• June 20, 2021

Exclusive: Democrats romped statewide in Georgia, but the GOP’s gerrymanders are brutal as ever

 Exclusive: Democrats romped statewide in Georgia, but the GOP’s gerrymanders are brutal as ever


However, while the legislative boundaries the GOP crafted in 2011 and tinkered with in 2014 and 2015 failed to anticipate the party’s erosion in the suburbs, they were still more than enough to protect the party’s majorities. Democrats netted only one seat in each chamber, which left the GOP with a 34-22 advantage in the Senate and a 103-77 edge in the lower chamber.

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Despite his statewide loss, Donald Trump carried 31 Senate seats to Biden’s 25, as well as 94 House districts compared to 86 for Biden. That divergence between the statewide outcomes and the legislative results is only one way, however, to illustrate the power of the GOP’s gerrymanders—and how tough it would have been for Democrats to have flipped either chamber under these maps.

Diving deeper, we can sort each district in each chamber by Biden’s margin of victory over Trump to see how the seat in the middle—known as the median seat—voted. Because both chambers have an even number of seats, we average the two middle seats to come up with the median point in each chamber.

Taking this approach, we find that the median Senate seat backed Trump 57-42, a full 15 points to the right of his statewide margin. That means that for Democrats to have secured a majority, the party’s Senate candidates would have somehow had to win districts that remained firmly Republican by double digits even during the best year for Georgia Democrats in recent memory. The median point in the House wasn’t quite so unfavorable at 52-47 Trump, but that was still a 5-point advantage for the GOP and, in this age of heavily polarized voting, a massive obstacle for Democrats.

It was therefore Democrats who badly needed voters to split their tickets downballot, but it was Republicans who actually benefited from crossover support. Three Republican senators and nine House members represent seats that voted for Biden, while not a single Democrat represents a Trump district.

The bluest GOP-held Senate seat is SD-56, where Republican incumbent John Albers prevailed 51-49 even as Biden was taking his suburban Atlanta constituency 53-45. Its counterpart in the House is HD-43 around Marietta; Biden won by an even larger 54-44 spread, but longtime state Rep. Sharon Cooper was also re-elected 51-49.

Republicans will once again be in charge of redistricting ahead of the 2022 elections, so the legislature will have the chance to shore up these seats, as well as any other vulnerable turf.

P.S. You can find all of our district-level data at this bookmarkable permalink.

Redistricting

IL Redistricting: As expected, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed off on new maps that were recently passed along party lines by Illinois’ Democratic-run legislature that redraw the districts used both to elect state lawmakers and justices on the state Supreme Court. The new legislative maps are all but certain to allow Democrats to retain their majorities, while the Supreme Court map, which hadn’t been redrawn in over half a century, corrects a serious malapportionment problem and also makes it more likely Democrats will retain their narrow 4-3 edge on the bench.

Senate

GA-Sen: State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black announced Friday that he would challenge Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, a move that makes him the first elected official to enter the Republican primary.

Black badly lost his first run for this office in the 2006 general election but prevailed four years later, and his 53-47 victory in 2018 was the best showing of the entire GOP statewide ticket. The local NBC affiliate 11 Alive, though, describes him as someone who has “most typically been quiet politically” during his decade in office. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution adds that while Black, who has a family farm in the northeastern part of the state, “has painstakingly built a base of support in rural Georgia,” he isn’t as prominent in the Atlanta area.

Black joins businessman Kelvin King and banking executive Latham Saddler in the primary, but more prominent Republicans have held off on running while Trump’s choice, former NFL running back Herschel Walker, mulls whether he should relocate from Texas to campaign for the Senate. Black insisted Friday, though, that he’d remain in the race even if Walker runs with Trump’s backing.

Governors

IL-Gov: While Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who poured $35 million of his own money into his campaign back in March, has appeared all but certain to seek a second term, he said Thursday he hadn’t made up his mind. The incumbent told the Chicago PBS affiliate WTTW that he’d need to discuss his plans with his family, adding, “There have been a lot of unfair, you know, accusations against my daughter. These are all things that we weigh in the process of making a decision.” Pritzker added he’d make his choice “reasonably shortly.”

MD-Gov: The first survey we’ve seen this year of the still-forming Democratic primary comes from Gonzales Research on behalf of state Sen. Douglas Peters, who has not taken sides yet; Maryland Matters writes that Peters “pays to survey Democratic voters every four years well before the statewide primary.”

Gonzales shows former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, who took second in the 2018 primary, leading state Comptroller Peter Franchot 22-18. Former Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez is in third with 10%, ex-Attorney General Doug Gansler is at 4%, while other declared or potential contenders are further back. Franchot and Gansler are both running, while Perez reportedly will decide around July 4.

Baker, meanwhile, sent conflicting signals back in April about whether he was in or still merely thinking about another campaign, and he doesn’t appear to have said anything since then to clear things up. For what it’s worth, the “Baker for Governor” Facebook page still hasn’t been updated since 2018, when Baker last ran, and his website, rushernbaker.com, is unavailable.

SC-Gov: While The State reported back in January that former state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell was considering entering the Democratic primary, the 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor made it clear Thursday that she was backing state Sen. Mia McLeod instead.

TX-Gov, TX-32: Republican state party chair Allen West surprised plenty of people Friday when he announced that he was resigning his current post after less than a year on the job, effective mid-July, and the former Florida congressman also publicly confirmed he was thinking about running for office again. West, who didn’t indicate what post he was leaning towards, obnoxiously told a reporter that when it comes to reaching a decision, his “timeline is in my head and not in yours yet.”

West, who recently spoke at a QAnon-affiliated event, acknowledged Friday he was thinking about joining the Republican primary to take on Gov. Greg Abbott. Donald Trump threw his support behind the incumbent on Tuesday, but West insisted that wouldn’t deter him. Abbott currently faces an intra-party challenge from former state Sen. Don Huffines, but the field could get larger no matter what West ends up doing: The Dallas News relays that state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller “could announce his campaign in the coming days.” (Miller also addressed that QAnon-aligned confab.)

West also didn’t rule out running for a lower statewide office, and he also expressed interest in trying to return to the House from the Dallas-area 32nd District. The seat is held by Democratic incumbent Colin Allred, whom West thought about challenging in 2019 before he opted to run for state party chair instead. West also talked about running in a primary that cycle against Sen. John Cornyn, so he’s no stranger to keeping Texas politicos guessing about his plans.

VA-Gov: Roanoke College is out with the first poll we’ve seen since April for Tuesday’s Democratic primary, and it finds former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in very strong shape. McAuliffe leads former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy by a wide 49-11 margin, while state Sen. Jennifer McClellan is in third with 9%. The winner will take on wealthy Republican Glenn Youngkin, who prevailed at last month’s party nominating convention and has self-funded most of his campaign so far.

House

FL-10: Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings announced Friday that he would run for re-election to his current post and not seek another office in 2022. Demings was mentioned as a possible candidate to replace his wife, Rep. Val Demings, in this safely blue Orlando-based district now that she’s seeking the Democratic nomination for Senate next year.

FL-27: Democratic State Rep. Nick Duran had been reportedly considering a bid for this Miami-area district, but he could also have his eyes on another seat. Duran and Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell were both reportedly eyeing this seat, but with Russell launching a campaign for Senate last week, Duran is reported to have expressed interest in replacing him.

There’s no word from Duran himself, and the only Democrat so far to publicly express interest in running here is former Rep. Donna Shalala, who narrowly lost to current Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar last year.

OH-15: State Rep. Brian Stewart announced he was dropping out of the crowded GOP special election primary field to replace former Rep. Steve Stivers. Stewart candidly acknowledged he was dropping out because he did not think he could compete with fellow state Rep. Jeff LaRe, who has the backing of Stivers and his vast campaign war chest.

SC-07: Former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride kicked off a primary challenge to Rep. Tom Rice on Thursday. McBride has sought federal office once before, running in the 2004 GOP Senate primary where he took just 2%.

There have been several Republicans who have expressed interest in a primary challenge against Rice since he angered the GOP faithful with his vote to impeach Donald Trump in February, but so far only McBride and Horry County School Board chair Ken Richardson have launched bids.

Attorneys General

VA-AG, VA-LG: Roanoke College, in addition to polling Tuesday’s Democratic primary for governor (see our VA-Gov item), also gives us a rare look at Team Blue’s contests for attorney general and lieutenant governor.

Attorney General Mark Herring leads Del. Jay Jones by a large 50-20 margin in what has become a very expensive fight to keep his job. The Republican firm Medium Buying reported Friday that Herring and his allies at the Democratic Attorneys General Association, a group that doesn’t often spend much in primaries, have together outspent Jones $1.4 million to $1.2 million. The winner will go up against Republican Jason Miyares in the fall.

Roanoke finds a far more unsettled contest for lieutenant governor, an open seat race where a large 45% plurality are undecided. Hala Ayala edges out fellow Del. Sam Rasoul 16-11, with Del. Mark Levine and Norfolk City Council member Andria McClellan in third with 7% each. The victor will take on Team Red’s nominee, former Del. Winsome Sears, in November.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: City Councilman Andre Dickens has released a survey from Lester & Associates of this race that shows him in first place in an open seat contest that is still taking shape. The poll gives Dickens 18% of the vote in the November nonpartisan primary, while former Mayor Kasim Reed and City Councilman Antonio Brown are tied for second at 13%. Reed, who served from 2010 to 2018, has been flirting with a comeback, but he has not yet announced if he’ll try to regain his old job.





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