Over the weekend, you may have heard that our President-Elect decided to get into a Twitter-Fit (hereinafter “twit”) regarding John Lewis, the Democratic Representative to the House for Georgia’s 5th District.
Other folks have covered the story, with their own assessments of the intelligence of deciding to deride an actual Freedom Rider over MLK weekend, so I’ll leave that aside for the purposes of this post.
But on Twitter and Facebook (and elsewhere in social media), I saw a number of “resting on laurels/get rid of the bum” sentiments regarding Congressman Lewis.
While I think there may be more ideology than just “toss the bums out” involved, here, I thought I would do the folks expressing this desire a solid and tell them how to achieve their goal.
This table shows you the election results for the last two election cycles in Georgia:
Well, already we see the problem. Lewis ran unopposed in 2014 and whupped his opponent in 2016 by an astounding 68.8 percentage points, in a year where Trump carried Georgia by 5.1 percentage points.
Hm, that’s tough. Lewis sitting in a D+32 District… oh, wait, let me back up a second, for those who don’t know what PVI is.
The Cook PVI is a measure by which election regions are marked more or less partisan, and indicates the percentage point lean that district has towards a particular party. A difference of 2 points in the D direction (D+2) means that all other things being equal, you would expect if you plucked 100 random voters out of the voter pool in an election, you’d get 51 Democrats and 49 Republicans. The Cook PVI relies upon actual voters in recent elections, which means it’s *not* a measure of partisan leaning for a general populace or even a measure of partisan leaning for the registered voters. Famously, not everybody shows up for each election.
Still, it’s a good benchmark for telling you how big of an 8-ball you are behind, if you’re running against someone of the other party… or how big of a leg-up you already have.
Georgia redistricted itself in 2013, following the 2010 Census. You may recall that in 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a good chunk of the Voting Rights Act, granting Alabama (and by extension, Georgia) much more latitude to redraw its districts.
Georgia has a recent history of redrawing districts that (I’m certain “entirely coincidentally”) exclude sitting members of their Democratic House membership from running in their current district, by moving the residence of said Congressperson out of the current district lines. It worked in 2014, as the GOP unhorsed John Barrow by moving him into the 12th District and giving Rick Allen a chance to knock him out of the delegation.
For entertainment value, notice that Athens (now at the northernmost border of the 10th district) used to be in the 12th district.
But, my GOP friends in Georgia… it’s going to be hard to do that to Lewis. He’s right in the middle of Atlanta, the heart of the most populated area of the state. Neighboring districts to the 5th include the 13th, the 4th, the 11th, and the 6th. You probably can’t carve Lewis’s house out of the 5th district *and* move a majority minority district far enough away that Lewis can’t just sell his house and move a couple of miles and get re-elected. You can’t outright merge the 13th and the 5th and let Lewis run against Scott, the population numbers don’t work out.
So those two options are out.
The alternative is to make it harder for Lewis to get elected by flooding his district with Republicans. That’s actually feasible by redrawing district boundaries, just move some of the 5th into the 11th or the 6th!
Hm, but then we have a different problem. Lewis has a pretty commanding advantage in the 5th.
You’ve got to move *enough* Republicans into the 5th to give someone a fighting chance. But if you do *that*, you’re also moving all those Democrats from the 5th… into the 6th or the 11th. About 100,000 Democrats would need to be exported from the 5th, replaced by 100,000 Republicans, just to get the PVI down into D+3 or D+5 territory and that’s no guarantee you’d get rid of Lewis. Since urban areas are compact, you can’t just select voting districts by turnout, it won’t work that way.
And worse, if you put 100,000 active voting Democrats into the 6th or the 11th, you’re also taking 100,000 GOP voters from those places… shoot… even if you split them up, and draw equally from the 6th and the 11th, you’re putting yourself at risk of losing either/both of those seats in off-cycle years and you’re dropping the R advantage in both areas down closer to R+3 to R+5 territory… which means someone like Loudermilk is probably far less viable as a candidate, with his membership on the House Freedom Caucus and his former involvement in the Family Resource Council… well, here he is in his own words. Price is 383rd on the bipartisan index, Loudermilk is 429th.
Wait… Lewis is 272nd?
I guess it’s time to fish or cut bait. You can quite possibly get rid of Lewis by gerrymandering his district around. But to do it, you might put two of your own most partisan members right into the meat grinder.
How bad do you want to get rid of him, again?