October 23, 2021

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Texas GOP proposes House gerrymander to shield itself against a fast-changing state


Overall, there would be 23 safely Republican seats and one that tilts toward the GOP—the 23rd in the state’s southwest, a traditionally swingy district now represented by freshman Rep. Tony Gonzalez. By contrast, the map would create 12 safe Democratic districts, with one seat leaning the party’s way: Rep. Henry Cuellar’s 28th, based in South Texas. One Democratic seat, the 15th, would flip from 50-49 Biden to 51-48 Trump and would be the state’s lone toss-up district, though Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez might instead choose to seek re-election in the neighboring (and bluer) 34th District, where fellow Democrat Filemon Vela is retiring. (Both are heavily Latino districts, also in South Texas.)

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Due to its considerable population growth, Texas is also adding two new districts in reapportionment. One new seat, numbered the 37th District, is a dark blue Democratic vote-sink in Austin, while the 38th District is on safely Republican turf in the Houston suburbs. Notably, though, despite the fact that almost all of that growth was among people of color, the GOP’s map adds no new Latino districts and in fact weakens two of them—the 15th and the 23rd.

The latter in particular could be the subject of litigation under the Voting Rights Act: By reducing the Latino proportion of the eligible voting-age population from 63% to 58%, map-makers risk creating a district with a majority-white electorate that would prevent Latino voters from electing their preferred candidates. (Latino voters typically turn out at lower rates than their white counterparts.) Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias in fact already threatened to bring just such a suit, but the Supreme Court’s hostility to VRA litigation poses a serious obstacle.

It’s always possible that these lines could be tweaked before final passage, though the Texas Tribune’s Abby Livingston says that unnamed GOP sources tell her that every Republican member of the state’s congressional delegation has given their approval to this plan. It’s therefore likely that this is the map that will become law and, barring unlikely criticism from an extremely conservative federal judiciary, be used in elections for the next 10 years.

Redistricting

NE Redistricting: In a bipartisan 43-5 vote late on Friday, Nebraska lawmakers advanced a new legislative redistricting plan that represents a compromise after a Democratic-led filibuster derailed the GOP’s first map. That followed a similar vote earlier in the day (which we covered in the previous Digest) to move forward with a new congressional map agreed to by a number of Democrats.

Governors

FL-Gov: Former state Rep. Sean Shaw, who in May didn’t rule out his own bid for governor, has endorsed Rep. Charlie Crist in the Democratic primary. Shaw was the Democrats’ 2018 nominee for state attorney general.

MI-Gov: According to MLive’s Emily Lawler, RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel says she “considered running for governor herself” but “is now focused on” unseating Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. In April, McDaniel had declined to rule out a bid, but now it sounds like she finally has, given the past-tense use of “considered.”

MN-Gov: Former state GOP chair Jennifer Carnahan told WCCO last week, “I don’t see my name being on the ballot in 2022 in Minnesota,” despite Carnahan’s own claim earlier this month that “thousands” of people had asked her to run for governor. Carnahan, who resigned in disgrace as party chair in August, also did not file by the Friday night deadline for the contest to get her old job back, a race that will be decided by Republicans leaders on Oct. 2.

OR-Gov: State Treasurer Tobias Read entered Oregon’s open-seat race for governor on Monday, making him the second prominent Democrat to do so. Read, a former footwear developer at Nike, served a decade in the state House before winning his current post in 2016 by defeating Republican Jeff Gudman 44-41; he beat Gudman by a wider 52-42 in a rematch last year. In his kickoff, Read emphasized the need for mandatory student vaccinations to ensure safe schools once COVID shots are approved for those under 12.

The first big-name Democrat to announce a bid to replace term-limited Gov. Kate Brown was state House Speaker Tina Kotek, who launched her campaign at the end of last month but has been embroiled in a major battle over new maps. Several other notable candidates could still join the primary, including state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.

P.S. While Oregon holds elections for governor and labor commissioner in midterms, it elects its attorney general, secretary of state, and treasurer in presidential years.

RI-Gov: State House Minority Leader Blake Filippi says he is “undecided” about a possible gubernatorial bid but tells WPRI’s Ted Nesi he will decide in the fall. Nesi also reports that Filippi is “under pressure to enter the race” from fellow Republicans, who have yet to land a notable candidate.

VA-Gov: Two new polls of Virginia’s gubernatorial race show a continued lead for Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Monmouth University puts McAuliffe up 48-43 on Republican Glenn Youngkin, virtually unchanged from his 47-42 advantage last month, while Democratic pollster Global Strategy Group has T-Mac ahead 48-45. The GSG survey was taken for a group called Power for Tomorrow, which describes itself as “a nonpartisan organization advocating for energy policies focused on ensuring consumers are protected through sensible regulation of electric companies.”

McAuliffe is also airing two new negative ads targeting investments made by Youngkin’s private equity firm, the Carlyle Group, while he served as co-CEO, mostly using news clips. The first focuses on a chain of dental clinics accused of “preying on unsuspecting poor families” by performing “unnecessary procedures on children.” (After a scathing Senate investigation, the company was kicked out of Medicaid and shuttered in 2015.) The second charges Youngkin with cutting staff at a nursing home chain to increase profits, which predictably led to the neglect of patients.

Youngkin responded by claiming that at the time in question, he “led Carlyle’s team in London and then worked on a totally different fund, so he was not involved in these businesses at all.” The spots are both reminiscent of ads that Barack Obama ran to great effect against another private equity magnate, Mitt Romney. Romney’s team tried to similarly deflect by focusing on his firm’s other investments, to no avail.

House

MO-04: Cass County Commissioner Ryan Johnson has dropped out of the crowded GOP primary for Missouri’s open 4th Congressional District.

OH-11: Former state Sen. Nina Turner, who lost last month’s Democratic primary to run in the special election for Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, has filed paperwork with the FEC for a possible rematch. An unnamed former staffer for Turner says she “has not made any decision,” though in a new interview, Turner didn’t rule out a second bid, saying, “I got all options on the table.” Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown defeated Turner 50-45 for the Democratic nomination in this dark blue district, though the general election is not until Nov. 2.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: City Councilor Michelle Wu earned an endorsement Saturday from acting Mayor Kim Janey, who took a close fourth place in the Sept. 14 nonpartisan primary.

Janey, whose ascendency earlier this year made her Boston’s first-ever Black mayor, addressed the fact that many African American voters were disappointed that there would be no Black candidate in this November’s showdown between Wu and fellow City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George. The outgoing incumbent, though, argued, “We cannot squander the next opportunity to make sure the voices of Black and brown people are at the center of the discussion, at the center of the policies that will move our city forward.”

Wu outpaced Essaibi George 33-22 earlier this month while City Councilor Andrea Campbell and Janey took 20% and 19%, respectively; Campbell has not yet taken sides in the general election.

Los Angeles, CA Mayor, CA-37: Democratic Rep. Karen Bass announced Monday that she would run in next year’s crowded open seat race for mayor of Los Angeles rather than seek a seventh term in the House. The congresswoman, as we recently noted in our detailed write-up of this race, would be the first woman elected to lead America’s second-most populous city, as well as its second African American mayor.

Bass would also be the first member of the House elected to this office since Republican Norris Poulson won in 1953, a time when the city was far smaller and considerably more Republican than it is today. (Joe Biden carried L.A. 77-21.) During the following decade, Democratic Rep. James Roosevelt, who was the eldest son of Franklin Roosevelt, and Republican Rep. Alphonzo Bell unsuccessfully campaigned for mayor in 1965 and 1969, respectively.

Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra also took fifth with just 6% of the vote in 2001, but, because that race took place in an odd-numbered year, he was able to keep his place in Congress and continue his upward political trajectory. A 2015 ballot measure, though, moved mayoral races to midterm years starting in 2022, so Bass has to give up her seat to campaign for mayor.

While Bass will face a packed field of opponents, it’s far from clear what the race to succeed her in the House will look like. The 37th District, which includes the neighborhoods of South Los Angeles, Crenshaw, and West Los Angeles, backed Biden 84-14. California is losing a House seat, though, and no one knows what the new map will look like once the independent redistricting commission is done with its work.

San Jose, CA Mayor: Councilmember Matt Mahan announced over the weekend that he was joining next year’s nonpartisan primary to succeed termed-out Mayor Sam Liccardo, a fellow ally of Silicon Valley’s powerful business groups. San Jose Spotlight writes that unnamed “City Hall insiders” say that Liccardo is planning to endorse Mahan, who first won elected office only last year. While the outgoing mayor hasn’t taken sides publicly, though, Liccardo’s chief of staff very much did Saturday when he dubbed Mahan “the next mayor.”

Mahan joins two of his colleagues in next June’s nonpartisan primary: Dev Davis, who also is close to business groups, and Raul Peralez, who belongs to the opposing pro-labor faction in city politics. Another labor-aligned politician, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, also recently filed paperwork for a potential campaign.

Seattle, WA Mayor: The Democratic firm Strategies 360, polling the Nov. 2 general election on behalf of KOMO News, finds former City Council President Bruce Harrell with a 40-33 lead over current City Council President Lorena González. An Elway Poll released earlier this month found Harrell, who is close to business groups, beating González by a larger 42-27 spread. González, who enjoys plenty of labor support, dropped her own numbers last week from GQR showing a 45-45 tie.  

International

Germany: The German election to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel largely followed the pre-election polling, putting the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) in first place and its leader, Olaf Scholz, in the driver’s seat to form the next government. The SPD won 26% of the vote, up 5% from 2017, while Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and sister party Christian Social Union (CSU) combined to win 24% of the vote, down almost 9% from the last election. This is the worst election result in post-war history for the CDU/CSU.

The center-left Greens were the other big winners on the night, winning 15% of the vote, an all-time high and up almost 6%. The socially liberal yet fiscally conservative Free Democratic Party (FDP) was up slightly, winning 11.5%, while the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) saw its share decrease a bit, to 10%. The other big loser of the night was the left-wing The Left, which lost nearly half its support and fell just below 5%. Normally a party below that mark would not receive seats through the traditional system of proportional representation, but The Left qualified through an alternative method, winning three constituency seats in Berlin and Leipzig.

Despite the SPD winning the election, the 26% it received is an all-time low for a first-place party in postwar history. That sets the stage for a messy period of coalition building, where three parties will almost certainly be required to form a government. At the outset, though, two parties can be eliminated from consideration: Every other party has stated that it will not work with the AfD, and the two parties who would cooperate with The Left, the SPD and the Greens, don’t add up to a majority when all three are combined due to The Left’s poor showing. As a result, the next government will have to come from some mix of the SPD, CDU/CSU, Greens, and FDP.

The leaders of both the SPD and the CDU announced on election night that they would seek to form a three-party coalition government with the Greens and the FDP. In isolation, the Greens would prefer an SPD-led government and the FDP would prefer an alliance with the CDU in charge. But the fact that the SPD beat the CDU for first and the Greens beat the FDP for third, along with polling showing Scholz the clear favorite to be chancellor, makes the SPD the more likely option. Negotiations between the SPD and the Greens should be relatively straightforward as the parties governed together from 1998-2005, but negotiations with the classically liberal FDP are likely to be far stickier.

One other alternative is possible, a so-called “grand coalition” between the SPD and CDU, which is currently governing Germany and has done so for 12 years of Merkel’s 16-year reign. But both parties have insisted that they do not want to re-up the coalition, making it a last resort. Of course, it was also a last resort in 2017 yet came to be, so don’t completely rule it out.

That year, negotiations dragged on for nearly six months, so it’s unclear when exactly a new government will take power and allow Merkel to retire, as she currently remains chancellor in a caretaker capacity. Party leaders have said they want to have a deal in place by Christmas at the latest, so we’ll see if three months is enough.





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