Friday, November 25, 2011

New Jersey Fair Redistricting

New Jersey is one of the few states with a bipartisan redistricting commission. This means that even if one party holds the redistricting trifecta (Governorship and both houses of the legislature,) both parties will have a voice when New Jersey's state legislature and congressional lines are redrawn. At a first glance, a bipartisan commission suggests that the commission will draw a fair map that creates competitive districts that give opportunities for Democrats and Republicans to win. Also, a bipartisan commission would suggest a map with districts that combine communities of interest. The 2002 map that the commission drew though failed to create competitive districts that combined enough communities of interest. There were 13 congressional seats during the 2000s in New Jersey. During the 2000s, only one seat changed hands. In 2008, John Adler (D) gained the 3rd congressional seat for the Democrats and in 2010, Jon Runyan (R) returned the seat to the Republicans. This seat does not combine communities of interest though. The 3rd district combines Cherry Hill, a suburb close to Philadelphia with Toms River, a community on the central Jersey Shore. In my map's new 3rd district, it represents urban areas along the Delaware River instead of crossing the state to connect two different suburban areas connected only by a few roads crossing the rural Pine Barrens. Also, this map creates more competitive districts by making the 7th district more competitive by having Obama win it with 54% but the Republicans winning the district's average. Also, Republicans perform well in local races in New Jersey so they will have a strong shot at a 54% Obama district. Overall, the map should be 8-3-1 Democrats compared to the current 7-6 Democratic delegation. Anyway, here is a link to the current maps:

New Jersey's 1st Congressional District Rob Andrews (D) Blue
Presidential Data: Obama 193,498 63.9%, McCain 109,476 36.1%
Average: Dem 61.2%, Rep 38.8%
Demographics 18+: 15.3% African American, 9.8% Hispanic, 69.9% White
Old Presidential Data: Obama 65%, McCain 34%
Status: Safe Democratic

Although I made major changes to some district such as the 3rd and 7th, the 1st district undergoes very minor changes. It does gain Republican leaning areas in western Gloucester County and part of Cherry Hill while losing all of its Burlington County precincts. These changes make the 1st district a point more Republican. It is still strongly Democratic at nearly 64% Obama so Andrews should have no trouble winning reelection. Also, the district combines communities of interest by combining the Philadelphia suburbs in Camden and Gloucester Counties.

New Jersey South

New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District Frank LoBiondo (R) Green
Presidential Data: Obama 156,149 52.8%, McCain 139,636 47.2%
Average: Dem 51.3%, Rep 48.7%
Demographics 18+: 11.4% African American, 12.3% Hispanic,
Old Presidential Data: Obama 54%, McCain 45%
Status: Safe Republican with LoBiondo, Tossup if he retires

The 2nd district voted 53% for Obama and this number suggests the district is very competitive. The opposite is the case though because LoBiondo is moderate and extremely popular. He wins endorsements from many environmental groups in most of his races. Even in the heavily Democratic years of 2006 and 2008, he won easily despite Obama's narrow win here. The district's changes help LoBiondo a bit too by adding part of heavily Republican Ocean County along the shore. The district also does not undergo major changes so LoBiondo will continue to be elected by running in territory with familiar voters. If LoBiondo retires though, this district should become very competitive. It also combines communities of interest though by representing the combination of small cities, rural farmland and beach areas in southern Jersey.

New Jersey's 3rd Congressional District: Jon Runyan (R) Purple
Presidential Data: Obama 187,899 60.7%, McCain 121,663 39.3%
Average: Dem 56.1%, Rep 43.9%
Demographics 18+: 15.6% African American, 6.3% Asian, 9.5% Hispanic, 66.8% White
Old Presidential Data: Obama 52%, McCain 47%
Status: Likely Democratic

The 3rd district undergoes major changes as it loses all of Ocean County. I removed Ocean County from the district because Ocean County is a Jersey Shore county filled with retirees and it is connected by only two roads to the Burlington County part of the district. The 3rd district now represents communities of interest by combining urban areas along the Delaware River by representing Willingboro, Burlington and Trenton. These changes boost the Obama numbers to around 60%. Runyan won by 3 points in 2010, a very Republican year and his entire margin came from Ocean County and he lost the Burlington and Camden County portions of the district. With the addition of heavily Democratic Trenton, Runyan will probably lose reelection. Rush Holt (D) may decide to run here because this district is safer than his other option, the 7th congressional district.

New Jersey's 4th Congressional District: Chris Smith (R) Red
Presidential Data: Obama 125,322 42.1%, McCain 172,426 57.9%
Average: Rep 41.8%, Dem 58.2%
Demographics 18+: 7.4% Hispanic, 85.2% White
Old Presidential Data: Obama 47%, McCain 52%
Status: Safe Republican

The 4th district represents more communities of interest and becomes more Republican as it loses all of Mercer and Burlington Counties. It gains more of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. It extends south in Ocean County to gain all of Silverton and Toms River. In Monmouth County, it extends north to gain Republican leaning Lincroft and Tinton Falls. The 4th district also loses a few precincts in Carmerville to the 6th district. These changes bring the McCain percentage up to nearly 58%, making it the most Republican district in the state. Chris Smith already had an easy time winning reelection here but the new district should make winning easier.

North New Jersey
New Jersey's 5th Congressional District: Rodney Frelinghuysen (R) Yellow
Presidential Data: Obama 172,562 57.4%, McCain 128,175 42.6%
Average: Dem 55.0%, Rep 45.0%
Demographics 18+: 10.6% African American, 15.4% Asian, 13.6% Hispanic, 58.9% White
Old Presidential Data: N/A
Status: Likely Democratic

This map eliminates both the current 5th district (which represents Sussex, Warren and north Bergen Counties,) and the 7th district (which represents parts of Hunterdon, Somerset, Union and Middlesex Counties,) so I created the new 5th district. Most of its territory is from the current 11th and 7th districts. It takes parts of eastern Morris County from the 11th district while representing parts of Middlesex and Union Counties formerly in the 7th district. Both the 11th and 7th districts lean Republican but the 5th district becomes more Democratic by gaining Democratic areas too such as Rahway from the 10th district and Plainfield from the 6th district. The 5th district's goal is to combine communities of interest in Middlesex, Union and Morris Counties. The current map pairs Edison in Middlesex County with the Pennsylvania border in Hunterdon County. The new 5th district though represents suburban communities of interest and combines swing areas such as Westfield with nearby Democratic areas such as Plainfield instead of separating them into districts designed to protect incumbents. As for the politics of the 5th district, Frelinghuysen's home of Harding in Morris County is in the district. He will probably not run here because of the district's 57.4% Obama number. Also, he is not familiar to the voters in Union and Middlesex Counties. A moderate Republican such as Tom Kean Jr. (R) who lives in Westfield could pose a strong challenge but the district's Democratic lean should carry the Democrats to victory here.

New Jersey's 6th Congressional District: Frank Pallone (D) Teal
Presidential Data: Obama 165,067 56.9%, McCain 124,975 43.1%
Average: Dem 55.7%, Rep 44.3%
Demographics 18+: 9.1% African American, 9.5% Asian, 16.8% Hispanic, 63.1% White
Old Presidential Data: Obama 60%, McCain 38%
Status: Likely Democratic

The 6th district undergoes a few changes. It loses all of Somerset County, all of Edison and its finger into Plainfield in order to combine more communities of interest. The district becomes more centered in Middlesex County as it gains Perth Amboy, East Brunswick and Milltown. Perth Amboy formerly was in the 13th district which combined Perth Amboy with North Bergen in Hudson County in order to create a Hispanic majority district. It is impossible to create a district with a Hispanic majority that also has Hispanics as the majority of the citizen voting population so I had to dismantle the Hispanic majority district. Also, a minority majority district cannot be created if the minority population in a certain area is not large enough for one and the district will have to have contorted lines to become a minority majority district. As for the 6th district, these changes bring the Obama percentage down from 60% to 57%. Although there is an argument that the more urbanized parts of  Monmouth and Middlesex Counties that this district combines are not communities of interest, I had to combine them for population reasons. As for the district's representation, the 57% Obama number should not hurt Pallone.

New Jersey's 7th Congressional District: Leonard Lance (R) vs. Rush Holt (D)
Presidential Data: Obama 169,679 54.3%, McCain 142,951 45.7%
Average: Obama 49.1%, McCain 50.9%
Demographics 18+: 8.5% African American, 11.7% Asian, 7.4% Hispanic, 71.2% White
Old Presidential Data: Obama 50%, McCain 49% (7th district,) Obama 58%, McCain 40% (12th district)
Status: Tossup

The new 7th district is a combination of the current 7th and 12th districts, representing parts of Mercer and Middlesex Counties formerly in the 12th district while also representing Hunterdon and Somerset Counties which were formerly in the 7th district. The 7th district loses its finger into Union and Middlesex Counties and does a strong job of representing communities of interest by combining exurban parts of central New Jersey. I included Trenton because of population reasons. The addition of Trenton though brings Obama's number in the district up to 54%. Although that number suggests the district leans Democratic, it is very even because the Republicans win the average vote. Also, Somerset County in 2008 swung heavily to Obama but Somerset County usually votes Republican (Governor Christie won Somerset County by 22 points in 2009.) Also, Leonard Lance who lives in the district is moderate and popular. He won by 8 points in 2008, despite facing a strong challenger in an even district. If Holt decides to run here though, it will be a close fight because Holt is a strong candidate and half of the voters in the district are familiar with him. Most of the other half of the voters are familiar with Lance though.

New Jersey's 8th Congressional District: Bill Pascrell (D) Slateblue
Presidential Data: Obama 159,555 58.4%, McCain 113,625 41.6%
Average: Dem 57.6%, Rep 42.4%
Demographics 18+: 9.3% African American, 6.3% Asian, 28.4% Hispanic, 54.5% White
Old Presidential Data: Obama 63%, McCain 36%
Status: Safe Democratic

The 8th district becomes more Republican as it loses heavily Democratic West Orange and gains swing parts of Bergen County near Lyndhurst. Also, the district adds Caldwell in west Essex County which is heavily Republican. Although these changes decrease the Obama percentage to 58%, Pascrell should win easily. He is popular here and won with 63% in the heavily Republican year of 2010.

New Jersey's 9th Congressional District: Steve Rotham (D) Cyan
Presidential Data: Obama 172,011 56.7%, McCain 131,469 43.3%
Average: Dem 57.0%, Rep 43.0%
Demographics 18+: 6.0% African American, 16.0% Asian, 16.1% Hispanic, 60.5% White
Old Presidential Data: Obama 61%, McCain 38%
Status: Safe Democratic

The 9th district becomes more Republican as it loses all of its Hudson County portions including Jersey City and represents Bergen County only. This change makes the district more centered around communities of interest by combining the similar suburban areas in Bergen County that were built in the 1950's-60s instead of combining north Bergen County with Jersey City. The new district also gains the northern Republican leaning part of Bergen County with areas such as Norwood and Bergenfield. Although these changes bring down the Obama percentage to 56.7%, Rotham is a popular incumbent, winning 61% in 2010 so he should be safe.

Newark/Jersey City area
New Jersey's 10th Congressional District: Donald Payne (D) DeepPink
Presidential Data: Obama 204,541 83.0%, McCain 41,966 17.0%
Average: Dem 79.5%, Rep 20.5%
Demographics 18+: 50.0% African American, 5.8% Asian, 16.8% Hispanic, 24.9% White
Old Presidential Data: Obama 87%, McCain 13%
Status: Safe Democratic

The 10th district lost population so it had to gain more territory in order to maintain population equity with other districts. To represent as many communities of interest as possible though, the 10th district lot Rahway in Union County on the Middlesex County border so the 10th district could be more centered around Essex County and northern Union County. The 10th district also lost most of Elizabeth to the 12th district and Maplewood to the 5th district. To compensate for the loss of these areas though, the 10th district gained West Orange and some swing areas in Union County such as Cranford. These changes bring the Obama percentage down to 83% but the district is still African American majority VAP and is the most Democratic district in New Jersey.

New Jersey's 11th Congressional District: Scott Garrett (R) Chartreuse
Presidential Data: Obama 147,263 43.0%, McCain 195,297 57.0%
Average: Dem 39.7%, Rep 60.3%
Demographics 18+: 6.4% Asian, 8.5% Hispanic, 81.9% White
Old Presidential Data: Obama 46%, McCain 54%
Status: Safe Republican

The 11th district represents communities of interest by representing conservative and affluent exurban areas in western New Jersey. Those areas are western Morris County, western Bergen County, Warren and Sussex Counties. The 43% Obama number is too low to elect a Democrat in the 2nd most Republican district in New Jersey. The primary though will be interesting. Although Frelinghuysen does not live in this district, most of his current territory is here. The new 11th district is a combination of Garrett's and Frelinghuysen's districts. They each represent close to an equal portion of the district and are both popular representatives. Garrett is more conservative than Frelinghuysen is though so Garrett may have a stronger chance in the primary.

New Jersey's 12th Congressional District: Albio Sires (D)
Presidential Data: Obama 121,570 71.7%, McCain 48,010 28.3%
Average: Dem 72.2%, Rep 27.8%
Demographics 18+: 7.9% African American, 10.0% Asian, 47.6% Hispanic, 32.4% White
Old Presidential Data: Obama 75%, McCain 24%
Status: Safe Democratic

The 12th district becomes a few points more Republican as it loses heavily Democratic Perth Amboy and gains less Democratic areas such as Seacaucs and Kearny. The district also gains most of Elizabeth from the 10th district. These changes reduce the Obama percentage by a few points but the district is still heavily Democratic. Although the population of the district is majority Hispanic (50.3%,) the VAP is not. It is not possible to a create a Hispanic majority VAP district without extending the district to Perth Amboy and even there, the Citizens Voting Age population will probably not be over 50% for Hispanics. I used this district instead to combine communities of interest by representing industrial areas near the port such as Elizabeth and Kearny and combining it with the nearby Hudson County communities.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Candidates Forum for California's 2nd Congressional District

I attended a forum for the Congressional Candidates for California's 2nd Congressional District on October 21st in the Marin Academy High School. The California Redistricting Commission redrew the map of California's districts so Marin County (where Marin Academy is) is in the same district as Mendocino, Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity and parts of Sonoma County including Petaluma. I testified in front of the California Redistricting Commission twice and my analysis of those meetings is here: and
The new district that the Commission created spans from Sausalito to Crescent City. It represents all of Marin, Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity and Del Norte Counties. It also represents western Sonoma County, Petaluma and all of Sonoma County including and north of Windsor. The district now has a mix of affulent voters in the Marin County area with a mix of working class and extremely liberal and environmental voters in the northern part of the district. The district is heavily white and heavily Democratic.
This post though focuses on the congressional candidates for the new seat now that Lynn Woolsey (D), the current representative in Marin plans to retire. Although California has a top two primary system where all candidates run in a jungle primary and the top two vote getters face each other in a runoff, all five candidates at the forum were Democrats and many of the candidates stated, "We agree on most of the issues." The candidates were Susan Adams (D), the President of the Marin County Board of Supervisors, Jared Huffman (D), the California State Assembly member from the 6th district representing Marin and southern Sonoma Counties, Norman Solomon (D), a progressive activist from Inverness in West Marin, Stacy Lawson (D), an entrepreneur from San Rafael and Tiffany Renee (D), a Petaluma city councilmember. Already, I noticed that none of these candidates live in the North Coast areas recently added to the district. This could create an opening for a North Coast candidate such as Wesley Chesbro (D) who is the State Assembly member there but all five Marin candidates have campaigned heavily in the North Coast which should increase their visibility there. The candidates discussed their outreach to the North Coast frequently during the forum because the North Coast has issues critical to them as a rural area that do not affect Marin which is a more suburban county. The candidates began the forum with their opening statements.

Jared Huffman's main points are that he is hardworking (he passed 60 bills including those that helped state parks and oil spills,) the country needs less vitriol and he has record of overcoming political gridlock. I liked his opening statement because he stated his environmental work which will play well with the large number of pro environment voters in the 2nd district and he stated his willingness to compromise which is important in the divided house today. Norman Solomon's opening statement including him calling himself "the grassroots candidate." He also strongly praised Occupy Wall St. and stated "We cannot remain silent." He also described health care as a human right. Although the 2nd district has many very liberal voters, Solomon may be running too far to the left to win. A recent poll showed him with 11% while Huffman had 16%. 46% of the voters were undecided though. Still, running to the left worked for Woolsey in 2006 when Joe Nation (D) challenged her in the primary and she won 66%-34% by running to his left. The next candidate, Stacy Lawson talked about how she grew up in a trailer in Washington State and became a successful businesswoman. After Lawson spoke, Susan Adams gave her opening statement. She stated how she wants a healthy planet with healthy communities and how she was a nurse for 33 years who supports health care for all. She ended by saying "Send a nurse to heal the house." She will probably will try to win the woman vote, especially from Mothers by focusing on the strong communities theme. Tiffany Renee talked about how she was the first Latina elected to Petaluma's city council, she had 20 years of experience in the community and that the United States needs to improve the nation's infrastructure. I liked her ideas but she seemed to lack a certain charisma.
Neha Budhraja, one of the Editors in Chief of Marin Academy's School Newspaper, the Voice asked the first question. "How will the district's expansion change the issues you hope to work on?" Susan Adams discussed how coastal issues connected the district. "We rely on your voices," she said. Tiffany Renee responded by talking about building consensus throughout the district and looking at natural resources. Her answer could have been more specific about which issues in particular though. Stacy Lawson explained the issues well by stating, "I went up and down the district. We need jobs. The 2nd big issue is protecting the coastline. The district was created for coastal interests. The 3rd issue is education." Norman Solomon responded by quickly stating how all the counties are unique with common threads with a hunger for honesty like the child in the Emperor's New Clothes who said, "The Emperor is not wearing any clothes." Most of his answer did not fully revolve around the question though. For example, he described his article against the Bank Bailout in the Marin Independent Journal (Marin IJ.) He stated he wanted to challenge Wall Street and power does not go without a fight. Then he mentioned how 70% of his donations were $50 or less and he would not accept corporate or PAC money. It should be noted that federal candidates cannot accept corporate money, including Norman Solomon and his opponents. Norman Solomon should have focused his answer on the question instead of describing his donations or an article he wrote against the bailout because that does not answer how the new district will specifically affect the issues. Jared Huffman fully explained the issues the new districts face when he said the common elements in this district with 500 miles of coastline is protectin oceans and fisheries. Jared Huffman also listed how the League of Conservation Voters and Ocean Champions have endorsed him and he will soon announce additional endorsements. Although he mentioned his supporters like Norman Solomon did, Jared Huffman integrated them better by using them to describe his consistent reliability on environmental issues. Jared Huffman also mentioned how the North Coast has a resource based economy and how the district needs someone who understands those issues.

After the candidates answered the first question, they opened questions to the audience. The first question was, "How do you plan to work around the power of the Pentagon?" Norman Solomon answered first by stating how Wall Street was the root of the problems with the Pentagon and he had a Dr. King reference in his answer but his reference was a real stretch. Although the Wall Street issue seems very important to Norman Solomon, he should have stated his opinion on the Iraq War instead of circling back to Wall Street. I know Solomon supports a full withdrawl of troops from both Iraq and Afghanistan and I know that most of the audience members would have agreed with him. I am not sure if many of the audience members though can see the connection between the funding for the Pentagon and the corporate power referenced by Occupy Wall Street. Still, the Iraq War is not a major issue for people but the Occupy Wall Street movement is at this moment and growing every day. As for Susan Adams, she had a focused answer on the Pentagon question and she highlighted how wars affected her when she mentioned how her brother had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.) Jared Huffman explained how he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. Stacy Lawson also mentioned Occupy Wall Street in her answer. Tiffany Renee mentioned how the war was a personal issue for her because she had relatives fighting in it. She did not want Operation Welcome Home to be defunded.

The next question was, "What are your proposals for deficit reduction?" Jared Huffman quickly answered by stating that the Bush tax cuts must expire. He stated his support for the American Jobs Act, proposed by President Obama, because it leads our nation on the right path by creating clean energy infrastructure and less military spending. Norman Solomon responded by saying "We need to protest Wall Street," in order to gain tax equity. Although protesting Wall Street may not have been the best answer for a question relating to the Pentagon, Occupy Wall Street fit well with the question relating to deficit reduction. Norman Solomon made a good decision though to highlight his views on Occupy Wall Street. Jared Huffman, through his work in the State Assembly, already has established himself as the environmental candidate. Also, Huffman's endorsements and environmental bills would make it very hard for Norman Solomon to win on the environmental issue, so discussing the extremely relevant Occupy Wall Street issue seems to work for him and increase his popularity with the district's progressives. Stacy Lawson seems to be trying to paint herself as the jobs candidate although Norman Solomon seems to be winning the battle for the Progressive movement. Stacy's answer to the question was that she supports the Warren Buffett plan which increases taxes on the rich. She did not highlight her opinions on Occupy Wall Street though. In order to beat Norman Solomon though and take one of the spots for the election after the top two primary, she needs to position herself as the candidate who can create jobs instead of as the candidate who dislikes the corporate power structure because voters are looking for solutions. As for Susan Adams's response to the question, she highlighted her support for the Warren Buffett plan. "Let's help Warren Buffett" she said. She also described how Marin County balanced its budget while she was a Supervisor and how she supported stewardship of taxpayer dollars. For example, she discussed how the state may release 40,000 prisoners because of budget problems. "In Marin, we give prisoners rehibilitation instead of jail," she said. She then described how Marin's recidivism rate was reduced by 85%. Tiffany Renee's answer to the question was quick when she said that she supported Occupy Wall Street and that, "Corporations are not people. " This was a reference to Romney's recent statement describing corporations as people.

The next question was from an independent friend of mine who asked, "You are all  liberal. How do you plan to compromise?" Adams responded first, reiterating her theme of healthy communities by stating how our country needs healthy discussions. She also discussed her experience with talking to conservatives in the Central Valley. Jared Huffman said that being bipartisan is a good idea but giving ones values away is a bad idea. He passed many bipartisan bills while in the state legislature. Stacy Lawson said that most people are favorable of tax reform and we need to look beyond ideology. People should stand for and not against something. Tiffany Renee replied by describing her politically diverse family who could always sit down together happily at family dinners. She believed Congress would not sit down together like her family at family dinners. I like how she brought the personal aspect of her life into the compromise debate. Norman Solomon though took a different stance on the compromising issue. He said, "We need to distinguish between compromise and capitulation." He described how Civil Rights movement leaders were considered unrighteous. Then he said how they did not compromise by asking for no colored fountains on Thursdays, they asked for no colored fountains on all days. As Solomon finished his statement, he advertised his non GMO sunflower seeds in seed packets that he brought with him to the event. After this question, the event ended because of the time limit. A few of the candidates including Susan Adams, Stacy Lawson and Norman Solomon though stayed after the events. They did not have a chance to answer my questions in the forum so I wanted to have a chance to talk to them. I first talked to Stacy Lawson and I asked her about what she believes the most important issues for Marin's youth are. She said that getting into college was an extremely important issue. As for Norman Solomon, he talked about drug issues and their importance. Susan Adams also highlighted a quality education was extremely important for youth. Even after Stacy Lawson and Norman Solomon left, Susan Adams stayed to talk to teachers and students.

Overall, this event was a fantastic way for the Marin Academy Community and me to learn about the candidates. A recent poll showed that 46% of the district's voters are undecided so I am glad voters could see where the candidates stand. The two polls released in this race though show that Jared Huffman leads with 16% and 20% respectively. Even the poll Norman Solomon's campaign released showed Solomon down by 5 points to Huffman. Although running to the left of all the candidates may work in the Democratic primary, California's top two primary system may change the dynamics of the race. All candidates of all parties run in a primary and the top two vote getters face each other in the general election, even if the top two are members of the same party. This means that independents can vote for the candidates in the primary and they will probably support the most moderate candidates. The five Democrats are all liberal but Susan Adams and Stacy Lawson could make inroads with the more moderate voters. Stacy Lawson's message of jobs will play well with voters who are unemployed while Susan Adams's message should work with women, especially mothers with her healthy communities' message. Overall, the candidates are successfully defining their roles. Jared Huffman is the environmental candidate, Norman Solomon is the Occupy Wall Street candidate, Stacy Lawson is the jobs candidate, Susan Adams is the health candidate and Tiffany Renee is the Latina candidate. Although the economy is rough and people want jobs, the North Coast is known for its strong commitment to the environment so I see Jared Huffman winning in the end.