The Overall Picture, Plus a Look at NY and MO – Sabato’s Crystal Ball10 min read
KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE
— With the national House map nearly complete, it appears that the overall map still leans toward Republicans.
— However, this GOP bias is not nearly as strong as it was a decade ago.
— We rate and analyze the new Missouri and New York congressional maps.
The House map: A small GOP bias
The book is nearly closed on the decennial redistricting process. And by at least one metric, the new House landscape is very much like the old landscape: It tilts toward Republicans.
Following the release of a state court-imposed map in New York state over the weekend, every state now has a map in place but New Hampshire, which has just 2 congressional districts.
One way to assess the overall lean of the House is to look at all 435 districts and sort them from the most Republican to the most Democratic at the presidential level. The district smack dab in the middle of the range is the median district.
On the current maps — the maps that were in place for the 2020 House election — the median district was the one held by Rep. Lauren Underwood (D, IL-14). Joe Biden won her district by 2.5 points, according to Daily Kos Elections’ calculations of the 2020 presidential results for the districts in place during the last election. Biden won the national popular vote by about 4.5 points, so this median district was about 2 points to the right of the nation. The Republican bias on the overall House map was greater earlier in the decade: under the maps in place in 2012, the median seat voted about 5.5 points to the right of the national popular vote for president. But court-ordered redistricting prompted remaps that at least partially unwound Republican gerrymanders in Florida and Virginia (2016), Pennsylvania (2018), and North Carolina (2020), which reduced the GOP bias on the overall map (realigning political trends contributed a bit as well).
Based on the new districts — we used Dave’s Redistricting App for our calculations — and taking into account the uncertainty about New Hampshire while also assuming that the other finalized maps stand for this cycle as drawn, the median House district on the new map is likely going to be one that Biden won by about 2 points. CA-40, MI-8, and VA-2 all are right around that mark and are strong possibilities for the median seat — the first is held by Republican Young Kim, while Democratic Reps. Dan Kildee and Elaine Luria, respectively, are defending the others. There is still a little uncertainty because we don’t know where the New Hampshire districts will fall on this continuum. On the current map, Biden won Rep. Ann Kuster’s (D, NH-2) district by 8.7 points and Rep. Chris Pappas’s (D, NH-1) district by 6 points. We know at least one of these districts will remain more Democratic than the nation, and perhaps both will depending on how redistricting is completed.
This is all a long way of saying that the median district is going to be a little more Republican than it was in 2020, although the difference is only about half a percentage point (2.5 versus 2).
Time is running out for New Hampshire to adopt a map, as the filing period to run for office is set to open on Wednesday. If the legislature and the governor can’t come to an agreement on a map, it seems likely that the state will end up with a court-imposed map that makes only minor changes to account for population shifts.
Once New Hampshire is settled, we’ll be able to say a bit more about the overall map. In the meantime, New York and Missouri recently completed their maps, so let’s take a look at them and go over how we rate them.
The now-official New York congressional map, drawn by court-appointed special master Jonathan Cervas, is probably a bit better for Democrats than the map that was in place last decade. This map has 21 Joe Biden-won districts and 5 won by Donald Trump, whereas the previous map had 20 Biden-won seats and 7 Trump-won districts. However, it isn’t nearly as good for Democrats as the map they drew for themselves that state courts threw out — that gerrymander, signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) and popularly nicknamed the “Hochulmander,” aimed to give Democrats a 22-4 edge in the state. Map 1 shows our ratings for the operative special master map.
Map 1: 2022 Crystal Ball New York ratings
Let’s go through the new map, starting as the numerals on the map do, on Long Island.
Under the now-defunct Hochulmander, Democrats conceded NY-2, held by first-term Republican Rep. Andrew Garbarino, while trying to improve their chances of flipping NY-1, an open seat that covers eastern Long Island held by Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is running for governor. Originally, NY-1 was set to grab the Democratic-leaning precincts in the town of Islip — that area will remain in NY-2, although the Hamptons (a string of higher-income communities) still give Democrats a base in NY-1.
Both of these Suffolk County districts would have given Hillary Clinton just under 45% in 2016, but were each about evenly-divided in 2020: Biden carried NY-1 by less than 1,000 votes while Trump held NY-2 by a 50%-49% margin. Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D) and Suffolk County Legislature Chief of Staff Nick LaLota (R) are the leading candidates in NY-1, while 2020 Democratic nominee Jackie Gordon is seeking a rematch with Garbarino in NY-2. In the general election, Gordon would be running in a somewhat friendlier district, but Garbarino, now an incumbent, would benefit from a more favorable environment. We are calling NY-1 Leans Republican, while NY-2 will start at Likely Republican.
Moving into Nassau County, the special master’s NY-3 is several points redder than the version that the Hochulmander featured, but it remains a marginal blue seat. The 3rd is essentially all of northern Nassau County, and it takes in communities like Levittown. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D, NY-3) is running for governor, so his open Biden +8 seat could see a multi-way primary — Suozzi is running in an uphill primary against Hochul. We are starting the race out as a Toss-up.
The outgoing NY-4, in southern Nassau County, saw few changes under the Hochulmander, and stays mostly as is. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D, NY-4), who was elected in 2014, is retiring, and her 57%-42% Biden seat is Likely Democratic.
On the other side of New York City, NY-11 is the only GOP-held district that is entirely located within the Big Apple. First-term Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R) was unquestionably one of the biggest winners under the special master’s map. While Staten Island makes up about two-thirds of her district, Democratic mappers originally added liberal pockets of Brooklyn (specifically the Park Slope neighborhood) to her district — instead, the district keeps a collection of more marginal Brooklyn neighborhoods that border the Lower New York Bay. So instead of a seat that favored Biden 54%-45%, Malliotakis will keep a Trump-won seat. Former Rep. Max Rose (D, NY-11) was planning a comeback bid in the 11th, but the new map may prompt him to reconsider. In any case, Likely Republican seems an appropriate rating.
Although both are Safe Democratic, there are 2 other New York City districts that will feature primaries worth watching.
Within Manhattan, the Upper East and Upper West sides were united — a move that double-bunked Reps. Jerry Nadler (D, NY-10) and Carolyn Maloney (D, NY-12). Both septuagenarian Democrats were first elected to Congress in 1992, and are each important players within the caucus: Maloney chairs the House Oversight Committee, while Nadler leads the Judiciary Committee. Nearly two-thirds of the new district comes from Maloney’s former turf (she represents the Upper East Side).
District 10, a seat that includes much of Nadler’s old turf, runs from Lower Manhattan into Brooklyn, and it is set to see a truly free-for-all primary. Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio quickly got into the race. Over the weekend, Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones, who currently represents a district well outside of the new 10th, raised eyebrows by announcing he’d seek reelection there. There are several other Democrats running in this seat, which is one of the bluest in the nation.
North of New York City, Democrats will be defending 3 seats in the Hudson Valley — 2 of which are open seats.
When the original draft of the special master’s plan was made public last week, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D, NY-18) suggested that he would move south a district and seek reelection in the new 17th District. The possibility of a primary challenge from Maloney may have prompted Jones, the 17th’s current occupant, to look elsewhere, although his internal polling also pointed to a potentially tough reelection race. Importantly, Maloney is currently serving as the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and he deeply angered many Democrats with what appeared to them to be a selfish move.
For a time, and with Jones running in the NYC-area 10th District, it seemed Maloney would have an easy path to the nomination in the new 17th. But on Monday, Democratic state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi announced plans to challenge Maloney. Although Biaggi does not live in the new 17th, she is positioning herself as the more progressive choice.
As Michael Barone and Richard Cohen wrote in the 2004 Almanac of American Politics, “carpetbagging is not necessarily a political crime in New York.” Though that comment came after Hillary Clinton’s successful run for Senate, Biaggi and Jones must be hoping that it still holds true decades later.
In any case, as drawn, the 17th takes in about one-third of deep blue Westchester County, while it includes all or parts of 3 other more marginal counties. In 2020, it would have given Biden a solid but not overwhelming 54%-44% margin. We are starting the race at Leans Democratic.
NY-18, is situated just north of NY-17, and is a few points redder: it went 53%-45% for Biden, and gave Clinton a narrow 48%-47% margin 4 years earlier. Republican state Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, who is from Orange County, was originally set to face Maloney, but he will still run in the new 18th. Democrats, meanwhile, seem to have coalesced behind Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan. This race is a Toss-up.
Now, here’s where the New York game of musical chairs gets a little more complicated: Ryan will also be the nominee in the upcoming NY-19 special election to replace now-Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado (D). A few weeks ago, we discussed Delgado’s move from Washington, D.C to Albany. The NY-19 special election for Delgado’s seat will be held on the same day the regular U.S. House primaries, Aug. 23.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro is set to face Ryan in the NY-19 special election (which will be held under the current iteration of the district). Though Dutchess County was completely removed from the 19th District under the special master’s plan, Molinaro will still run there in the regular election. We rate both NY-19 elections as Leans Republican. While the new version of the district, which will be in place for the fall general election, is more Democratic than the outgoing district, it would have still narrowly favored Trump in 2016, and Molinaro could have incumbency on his side by November.
The final competitive Upstate seat that we’re watching is District 22, which is essentially the successor to the Syracuse-era seat that moderate Republican John Katko (R, NY-24) is vacating. While Democratic-leaning Onondaga County (Syracuse) makes up a majority of the district, it also includes Madison and Oneida counties, which are GOP-leaning. Candidate recruitment will matter here: the district gave Biden only a 53%-45% edge in 2020. We are calling it a Toss-up.
Elsewhere in Upstate/Western New York, Democrats Paul Tonko, Joe Morelle, and Brian Higgins are all clear favorites for reelection — they represent seats anchored in Albany, Rochester, and Buffalo, respectively. Similarly, the area’s 3 Republican incumbents — Elise Stefanik, Claudia Tenney, and Chris Jacobs — each have red districts to run in, although the latter 2 will each take on wide swaths of new territory.
For a more detailed look at New York, RRH Elections has a comprehensive rundown of each new district.
As New York’s special master was finishing his plans, Missouri also passed a map. At the last minute, legislative Republican settled on a plan designed to keep the state’s current 6-2 Republican edge. Had legislators waited much longer, the process seemed poised to end up in court. Protests from hardline conservatives, who pushed for a 7-1 Republican plan, were a significant obstacle that legislative leaders eventually overcame. Gov. Mike Parson (R-MO) signed the plan into law last week.
Democratic Reps. Cori Bush and Emanuel Cleaver, who represent St. Louis and Kansas City, respectively, both retain safe blue seats at opposite ends of the state.
Of the state’s 6 Republican-held seats, Rep. Ann Wagner’s suburban St. Louis-area 2nd District was the only district where the party’s hold has been somewhat shaky over the last few cycles. In 2020, Trump and Biden were almost exactly tied in Wagner’s district, although she won reelection by a comfortable 52%-46%.
Republicans moved a few exurban counties into MO-2 but about 70% of the new seat comes from St. Louis County, Wagner’s home area. Those additions make MO-2 redder (Trump would have carried the new version with 53%), and since the district is still broadly familiar to Wagner, she shouldn’t have much trouble in the primary. We rate it, along with the other 5 GOP-held districts, as Safe Republican.