The governor of New Jersey is Phil Murphy, a Democrat. Both Houses of the state legislature are controlled by Democrats, the Senate 26-14 and the Assembly 54-26. There’s just one New Jersey congressional district that elected a Republican in 2018. It would be easy as pie for New Jersey Democrats to gerrymander the map to make Chris Smith’s 4th CD go from an R+8 district to a much more winnable R+1 or 2 or even an even district that a Democratic candidate could easily win. And that is exactly what they were planning on doing– until Eric Holder shamed them into not doing it (according to Eric Holder).
Today Democrats are doing what Republicans have long done– investing millions off dollars into winning state legislative seats so that they’ll have a hand in redrawing post-census district boundaries that will last for the next decade. The fight gets hot in less than two months when Virginia votes on all their legislative seats. Elliott reports that there are 91 Democratic candidates for the commonwealth’s 100 house races on Nov. 5, and 35 senate hopefuls for the chamber’s 40 spots, which include three senate districts that voted for Hillary Clinton for President in 2016 but are currently represented by Republicans. ‘They are running to build the party,’ house caucus executive director Trevor Southerland says.”
The state Senate has 21 Republicans and 19 Democrats and the House of Delegates has 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats. The governor and Lt. Governor are Democrats. It should be easy to win enough seats to flip both chambers, right? Well, the Republicans are playing the same game– working to flip Democratic seats and working to protect their own incumbents. Please consider contributing by clicking on the legislative thermometer on the right, especially in the Virginia races.
There are virtually no races in Virginia more important this cycle than the one to reelect Lee Carter in the House of Delegates and the one to replace Trumpist Richard Stuart with Qasim Rashid in the state Senate.
This morning, Rashid, a human rights attorney, told us that “Free and fair elections mandate that we have districts that are just and honest. It is a mockery of democracy when districts are drawn to keep politicians in power. We must return voting power to citizens.”
Lee Carter is the best member of the House and the Republicans are targeting him while the Democratic establishment ignores his race. This Democratic Socialist is fighting for working families, not for party establishments. “The legislative elections in Virginia in 2019 and the rest of the country in 2020 will determine the direction of the country for the next decade,” he told me today. “The stakes are too high for anyone to sit this one out.” I agree.
The party that wins control of Richmond in November and other state capitals in 2020 has decisions to make. Republicans may want to cluster African-American voters into one district to make the rest of the area easier to win. Democrats may want to spread those voters out more evenly. In Northern Virginia, both parties may want to minimize the number of seats that have to buy ad time in the expensive D.C. market. Armed with enough data, it’s possible to draw lines that enhance the odds of winning again and again. “We were so pleased as Democrats that we won this Congress,” Post says of the 2018 elections. “But the truth is, it’s just a rental.”
Democrats have neglected state legislatures and seen Republicans put themselves into position to redrawn districts and take control of Congress with far fewer votes than Democrats have won. Let me give you some recent examples. In 2012 John Boehner retained the Speaker’s gavel even though 59,645,531 voters (48.8%) backed Democratic candidates and just 58,228,253 voters (47.6%) backed Republican candidates, The Republicans wound up with 234 seats and the Democrats with 201.
That’s how gerrymandering works. And even when Democrats do well, they have to do really well to match the GOP:
Like we just saw, the Republicans won 234 seats by taking 47.6% of the vote. In the big anti-red wave of 2018, there were 60,572,245 voters (53.5%) who picked Democrats and just 50,861,970 (44.8%) and yet Democrats only won 235 seats, only one more than the GOP won in 2012.
Thanks for always doing what you can to make a better world,
Howie, for the entire Blue America team