is really true in this Dreier seat.”
-- This story was updated at 2:39 p.m. to correct the list of members at risk. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) was added.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has signed into law the state's controversial map of newly reapportioned congressional districts.
Republicans have criticized the map, which pits several GOP lawmakers against one another, announced they will sue.
Democrats control the redistricting process in the state, which is losing one House seat next year, and the map they drew is seen as benefiting their party.
They could pick up five or six seats if the map stands, which would help them recover from the four seats Republicans gained in President Obama's home state last cycle.
Quinn defended the map Friday.
“I have carefully reviewed the congressional redistricting map. This map is fair, maintains competitiveness within congressional districts, and protects the voting rights of minority communities," he said in a signing statement.
Republicans reiterated their argument the map is partisan.
"This bill is a crass, partisan political move to silence the voices of Illinoisans, who last November made it very clear that they wanted to fire Nancy Pelosi by electing a majority Republican Congressional Delegation from the home state of President Obama," Republican state party Chairman Pat Brady said in a statement.
“I hope that the courts will overturn these maps as an unfair representation of the citizens of Illinois.”
The Illinois Republican delegation put out a statement Friday blasting Quinn and announcing there will be a lawsuit.
The members say Quinn "rewarded his Democrat allies by approving this highly partisan map that tears apart communities and disrespects the will of Illinois voters as expressed in last fall’s election."
They added that: “this map will be challenged in court, and we do not expect to comment further on a matter that now will be the subject of litigation. As we have said before, we do not believe this map will stand.”
Most of the lawmakers, many of whom have been put in primaries against
one another, have avoided stating where they'll run next cycle. The
statement indicates they will continue to stay silent on the 2012 race.
Ten out of 11 GOP members of the delegation signed the statement. Rep. Timothy Johnson's name was missing.
Johnson's office released a statement Friday, criticizing the proposed map but not mentioning why the lawmaker didn't sign on to the joint statement.
“While I believe the lawsuit has a reasonable chance of success, I also believe that the coming months provide an opportunity for me to get acquainted with the people, the communities and the issues that are part of the new 13th District that the Democrats have drawn me in to. I welcome the opportunity to represent the good people of west-central Illinois. I have been warmly received everywhere I’ve been and I hope to represent them with the same energy and integrity that I’ve demonstrated throughout my career," Johnson said.
-- This post was last updated at 5:07 p.m.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett says a redistricting proposal that eliminates his district is "part of the plan" for the Texas GOP.
Dems could pick up four or five seats; Some lawmakers escape primaries with fellow incumbents.
Illinois Democrats released their congressional redistricting map Friday that spells bad news for three House Republicans.
The state is losing one House seat — with Democrats in control of the redistricting process, the party sees a chance to win back some of the seats lost in the 2010 election.
It's three suburban Chicago lawmakers who took the toughest hits.
Freshman GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Robert Dold, along with veteran lawmaker Judy Biggert, would face Democratic incumbents under the plan, according to The Associated Press.
Kinzinger will face veteran Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.; Biggert, a seven-term lawmaker, would face two-term Democrat Rep. Mike Quigley, and Dold will face longtime Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky.
Republicans won four House seats in President Obama's home state last year, and the proposed-map would give Democrats a shot at regaining some of those districts.
State Democrats are trying to get the plan approved before the May 31, when the legislative session is scheduled to end.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) blasted the plan, saying the proposed map "is the unfortunate result of cynical partisans who want to override the decision of Illinois voters."
All the Republican members of the Illinois delegation signed into a statement Friday, blasting the draft plan.
"This proposal appears to be little more than an attempt to undo the
results of the elections held just six months ago and we will take
whatever steps necessary to achieve a map that more fairly represents
the people of Illinois – they deserve nothing less," the lawmakers said.
-- This post was updated at 3:44 p.m.
Lawmakers in Missouri's state House have voted to override a gubernatorial veto of a redistricting plan approved by the legislature late last month.
The successful override vote in the House all but guarantees the new congressional map, which Missouri Democrats have slammed as unfairly partisan, will become law.
It's now up to the Missouri state Senate to hold an override vote, and Republicans have more than enough votes in that chamber to override Gov. Jay Nixon's (D) veto. The veto is likely to take place by Wednesday afternoon.
Kucinich's office isn't squashing speculation about the move, saying 20 states have asked him to run in their area.
State lawmakers in Missouri have approved a new congressional map, but Gov. Jay Nixon (D) is under pressure from fellow Democrats to veto the plan.
The Democratic Caucus in the state House sent a letter to Nixon after the plan was approved Wednesday, arguing it stacks the deck against Democrats and that it deserves a gubernatorial veto.
The new map eliminates Rep. Russ Carnahan's (D) district and places the entire city of St. Louis into the district of Rep. Lacy Clay (D). Both Democrats have denounced the plan.
In passing the bill Wednesday, the Republican-led legislature has enough time to override a Nixon veto before the end of the legislative session on May 13. But it's unclear whether Republicans have the votes to do it.
Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) announced Friday that he will move to Iowa's 3rd Congressional District ahead of next year and take on eight-term incumbent Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) rather than face a primary with fellow Republican Rep. Steve King.
Latham's decision comes after state lawmakers in Iowa approved a new map Thursday that puts Latham and King in the same congressional district for 2012. The two Republicans were anxious to avoid a primary fight in 2012, and the party sees a Latham-Boswell race as winnable for the GOP.
Republican Gov. Terry Branstad announced Friday that he will sign the redistricting plan into law.
"I have never let map boundaries block the great honor I have felt in representing the interests of all Iowans in the United States Congress," Latham said in a statement Friday.
Boswell, meanwhile, told The Ballot Box earlier this week that he's ready for a matchup with Latham, promising the Republican a tough race.
"I live in Polk County, in the capital city," Boswell said. "That's my base, and whatever gets attached to it, so be it. But I'm not going anywhere."
The longtime Democrat, who survived a contested race in 2010, said he's been conditioned to expect a tough battle every year, adding that his new district will have "half the counties I've served before anyway."
The National Republican Congressional Committee praised Latham in a statement Friday as "a proven conservative leader" and pledged support in his race against Boswell.
“The NRCC is committed to re-electing every House Republican Member through our Patriot Program, which empowers House Republicans with the strategies and resources to stay on offense against Nancy Pelosi’s House Democrats," NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) said in a statement. "We look forward to supporting Tom Latham as he takes on a new opportunity for Republican victory in 2012.”
Latham's decision leaves the new 4th District to King for 2012.
"Having represented nearly half of the new Fourth District since 2002, I look forward to continuing to represent the interests of northwest Iowa in Congress, and I am looking forward to building new relationships in new communities across north central Iowa," King said in a statement Friday.
Of Latham, he said, "I am pleased that the residents of the southern part of my current district will have the opportunity to choose Tom Latham as their representative in Congress.
-Updated at 12:35 p.m.