House candidates declare campaigns for districts that do not yet exist amid redistribution delays


Smith and Hunt are among a growing group of politicians from both parties who, due to a delayed release of the 2020 U.S. Census district-level data needed by each state to complete the redistribution process, have announced nominations in Congress without knowing in which district they will take place. The delay has created a unique set of announcements across the country, with people like Hunt announcing the region they plan to represent, but not the district or adversary they might face. While many politicians are affected by the delay, sentiment is particularly acute for first-time candidates and tough incumbents.

The reason neither waits is simple: running for Congress as a challenger is not easy and the time it takes to build an organizing and fundraising operation. is essential.

“These seats don’t come up too often and the Constitution gives me the right to file and run as long as I’m a resident of the state,” said Smith, former county commissioner for Multnomah County, the county most populous in Oregon. She added that, like others who advertise races without a specific district, she wanted to jump in her campaign “because it’s so difficult and expensive to run one of these campaigns in Congress.”

Hunt, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2020, formalized his latest campaign in Congress on Wednesday. But the press release on his run pointed out that he has yet to choose his district.

“Hunt intends to run in West Houston,” his campaign release read, “and will announce the district he intends to campaign for as soon as Texas publishes the district lines. newly redesigned Congress. ”

Smith and Hunt are also far from alone, especially in states expected to win or lose a seat in Congress.

In Ohio, for example, a state set to lose a seat in Congress, several Democrats are announcing campaigns for Congress without knowing the exact lines of the district in which they hope to run. This includes first-time candidate Matthew Diemer, who announced a slated Congressional candidacy for the state’s 16th Congressional District earlier this year. In Montana, a state winning a district, former Home Secretary Ryan Zinke filed documents to run for the state’s 2nd district without knowing exactly where the lines will be drawn. And he’s not alone in this race: Democratic State Representative Laurie Bishop and Republican Representative Al Olszewski both intend to run for the new seat.

The list of problems that the census delay has created are long, but none are more urgent for people like Diemer than the time it takes to mount a legitimate campaign operation.

“It complicates things,” Diemer said of the announcement of an offer without knowing the district. “Even though I talk to a lot of people, everyone hesitates a bit and asks if we’re going to be in the neighborhood.”

Why advertise without a quarter

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the census count was delayed by several months – subsequently postponing the redistribution process that relies on this data.

The Census Bureau released baseline data earlier this year showing which states would lose representation in Congress and which states would gain members. Texas was the big winner, taking two seats in Congress, according to the bureau, while Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will all win one seat. On the other side of the equation, California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will all lose a seat in Congress before midterm.
The office has yet to release its more detailed report, which will include the more focused demographics needed to redraw the lines of Congress in each state. The Census Bureau announced earlier this year that September 30 is its new target for releasing these numbers.

One of the problems faced by candidates without constituencies is the skepticism of their supporters who are unsure whether the politician will attempt to represent them.

Some longtime donors, for example, have asked Smith how she could start running without knowing which district she would represent.

“Some of them said let’s see what the neighborhood looks like and where it is because for some reason they want to see if they are in the neighborhood,” she said. “It doesn’t matter, because they can donate money even if they’re not in the neighborhood.”

Smith, who if she wins would be Oregon’s first black MP, said that with all it takes to run a successful campaign, waiting wasn’t an option for her.

“I’m excited, I’m up for it,” she said. “This is the race I always wanted to race and win.”

The opportunities to be without a neighborhood

The unknowns surrounding the congressional bid without a specific district also provided candidates with opportunities.

When Danny O’Connor, the current Franklin County recorder who unsuccessfully ran for Congress around Columbus in 2018, announced a slated Congressional candidacy earlier this year, he couldn’t identify the Republican which he would face – and has since fundraised a possible race against Rep. Jim Jordan, a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump.

“Ohio redistribution means I could run for Congress against Jim Jordan. Yes, Jim Jordan,” O’Connor said in a fundraising tweet. “I’m Danny O’Connor. I’m a Democrat, husband, new dad, and I refuse to raise my daughter in a country where Jim Jordan is a representative.”

Because Jordan is such a lightning rod for the left, the tweet earned O’Connor nearly 8,000 retweets. His announcement video had garnered just over 300 retweets.

For Diemer, another Ohio Democrat running without a defined district, one reason he came so early was that Republicans in the district were already campaigning against each other and getting their message across. Diemer is seeking to run against current Rep. Anthony Gonzalez in a district that includes part of suburban Cleveland and rural areas of northeastern Oho. But Gonzalez, after voting to impeach Trump earlier in the year, has drawn the wrath of Republicans and already has two challengers in the primary, including a former Trump aide who the former Republican president endorsed.

Diemer said he knew he wanted to show up and got in early because he started to see Republican groups holding meetings and Trump visiting the district to rally against Gonzalez.

“Trump is trying to put Congress on his side, and we need people to come out and come forward against that,” Diemer said. “People want to see that there are people stepping up.… These first GOP group organizers in the state, people are looking at them and saying they’re already the winners.”

Diemer’s goal in coming in now is to convince people that “no you have a choice, it’s not locked that this is a red district” no matter what that looks like on election day in 2022.

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