Democrats’ Chance to Draw Kevin McCarthy Out of a Job

California’s congressional districts may be about to get invalidated, offering Democrats a chance to write the House Republicans’ Majority Leader into trouble.

California's 23rd congressional district - since January 3, 2013.  
National Journal
March 2, 2015, 3 p.m.

With a little help from the Su­preme Court, Cali­for­nia Demo­crats could get a shot at knock­ing Kev­in Mc­Carthy out of of­fice.

Mc­Carthy, the House ma­jor­ity lead­er, second only to Speak­er John Boehner, cur­rently rep­res­ents a safe Re­pub­lic­an dis­trict in Cali­for­nia’s Cent­ral Val­ley. But that map may be about to change: The Su­preme Court is cur­rently weigh­ing a case that could in­val­id­ate the state’s cur­rent dis­trict bound­ar­ies and hand the state’s Demo­crat­ic­ally con­trolled Le­gis­lature the au­thor­ity to re­draw the map.

That would in­clude Mc­Carthy’s dis­trict, and Demo­crats have sev­er­al op­tions for re­draw­ing it that make Re­pub­lic­ans nervous. “The real op­por­tun­ity for shenanigans from Demo­crats is to mess with Mc­Carthy,” said Mike Mad­rid, a Cali­for­nia GOP con­sult­ant.

Two strategies stand out: Demo­crats could either move Mc­Carthy in­to the same dis­trict as neigh­bor­ing GOP in­cum­bent Dav­id Valadao, or they could turn Mc­Carthy’s cur­rent dis­trict in­to swing ter­rit­ory by rop­ing in nearby His­pan­ic Demo­crats, an elect­or­al coun­ter­weight in a dis­trict that cur­rently con­sists mostly of non-His­pan­ic white con­ser­vat­ives.

The first op­tion would cre­ate an in­terne­cine struggle between Cali­for­nia Re­pub­lic­ans, for­cing Mc­Carthy to run in a mod­er­ate dis­trict where Valadao has sur­vived as a pro-im­mig­ra­tion re­form Re­pub­lic­an. As of last cycle, Valadao’s dis­trict was 72 per­cent His­pan­ic, and in 2012, 55 per­cent of voters in the dis­trict favored Pres­id­ent Obama over Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ee Mitt Rom­ney.

The second op­tion would see Mc­Carthy and Valadao each keep a dis­trict of his own, but would make Mc­Carthy’s dis­trict much tough­er turf for the five-term rep­res­ent­at­ive. That may not be enough to run the ma­jor­ity lead­er out of of­fice, but it would cre­ate chal­lenges for a can­did­ate who has had an easy path to reelec­tion in re­cent cycles. In 2012, Mc­Carthy got 73 per­cent of his dis­trict’s vote, and this Novem­ber, he took home just shy of 75 per­cent. (Rep­res­ent­at­ives for Mc­Carthy did not reply to re­quests for com­ment for this story.)

So why haven’t Demo­crats done this already? Cali­for­nia’s most-re­cent dis­trict map was drawn by an in­de­pend­ent com­mis­sion, an ef­fort by state voters to com­bat ger­ry­man­der­ing by a par­tis­an Le­gis­lature. The valid­ity of that map is sit­ting be­fore the Su­preme Court, where plaintiffs are ar­guing that the Con­sti­tu­tion per­mits only state le­gis­latures to draw such maps. In or­al ar­gu­ments Monday, the pan­el’s con­ser­vat­ive justices ap­peared skep­tic­al that com­mis­sion-drawn dis­tricts were in keep­ing with the Con­sti­tu­tion.

And if they do get a chance to re­draw the map, Demo­crats will have more lee­way than be­fore, thanks to the Su­preme Court’s 2013 de­cision in­val­id­at­ing por­tions of the Vot­ing Rights Act. The law pre­vi­ously pro­hib­ited states from di­lut­ing minor­it­ies’ polit­ic­al in­flu­ence in cer­tain dis­tricts, but that lan­guage was weakened as part of the Court’s rul­ing. Valadao, whose dis­trict neigh­bors Mc­Carthy’s, in­cludes a county that pre­vi­ously placed those re­stric­tions on con­gres­sion­al lines, which is why his dis­trict takes an odd shape to in­clude as many His­pan­ic voters as pos­sible.

Demo­crats haven’t spe­cific­ally said they’ll go after Mc­Carthy, but they ap­pear very much aware of the polit­ic­al op­por­tun­it­ies if the Su­preme Court wipes the map clean and hands them the pens. “It’ll be Christ­mas in March if it hap­pens for us here,” said Steven Maviglio, a Cali­for­nia Demo­crat­ic con­sult­ant. “Des­pite all pre­tenses, I’m sure it’ll be as par­tis­an as they can make it.”

But as tempt­ing as Demo­crats might find it to tar­get Mc­Carthy, there are draw­backs as well. The party’s top pri­or­ity in re­dis­trict­ing will likely be to de­fend the state’s many Demo­crat­ic in­cum­bents. And so if Demo­crat­ic voters are be­ing moved out of Valadao’s dis­trict for polit­ic­al pur­poses, the party may de­cide to by­pass an at­tack on Mc­Carthy in or­der to provide a more friendly elect­or­ate to Demo­crat­ic Reps. Jim Costa and Lois Capps — both of whom have faced close elec­tions in re­cent cycles.

For now, all plans are on hold pending a rul­ing from the Su­preme Court. The case be­fore the Court ac­tu­ally star­ted in Ari­zona, where the Re­pub­lic­an-con­trolled Le­gis­lature is su­ing the state’s voter-cre­ated, in­de­pend­ent com­mis­sion for draw­ing dis­tricts. But if the Court does strike down Ari­zona’s sys­tem, it will al­most cer­tainly take down Cali­for­nia’s dis­trict bound­ar­ies — as well as those of sev­er­al oth­er states that handed their maps to in­de­pend­ent com­mis­sions — and set up a chaot­ic polit­ic­al struggle as parties jockey to move the lines on the map to their ad­vant­age.

The Su­preme Court is ex­pec­ted to is­sue a rul­ing late this spring.

What We're Following See More »
SHE IS AMBASSADOR TO CANADA AND A GOP DONOR
Kelly Craft Nominated for UN Post
9 hours ago
THE LATEST
AVOIDS SHUTDOWN WITH A FEW HOURS TO SPARE
Trump Signs Border Deal
1 weeks ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill Friday afternoon, averting another partial government shutdown. The action came after Trump had declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces 'an invasion of our country.'"

Source:
REDIRECTS $8 BILLION
Trump Declares National Emergency
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"President Donald Trump on Friday declared a state of emergency on the southern border and immediately direct $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier. The move — which is sure to invite vigorous legal challenges from activists and government officials — comes after Trump failed to get the $5.7 billion he was seeking from lawmakers. Instead, Trump agreed to sign a deal that included just $1.375 for border security."

Source:
COULD SOW DIVISION AMONG REPUBLICANS
House Will Condemn Emergency Declaration
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"House Democrats are gearing up to pass a joint resolution disapproving of President Trump’s emergency declaration to build his U.S.-Mexico border wall, a move that will force Senate Republicans to vote on a contentious issue that divides their party. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Thursday evening in an interview with The Washington Post that the House would take up the resolution in the coming days or weeks. The measure is expected to easily clear the Democratic-led House, and because it would be privileged, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be forced to put the resolution to a vote that he could lose."

Source:
MILITARY CONSTRUCTION, DRUG FORFEITURE FUND
Where Will the Emergency Money Come From?
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"ABC News has learned the president plans to announce on Friday his intention to spend about $8 billion on the border wall with a mix of spending from Congressional appropriations approved Thursday night, executive action and an emergency declaration. A senior White House official familiar with the plan told ABC News that $1.375 billion would come from the spending bill Congress passed Thursday; $600 million would come from the Treasury Department's drug forfeiture fund; $2.5 billion would come from the Pentagon's drug interdiction program; and through an emergency declaration: $3.5 billion from the Pentagon's military construction budget."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login