Redistricting Journal: New Indiana map bolsters Republican prospects

June 2, 2011

Posted by Mark Gersh, CBS News

Six states have finished congressional redistricting to date, and it’s becoming clear that redistricting, as expected, is going to have an impact on House competitiveness next year and have set up a few interesting battlegrounds, as well as some surprises.

Looking first at the states finalizing the process in the last month, Indiana generated the most substantial impact to the complexion of the next Congress. Indiana (awarded nine congressional districts) and Missouri (with eight, having lost one seat) are the largest states to finalize the construction of new districts.

Controlled by a Republican governor and legislature, Indiana’s new map bolstered Republican prospects. For starters, Democrat Joe Donnelly, who narrowly avoided defeat in 2010, gained solidly Republican voters from Elkhart while losing democratic strongholds in Lapodte County. Overall, it is estimated the new 2nd district is five percent more favorable for Republicans. Perhaps consequently, Donnelly decided to run for the Senate, where Republican Richard Lugar faces a serious primary challenge. As for the 2nd district, Republican Jackie Walorski would be favored to win the seat next November.

Two other notable consequences of the new map: Republican Todd Young was accorded a substantially more Republican constituency in the southern Indiana 9th district, while Republican mapmakers accorded no favors for freshman Republican Larry Buschon, in the Evansville based 8th district. He now faces serious Democratic opposition based on the partisan profile of the new territory. Both the 8th and 9th districts have been revolving doors for both parties over the past 20 years. At least the 9th district now seems out of reach for the Democrats.

In Missouri, Republicans overrode a veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, enacting a partisan Republican plan. The remap was devastating news for 3rd district Congressman Russ Carnahan, who saw his district essentially merged with the 1st district represented by Democratic Lacy Clay. Containing virtually all of the St. Louis area African-American population, Carnahan would be the underdog if he entered the 1st district primary.

Alternatives for Carnahan includes legal action, arguing that the overall plan violates redistricting principles, by creating incongruous communities of interests, diluting the interests of the St. Louis area, or seeking reelection in the second district. The incumbent representative in the 2nd district, Republican Todd Akin, has declared his candidacy for the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Claire McCaskill. Any Republican would start off as the favorite in the newly designed 2nd district. The other six Missouri districts are likely to reelect five Republican incumbents and a second Democrat, Emmanuel Cleaver, in the Kansas City based 5th district.

Meanwhile, in Texas, where Republicans control the three branches of government, is struggling to approve a map, with the likelihood of court intervention growing by the day. By far the biggest winner of the reapportionment process, Texas will add four seats to its delegation, already second only to California, and will elect 36 members of Congress in 2012.

Redistricting analysts have also been paying close attention to New York. The upset victory of a Democrat in last Tuesday’s special election has complicated an already opaque redistricting landscape. New York loses two seats, and will be tied with Florida, for the third largest congressional delegation at 27 districts.

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