Morning Digest: Ohio GOP adopts new legislative gerrymanders despite supposed redistricting reforms

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The revised state constitution requires maps to not unfairly benefit one party or the other compared to their statewide support, which Republicans acknowledged was roughly 54% Republican and 46% Democratic according to an average of votes in the last decade’s statewide elections. But Republicans defended their new maps on the basis that because they won 81% of those same elections, maps that favored Republicans in anywhere from between 54% and 81% of seats thus matched statewide voter preferences. As multiple commentators noted, under that cynical logic, Democrats would be entitled to up to 100% of seats in states such as California or even Virginia since Republicans last won a statewide race in those states more than a decade ago.

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Another key component of the new process is that maps approved along party lines are only good for four years instead of the full decade. While that provision was supposed to encourage compromise, it could instead benefit Republicans by letting them more frequently fine-tune their gerrymanders to account for partisan trends so long as they control a majority on the legislative commission, whose seven members consist of the governor, secretary of state, state auditor, and one appointee each by the four legislative majority and minority party leaders. The separate congressional redistricting commission process is slightly different and has a role for the legislature, but the outcome is likely to be the same.

The GOP’s new maps are all but certain to face lawsuits, setting up a likely showdown at the state Supreme Court, which has a 4-3 Republican majority where GOP Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor is widely viewed as a potential swing vote. Even Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who serves on the commission and voted to approve the new maps, acknowledged their potential legal deficiencies by stating, “What I am sure in my heart is that this committee could have come up with a bill that was much more clearly constitutional. I’m sorry that we did not do that.” However, it remains to be seen whether those deficiencies will be enough to persuade a majority of justices to strike down the districts and order the commission to come up with fairer alternatives.

Redistricting

CO Redistricting: Colorado’s independent congressional redistricting commission has released a second draft of their proposed congressional map, though this set of districts is still a ways from final. Commissioners plan to release a third draft on Sept. 24 following more time for public comments, and they could adopt a final map in early October. You can find an interactive version of the second draft here, and a link to a version in Dave’s Redistricting App should appear on Redistrict 2020 soon.

IA Redistricting: Iowa’s nonpartisan redistricting agency has released the first drafts of its proposed congressional and legislative district maps ahead of public hearings set for later this month. You can find data files and a Dave’s Redistricting App link for the congressional map here.

The Republican-controlled legislature is set to convene on Oct. 5 to consider the maps, and lawmakers can either approve the maps and send them to GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds for her signature or reject the proposals without amendment. If legislators reject the first plans, the redistricting agency would propose a second set of districts, and this process would repeat a third time if lawmakers also reject the second set of maps.

However, if Republican legislators reject the agency’s maps the third time, they could amend them to draw their own gerrymanders, which would be an unprecedented outcome since the establishment of Iowa’s nonpartisan redistricting process in the 1980s. However, this is the first redistricting cycle under that system where either party has had full control of state government, which Republicans are especially likely to use to entrench their legislative majorities if not secure a more favorable congressional map too.

Senate

CO-Sen: Former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell has endorsed Air Force veteran and former Olympian Eli Bremmer, the only notable Republican in the race so far. Campbell was the first Native American elected to the Senate since the 1920’s when he won his first term in 1992 as a Democrat. He switched to the GOP following the 1994 midterms before winning his second and final term in 1998.

Governors

NJ-Gov: Our New Jersey, a group aligned with the Democratic Governors Association, is out with an ad attacking Republican Jack Ciattarelli for his positions on women’s health issues. The spot claims that during his time as an assemblyman, Ciattarelli voted against funding for Planned Parenthood and to limit access to birth control. The commercial then praises Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy for his support of “women’s health and reproductive freedom.”

NY-Gov: CNBC reports that Democratic state Attorney General Tish James has been discussing a potential bid for governor next year with her advisors. Earlier this month, a spokesperson for James declined to directly answer a question about her interest in running for this office, only saying she was “fully focused on her work.”

Incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul, who took over after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned in August, has already stated she plans to seek a full term. Several other Democrats could still challenge Hochul, though only New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams has publicly expressed interest.

OH-Gov: Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley rolled out endorsements from several mayors of some of Ohio’s largest cities on Thursday. Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, and Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz all backed Whaley in the Democratic primary.  

Whaley’s main opponent, fellow Mayor John Cranley of Cincinnati, countered with some mayoral endorsements of his own, albeit ones from smaller, suburban cities outside of Cleveland. Former NBA player and Warrensville Heights Mayor Brad Sellers, Highland Hills Mayor Michael Booker, and Woodmere Mayor Ben Holbert threw their support behind Cranley.

VA-Gov: Democrat Terry McAuliffe is out with a new ad that takes aim at Republican Glenn Youngkin’s career as a businessman. The commercial portrays Youngkin, who spent three decades at the private-equity firm The Carlyle Group, as a businessman who was responsible for multiple bankruptcies and mass layoffs. The spot also claims that, despite those faults in his business career, Youngkin ended up with $500 million.

WI-Gov: No Better Friend Corp., a group supporting businessman Kevin Nicholson, is out with a new ad that serves as an introductory commercial for Nicholson, who is considering joining the GOP primary for this seat. The spot is backed by a $1.5 million buy and WisPolitics reports that it is slated to premier during Monday’s Green Bay Packers football game.

The ad finds Nicholson himself reciting a list of standard Republican talking points that appear on screen. Interestingly, Nicholson declines to repeat the final point that appears about “elections with integrity.”

House

IA-03: State Sen. Zach Nunn has publicized a new internal poll of the Republican primary for this Des Moines-area seat. The poll, which was conducted by Moore Information, finds Nunn leading former state Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa 24-13, with businesswoman Nicole Hasso far behind the pair with 3%.

The survey also tested a hypothetical general election matchup of Nunn and Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne, with Axne leading 46-42. The Hawkeye State will be getting new congressional maps soon, though, and it’s unclear what the final bounds of this district will end up looking like (see our IA Redistricting item above for discussion of that process).

NM-02: Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez became the first Democrat to kick off a bid for this seat on Wednesday. Earlier this week, Vasquez filed paperwork with the FEC for a potential bid. Democratic state Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill also said this week she was thinking about a bid against Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell.

NY-11: Politico reports that former Democratic Rep. Max Rose is reportedly considering another bid for this seat and could launch a bid as soon as this fall. Rose lost re-election to freshman GOP Rep. Nicole Malliotakis 53-47 last year and took a post in the Department of Defense in January, though he left that position in June.

Rose won’t have the primary to himself if he gets in the race, though. Former state Assembly staffer Michael DeCillis and Army veteran Brittany Ramos DeBarros are already in the contest, and several other candidates have been mentioned as possible contenders.

Mayors

Buffalo, NY Mayor: With little time left before Friday’s deadline to finalize ballots, a federal and state appeals court on Thursday both sided with Democratic nominee India Walton to reverse lower court decisions that had allowed Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to stay on the ballot as an independent following his upset loss in the primary to Walton. Consequently, the Erie County Board of Elections is set to mail out absentee ballots to military and overseas voters without Brown on the ballot, though he can still continue running as a write-in candidate and keep pursuing further appeals.

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