The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Matt Booker, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● NE Redistricting: Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts immediately signed new congressional and legislative maps after Nebraska lawmakers passed them in a bipartisan vote on Thursday, making it the third state to complete the redistricting process this year. But despite support from a handful of Democratic senators, the House plan, shown at the top left in the set of maps above, goes to great lengths to shore up an existing GOP gerrymander in the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District, the lone competitive seat in the state.
A decade ago, Republicans sliced up the 2nd by excising the swingy suburb of Bellevue in Sarpy County, just outside of Omaha, after Barack Obama made history by becoming the first Democratic candidate for president to carry the district. (Nebraska, along with Maine, allocates some of its electoral votes by congressional district.) Bellevue had in fact been part of the 2nd for decades, but by removing it and adding redder rural areas farther from Omaha, Republicans kept the seat from becoming bluer, as it naturally would have otherwise.
That's precisely what GOP lawmakers did once again this time. Instead of reuniting Bellevue with Omaha, which would have made for a more logical and compact map, they carved out still more of the Sarpy County suburbs and instead grafted on rural Saunders County, a piece of deep-red turf that has little in common with Omaha. (Douglas County, where Omaha is based, voted 54-43 for Joe Biden last year; Saunders went 71-26 for Donald Trump.)
The end result is the same as it was 10 years ago. The 2nd's overall political lean will remain largely the same: The new version would have voted for Biden by about a 52-46 margin, according to Dave's Redistricting App, just as the old one did. But a district free from partisan gerrymandering would likely have gone for Biden by nearly 10 points, and it would have continued to grow bluer: Bellevue went 55-38 for Donald Trump in 2016 but voted for him just 51-46 last year.
All of this effort is aimed at protecting Republican Rep. Don Bacon, a perennial Democratic target who has never won by more than 5 points and will remain vulnerable despite this latest gerrymander. But things could have turned out better. Democrats successfully filibustered the GOP's first plan, which would have split Omaha between two districts. Had they maintained that blockade—an option that wasn't available to them in 2011, since they lacked the numbers—the redistricting process would have fallen to the courts, which would have been unlikely to redraw the lines in the way Republicans did.
What's most striking, though, is that on a partisan basis, the Republican proposal to carve out a chunk of Omaha was little different than the final plan: It, too, would have given Biden a 52-46 margin in the 2nd. It appears, however, that a sufficient number of Democrats were satisfied simply to keep Omaha whole, despite the other manifest flaws of the enacted map. It's all a reminder that even if a redistricting plan preserves the status quo, it can undermine the cause of fair representation if the status quo itself is gerrymandered.
As for the legislative maps, Republican dominance remains unthreatened, as Trump would have carried 33 seats to 16 for Biden. Even though Nebraska's lawmakers are elected on officially nonpartisan ballots, candidates' political identifications are well-known.
● TX Redistricting: Republicans in the Texas House released a draft map for their own chamber on Tuesday that would lock in GOP rule by reducing by six the number of districts where Black or Latino voters make up a majority and correspondingly increasing the number of white districts. In so doing, it would tilt the map considerably: According to the Texas Tribune, Donald Trump won 76 districts under the current lines while Joe Biden took 74, but with the new map, Trump would have won an 86-64 majority.
Republican lawmakers previously released maps this month for both Congress and the state Senate that would likewise shore up their majorities through partisan and racial gerrymandering.
● WV Redistricting: A committee in West Virginia's Republican-run state House has released a draft map for the chamber's own districts, as well as a host of new congressional proposals. A committee in the upper chamber also recently put out a variety of congressional maps though it has yet to release any plans for the state Senate.
● AL-Sen: The Alabama Farmers Federation, an influential organization in state politics, has endorsed former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt in next year's GOP Senate primary.
● AZ-Sen: Local pollster OH Predictive Insights has released another survey of next year's Senate race in Arizona, pitting Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly against four potential GOP opponents. As he did in the firm's May poll, Kelly leads all comers, some of whom weren't tested previously:
- 43-39 vs. state Attorney General Mark Brnovich (May: 46-36 Kelly)
- 44-37 vs. retired Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire (May: 44-35 Kelly
- 43-36 vs. businessman Jim Lamon
- 44-35 vs. venture capitalist Blake Masters
OHPI also tested the Republican primary, finding Brnovich leading McGuire 27-14, with Masters at 6 and Lamon at 3.
● ME-Gov: Despite an effort by unhappy progressive activists and dissatisfied labor unions to recruit state Senate President Troy Jackson to challenge Gov. Janet Mills in next year's Democratic primary, it sounds like Jackson is not interested in taking a bite. Last week, in response to the launch of former Republican Gov. Paul LePage's comeback bid, Jackson issued a statement praising Mills' efforts to fight COVID and support education, saying that the governor had "proven to be a strong and capable leader" despite their "differences at times."
Mills angered unions and the left this year when she vetoed a number of bills shepherded by Jackson, including one measure aimed at reducing prescription drug prices and another to increase worker protections. However, no notable Democrats have floated their names as potential opponents for Mills.
● NJ-07: Assemblyman Erik Peterson says he's considering a bid against Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, despite the fact that Republicans have already united around their anointed candidate, Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean. It's not clear, though, why Peterson would want to go up against Kean, especially since insurgents so seldom succeed in defeating party favorites in New Jersey. Peterson says he won't make a decision until after the Nov. 2 elections, when every seat in the legislature will go before voters.
● NJ-11: Former prosecutor Paul DeGroot has joined the busy GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill in New Jersey's 11th District next year. Among those already running are Morris County Commissioner Tayfun Selen and businessman Tom Toomey, a former RNC staffer.
● Boston, MA Mayor: City Councilor Michelle Wu on Thursday earned the support of 32BJ SEIU, which represents property service workers, in the Nov. 2 general election. The union previously backed acting Mayor Kim Janey, who ended up taking fourth place in the nonpartisan primary before endorsing Wu herself.
● Oakland, CA Mayor: On Wednesday, City Councilmember Loren Taylor became the first candidate to enter the November 2022 instant-runoff race to succeed termed-out Mayor Libby Schaaf in this very blue city. Taylor had Schaaf's backing in 2018 when he successfully ousted a longtime incumbent on the council, but the mayor has yet to take sides in this contest.