Few Close Shaves in Razor’s Edge Races: Ballots & Boundaries

Take a bow, Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission.

After the state gained a House seat, the commission created a textbook-perfect swing seat — the winning margin in the new 8th Congressional District was less than a percentage point.

That contest north of Denver was one that we spotlighted as a post-redistricting “razor’s edge” race. The 16 contests yielded some other nailbiters, as well, along with unexpected blowouts.

BLOWOUTS: Democrats won Michigan’s 3rd District in Grand Rapids and Ohio’s 9th District in and around Toledo by double digits. Look for Republicans to argue among themselves whether they could have capitalized on Ohio’s redistricting-bestowed advantage if the GOP had nominated a different candidate.

GOVERNOR’S GIFT: Flip-the-House math worked for Republicans in part because of Florida, where a dominant re-election by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and a map he pushed helped the GOP net four seats.

In other Republican states including Texas, maps fortified Republican incumbents who had close races in 2020 but not this year.

“But for redistricting, I’m not sure that Republicans would’ve been able to take back the House,” Adam Kincaid, the president and executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, said in an interview. Republicans gained eight seats in GOP-led states and the results in the rest of the country “were a wash,” he added.

STRATEGIC CHOICES: Where Democrats controlled redistricting, they took more calculated risks, and most of their bets paid off. They won 14 of 17 districts in Illinois and 3 of 4 in Nevada, often with narrow wins that translated votes into seats efficiently. Democrats also exceeded expectations in Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

“It’s not just Democratic states, it’s that full picture of states where we blocked Republicans from having control of the process that kept the House alive and created competitive seats from which we could then compete, and then we did,” Kelly Burton, the president of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said in an interview.

OVERPLAYED & PAID THE PRICE: The biggest surprise of the House elections may have been New York, a strongly Democratic state where that party won four fewer seats than in 2020.

Democrats initially acted as though New York could offset Florida, one gerrymander negating another. It didn’t work out that way.

An aggressively pro-Democratic map was invalidated and the court-ordered replacement map included six competitive districts President Joe Biden won in 2020 that Democrats lost on Nov. 8.

“The heartbreak of the cycle for Democrats,” Burton said. — Greg Giroux

Results of `Razor’s Edge Races’

Arizona’s 2nd: The district was redrawn by a commission to favor Donald Trump by 8 percentage points. Former Navy SEAL Eli Crane (R) unseated Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D) by 8 points.

California’s 22nd: Rep. David Valadao (R), the only Republican who advanced to a competitive Nov. 8 election after voting to impeach Trump, defeated state assemblyman Rudy Salas (D) by 3 points even after his Central Valley district was made slightly more Democratic by California’s redistricting commission.

California’s 27th: In northern Los Angeles County, Rep. Mike Garcia (R) defeated former state Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D) for the third time in 30 months — this time by 7 points after redistricting excised Republican-leaning Simi Valley from the district Garcia won twice in 2020.

Colorado’s 8th: State Rep. Yadira Caraveo (D) edged state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer (R) by seven-tenths of a point in a newly drawn district that’s about 40% Hispanic and where no incumbent sought re-election.

Illinois’s 17th: Former TV meteorologist Eric Sorensen (D) defeated Esther Joy King (R) by just over 3 points after the Democratic legislature’s map added more Democrats to the northwestern 17th District, where Rep. Cheri Bustos (D) beat King by 4 points in 2020 before deciding to retire.

Kansas’s 3rd: Rep. Sharice Davids (D) trounced Amanda Adkins (R) by 12 points in a rematch even after the Republican legislature targeted Davids by shifting the northern half of heavily Democratic Kansas City out of the 3rd District.

Michigan’s 3rd: Lawyer Hillary Scholten (D) crushed John Gibbs (R), a former Trump administration official, by 13 points in the Grand Rapids area after Gibbs unseated pro-impeachment Rep. Peter Meijer in the Republican primary. The redistricting commission’s map made the 3rd more Democratic-leaning than the district where Scholten lost to Meijer in 2020.

New Jersey’s 7th: Rep. Tom Malinowski (D) was ousted by 3 points by former state senator Tom Kean Jr. (R) after a redistricting commission’s map weakened Malinowski while strengthening Democratic incumbents elsewhere in the state. In 2020, Malinowski edged Kean by 1 point in a more Democratic-friendly district.

New Mexico’s 2nd: Rep. Yvette Herrell (R) fell to Gabe Vasquez (D), a former Las Cruces councilman, by less than 1 point after Democratic-controlled redistricting added the heavily Hispanic west side of Albuquerque to the 2nd District.

New York’s 17th: Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D), the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, lost by less than 1 point to state assemblyman Mike Lawler (R) in a Hudson Valley district that backed Biden by 10 percentage points but was about 75% new to Maloney. He was the first DCCC chief defeated for re-election since 1980.

Ohio’s 1st: Rep. Steve Chabot (R), the most senior Ohio Republican in Congress and a House member for all but two years since 1995, lost by 5 points to Cincinnati councilman Greg Landsman (D) after redistricting consolidated Democratic-leaning Cincinnati in the 1st.

Ohio’s 9th: Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D), the longest-serving woman in the history of the House, won by 13 points over J.R. Majewski (R), a political newcomer whose ties to the QAnon conspiracy movement and misrepresentations of his military record burdened him in a district substantially revised to favor Trump by 3 points.

Oregon’s 5th: Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R), the former mayor of Happy Valley, beat progressive lawyer Jamie McLeod-Skinner (D) by 2 points in a district Biden would have won by 9 points. McLeod-Skinner defeated Rep. Kurt Schrader (D) in the primary after the Democratic legislature’s map added the Bend area, where McLeod-Skinner dominated the more centrist Schrader.

Pennsylvania’s 7th: Rep. Susan Wild (D) edged businessman Lisa Scheller (R) by 2 points in a rematch of a 2020 election that Wild won by 4 points. A court-approved map didn’t help Wild by adding pro-Trump Carbon County and removing Democratic-friendly precincts in Monroe County, but Wild ran more strongly in populous Lehigh and Northampton counties than she did in 2020.

Virginia’s 2nd: Rep. Elaine Luria (D), a member of the Jan. 6 select committee, lost by more than 3 points to state Sen. Jen Kiggans (R) in a southeastern district that a commission’s map made more Republican in part by excising the 2nd’s share of strongly Democratic Norfolk.

Virginia’s 7th: Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) won a third term by almost 5 points over Yesli Vega (R), a Prince William County supervisor, in a district between Richmond and Washington. About 75% of the district was new to Spanberger, who won even closer races in 2018 and 2020 in a district anchored in the Richmond suburbs.

Caught Our Eye

  • Second Arizona County Delays Certifying Election (AP)
  • Court allows Saturday voting in Georgia’s US Senate runoff (AP)
  • Most members of Congress seeking another office fell short (NBC)
  • Status of redistricting lawsuits (Washington Post)


To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com