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Ohio Court orders new House map after striking down gerrymandered GOP districts

At issue was a 2018 amendment approved by voters requiring lawmakers to pass a new congressional map in bipartisan fashion, or, failing that, forbidding them from enacting a map that “unduly favors or disfavors a political party or its incumbents.” Because Democrats stuck together and voted uniformly against the GOP’s maps—a fact the court took note of—Republicans were obligated to adhere to the provision regarding partisan favoritism.

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The court ruled that they had not, saying, “When the dealer stacks the deck in advance, the house usually wins.” Citing a variety of statistical measures, the majority slammed the map on account of the fact that Republicans were poised to “reliably win” 75 to 80% of seats despite “generally muster[ing] no more than 55 percent of the statewide popular vote.” Wrote Justice Michael Donnelly, “By any rational measure, that skewed result just does not add up.”

As a consequence, the court determined the entire map was invalid. It also ruled that Republicans had violated another provision directing that lawmakers “not unduly split governmental units” by chopping up three of Ohio’s four largest counties for no reason other than to gain partisan advantage.

One egregious example was in Hamilton County, a blue county in the state’s southwestern corner that’s home to Cincinnati and voted for Joe Biden by a 57-41 margin in 2020. Hamilton on its own is close in population to the ideal district size, but instead of keeping it as close to whole as possible, Republicans divided it three ways, dumping the Cincinnati suburbs into two adjacent, safely red districts. The city itself, meanwhile, was linked to deeply rural Warren County via an isthmus just one mile wide—a detail the court highlighted with a map.

Lawmakers now have 30 days in which to pass a new map that, as the court stressed, “comports with the directives of this opinion“—with emphasis in the original. If they fail to do so, then the state’s redistricting commission, on which Republicans have a 5-2 majority, would have another 30 days to complete the task. While the court did not explicitly say it would review any plans to ensure they’re compliant (as it did in its ruling on the legislative maps), there’s little doubt the justices will carefully scrutinize the final product—and potentially produce their own, should they find it lacking.

Redistricting

AR Redistricting: Jay Fierman of the Redistrict Network reports that an effort to place a veto referendum on the ballot that would have suspended Arkansas’ new congressional map from taking effect pending a vote on its final status this fall has failed. As a result, the congressional map, which split Little Rock’s Black community between multiple districts, has now taken legal effect. A lawsuit challenging the map remains pending.

CT Redistricting: Connecticut’s bipartisan redistricting commission was unable to reach a compromise after the special master appointed by the state Supreme Court, Stanford Law professor Nathan Persily, had asked the panel to try once more to come to an agreement on new congressional lines. Persily now has until Tuesday to submit a map to the justices, who have said they will finalize the lines by Feb. 15.

SC Redistricting: South Carolina’s Republican-run state House has approved a new congressional map in a party-line vote that would make the state’s 1st Congressional District redder in an effort to insulate freshman GOP Rep. Nancy Mace from any Democratic challengers. Leaders in the state Senate, where Republicans are working through a somewhat different set of proposals, say they expect a floor vote on a map next week. If both chambers pass different maps, they’ll have to reconcile them into a single version.

4Q Fundraising

  • AZ-Gov: Kari Lake (R): $1.4 million raised (in 2021)
  • MD-Gov: Wes Moore (D): $4.8 million raised (in 2021), $3.1 million cash-on-hand; Tom Perez (D): $2.7 million raised (in 2021), $1.5 million cash-on-hand; John King (D): $2.5 million raised (in 2021), $1.2 million cash-on-hand; Jon Baron: $2 million raised (in 2021, includes self-funding), $1.7 million cash-on-hand
  • MN-Gov: Neil Shah (R): $200,000 raised (in 2021)
  • MT-01: Cora Neumann (D): $301,000 raised, $636,000 cash-on-hand
  • NJ-03: Andy Kim (D-inc): $751,000 raised, $3.3 million cash-on-hand; Robert Healey (R): $507,000 raised (in two months), $469,000 cash-on-hand
  • NY-11: Nicole Malliotakis (R-inc): $800,000 raised; Max Rose (D): $800,000 raised (in three weeks)
  • OR-06: Cody Reynolds (D): $10.00 raised, additional $2 million self-funded, $1.96 million cash-on-hand

Senate

AL-Sen: The Club for Growth is plowing a reported $2.3 million into TV ads and mailers aimed at boosting Rep. Mo Brooks in the GOP primary for Alabama’s open Senate seat and kneecapping Katie Boyd Britt, the former head of the Business Council of Alabama. One of their spots tries to portray Britt as an anti-Trumper in the mold of Liz Cheney, but as the Washington Post‘s Dave Weigel notes, “The evidence that Britt will become a Trump critic … is that Donald Trump Jr. said so in a tweet.”

AZ-Sen: Even though term-limited Gov. Doug Ducey said a year ago, “I’m not running for the United States Senate” against Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly, Politico reports that some Arizona politicos think he might still change his mind. The chief evidence for this speculation seems to be Ducey’s final State of the State address, which he devoted to attacking Joe Biden rather than focus on local politics.

A Ducey spokesperson “did not respond to requests for comment,” but if the governor is having second thoughts, he’ll have to make up his mind soon, since Arizona’s filing deadline is in early April. The biggest issue, of course, remains Donald Trump, who despises Ducey and has publicly berated him on multiple occasions. While a late Ducey entry might prompt some current candidates to drop out, you just know that at least one Trump die-hard would stay in and hope to win the nomination with Trump’s support (or more likely, his continued abuse of Ducey).

NH-Sen: Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith has confirmed he’ll seek the GOP nod to take on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan and will also step down from his current post in March to focus on the race. He joins a primary field that includes state Senate President Chuck Morse and retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for Senate in 2020.

PA-Sen: Army veteran Sean Parnell, who dropped his bid for Senate in November after a judge concluded he’d abused his wife and children, has endorsed hedge fund manager Dave McCormick’s new campaign for the GOP nod. (In Trumpist politics, winning the endorsement of an abuser is good, actually.)

Meanwhile, a pro-McCormick group called Honor Pennsylvania is spending $900,000 to air a new ad attacking primary rival Mehmet Oz as a “Hollywood liberal” because he owns a company “that pled guilty to criminal charges for hiring and rehiring illegal immigrants.” Oz, though, is by no means outgunned: The wealthy TV doctor has already spent or booked $5 million in airtime, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

SD-Sen: LOL: A pro-Trump group called the American Potential Fund has been circulating a poll trying to demonstrate that Republican Sen. John Thune would be vulnerable to a potential primary challenge from either Gov. Kristi Noem or Rep. Dusty Johnson, but no one is biting. Johnson immediately responded, “It doesn’t matter what the polls say, I’m not running for Senate.” Noem, meanwhile, emphatically rejected a bid against Thune a year ago and did not respond to a request for comment from NBC, which first reported on the poll.

WI-Sen: Senate Majority PAC is spending $1 million on the first of what will be many, many, many ad campaigns targeting Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. The commercial excoriates the incumbent for breaking his pledge to serve just two terms by arguing he’s become a part of the “Washington swamp.” The narrator goes on to declare that Johnson’s net worth has doubled during his time in office and charges that he’s benefited from a tax break he pushed for.

Another Democratic-aligned group, Opportunity Wisconsin, is also airing ads as part of what the National Journal says is a six-figure buy. The group’s new spot asserts that the senator is “putting pharmaceutical companies before Wisconsin families who are struggling to afford prescriptions.”

Governors

FL-Gov: Florida’s monthly campaign finance reports are in, and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign and allied PAC raised a total of $4.4 million for the month and went into the new year with a gargantuan $72 million on-hand. On the Democratic side, Rep. Charlie Crist and his PAC outraised state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried’s side $671,000 to $327,000, with state Sen. Annette Taddeo far back at just $60,000. Crist’s forces ended December with a $3.9 million to $3.4 million cash-on-hand edge over Fried, compared to $600,000 for Taddeo.

MA-Gov: WBUR’s Anthony Brooks reports that moderate Republicans unhappy with the prospect of having the Trump-backed former state Rep. Geoff Diehl as their nominee have talked about fielding businessman Chris Doughty, who is an investor and partner at a company that makes precision metal parts. Doughty didn’t respond for Brooks’ article, though Politico’s Lisa Kashinsky relays that he has been making calls about a possible bid.

TX-Gov: Former state Sen. Don Huffines’ newest commercial ahead of the March 1 Republican primary emphasizes his support from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and pledges he’ll “end vaccine mandates.” The spot also shows a photo of Gov. Greg Abbott wearing a face mask as the narrator quotes Paul saying that “when other Republicans are siding with Dr. Fauci, Don Huffines stood for your freedom.” The campaign says the ad is running on Fox, but there’s no word on the size of the buy.

House

CA-13, CA-05: Former Trump administration official Ricky Gill, whose plans to run for Congress were disrupted by redistricting, announced Thursday that he would not be running anywhere this year, saying, “Now becomes the time for my contributions to manifest outside the political arena.”

Gill had announced a campaign last year against Democratic Rep. Josh Harder in the old 10th, a swing seat that had backed Joe Biden just 50-47, but he seemed uninterested in pursuing Harder into the new—and far more Democratic—13th District. In a statement, Gill only referenced a possible run in the 5th District, a solidly red seat, because such a bid would bring him into conflict with Republican Rep. Tom McClintock. (McClintock still doesn’t appear to have publicly confirmed he’ll run in the 5th, but no one has questioned media reports saying he’ll be seeking an eighth term here.)

CA-22 (special): Former Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway announced Friday that she’d compete in the April all-party primary to succeed former Rep. Devin Nunes but that she wouldn’t seek a full term anywhere under California’s new congressional map. (We explained the difficult situation every special election candidate faces in a previous rundown.) Meanwhile, the one other notable Republican running in the special election, Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig, just earned an endorsement from Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, who had expressed interest last year in campaigning here himself.

CO-07: Jefferson County Commissioner Lesley Dahlkemper and state Rep. Brianna Titone each tell Colorado Politics’ Ernest Luning that they’re considering joining the Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ed Perlmutter in this 56-42 Biden district in the Denver suburbs. Denver Post columnist Doug Friednash also writes that state Rep. Monica Duran is rumored to be interested in entering the race, though there’s nothing directly from her.

Dahlkemper, who promised a decision this coming week, is the wife of Mike Feeley, who lost a previous version of this constituency by 121 votes back in 2002. (Feeley even went to D.C. for new member orientation because his race had not yet been decided when the event took place, which he later called “a miserable experience.”) Titone, who would be the first trans member of Congress, by contrast did not say when she planned to make up her mind, saying, “I think this opening has caught most folks off guard and scrambling.” The only notable Democratic contender so far is state Sen. Brittany Pettersen, who launched her campaign the day after Perlmutter retired.

On the GOP side, state Rep. Colin Larson told Luning on Wednesday, “I will make a decision In the next 7 days.” Friednash also relays that former state Rep. Lang Sias, who was Team Red’s 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor, is thinking about ending his campaign for state treasurer to run for the 7th. Sias ran back in 2010 but lost the primary 64-36 to national party favorite Ryan Frazier, who went on to lose an expensive general election to Perlmutter.

IL-01: State Sen. Jacqueline Collins has announced that she’ll enter the Democratic primary for this safely blue open seat but says she’ll also collect petitions for her current post, telling Politico that she’ll make “a formal announcement in the near future” about which office she’ll end up running for. Democratic state Sen. Robert Peters, meanwhile, unequivocally made it clear he’d run for re-election rather than campaign to succeed retiring Rep. Bobby Rush.

IN-01: Former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo on Friday became the first notable Republican to launch a bid against freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Mrvan in the redrawn 1st District, a northwestern Indiana constituency that would have backed Joe Biden 53-45. Milo in 2011 was elected mayor at the age of 28, which made her the city’s youngest-ever leader, but she left the post in 2017 after Gov. Eric Holcomb named her the first-ever state secretary for career connections and talent.

MD-04: Former Rep. Donna Edwards told Maryland Matters on Wednesday that she would soon reveal more about her interest in a comeback campaign, an interview that took place a day before the site obtained an Edwards text to her supporters where she outright said she’d enter the Democratic primary. “I have decided to run for the new CD4, which now again includes Montgomery County,” she wrote, adding that she was looking for people to attend a Saturday filming for a launch video.

MI-04: Republican Rep. Fred Upton tells CNN that he’ll decide this month if he’ll seek re-election, though if his extended deliberations last cycle are any indication, we shouldn’t expect to go to bed on Jan. 31 knowing what he’ll do. Upton would presumably run in the revamped 4th District, where he’d need to face fellow Rep. Bill Huizenga in an August primary.

MI-11: The SEIU has endorsed Rep. Andy Levin, who served as an organizer for the labor giant in the 1980s, in his August Democratic primary showdown with fellow incumbent Haley Stevens.

MI-12: Former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson has announced that she’ll seek the Democratic nomination for the redrawn 12th District, where Rep. Rashida Tlaib is seeking re-election. The two faced off in 2018 in the very crowded open seat race for the old 13th, but while Tlaib ended up edging out Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones by a tight 31-30 margin, Jackson finished a distant sixth with just 5%.

NY-24: New York Rep. John Katko, who was one of just nine House Republicans to win election in 2020 in a district that also voted for Joe Biden, announced Friday that he would not seek a fifth term in the Syracuse-based 24th Congressional District. Katko was also one of the 10 GOP members who voted to impeach Donald Trump last year, a decision that almost certainly would have ensured serious opposition in the June primary; two other members of this group, Ohio’s Anthony Gonzalez and Illinois’ Adam Kinzinger, previously decided not to run for re-election.

It remains to be seen, though, just what will happen to Katko’s constituency. The current version of the 24th backed Biden 53-44, but as Katko’s resilience demonstrates, the area remains quite friendly to Republicans downballot. Democrats in the state legislature could, however, decide to make the district bluer once redistricting gets underway.

The Democratic primary already consisted of a trio of veterans from three different branches: Francis Conole (Navy), Steven Holden (Army), and Sarah Klee Hood (Air Force), and more will likely take a look now. On the GOP side, Katko’s leading intra-party foe looked like physician assistant Tim Ko, though the race was still coming together when the congressman called it quits.

Katko’s departure ends an eventful electoral career that began less than a decade ago when he left his job as a federal prosecutor to challenge Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei in the 2014 cycle. Maffei had been narrowly unseated during the 2010 red wave by tea partier Ann Marie Buerkle before winning a rematch two years later, but it initially looked like it would be very difficult for Katko to deal the incumbent another midterm loss.

Maffei had beaten Buerkle 49-43 as Barack Obama was carrying the seat by a wide 57-41 margin, and while the congressman had been taken by surprise in 2010, he gave every indication that he wouldn’t get caught off guard this time. Katko himself was an unheralded candidate and only wound up with the GOP nod after considerably more prominent names declined to run. Polls additionally indicated that Maffei was in good shape for most of the race, with Siena College giving him a 50-42 lead over Katko weeks after Labor Day.

However, the Republican, who ran a strong campaign focused on his own prosecutorial background, also used Maffei’s new $700,000 home in the D.C. area to argue that the congressman had left Syracuse behind. This race ended up attracting millions in outside from both parties as it became increasingly clear that Maffei was once again vulnerable in what was shaping up to be a good year for Republicans.

When Siena re-tested the race in late October, the school found a huge reversal of fortune and gave Katko a wide 52-42 lead. Many observers were skeptical about this giant swing, though, especially after Maffei released an internal finding him still ahead, but that Siena survey turned out to be off in a way almost no one expected. Katko pulled off a 59-40 win days later, one of widest general election victories over a scandal-free incumbent we’ve ever seen.

National Democrats hoped that the seat would snap back in 2016 with a presumably more favorable climate and made Katko a top target. Team Blue’s nominee this time was Colleen Deacon, a former district director for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and both parties once again spent heavily. Democrats also hoped that Trump’s toxicity would drag down the new congressman, but that very much did not happen: Hillary Clinton carried the seat by only a 49-45 spread, and Katko, who’d successfully cultivated a moderate image, ran far ahead of the top of the ticket by winning an outsized 60-39 victory.

Katko spent the Trump years doing his best to distance himself from the new administration while still voting with it most of the time, a strategy that helped him secure his final two terms. His opponent in 2018 was Dana Balter, a progressive activist and academic who defeated the DCCC’s favored candidate in the primary. Katko this time looked like the strong favorite early on but for once, the political climate worked against him.

Balter was a late beneficiary of the “green wave” that saw Democratic candidates raise unprecedented sums of money, as well as late spending from national groups, and she ended up giving Katko his first close race. Still, the incumbent held on 53-47, which made him just one of three House Republicans to prevail in a Trump district that year.

Balter sought a rematch in 2020, and this time, it very much looked like Katko could finally lose. The race became an expensive battleground early on, and Balter’s side bet on a strong Biden performance at the top of the ticket to carry her to victory. Still, Team Blue got some very unwelcome news when Republicans took advantage of a paperwork error to successfully sue to keep Steven Williams, whom the liberal Working Families Party had nominated as a placeholder candidate until Democrats chose their own nominee, on the ballot.

Ultimately, while Biden did indeed improve on Clinton’s small win from four years before, Katko once again secured many crossover votes and won 53-43, with Williams taking 4%.

VA-07: Former Democratic Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy has announced she’ll run for the state Senate in 2023 rather than campaign for Congress this cycle.



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