Census Quick Cuts: California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut
By Cameron Joseph
The National Journal
March 10, 2011
The Census rolled out new data for four more states this week, including the nation's most populous state, California, and two presidential bellwethers that are losing congressional representation, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Three in five Californians are now ethnic minorities. The state's Hispanic population grew by more than a quarter in the last decade, and Latinos now make up 38% of the state, which nearly surpasses non-Hispanic whites, who make up 40% of the population. More than half of Californians younger than 18 are Latino. The political and policy ramifications of the rapid demographic shift in the nation's largest state are huge.
High Latino turnout helped propel Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) to double-digit wins last year, and all 34 Democratic House members were reelected despite Democrats' struggles nationally last fall. Hispanic growth will almost certainly be reflected in the redistricting process that is already underway.
Latino growth has hurt Republican candidates statewide. But two political reforms approved in last year's election and Latino demands for more representation should make incumbents from both parties nervous. A bipartisan commission will draw the congressional district lines this time around, undoing the successful gerrymander Democrats achieved last decade (only one seat changed hands through the decade, and that one went Democratic). California voters also approved a multiparty primary system that will allow the top two vote-getters to run in the general election, putting pressure on ideologues in both parties who may be forced to run against moderates of their own party in a general election.
Latino groups are also calling for more seats: despite the state's large Latino population, only six of the 53 congressmen are Hispanic, although some heavily Hispanic districts have chosen to elect people of other ethnicities. Latino groups are calling for three to four more seats where they can elect candidates of their choice, something that will endanger incumbents of both parties.
Nine of Ohio's ten largest cities lost population in the last decade, and the state will lose two congressional seats. Democratic fortunes may be on the wane here as the state's Democratic strongholds continued to hemorrhage population: Cleveland's population dropped by 17% in the last decade, Youngstown's dropped by 18% and Toledo's and Akron's dropped by 8%. But Republicans may be victims of their own recent success. The GOP picked up five House seats in 2010, making the delegation in this purple state 13 Republicans and 5 Democrats. Republican state legislators will axe two districts, and plan to make it difficult for Cleveland-area Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D) and Betty Sutton (D) to hold onto their seats. But in the rest of the state, Republicans will have a trickier task. All of their pickups were away from Lake Erie in the north, and it is unlikely that both of the districts they plan to eliminate can come from the Democratic part of the state without endangering their own members.
Pennsylvania's population continued to shift eastward, as Pittsburgh's population shrank by 9% but much of the area between Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Allentown boomed.
While Democrats should be concerned about the loss of votes that comes with Pittsburgh's continued decline, Philadelphia grew for the first time in decades, and its suburbs and nearby towns have become one of the most important swing areas in the nation. While the state's western losses and eastern gains are altering its political balance of power, Democratic losses in Pittsburgh are made up for by their gains around Philadelphia, meaning the state will continue to be a swing state for years to come.
Some Republicans are bullish about their redistricting chances here. Pennsylvania's lost district will come from the west of the state, meaning that Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire and Mark Critz should be worried. Republicans have discussed pairing them in a district, or possibly trying to get rid of both of them by adding Democratic parts of both districts to the Pittsburgh district of Rep. Mike Doyle. But Republicans hold five eastern Pennsylvania districts carried by President Obama in 2008, making it hard to shore any of them up without risking the other districts. Republicans may decide to move them all a bit west into more conservative territory, but there isn't a ton of wiggle room in the inner suburban Philadelphia districts.
Connecticut's population grew by a steady 5% in the last decade, largely because of a jump in the Hispanic population, which grew by nearly half. Hispanics are now 13% of the state, and whites are down to 71% of the state. This might explain why three moderate Republican congressmen lost to Democrats in 2006 and 2008, making the delegation 5-0 Democratic.
The eastern half of the state, around the Foxwoods Casino and in New London, grew faster than the New York City suburbs -- Red Sox nation territory may be gaining power over Yankees fans.
Democrats are in control of the state but redistricting has traditionally been done by consensus between the two parties and a two-thirds vote by both houses of the state legislature. With a 5-0 delegation but two relatively competitive districts and nearly a two-thirds advantage in the state house and senate where they'll need to pass the map, Democrats may be content to leave the map more or less alone, shrinking Rep. Joe Courtney's district a bit to balance population count and moving the rest of the districts a bit east.