The most gerrymandered districts of 2011
By Aaron Blake,
Members of Congress all over the country are dealing with change – and not the good kind.
The decennial redistricting process, which amounts to a nationwide redrawing of all 435 House districts, means many Members of Congress are faced with wooing new constituents, losing their districts altogether or confronting tough choices about where and whether to seek reelection in 2012. And with more than half of the states already done with redistricting, those career-changing decisions are being made every day.
For some Members, though, the drastic changes in their districts make that decision a little easier. That’s because, with one party controlling the drawing of new districts in their states, they either got a whole lot more vulnerable or a whole lot safer.
Below is our list of the 10 most gerrymandered districts – so far – of 2011.
But first a word about our criteria for this Friday Line: We looked only at states where one party had complete control of the redistricting process and used it to either endanger a member of the other party or make a one of their own members much safer.
To the Line!
10. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.): This freshman was the only Republican to win a Democratic seat in North Carolina in 2010, and she got her reward for that upset. The North Carolina GOP took the highly Democratic areas near Raleigh and Fayetteville out of her 2nd district and gave them to Rep. David Price (D). In exchange, they shifted her fan-shaped district west into Rep. Howard Coble’s (R) much-more conservative territory in what is currently the 6th district. (Coble may well retire after his district was split up in several pieces). The result for Ellmers: A district that went 53 percent for President Obama in 2008, under the new lines, would have given him only about 44 percent.
9. Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.): The Georgia GOP tried in vain for ages to win this Macon-area seat. And after finally grabbing it in 2010, they are taking no chances of it flipping back. While the GOP could have massaged the new districts to go after Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) in the southwest corner of the state, instead they moved Scott’s Macon Democrats into Bishop’s district and moved the freshman south into more conservative territory from the districts represented by Bishop and Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R). Scott’s current district went 43 percent for Obama; his new one would have given the president just 33 percent.
8. Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.): No, Cassidy was not at the top of Democrats’ hit list. But with Louisiana losing a district and many of the state’s more liberal areas concentrated in just one Democratic district, there was a lot of conservative territory to spread around. And Cassidy, who defeated an incumbent Democrat in 2008 with 48 percent of the vote and was reelected with 66 percent in 2010, just happens to benefit. Population loss from Hurricane Katrina made it so the majority-black and New Orleans-based 2nd district had to stretch to Baton Rouge to pick up black voters with most of them coming from Cassidy’s district — making it much more conservative in the process. It went 41 percent for Obama in 2008 and would have gone 31 percent for the president under the new lines. Democrats won’t take this one back anytime soon (or, more specifically, anytime this decade).
7. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.): Welcome to Congress; now we dismantle your district. That’s essentially what happened to Kinzinger. The Illinois freshman’s 11th district currently stretches from the Chicago exurbs near Joliet down to Bloomington; under the new Democratic-drafted map, he is drawn in with Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.) in the 16th district. The 11th district he leaves behind is a shell of its former self, taking in more Democratic suburbs and exurbs north of Joliet and losing basically all its territory south of there. Kinzinger’s current district went 53 percent for Obama; this new one would have gone 61 percent.
6. Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio): Tiberi is a lucky man. He represents a district that went 54 percent for Obama in 2008 and only went narrowly for George W. Bush in 2004. And yet he avoided tough challenges until last year, when the environment was on his side and he easily survived. He won’t have to worry again anytime soon, after the Ohio GOP lumped many of his Columbus Democrats into a Democratic-leaning Columbus-base district. Tiberi’s 12th district east of Columbus, meanwhile, would now have gone about 55 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and more than 60 percent for Bush. Neighboring Rep. Steve Stivers (R), who represents the area west of Columbus, got a slightly smaller bump and almost made this list too.
5. Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.): Kissell essentially got a pass from Republicans in last year’s election, with the national GOP spending basically no money to win his Charlotte-area 8th district. As it turns out, rejiggering his district was much easier and cheaper than dropping $1 million in TV ads. The new 8th district is still a lot of Kissell’s old territory but it trades some of its more Democratic areas near Charlotte and Fayetteville for conservative territory represented by Coble and Rep. Sue Myrick (R) to the northwest. The result is a district that goes from a 52 percent Obama seat to one that would go about 42 percent for the president.
4. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas): Perhaps the most surprising winner of the 2010 election, Farenthold currently represents a South Texas district that is nearly three-quarters Latino and went 53 percent for Obama in 2008. In a map that is currently being fought by the Justice Department, Republicans effectively moved Farenthold up the east coast of the state, putting most of his current 27th district into a new majority-Hispanic district (the 34th) based in Corpus Christi and giving the incumbent a Republican-leaning 27th that takes much of the area outside Houston that Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) currently represents. (Paul is retiring after he runs for president.) The new district is about 13 points more Republican.
3. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas): Much like Kinzinger’s district in Illinois, Doggett’s Austin-based 25th district is chopped up in so many different ways that it’s not even recognizable. Instead of being south of Austin, it’s now north of Austin, stretching up into the Dallas area in a way that essentially makes it a new district. Having gone 59 percent for Obama in 2008, it would now go about 45 percent (or less) for the president. Republicans are heavily favored to win it, if the map stands, and Doggett is instead running in the new majority-Hispanic 35th district.
2. Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.): Republicans chopped off Barrow’s base (and home) in more liberal Savannah in the southeast part of Georgia’s 12th district and gave him more of the strongly Republican Augusta area to the northeast, completely reshaping the district and making Barrow a marked man. The 12th drops from a swing district that went 55 percent for Obama to one that would go about 40 percent for Obama. Barrow is a tough man to bring down, but that’s a staggering shift.
1. Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.): Not content to simply make Miller’s 13th district unwinnable – as we knew would happen – North Carolina Republicans eventually decided they would also draw him out of it entirely and into the 4th district with Price. That may actually be a favor to Miller, who stood very little chance of surviving in his north-central North Carolina district and could instead challenge Price in a primary. Democrats 10 years ago drew arms — figuratively speaking — growing out to liberal enclaves in Greensboro, Raleigh and Alamance County. Simply by severing those limbs, the GOP pushed this from a district that went 60 percent for Obama to one that would have gone about 46 percent. They even gave it a new number for effect; it’s now the 6th district.