For the last two elections, Democrats have viewed Brian Fitzpatrick as one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the US Congress, but both times they failed to overthrow him, even when his suburban Philadelphia district voted for Democratic President Joe Biden.
He’s back on their target list for the November 8, 2022 midterm election – which will determine whether Biden’s Democrats retain control of Congress – but Democratic officials say finding a suitable candidate could be a challenge because of the borders district are on the move. and could last for months.
âThis is a significant concern,â said John Cordisco, chairman of the Bucks County Democratic Party, which is located in the district. “When you dispute a multiple mandate holder, if you don’t have immediate name recognition – it becomes very problematic.”
The reason for the uncertainty is redistribution, the once-a-decade process by which districts in the House of Representatives are redesigned to reflect changes in the American population. The process still disrupts congressional elections, but this year the coronavirus pandemic added to the turmoil by delaying delivery of the census data needed to draw the districts until September.
“This is the most difficult redistribution cycle in decades,” said Michael Li, lawyer at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
Delays in redistributing worsen what is already shaping up to be a tough election for Democrats. Typically, the party that holds the White House loses seats in Congress during the president’s first term. Republicans need a net gain of just five seats to gain control.
In states like California, whose map is compiled by an independent commission, the redistribution process could run up against next spring’s deadlines for nominations.
âFor a lot of people, this can really dampen their deployment in terms of running for office,â said Paul Mitchell, a redistribution consultant in Sacramento. “It’s a bigger problem for the challengers.”
California is home to four of the 21 Republican-held districts that the Congressional Democratic Campaign Committee, a branch of the party that supports House candidates, has targeted for next year. Another is the Fitzpatrick neighborhood. The DCCC also identified 32 other seats held by Democrats it considers vulnerable.
Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent, presented himself as an independent voice in Congress. His office did not respond to a request for comment.
Republican control by the vast majority of state legislatures gives the party an advantage: In states where partisan lawmakers draw the new maps, Republicans will shape 187 new congressional districts, Li said. Democrats will draw only 75. .
The redistribution is likely to further compromise Democrats’ prospects of holding the House. Democrats remain hopeful that moderate voters will be put off by Republicans’ continued embrace of former President Donald Trump, even after the deadly Jan.6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters, while giving them credit improvement in the country’s situation as the pandemic abates.
Republican-controlled legislatures in Florida, Georgia and Texas will likely attempt to create maps that reduce the number of competitive seats in the House by concentrating Democratic voters in clusters, a process known as gerrymandering.
These cards are almost certain to lead to legal action, accusing them of unfairly favoring Republicans at the expense of Democrats and historically marginalized voters. But the tight deadline means that the districts can remain in effect for the 2022 elections even if the cases are fought in the courts, Li said.
In Georgia, democratic gains around Atlanta could be diminished if the legislature merged the seats held by Representatives Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath into one district. In Texas, a neighborhood in the Dallas suburbs narrowly won by both Biden and Republican Beth Van Duyne that Democrats hope to take next year could be redesigned to bolster Van Duyne’s reelection prospects.
In Florida, some veteran Democrats are heeding the warning signs. Representative Charlie Crist leaves his seat to run for governor. Reps Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy eye challenges for Republican Senator Marco Rubio.
Pennsylvania, which stands to lose a seat due to demographic shifts, will present a different challenge. If its Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic governor fail to agree on a new map, the state’s Supreme Court will step in, as it did before the 2018 election.
The process could extend deeply into the next year, possibly giving Fitzpatrick an insurmountable advantage, said Cordisco, the Democratic county chairman.
A DCCC spokesperson would not question whether the uncertainty surrounding the redistribution affected the recruitment of candidates, but said the party would fight to ensure the cards across the country are drawn fairly.
Li, the attorney for the Brennan Center, said it may already be too late for such efforts to make a difference.
Republicans, he said, “have the ability to lock in a good chance of having a majority the rest of the decade. That’s what’s at stake. The whole decade is at stake.”
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