Politics

Why Democratic Departures From the House Have Republicans Salivating

Representative Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, who last year entered an alcohol rehabilitation program after falling on the Washington Metro, also chose not to seek re-election. Representative Cheri Bustos, whose district covering a swath of Central and Northwest Illinois swung to Donald J. Trump, announced her retirement last week. Last year Ms. Bustos led the House Democrats’ campaign arm through a disappointing cycle, when the party lost 13 seats after it expected to flip Republican-held districts.

Along with Florida, Republicans are expected to draw themselves more favorable congressional districts in Georgia, where Democrats hold two competitive districts in Atlanta’s northern suburbs, and Texas, which will add two new seats for the 2022 elections.

Mr. Ryan’s Democratic district in Northeast Ohio is likely to disappear when Ohio Republicans draw a map with one fewer House seat, and Representative Filemon Vela of Texas, whose Rio Grande Valley district became eight percentage points more Republican from 2016 to 2020, chose retirement rather than compete in what was likely to be his first competitive re-election bid.

“This is where Democratic underperformance in 2020 really begins to hinder Democrats down ballot,” said Ken Spain, a veteran of the House Republicans’ campaign arm. “Republicans fared well at the state level last cycle, and now they’re going to reap the benefits of many of those red states drawing a disproportionate number of the seats.”

Because Republicans hold majorities in more state legislatures, and Democrats and voters in key states such as California, Colorado and Virginia have delegated mapmaking authority to nonpartisan commissions, the redistricting process alone could shift up to five or six seats to Republicans. That is potentially enough to seize the majority if they don’t flip any other Democratic-held seats.

Democrats are expected to press their advantages where they can, particularly in Illinois and New York, states that lost one House district each in last week’s reapportionment. New York’s new map is certain to take a seat from Republicans in upstate New York, and one Republican-held seat in Central Illinois may be redrawn to be Democratic while another is eliminated.

For the moment there are more House Republicans, six, not seeking re-election than the five House Democrats retiring or aiming for a promotion to statewide office. But of the Republicans, only Representatives Lee Zeldin and Tom Reed of New York represent districts that are plausibly competitive in 2022.

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