Wisconsin’s most competitive congressional district for the next decade could be in southeastern Wisconsin according to a political map drawn by Gov. Tony Evers and approved last month by the state Supreme Court.
The 1st Congressional District has reliably voted Republican for the past 20 years. It is currently held by Janesville Republican, Bryan Steil, and before him, former Speaker of the United States House, Paul Ryan.
While the Evers map was chosen by a 4-3 majority of the court because it was the best example of a “just the slightest change” redistricting plan, it adds and removes territory from the boundaries of the 1st district in a subtle but meaningful way.
At the western end of the district, he would add Democratic areas around Beloit and Janesville while gaining ground around suburban Milwaukee to the east. At the same time, the new district would lose part of Waukesha County, a Republican stronghold that has been part of the 1st since the early 1990s.
J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said both changes benefit Democrats. Former Republican President Donald Trump won 1st by about nine percentage points in 2020, but Coleman said Trump’s margin in the new district would have been just two points.
“This could possibly be the most competitive district in the state for the next decade,” Coleman said. “I know that Steil seems to be quite well grounded. He is adapting well to the region. But you never know.”
Coleman said part of the reason the 1st might rise to the top of competitive districts in future elections is that Wisconsin’s current rotating district — the 3rd District in western Wisconsin — might trend less. competitive.
The 3rd would change very little under the map drawn by Evers, Coleman said, but demographic shifts in the district favor Republicans.
“Education becomes, you know, on par with race or gender when it comes to predicting how people vote,” Coleman said. “And District 3 just doesn’t have a lot of college white population, which means that’s bad for Democrats.”
Another challenge for Democrats, particularly this year, will be to hold the 3rd after the retirement of Democratic US Representative Ron Kind. Kind won his last election over Republican Derrick Van Orden by about 2.7 percentage points. Van Orden is running again, and Coleman said national trends suggest it will be much more of a Republican year.
Wisconsin’s current U.S. House delegation is split 5-3 in favor of the Republicans. Coleman said Republicans could go 6-2 this year but will never topple Madison’s 2nd District or Milwaukee’s 4th District, two Democratic strongholds.
Coleman said under the new map, Democrats could potentially win three or four seats in a Democratic year, which would mean their best result would likely be a 4-4 even split.
Coleman said that created a better chance for Democrats than they would have had under the map drawn by GOP lawmakers, which could have solidified a 6-2 GOP split.
“I think this version maybe gives the Democrats a little bit more of an opportunity, but they’re still the underdogs,” Coleman said.
Assuming the state Supreme Court made no further changes, the map drawn by Evers went unceremoniously into effect.
After the Wisconsin Supreme Court chose the map in its March 3 ruling, Republicans appealed almost immediately to the U.S. Supreme Court. They also appealed the decision of the state Supreme Court that chose the governor’s legislative redistricting plan.
The U.S. Supreme Court awarded Republicans a victory March 23 when it rejected Evers’ legislative map, but the justices rejected the governor’s congressional redistricting plan appeal.
Congressional Republicans then asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reconsider its original decision, but the state Supreme Court simply never responded.
Lawyers for the Wisconsin Elections Commission then sent a letter to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday telling the justices that the agency was telling election officials statewide that it would implement Evers’ map before the date. deadline of Friday, April 15, when candidates will begin circulating the nomination. papers.
As of Thursday afternoon, the state Supreme Court had yet to publicly acknowledge the letter.
For more on the history of redistricting in Wisconsin and its impact on political power in the state, check out WPR’s investigative podcast series, “Mapped Out.”