The approach we've taken here, known as a cartogram, is designed to address a problem that plagues all traditional congressional maps: Sprawling but thinly populated rural districts dominate visually, while dense urban districts are often impossible to make out. In American politics, this has the effect of making red areas seem as though they're overwhelming blue areas, even when Democrats win. (And that's why Donald Trump loved those misleading maps of county-level results of his 2016 race.)
On our map, by contrast, each district is the same size, created from five hexagons apiece (or their equivalent in area for districts along state borders). This reflects the fact that every district elects just one representative who gets exactly one vote in Congress. It also reflects the fact that districts all have fairly comparable populations, ranging from 542,112 in Montana to 989,948 in Delaware as of the 2020 census.
By contrast, the largest district in geographic terms is Alaska's lone at-large district, which clocks in at a gargantuan 665,000 square miles. The smallest, New York's 12th, is around 12 miles square, yet both Reps. Mary Peltola and Jerry Nadler are running for re-election to represent similar numbers of people in the 118th Congress—and have identical powers under the Constitution.
When displaying election results or the outcome of floor votes in the House, then, our hexmap comes much closer to depicting reality than a standard map would. But of course, it comes with an important tradeoff: Districts sometimes cannot be placed within states where you'd expect them to be geographically.
You can see that illustrated in this hexmap that shows just New York state and specifically highlights the 15 districts that make up New York City and Long Island (plus a sliver of New York's 16th, which occupies a thin slice of the Bronx). Together, they stretch far upstate and take up more than half of the state's area as a whole; in reality, though, they account for just 7% of the state's landmass. But there simply isn't enough room to show all of these seats within the greater New York metropolitan area and still have them be visible.
There's truly no way around this if you want the states to remain recognizable and retain their shapes. The only alternative is to badly distort state outlines, which yields hard-to-parse blob-like maps such as this one. (It's of New York's counties rather than congressional districts, but the effect would be similar either way.) Our preferred approach when we use our hexmap is simply to release a traditional map alongside it.
If you'd like to create your own maps, you can find all the necessary data files here, including blank maps you can print and color by hand. The only requirement is that you cite us and link back to the source materials at http://dkel.ec/map. Happy hexing!
● AZ-Sen: Axios reports that the conservative Senate Leadership Fund has canceled the remainder of its $9.6 million reservation, though the super PAC insisted that other groups were simply taking over its mission to help Republican Blake Masters beat Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly. "We're glad to see Republican outside forces showing up in a big way in Arizona, with millions in new spending pledged to take down Mark Kelly in the final stretch," said SLF president Steven Law, who added that the money would be redirected towards attacking Democratic senators in Georgia, New Hampshire, and Nevada.
Law doesn't appear to have mentioned Masters' chief benefactor, billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who has been the subject of much angst in GOP circles. Thiel's own super PAC, Saving Arizona, spent $15 million to help Masters—an employee and protégé—win the Republican primary in August, but the group remained idle in the weeks afterwards as every poll showed Kelly ahead. The NRSC went on to cancel $3.5 million before SLF axed another $8 million just before Labor Day, but both the Washington Post and CNN went on to detail Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's unsuccessful persuasion campaign to get Thiel to take over.
Since then, Thiel has sent very mixed messages about his plans. Saving Arizona in early September launched a $1.7 million ad buy—which includes a 30-minute infomercial premiering Oct. 1, but multiple outlets say that all that money came from other donors. Thiel himself is set to host a fundraiser for Masters at the end of this month, but everyone's waiting to see if this will be accompanied by another huge donation to his super PAC. SLF, though, appears to have decided that either Thiel and other mega donors are coming to their rescue, or that it can force Thiel's hand by pulling out of the state.
● IA-Sen: Local media on Monday reported that a former campaign staffer named Kimberley Strope-Boggus accused her former boss, Democrat Mike Franken, of kissing her without her consent in March. Strope-Boggus, whom Franken fired the month before the alleged incident along with his then-campaign manager, went on to file a police report in April, but investigators closed the probe after they "determined that there was insufficient information and evidence to pursue a criminal investigation."
Franken denied Strope-Boggus' allegations this week, saying, "It didn't happen."
GA-Sen: Marist College: Raphael Warnock (D-inc): 47, Herschel Walker (R): 42, Chase Oliver (L): 4
GA-Sen: University of Georgia for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Walker (R): 46, Warnock (D-inc): 44, Oliver (L): 3 (July: 46-43 Warnock)
MO-Sen: SurveyUSA for multiple Missouri media outlets: Eric Schmitt (R): 47, Trudy Busch Valentine (D): 36
UT-Sen: Lighthouse Research & Development for the Utah Debate Commission: Mike Lee (R-inc): 48, Evan McMullin (I): 37
UT-Sen: OnMessage Inc. (R) for the NRSC: Lee (R-inc): 51, McMullin (I): 34
WI-Sen: Siena College for Spectrum News: Mandela Barnes (D): 48, Ron Johnson (R-inc): 47
While both of these Georgia surveys show a different leader, both schools find that neither Warnock nor Walker is taking the majority they need to avert a December runoff.
The Utah Debate Commission released this survey to determine who should be invited to its forum; the group also publicized numbers from all four House districts, though it unsurprisingly has the GOP incumbents far ahead in each.
While Lee recently dusted off an early August internal to argue he was in good shape, this NRSC poll was in the field last week. McMullin himself publicized his own poll from the beginning of the month that showed himself up 47-46. Lee's allies at the Club for Growth evidently don't believe their man is far ahead, though, as they're continuing to run ads bashing McMullin.
● WI-Gov: Both Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and his allies at the DGA affiliate Alliance for Common Sense are running ads attacking Republican Tim Michels over lawsuits alleging that his construction firm badly handled sexual harassment and assault complaints. Evers' narrator declares, "Women who worked for Michels' company said they were groped, assaulted, and pressured to have sex with their bosses. Higher ups at Michels' company dismissed the women as liars and even fired those who spoke out."
CBS 58 writes that these allegations, as well as accounts of racial discrimination that weren't mentioned in either spot, come from five lawsuits spanning from 1988 to 2020, all of which were settled. Michels' campaign didn't comment when asked, while his company insisted, "Any violation, of any type, simply put, is not tolerated."
The RGA's Right Direction WI, meanwhile, is running its own commercial that portrays Evers as weak on crime, claiming that the governor's parole commission "released hundreds of violent criminals early." Evers' team quickly responded by saying that the governor himself "plays no role in individual parole decisions" and that "nearly half the parolees released under Evers were required to be released by law." Michels himself on Monday challenged the incumbent to halt all paroles even though the governor doesn't have that power.
The ads came out the same day that Siena College, polling for Spectrum News, showed Evers ahead 49-44. That's the governor's best showing in any survey since Michels won his mid-August primary, though no prior poll had ever found the challenger in the lead.
GA-Gov: Marist College: Brian Kemp (R-inc): 50, Stacey Abrams (D): 44, Shane Hazel (L): 2
GA-Gov: University of Georgia for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Kemp (R-inc): 50, Abrams (D): 42, Hazel (L): 1 (July: 48-43 Kemp)
IL-Gov: Osage Research (R) for Darren Bailey: J.B. Pritzker (D-inc): 44, Darren Bailey (R): 37, Scott Schluter (Lib): 8
MI-Gov: EPIC-MRA for MIRS and other clients: Gretchen Whitmer (D-inc): 51, Tudor Dixon (R): 40 (Aug.: 50-39 Whitmer)
● AZ-04: House Majority PAC's opening commercial stars a Green Beret veteran who takes Republican Kelly Cooper to task for having "supported defunding the FBI and compared federal law enforcement agents to Nazis and the Gestapo." The commercial continues, "He even supported an extremist with ties to the Proud Boys and Neo Nazis." Cooper is challenging Democratic incumbent Greg Stanton in what's now a 54-44 Biden seat based in the eastern Phoenix suburbs.
Cooper, according to Democratic opposition research, responded to the FBI's search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago lair by liking an anti-FBI tweet from Rep. Paul Gosar, who is running for re-election in another Arizona district and has a long, ugly, and ongoing history of ties to prominent white supremacists. The Gosar message read, "I will support a complete dismantling and elimination of the democrat [sic] brown shirts known as the FBI."
The next week, far-right podcaster Sherronna Bishop told Cooper that the government's search "sounds a lot like the SS or the Gestapo that was used in tyrannical governments before. Is that extreme?" He responded, "I don't think so at all. I think that this is, based on history what we've seen so far these last two years, that feels exactly like what this is. And I don't mean to be alarmist or conspiracy theory [sic]."
Cooper, who owns several restaurants, scored an upset win in an early August primary over establishment favorite Tanya Wheeless, who benefited from $1.5 million in outside spending from the Congressional Leadership Fund and other groups to promote her or attack Cooper. The new nominee self-funded $1.3 million to get past Wheeless, but Roll Call reports that "his assets and salary on required disclosure forms did not appear to identify where he got that much money, even after he amended the report."
● CA-13: Democrats are running a spot attacking Republican John Duarte over an unresolved 2015 lawsuit leveled at him by former employees of his agribusiness. House Majority PAC's narrator declares that the candidate is being "sued by his own employees for refusing to pay wages he owed, not paying overtime, and denying his employees rest breaks, even meal breaks."
Duarte is going up against Assemblyman Adam Grey in a mid-Central Valley constituency that would have favored Biden 54-43, but where Democrats often struggle to turn out their base in midterm years. Both sides are treating this contest as very competitive, and, as the newest edition of our major House group independent expenditures tracker shows, Democratic and GOP outside groups have each spent about $500,000 so far.
● NM-02: House Majority PAC is airing one of the first ads we've seen tying a Republican to Marjorie Taylor Greene, though its piece against Rep. Yvette Herrell doesn't identify the far-right Georgia congresswoman by name. Instead, the narrator blames Herrell for "voting to protect an extremist who supported executing other members of Congress and denied 9/11." The on-screen text cites the 2021 vote to remove Greene from all of her committees, which Herrell and most of the GOP caucus opposed.
The ad goes on to declare that the incumbent said "she was proud to sponsor a law banning abortion―specifically in cases of rape." The commercial cites a failed 2013 bill Herrell co-sponsored in the state legislature that read, "Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime."
Herrell defended the legislation, saying, "It was only against the perpetrator if the woman was coerced or forced to have an abortion. I just wanted to clear that up." The congresswoman faces Democrat Gabe Vasquez, who is a former member of the Las Cruces City Council, in a southern New Mexico constituency that the Democratic legislature transformed from a 55-43 Trump seat into one Biden would have taken 52-46.
● NV-01, NV-03, NV-04: The DCCC is doing something we haven't seen before by airing one commercial hitting a trio of three Republicans competing against three separate Democratic incumbents. The narrator says, "Three Republicans for Congress in Nevada–April Becker, Mark Robertson, and Sam Peters. All three supported overturning Roe v. Wade, taking away a woman's constitutional right to an abortion, with no exceptions for rape, incest or to save a woman's life."
The spot does not specify which seat each candidate is competing for: Robertson is trying to unseat 1st District Rep. Dina Titus, while Becker and Peters are going up against 3rd District Rep. Susie Lee and 4th District Rep. Steven Horsford, respectively. Almost all of the voters across these constituencies reside in the Las Vegas media market but, since there's no way to air TV ads just in one section of a market, campaigns and committees have long had to accept that they'll be paying to show commercials to numerous people in the "wrong" district.
So far, other outside groups have been content with this state of affairs. The conservative Congressional Leadership Fund, for instance, recently launched a spot attacking Lee, and only Lee. The DCCC, though, is betting that it can get more bang for its buck by trying to turn Las Vegas TV viewers against all three GOP candidates at once even though they'll only be able to vote against one.
● OR-06: House Majority PAC is dusting off a story that badly damaged Republican Mike Erickson in his 2008 House campaign with a new ad that accuses him of trying to "outlaw abortion" even though, according to a former girlfriend, Erickson "encouraged her" to undergo the procedure and even paid for it.
These allegations first surfaced 14 years ago when Erickson, who was the GOP's 2006 nominee in an old version of the swingy 5th District, was running again to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Darlene Hooley. First, though, he had to get through an ugly primary against 2002 gubernatorial nominee Kevin Mannix, who sent out mailers late in the race accusing Erickson of impregnating a woman, who was identified only as Tawnya in media reports, in 2000 and paying for her subsequent abortion.
Erickson called these "unsubstantiated and untrue allegations," though he admitted he'd given Tawnya $300 and taken her to a doctor. The candidate insisted he hadn't even known she was pregnant, recounting, "She asked for some money to go have a doctor's appointment—not knowing what that was—and whatever happened, happened, I guess. I didn't even know she had an abortion." Erickson also said of their relationship, "I knew her pretty well but not like — it wasn't my girlfriend — but it was somebody that I had a relationship with."
Tawnya, though, had a different version of events. She said that during the 2006 campaign she'd received a mailer that described him as "some sort of safe haven for babies, and honestly, it made me sick." Tawnya also disputed the idea that Erickson hadn't known what he was paying for, declaring, "I'm just sick to my stomach watching him be interviewed on the news completely lying about everything."
Erickson narrowly won the primary but lost the general election 54-38 to Democrat Kurt Schrader as Barack Obama was carrying the seat by a smaller 54-43 margin. (Schrader lost his primary this year in the newest incarnation of the 5th, while Mannix is Team Red's nominee for a competitive state House seat.) Erickson unexpectedly launched another campaign just before filing closed in the newly-created 6th District, and this time, the abortion story didn't generate much attention in his crowded primary.
Attorneys General and Secretaries of State
● GA-AG, GA-SoS: The University of Georgia also takes a look at the state's downballot statewide races for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and it finds both Republican incumbents well ahead. Attorney General Chris Carr turns back Democrat Jen Jordan 45-35, while Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger fends off Democrat Bee Nguyen 50-31. The school's July poll had Raffensperger up 46-32, while it did not ask about the attorney general race.
● MI-AG, MI-SoS: EPIC-MRA finds identical 48-40 leads for two Democratic incumbents, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, over their respective GOP foes Matt DePerno and Kristina Karamo. The survey was conducted for the political news service MIRS as well as Governmental Consultant Services Inc. and the Life Insurance Association of Michigan.
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