Census-based shift of US House seats no big boon to Republicans
Washington — Population shifts in the 1970s will bring increased congressional representation in the 1980s to Americans living in the Sunbelt and the Far West, but not necessarily to the Republican Party -- the presumed political beneficiary.
The hitch is that, despite winning the presidency, capturing control of the US Senate, and waging a $2.9 million battle to gain majorities in state legislatures in 1980, Republicans remain at a decided disadvantage in the state governments that will draw the new congressional district boundaries.
The decennial national head-court, released by the US Census Bureau on the last day of 1980, indicates that 10 Northern and central states will give up 17 seats in the House of Representatives to 11 of their fastgrowing neighbors soutward and westward.
The 435 Houses seats will be reapportioned next year on the basis of the new census so that congressmen will continue to represent roughly equal numbers of citizens -- about 500,000 each.
The Republican Party, whose recent political rebound has been launched from these burgeoning regions of the country, had been expected to profit richly from the changing demography. But the post-election political realities of the redistricting process threaten to keep any GOP gains minimal.
The disappointing gains of the party's all-out state election drive this fall -- a pickup of four governorships and slightly more than 3 percent of legislative seats (some 200 out of 5,900 up for grabs) -- means that party control of a scant handful of state capitols will change.
The Republicans will take over one legislative chamber from the Democrats in five states, while surrendering control in one other. But only two of these gains will result in GOP control of both houses, and both of them are qualified victories. In Montana, the governor (with his veto power) remains a Democrat, while in Pennsylvania, the GOP has eked out only a tie with the Democrats in the state senate.
Thus, Republicans enter the once-a-decade redistricting year in command of only 39 percent of the nation's state legislative seats and 34 of the 98 partisan legislative chambers.
And they are theoretically "protected," in the terminology of GOP strategists , by Repulican control of either the governorship or one legislative body against heavy-handed partisan boundary-drawing by Democrats in only 22 of the 41 states where partisan legislatures will do the redistricting. The GOP completely controls the machinery in just three states.
Of the 11 states slated by the census figures for additional congressional seats -- all of them either south of the Mason-Dixon Line or west of the Mississippi River -- Democrats hold majorities in both legislative houses in seven, according for 13 of the 17 shifting seats (Florida, Texas, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Tennessee).
Republicans hold the upper hand in both chambers in only Colorado and Utah, while the legislative of the remaining state due to gain a house seat, Washington, is under divided party control.
House gains, Loses Seats Seats New State lost gained total Arizona 1 5 California 2 45 Colorado 1 6 Florida 4 19 Illinois 2 22 Indiana 1 10 Massachusetts 1 11 Michigan 1 18 Missouri 1 9 Nevada 1 2 New Jersey 1 14 New Mexico 1 3 New York 5 34 Ohio 2 21 Oregon 1 5 Pennsylvania 2 23 South Dakota 1 1 Tennessee 1 9 Texas 3 27 Utah 1 3 Washington 1 8