Roll Call: "Connecticut Members Protect Turf: Hoping
Avoid Showdown, Maloney Touts Johnsonís Influence." July 23, 2001
Public hearings on Connecticutís redistricting dilemma ended last week, but state lawmakers appeared no closer to resolving the issue of hot winnow the stateís House districts from six to five, a move certain to set up a battles between two incumbents House Members.
Several scenarios were still being discussed by various state politicos last week, the most talked about of which would combine the southwestern Connecticut 5th district, currently represented by Rep. Jim Maloney (D), with the northwestern 6th district, held by Rep. Nancy Johnson (R).
Insiders still gave that plan a slight edge, but said it was by no means a done deal.
ìAt this point, it still appears that Maloney and Johnson will end up squaring off against each other, although that is far from a certainty,î said one state Democrat observing the work of the state House and Senate reapportionment committee, which must settle on a proposal by Sept. 15.
However, at a recent public hearing in Waterbury, the idea of reconfiguring the southwestern 4th district to include Danbury, Maloneyís hometown, was advanced by Republican and Democratic members of the redistricting committee. If that were to happen, Maloney could end up running against Rep. Christopher Shays (R), who currently represents the 4th.
But Maloney, whose 5th district is politically competitive and the only one to share a border with all others in the state, said a more serious scenario making the rounds was the idea of dividing freshman Rep. Rob Simmonsí (R) eastern Connecticut 2nd district. Such a plan would likely push a portion of his district into Rep. John Larsonís (D) north-central 1st district, and then create a shoreline district reaching from Newhaven to the Rhode Island border.
Under that proposal Simmons, who earned a top spot on Democratsí target lists after ousting veteran Democratic Rep. Sam Gejdenson last year, would then square off against six-term Rep. Rosa Delauro (D), who represents the New Haven-based 3rd district.
ìI havenít made a specific recommendation to the commission,î Maloney said in an interview last week, but added that it ìmakes senseî for state lawmakers to focus on the 2nd because the eastern portion of the state had endured the greatest population loss.
ìThe western part of the state is the part of the state that grew. If the rest of the state had grown as fast as my Congressional district, Connecticut would not have lost a district,î Maloney asserted.
He conceded there was a ìpossible scenarioî that would pit him against Johnson, who targeted Maloney in a fundraising solicitation earlier this year.
However, the Democrat added that redistricting agentsófaced with the reality that they are already losing one seatómight be interested in preserving maximum clout in the Congressional delegation and even touted the influence of the woman who may be his opponent next year.
ìThe redistricting commission should look at whatís in the best interests of the state of Connecticut, and certainly Mrs. Johnson is a member of the Ways and Means Committee,î Maloney observed.
ìI certainly think that a redistricting plan which protects the interests of the state of Connecticut in terms of its representation in Congress is a legitimate and worthy way to go about it.î
One Connecticut Democrat said the idea of dividing the 2nd only cropped up after the last election, when Gejdenson lost.
ìSam was the dean of the delegation so it was naturally assumed that his district would remain untouched,î this Democrat said. ìWhen Sam was not there anymore all of a sudden that rationale disappeared.î
For her part, Johnson, who has had relatively easy re-election battles since he nearly lost her seat to Charlotte Koskoff (D) in 1996, has publicly stated that she does not believe the 2nd district, the oldest in the state, should be divided.
ìIt doesnít make sense to dismantle the 2nd,î said Johnson chief of staff David Karvelas, who insisted Johnson would definitely run for re-election, regardless of how her district is configured.
Karvelas added that the Congresswoman was preparing for battles with Maloney and under no circumstances would she abandon her home in New Britain, which Maloney contended could be moved into Larsonís 1st district.
ìItís impossible to knowî what the redistricting process will yield, Karvelas said. ìWe have to prepare for the toughest race, and that would certainly be the biggest challengeî he said of a possible Johnson-Maloney match up.
There was a large turnout at a recent public hearing on redistricting in the 2nd. According to the New London Day newspaper, only one person at the hearing spoke up in favor of dividing the 2nd -- Lori Pellptier, the secretary-treasurer of the state AFL-CIO.
Maloney, a former state Senator, has traditionally had strong support from the AFL-CIO in his past elections.
In an interview last week, Simmons argued that the 2nd should be preserved because of its historical nature.
ìEastern Connecticut has been in the same essential shape since 1843,î he stated. ìIf you believe in communities of interest, all of that argues for saving the 2nd.î
Simmons acknowledged the fact the he could be a target of the redistricting pen because he is a freshman and had defeated Gejdenson, a powerful Democrat with close ties to state labor groups.
He also argued that, since he would not be in office forever and Democrats would likely have a good shot at regaining the district when he leaves, the opposition party should be happy the 2nd remains intact.
ìWhy screw up the people of eastern Connecticut over me?î he queried. ìIím not worth it.î
But if the 2nd were merged with DeLauroís 3rd district in a battle that observers said would be an uphill one for the Republican, Simmons said he was game.
ìIíll do it, of course,î he said. Mentioning that once he had taught at Yale University, he added, ìNew Haven is not an unknown quantity for me.î
DeLauro spokeswoman Ashley WestBrook said it was ìprematureî to comment on possible matchups in the 2002 elections, but said the Congresswoman was sympathetic to the argument that the 2nd district should remain largely untouched,
ìWe agree with Simmons that itís probably not a good idea for the towns of the 2nd district to be split up,î she said. But Westbrook added, ìWeíre still keeping and open mind.î
Observers stressed that it is still too early to anticipate how the redistricting map will settle The Legislatureís redistricting committee, made up of four Democratic and four Republican lawmakers, must first redraw state legislative lines and then come up with a Congressional map by Sept. 15.
If the lawmakers donít come to a consensus, they will appoint a ninth member to the committee, with a new deadline of Nov. 30. If a plan still cannot be forged, the map would go to the state Supreme Court, which would have until Fe. 15, 2002, to finalize a plan.
Redistricting is the most important political issue facing the residents of eastern Connecticut this year. As a resident and voter in eastern Connecticut, I am concerned about the future of our 2nd District.
A number of scenarios have been discussed in the media regarding the restructuring of the 2nd District, which has been in its basic current configuration since 1843. The district includes mostly small, rural, agricultural communities covering most of the eastern half of Connecticut.
Some suggest the district should be divided in half, with the northern portion being attached to the 1st District, including Hartford, and the southern part linking to the 3rd District, which includes New Haven. This would be a mistake. The distinctiveness of our region and our voice would be lost to the political clout of the large cities.
The preservation of the Second District is motivated by pragmatism, not politics. Whatever the result of redistricting, the district's new design will be around much longer than any of the state's current congressional delegation.
The 2nd District congressional seat belongs to the people, and redistricting should be carried out with their needs in mind. The voters of eastern Connecticut must be able to elect a congressional representative who understands our issues and who will advocate for our needs, whoever that representative may be and whatever party he or she may be affiliated with.
The courts have ruled that the guidelines for redistricting must include a respect for communities of interest and the drawing of contiguous and reasonably compact districts. These guiding principles demand keeping the 2nd District unbroken.
Our district has been in essentially the same shape - from Massachusetts to Long Island Sound and along the Rhode Island border - for more than 150 years.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture map shows eastern Connecticut comprises the Thames River Basin Area. Eastern Connecticut's watershed drains from the north to Long Island Sound. The Quinebaugh-Shetucket Heritage Corridor, known as "the Last Green Valley," calls eastern Connecticut home. Our region comprises a unique ecological zone.
Traveling north to south, Interstate-395 is the backbone of the district. As the population and businesses grow along this route, it will generate more regional issues and require more interaction within eastern Connecticut.
Due to the sprawling nature of the district, social service workers and public safety organizations have formed networks to meet the needs of those they serve. Social service workers throughout the district have spent years developing systems for care and human services delivery. This is necessary because eastern Connecticut communities are far from the urban centers. The network engages in outreach to families in need of a variety of services, including health insurance and pre- and post-natal care.
Norwich Police Chief Louis Fusaro recently noted there is a mutual aid agreement in place among the police departments throughout eastern Connecticut. Various departments from Putnam to Groton stand ready to share resources such as manpower, training or special equipment and such efforts have been successful.
If the 2nd District is divided, congressional candidates would surely come from the urban areas. There would be little need to pay attention to eastern Connecticut issues.
The populations of the towns throughout eastern Connecticut range from about 6,000 to 40,000. Hartford's population is 121,000, and New Haven's population is 123,000. Clearly, eastern Connecticut's communities of interest would be lost as candidates concentrated on winning votes in those urban areas that hold the densest population.
If the shoreline member controlled New Haven and surrounding towns, and if the northern member controlled Hartford and its suburbs, reelection would be nearly guaranteed. This would not be good for eastern Connecticut issues. No eastern Connecticut candidate would ever win.
Recognizing the importance of maintaining our district's integrity, the 2nd District's chambers of commerce are calling upon the area's state legislators to support the preservation of Connecticut's 2nd District, expanding the boundaries only as needed to accommodate the redistricting plan.
The chambers said the challenges facing small towns and cities in addressing issues like job creation, education, health care, transportation and social service delivery are often very different from the state's urban centers. I agree with their assessment.
Recently, the Northeastern Council of Governments voted unanimously to "strongly, and without condition," support the continuation of the makeup of the current 2nd District. These community leaders deserve praise for their vision.
A simple plan presents itself with respect to reshaping the 2nd District. Due to changes in the population the district must pick up about 113,000 people. History shows the way. A variety of towns along the western boundary of the 2nd District were part of this district prior to 1964, when Connecticut went from five to six congressional seats.
By bringing towns such as Bolton, Hebron, Somers, East Hampton, Killingworth and Clinton into the 2nd District, we will be able to meet the required population. Those small towns fit well into eastern Connecticut's communities of interest. In addition to the historical connection, this strategy keeps the district a relatively compact and contiguous region. This is the common-sense approach to redistricting.
Rob Simmons, a Republican from Stonington, has represented the 2nd Congressional District in Congress since January.
Members of the Legislature's Reapportionment Committee wrapped up public hearings on redistricting Tuesday, listening as speaker after speaker urged them to make changes in someone else's congressional district.
The Committee, comprised of four Republican and four Democratic lawmakers, will spend the next several weeks deciding how to eliminate one of the state's six U.S. House districts. The state is losing a seat in Congress and must redraw district lines because its population did not grow as fast as other states.
The Legislature must approve a new district plan for Congress and the state House and Senate by Sept. 15. If lawmakers cannot agree, a ninth person would be added to the reapportionment committee, with a new deadline of Nov. 30. If a plan is not approved by then, the state Supreme Court would step in.
Speaking at Tuesday afternoon's hearing, Jeff Nicholas, the First Selectman in Bethlehem, recommended the committee keep the 5th and 6th districts intact. He said the political clout of Democratic U.S Reps. Jim Maloney in the 5th District and Nancy Johnson in the 6th District was too important for the state to lose.
"Seniority has its strengths," said Nicholas, who wants to split freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons' 2nd District.
Residents of the 2nd District balked at that idea Tuesday, saying eastern Connecticut's communities of rural towns are too unique and intertwined to merge with another district.
Committee co-chairman Louis DeLuca, R-Woodbury, said the committee had not begun forming a redistricting plan. But he said he was impressed by last week's hearing in Norwich, which was attended by more than 200 people who opposed splitting the 2nd District.
DeLuca, the state Senate's minority leader, said the committee will try to keep politics from becoming a major factor in the redistricting process.
"We're in a political business, therefore politics is going to enter into it, but it shouldn't be the first item on our plate," the Senate minority leader said. "The first thing should be to make sure people are properly represented, but politics is going to enter it somewhere along the line."
The hearings did not focus exclusively on the state's congressional districts. Minority groups spoke out against breaking up legislative districts in their communities, and criticized the Legislature for not including any minorities on having any ethnic minority members.
"We start off with exclusion, not inclusion in terms of people of color," said former Hartford Mayor Thurman Milnor of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
He offered to the NAACP's assistance in redrawing district maps and committee members said they would consider it.
The Providence Journal
A week after endorsing a plan to cut the 2nd Congressional District in half, town officials from northeastern Connecticut have changed their minds and voted to keep the district intact.
Because of population shifts, the state will lose one of its six congressional seats and a panel of state lawmakers must draw up a plan by this fall.
Members of the Northeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, with one abstention, voted Friday to "strongly and without condition" support the fundamental make-up of the current 2nd District while a committee of state lawmakers decides how to redraw Connecticut's congressional boundaries.
The same council on June 28 endorsed a plan that would put Windham County towns into the 1st Congressional District with Hartford.
Although some of the town officials still question whether their mostly small, rural municipalities receive enough attention as members of the 2nd District, they admitted that the June 28 vote was a mistake and may have unfairly embarrassed newly elected U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District.
According to a one-page resolution, the council said the group should have continued discussing the redistricting issue rather than take a position.
"In taking this action, the Council wants to make clear that the action of the NECCOG regarding redistricting made on June 28, 2001, was in no way motivated by party, politics or the support or lack of support for individuals seeking congressional representation," according to Friday's resolution. "The several media assertions that this action was political or a statement of dissatisfaction with Congressman Simmons is insulting and absolutely wrong."
Simmons, who spoke to the council Friday, appeared pleased with the change of heart. He was among those caught by surprise by last month's vote, especially since chambers of commerce throughout eastern Connecticut have begun a campaign to lobby for the current 2nd District configuration.
The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments has not taken an official position on redistricting. The only public meeting in the 2nd District on reapportionment is scheduled for July 12 at 7 p.m. in Norwich City Hall.
State lawmakers are in the early stages of reconfiguring the congressional and state legislative seats.Following the series of public meetings, the bipartisan redistricting committee - made up mostly of legislative leaders - is supposed to come up with a draft redistricting plan for the entire General Assembly to approve this fall.
representing several Naugatuck Valley organizations told members of the
state Reapportionment Committee that the 5th congressional District should
not be divided. The state, which currently has six congressional
districts, must reduce that number to five to correspond with population
changes based on recent census figures.
Johnson vs. Maloney?
Remapping in Connecticut hasn't gone very far yet, but that hasn't stopped Rep. Nancy Johnson (R) from preparing for a race against Rep. James Maloney (D) - and using that potential showdown to help her raise money.
Just one of dozens of House Members who could face a battle with a fellow incumbent in newly drawn districts, Johnson held a PAC fundraiser March 20 at the Capitol Hill Club during which she highlighted speculation that she could be forced to run against Maloney. Connecticut lost one of its six House seats in reapportionment.
"Fact: Maloney is gearing up to relocate and run against Nancy Johnson in HER district," read an invitation to Johnson's PAC supporters. "Fact: A campaign contribution for Jim Maloney is a contribution AGAINST Nancy Johnson."
Likewise, a March campaign newsletter for Johnson noted that "Pundits in Connecticut predict that Maloney will relocate and run against Johnson in her district once his is abolished."
"A lot of our supporters, especially in Washington, don't know this is taking place," Dave Karvelas, Johnson's chief of staff, said last week. "You have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, and certainly running against another incumbent is the toughest kind of race you could have."
Maloney said Johnson's "strong-arm tactics" suggest that she is "unduly alarmed, unduly early."
"I'm disappointed in Nancy. There's sort of a whiff of panic there," he said. "Nancy talks about bipartisanship in Connecticut, and yet she is engaging in bullying tactics with the PAC community in Washington."
Unlike Johnson, Maloney has faced strong opposition in both of his re-election contests, forcing him to raise and spend large sums of money and assemble serious campaign organizations. Maloney raised $2 million for his 2000 bid, but he had just $8,000 on hand as of Dec. 31. Johnson raised $1.6 million, but she had $452,000 in the bank at the end of 2000.
Johnson campaign aides have also sought to stir speculation that Maloney is casting about for an entirely new job. Aides last week faxed out newspaper reports that Maloney would eye a gubernatorial bid if he loses his House seat. But Maloney said Friday that he's leaning strongly against a run for governor.
An eight-member panel composed of two members of each party from the state House and Senate will draw the maps. State law sets a Sept. 15 deadline for the General Assembly to approve the redistricting plans. Gov. John Rowland's (R) approval is not required, but the plan must be approved by a two-thirds majority of both chambers of the Legislature.
Speculation about a Johnson-Maloney contest stems from the possibility that redistricting officials will eliminate his Danbury-based seat, forcing him to run against one of his colleagues.
A Johnson-Maloney matchup is not a sure thing, though. Some redistricting insiders said Maloney could easily end up running to challenge Rep. Christopher Shays (R), whose Stamford-based district lies southwest of Maloney's territory.
Shays has said he does not relish a race against his colleague. "I don't like to think about having to run against him. He's a competent and capable Member," Shays told the New Haven Register.
The work has barely
begun, but already some politicians are starting to squabble over who
should get certain pieces. The state is losing a seat to growing states in
the South and West. The job isn't going to be easy. It could wind up
before the state Supreme Court if the legislature or a nine-member
commission cannot agree. What's at stake is the representation of
each community in Congress, the state House of Representatives and the
Spokesmen for the
minority coalition said part of their concern stems from the fact only
white legislators are serving on the eight-member General Assembly panel
assigned to reapportion the stateís political boundaries to conform with
population shifts revealed by the 2000 census.
New Haven Register
Fueled by the
economic downturn in the early 1990s, Connecticut residents fled to other
states in search of secure jobs. And its recovery at the end of the decade
didnít keep the population high enough to merit all six of its U.S. House
members. So now, for the first time in 70 years, one has to
The federal Census Bureau released figures Thursday showing that
the stateís population grew in the last decade, but not enough to hold
onto all of its congressional seats. Connecticutís population rose
by 3.6 percent, from 3,287,116 in the 1990 census to 3,409,535 in this
yearís count. But the nationís population jumped 13.2 percent, with
Western and Southern states seeing bigger increases than Northern and
Eastern states like Connecticut.