Connecticut's Redistricting News
Hartford Courant: "Torrington leaders call
redistricting plan slap in the face." December 24, 2001
Local leaders are calling the redistricting plan that divides Torrington between the 1st and 5th congressional districts a slap in the face.
"On the sheer numbers, it's dividing and diluting our strength," said Mayor Owen Quinn. "I would think that you would want to have the largest municipality have a block that spoke for its needs, and not be divided."
A nine-member panel of lawmakers voted unanimously Friday to split Litchfield County's largest municipality between the two districts - a decision city officials said will greatly diminish Torrington's influence.
The state is losing a congressional seat because of population shifts reported by the 2000 Census. The Reapportionment Commission approved the redistricting deal less than two hours before a court-mandated deadline.
The commission placed most of the city in the 1st District, which also covers Hartford, Manchester and Windsor. The city's southern and most populous portion will be represented by the 5th District, which includes Danbury, most of Waterbury and the state's most northwestern towns.
Torrington has about 35,200 residents, according to the 2000 Census. New Milford, Litchfield County's second-largest municipality with about 27,100 residents, will become part of the 5th District.
Like Torrington, New Milford will face in-district competition with larger cities such as Danbury, which has about 74,800 residents.
"It really dilutes Torrington's place in the pecking order," said Tom Scoville, a member of the Republican town committee. "Torrington doesn't seem to be much of a priority in our state right now."
It remained unclear Sunday exactly where the new lines would split the city, but leaders said that those details mattered less than the impact of being divided between two districts.
Late last month, the committee announced that Torrington, which had been represented by the 30th Senate District alone, would also be merged with the neighboring 8th District.
The 8th District, which also includes Simsbury, Avon, Barkhamsted and a portion of Granby, will now include downtown Torrington and most of the populous East End. The 30th District covers, by far, more acreage, but the district's senator will only represent about a third of its people.
"I have no idea what these people were thinking. The logic of this escapes me," said Democratic town committee chairman Jack Dillon. "You add this insult on top of the senate split, what are we, chopped liver up in this corner? It's gerrymandering of the worst kind."
But Dillon wasn't wholly pessimistic.
"In some part you will have two congressman who will want to keep Torrington happy," he said. "It might give us a louder voice in Washington."
Ninety minutes before a deadline that would have forced a court to decide the outcome, state lawmakers today approved a new Congressional map that redraws Connecticut's six House districts into five and sets up a showdown between two seasoned incumbents: Representatives James H. Maloney, a Democrat, and Nancy L. Johnson, a Republican.
The redistricting agreement, which was approved unanimously by a bipartisan commission, came months after negotiations failed between Democratic and Republican legislative leaders here. Both parties claimed the political advantage the plan would provide in the 2002 elections. But the map also outraged elected officials in Waterbury, the state's fifth-largest city. The city, which has leaned toward the Democrats in recent years, will be split between two House districts for the first time.
This major change in Connecticut's political geography merges Mr. Maloney's Fifth District and Mrs. Johnson's Sixth. It also represents the biggest chasm the panel faced in the redrawing. Together, Mr. Maloney's and Mrs. Johnson's districts comprise much of the state's western half, a complex puzzle of Democratic and Republican strongholds that state lawmakers said had been excruciatingly hard to divide equally.
Today, both Mr. Maloney, who is in his 3rd term, and Mrs. Johnson, who is in her 10th, said they were happy with the new Fifth District, though each interpreted the district's demographics differently to claim a political advantage.
"I am very pleased with the results of the commission's work," Mr. Maloney said, saying that residents of his current district would make up 51.1 percent of the new district, compared with 48.9 percent from Mrs. Johnson's. "My goal going in was to preserve the Democratic backbone of the Fifth District. We basically have done that."
Mrs. Johnson also said she was "very pleased" with the new district but emphasized different statistics, that 55 percent of registered voters in the new district are already her constituents, compared with only 45 percent being Mr. Maloney's.
"It ought to give neither one an advantage, and I think that's what they came up with," she said of the nine-member panel. "I think this is an extraordinarily equal district." Democratic and Republican state legislators who sat on the panel pointed to other statistics that they said would give their party an advantage in House elections next year.
The Fifth District, for instance, includes two Democratic strongholds: Danbury, Mr. Maloney's hometown, and Meriden; it will also give Mr. Maloney a potentially powerful new base in New Britain, a Democratic- leaning city where Mrs. Johnson lives, said Kevin B. Sullivan, the Democratic president pro tem of the State Senate. "That's a powerful constellation of forces," Mr. Sullivan said.
The fact that Democrats fought off Republican efforts to break up the new district's concentration of cities, which happens to favor Democrats, also bodes well for Mr. Maloney, Mr. Sullivan said.
On the other hand, Robert M. Ward, the Republican minority leader in the State House of Representatives, who sat on the redistricting panel, said that Mrs. Johnson's chances of defeating Mr. Maloney in November were excellent. Not only will there be 1,800 fewer Democrats in the Fifth District than in her current district, he said, but the new one will include several Republican strongholds in Fairfield County that should deliver additional votes to Mrs. Johnson.
"Nancy Johnson is left with a district that is actually stronger than it was before," said Mr. Ward, who, like many on the panel, said he had not slept since early Thursday because of the deadline. Being on a ticket with Connecticut's popular governor, John G. Rowland, will also help her, he added..
"I wouldn't be surprised if President Bush comes to campaign for her," Mr. Ward said. If there is a winner in today's plan, it is Rob Simmons, the Republican incumbent in the sprawling Second District, which covers most of eastern Connecticut. The district lost Middletown, a Democratic mainstay.
The state's other three districts have remained roughly the same, giving the incumbents ó John B. Larson, a Democrat in the First District; Rosa L. DeLauro, a Democrat in the Third; and Christopher Shays, a Republican in the Fourth ó little reason to argue.
If no changes come up during a 30- day public comment period, the new map will take effect in July, when Congressional candidates are nominated, Mr. Ward said.
Until dawn today, some lawmakers on the panel, including Mr. Sullivan, said they were not very confident they would reach an agreement. They had missed a Nov. 30 deadline, a first in Connecticut, and had asked the State Supreme Court to extend the deadline to today.
On Wednesday, Chief Justice William J. Sullivan ó no relation to the state senator ó scolded the legislators on the panel, warning them that if they failed to find an agreement, the court might create its own plan.
With only hours left to negotiate, both parties began bartering earnestly: Canton, a Republican town of 8,500, for instance, was added to the new district in exchange for reducing the percentage of Waterbury that would be left out, said Moira K. Lyons, the speaker of the House.
Democrats wanted the new district to end up with 20,000 more Democrats than Republicans. Ultimately, the difference was 13,200, Ms. Lyons said.
"I think it was a win for constituents," she said this afternoon.
But there were bitter feelings today in Waterbury, where the city's mayor-elect, Michael J. Jarjura, a Democrat, said he was considering a petition to the United States Supreme Court to stop 27,000 of the city's 107,000 residents from being excluded from the district.
"This is going to lead to a lot of confusion," Mr. Jarjura said, and it will dilute the city's influence with each United States representative next year ó especially, he added, if they come from different parties.
Narrowly beating a court-imposed deadline, a panel of lawmakers redrew the state's congressional districts Friday to pit incumbent Reps. James Maloney and Nancy Johnson against each other.
The state is losing one of its six seats in the U.S. House because of population shifts in the 2000 Census, so it was inevitable that two incumbents would wind up in the same district.
Maloney, a Democrat from Danbury, is in his third term representing the 5th District. Johnson, a 10-term Republican from New Britain, represents the current 6th District.
Both Maloney and Johnson said they were pleased with the new map, but the mayor-elect of Waterbury promised a legal challenge, saying the Reapportionment Commission should not have split up the state's fifth-largest city.
Maloney said he had represented a "Republican-leaning district" for six years. "The new 5th District is substantially Democratic," he said.
Johnson also was upbeat, saying her goal in the merger was to have 50 percent of her current district included in the new plan.
About 49 percent of the new district - including the heavily Republican Northwest Corner and GOP-friendly Hartford suburbs such as Farmington, Avon and Simsbury - comes from the current 6th District.
The remaining 51 percent - including Democrat-leaning cities such as Danbury, Meriden and Waterbury - comes from the current 5th District.
At a news conference in New Britain, Johnson said she expects to win a race with Maloney that most observers predict will be the most expensive U.S. House race in Connecticut history.
"I expect this race will be a wingdinger," Johnson said.
Ink on the redistricting plan was barely dry when a potential legal challenge surfaced. State Rep. Michael Jarjura, the mayor-elect of Waterbury, said he would sue the panel for splitting up his home town.
"I am just outraged," Jarjura said. "I have never heard of a city of the magnitude of Waterbury being split.
"Waterbury has always been a close-knit community and obviously this lessens our influence on federal issues."
Under the commission's plan, about 27,000 of the city's 107,000 residents would be included in the New Haven-based 3rd District, now represented by Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro.
The section of the city being broken off includes the Town Plot neighborhood and generally votes Republican, but Jarjura, a Democrat, said the issue goes beyond partisanship.
Jarjura, who takes office Jan. 1, said he was not sure whether the suit would be filed in state or federal court. The city's corporation counsel is researching the issue and is prepared to act quickly, he said.
The nine-member redistricting commission approved the deal at 10:20 a.m., less than two hours before a noon deadline handed down by the state Supreme Court.
Members of the panel received the final proposal just after daybreak, said House Speaker Moira Lyons, D-Stamford, who with other commission members worked at the Capitol all night.
Lyons and other lawmakers said the breakthrough came after Democrats agreed to split up Waterbury and include Hartford suburbs such as Canton, Avon and Simsbury in the new 5th District. The district includes about 13,400 more Democrats than Republicans, reflecting the overall Democratic advantage in voter registration in the state.
Republicans said a more important statistic is that 55 percent of the registered voters in the new district currently are Johnson's constituents, compared with just 45 percent for Maloney.
"I'm confident she's going to run extremely well," said House Minority Leader Robert Ward, R-North Branford.
Republicans also were pleased at the new 2nd District in eastern Connecticut, which no longer includes Middletown, a Democratic stronghold.
Republican Rep. Rob Simmons, a freshman from Stonington, was considered by many observers to be the chief beneficiary of the redistricting plan. The sprawling 65-town district covers nearly half the state and is made up almost entirely of small towns that Republicans say will help them retain the seat.
"A lot can happen in another year, but it seems to me if I were Rob Simmons I'd be pretty happy," said Jilda Aliotta, associate professor of political science at the University of Hartford.
He noted that Middletown not only has an edge in Democratic registration, but has a history of activism for the party.
Aliotta said the new 5th District would be competitive, but should favor Johnson.
"It seems to me that almost any way they drew that district she would have an advantage over Maloney, because of her seniority, her appeal to moderate and unaffiliated voters, and the strength of the governor," she said.
Gov. John G. Rowland, a Waterbury native, represented the 5th District in Congress in the 1980s.
Maloney denied that the new district favors Johnson, but said he would support Jarjura's legal challenge.
"I do think it was a mistake to invade the city of Waterbury," he said. "I don't think the Republicans have treated the city fairly."
The commission added several Republican-leaning towns to the Fairfield County-based 4th District, now represented by Republican Rep. Christopher Shays of Bridgeport, while the panel moved the Hartford-based 1st District slightly west, adding Bristol, Southington and part of Torrington. Democratic Rep. John Larson of East Hartford now holds the seat.
The redistricting panel missed a Nov. 30 deadline, and the Supreme Court had threatened to draw the maps itself if no deal was struck by Friday's deadline.
Highlights of the redistricting plan approved Friday by the bipartisan Reapportionment Commission:
Connecticut is losing one of its six U.S. House seats after the 2000 Census, because population growth has not kept pace with other parts of the country. The five new districts each have about 681,000 residents, compared with 550,000 in the current districts.
1st District (Hartford area):
2nd District (eastern Connecticut):
3rd District (New Haven area):
4th District (Fairfield County):
5th District (western Connecticut):
Call him a casualty of realignment.
Gary Collins, a Middletown lawyer who is one of six Democrats seeking the nomination for the 2nd District seat in Congress, was left out of the district under a plan approved Friday by the state's bipartisan Reapportionment Commission.
The panel split Middletown between the 1st and 3rd Districts, leaving Collins on the outside looking in. Collins and his wife, who has family roots in the Middletown area, moved to the city in July from East Windsor after he decided to run against incumbent Republican Rep. Rob Simmons.
Collins said Friday he has not decided what to do, although he said he would not move again to get back into the 2nd District.
"We're shocked. Middletown's culture and history has long been interwoven in the fabric of eastern Connecticut," he said.
The five other Democrats seeking the party's nomination remain in the 2nd District.
Hours shy of a Supreme Court-imposed deadline, a bipartisan group of lawmakers voted unanimously today to redraw the state's congressional districts.
The plan reduces the delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives from six to five and pits Democratic Rep. James Maloney of the 5th District against Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson of the 6th District.
The nine-member commission approved the deal at 10:20 a.m., less than two hours before the noon deadline handed down by the court.
"Democracy does work," House Speaker Moira Lyons, D-Stamford, who said members of the panel received the final proposal after daybreak, said shortly before the vote. "We do have a congressional plan and we do have one that's balanced."
The committee had long been leaning toward a face-off between Maloney and Johnson. But the sticking point had been the balance of voters from each party in the newly shaped districts.
The new map moves part of Waterbury into the New Haven-based 3rd District. Maloney's home town of Danbury and Meriden, a Democratic stronghold, fall in the new district.
The new district also includes Johnson's home town of New Britain as well as Cheshire and Meriden.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin Sullivan, D-West Hartford, said Democrats were particularly sorry to see Waterbury split between districts.
Ironically, Ridgefield - the home of John Tobin, an American Fulbright scholar arrested on drug charges in Russia who was the subject of intense lobbying by Maloney - becomes part of the 4th District in the new map.
Middletown, which had been in the 2nd District, is now divided with most of the city in the 3rd District and the remainder in the 1st District.
If no deal was struck, the Supreme Court had threatened to draw the maps itself - and warned that lawmakers might not like the solution the justices imposed.
At a special session of the high court Wednesday, Chief Justice William Sullivan said the justices intend to take a fresh look at the problem if legislative leaders couldn't reach a deal.
Democratic and Republican leaders interpreted Sullivan's remark as a warning that the court would redraw district maps without regard to incumbents.
Connecticut is losing a U.S. House seat after the 2000 Census because population growth has not kept pace with other parts of the country.
Hours before a court-imposed deadline, legislative leaders said they were close to a deal to redraw the state's congressional districts.
The bipartisan Reapportionment Commission, dominated by legislative leaders, met briefly Thursday but adjourned without a deal.
Still, lawmakers were optimistic that agreement could be reached before a scheduled meeting at 10 a.m. Friday - two hours before a noon deadline imposed by the state Supreme Court.
"We're close (to a deal) - within striking distance," House Speaker Moira Lyons, D-Stamford, said after Thursday's one-minute meeting. "I think we're all optimistic."
Senate Minority Leader Louis DeLuca, R-Woodbury, who co-chairs the redistricting panel with Lyons, also was upbeat.
He said it's very likely that the nine-member will reach a deal before 10 a.m.
If no deal is reached by noon, the issue goes back to the state Supreme Court - an outcome that DeLuca said would be "extremely embarrassing" to lawmakers from both parties.
"I would be extremely disappointed and I would personally think we failed in our mission," DeLuca said.
Lawmakers missed a Nov. 30 deadline to redraw the congressional map, but were given an extension by the Supreme Court.
At a special session of the high court Wednesday, Chief Justice William Sullivan said the justices intend to take a fresh look at the problem if legislative leaders can't reach a deal.
Democratic and Republican leaders have interpreted Sullivan's remark as a warning that the court would redraw district maps without regard to incumbents, possibly leading to a map that nobody likes.
The commission has been deadlocked in partisan wrangling over how to redraw the congressional district map with five districts instead of six. Connecticut is losing a U.S. House seat after the 2000 Census because population growth has not kept pace with other parts of the country.
Lyons said Thursday that the redistricting panel remained focused - as it has for weeks - on a merger of the current 5th and 6th districts. The merger has proved elusive, as both sides accuse the other of trying to give their party an unfair advantage.
The merger would pit 10-term Republican Nancy Johnson of the 6th District against three-term Democrat James Maloney, who represents the current 5th District.
Under a plan being discussed by Democrats, the new district would include about 16,000 more Democrats than Republicans, reflecting the overall Democratic advantage in voter registration in the state. Republicans prefer a plan that gives Democrats a 12,000-vote advantage in registration.
If there is no agreement, the Supreme Court has until Feb. 15 to approve a new map.
He didn't brandish a rolled-up newspaper, but Chief Justice William J. Sullivan made it clear Wednesday that he and other members of the state Supreme Court have lost patience with legislative leaders who have been unable to agree on new congressional districts.
The justices called the special session of the Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon because it appeared legislators were headed toward blowing the latest deadline, noon Friday.
Leaders, who had 10 months to come up with a plan to reduce Connecticut's congressional districts from six to five, missed a key deadline two weeks ago, shifting responsibility for coming up with new districts to the Supreme Court for the first time in state history. After receiving a request from legislative leaders, the court gave the legislature an extension.
After hearing about the lack of progress from lawyers representing both political parties, Chief Justice Sullivan - unsmiling and speaking sternly - said the court is preparing to take over the process Friday. And he made it clear that legislators may not be happy with what they come up with.
Sullivan said the court would take "a fresh look at the whole state," meaning it would start from scratch and may not put a premium on protecting incumbent members of Congress - or accommodating the legislative leaders' political wishes and unrelated deals.
"We may very well have a different approach," Sullivan said.
Sullivan also complained about the time the issue is consuming and noted it may affect the court's January case schedule. He said the court still hoped legislators can make the Friday deadline, but "if you cannot, we will be prepared to carry out our constitutional duties."
Sullivan said the court already has lawyers looking into redistricting law and at redistricting experts. If the court takes over the redistricting effort, it would likely ask for the maps that represent the last best offers from both parties, detailed demographic and voting data, computer software that has been used by the legislature, and the loan of additional legislative staff.
Legislators have been deadlocked for weeks on how to merge the 5th District, represented by Democrat James Maloney, and the 6th District, represented by Republican Nancy Johnson. Each incumbent is heavily lobbying state legislators of their party to come up with a merged district that leans toward their respective advantage.
House Minority Leader Robert M. Ward, R-Northford, was the only member of the legislative leadership to show up in person for the upbraiding. The other members of the eight-member redistricting committee sent lawyers or staffers.
Ward said a deal could still be struck - negotiations started again Wednesday afternoon - but he did not sound optimistic.
Neither did Senate President Pro Tem Kevin B. Sullivan, D-West Hartford, who continued to blame Republicans for asking for too much.
With time running out to redraw congressional districts, the state Supreme Court Wednesday said it would take a fresh approach to the problem if state leaders cannot make a deal.
In a rare special session of the high court, Chief Justice William Sullivan said the court hopes a nine-member redistricting commission will make its Friday noon deadline.
Democrat and Republican leaders interpreted Sullivan's remarks as a warning that the court would redraw district maps without regard to incumbents, possibly leading to a map that nobody likes.
The commission has been deadlocked in partisan wrangling over how to redraw the congressional district map with five districts instead of six. Connecticut lost a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2000 Census because population growth has not kept pace with other parts of the country.
Each political party wants to prevent the new district plan from harming its incumbent members of Congress. The current delegation has three Republicans and three Democrats.
If there is no deal, the commission may submit its maps for the court to review, but the seven justices "intend to take a fresh look" at the issue, Sullivan said.
"We may well have a different approach to this than you have," Sullivan said.
Both sides said they prefer to keep the issue out of the courts, although they could not guarantee that an agreement would be reached.
"It is better that political decisions be made by political bodies. It is generally bad for the court system to make political judgments," said House Minority Leader Robert Ward, R-North Branford, a member of the redistricting commission.
Rep. Melody Currey, D-East Hartford, another member of the commission, said a fresh approach may be welcome if the commission can not agree.
"I think its still feasible we can come up with a plan," Currey said.
But Senate President Kevin Sullivan, D-West Hartford, said he is pessimistic.
"I'm glad the court is there as a backstop to do what needs to be done," he said.
The group had focused on a plan that would combine the current 5th District, represented by three-term Democrat James Maloney, and the 6th District of 10-term Republican Nancy Johnson.
The commission planned to meet each day until the Friday deadline.
If they do not reach an agreement, the Supreme Court has until Feb. 15 to approve a new map.
The state Supreme Court - concerned about a lack of progress by state legislators trying to reconfigure congressional districts - has asked the lawmakers to appear at a hearing today to report on the status of redistricting negotiations.
The court's intervention comes as lawmakers on the state's bipartisan Reapportionment Commission struggle to meet a Friday noon deadline to resolve differences over how the 5th and 6th congressional districts should be merged. After the commission missed a state-mandated Nov. 30 deadline, the Supreme Court was required by law to intervene - either by taking over the mapping or directing the commission to finish the job. At the urging of lawmakers of both parties, the court returned the matter to the commission, setting the new Friday deadline.
But Monday, commission members were locked in a partisan dispute that appeared serious enough to draw the high court's concern.
"At this point, the court has indicated that they would like a status report, through a representative of each of our caucuses, at 2 (p.m.) tomorrow," Senate President Pro Tem Kevin B. Sullivan, a Democrat, said Tuesday evening. Both he and House Minority Leader Robert M. Ward, a Republican, noted that lawmakers had received no official summons from the court, and it was unclear whether commission members would have to appear, or whether a representative could provide an update.
While the justices have not indicated how they would proceed with consolidating the state's six congressional districts into five if the commission fails, some lawmakers said they expect the court would hire an expert to craft the new districts.
Although the two sides returned to the negotiating table Tuesday, they continued to disagree about the composition of the new 5th District. Democrats have proposed giving 5th District U.S. Rep. James H. Maloney a voter-registration edge of close to 20,000 Democrats to Republicans in the new district. Republicans have argued, on behalf of 6th District Rep. Nancy L. Johnson, for a registration margin of less than 12,000.
Both sides have agreed that the new district should be composed of a roughly equal number of constituents from Maloney's and Johnson's existing districts.
Negotiations to reconfigure Connecticut's congressional districts were deadlocked Monday, with Democratic state lawmakers charging that Republicans were letting U.S. Rep. Nancy L. Johnson, R-6th District, call all the shots.
The standoff comes two weeks after lawmakers on the bipartisan Reapportionment Commission asked the state Supreme Court for extra time to consolidate six congressional districts into five. They had missed a Nov. 30 deadline to complete the task. Now, the panel is at risk of missing a new deadline of noon Friday and ceding the mapping to the high court.
Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Kevin B. Sullivan and Deputy House Speaker Melody A. Currey charged Monday that Republicans had reneged on an agreement reached late last week that would merge Johnson's district with the 5th District represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. James H. Maloney. That merger would give Maloney a Democratic registration edge of about 20,000 voters.
Sullivan said Johnson had essentially "vetoed" that compromise, and that Republican state Rep. Arthur J. O'Neill had delivered the "veto message" to Democrats on Monday afternoon.
"We all came to an agreement last Thursday on a fair plan, but the Republican House members got the word that unless it was her way, it was the highway," Sullivan said, referring to Johnson. He charged that Johnson was looking for a deal that would allow her to be "coronated" in a 2002 race against Maloney, and that GOP lawmakers were wrong to abdicate their responsibility.
"We were the ones charged by the court" to make decisions, he said of the nine-member commission, empaneled 10 months ago.
O'Neill and House Minority Leader Robert M. Ward strongly disputed that they had reached any "absolute agreement" on a new 5th District last week and denied that they were giving Johnson any more power over negotiations than Maloney has had. They said there was nothing wrong with keeping incumbent members of Congress informed about negotiations.
O'Neill conceded that he would find it difficult to approve a plan that Johnson "strenuously and vehemently" opposes. He acknowledged that Republicans are pushing for changes "to accommodate concerns expressed by Congresswoman Johnson," but said that was entirely appropriate.
O'Neill disputed a claim by Currey that both sides had agreed late last week not to discuss details of the redistricting plan with members of Congress.
Johnson said Monday she was "really quite amazed" about the Democrats' charges that she was tying the hands of GOP negotiators.
"One thing I can guarantee you: I do not have a veto," she said. "I'm not the problem here."
The veteran representative said Republican lawmakers "understand that I want a fair shot. I don't want an advantage. I just want a fair shot."
Johnson said she favors a district with a roughly equal balance of Democrats and Republicans. Ward said GOP lawmakers have agreed to compromise further, allowing Democrats to hold a voter-registration edge of 11,000 - about 9,000 short of the Democrats' proposal. Johnson's existing district has 16,000 more Democrats than Republicans, while Maloney's has 8,000 more.
Although lawmakers have moved towns in and out of the merged district in recent weeks, the sticking point in negotiations - the ratio of Democrats to Republicans - hasn't changed since Nov. 30, the commission's original deadline. Sullivan said he was "perplexed" that Republicans, who had been the first to ask the Supreme Court for more time, were reverting to a position they had held before the court-ordered extension.
The compromise plan that was the focus of recent talks would have allowed Maloney to keep Danbury, Waterbury and Meriden in the new 5th District, while allowing Johnson to keep a number of Republican towns, such as Avon, Farmington and Simsbury.
Sullivan said Monday that Democrats have "known for weeks that Congresswoman Johnson wanted to get rid of her New Britain constituents." While Republican lawmakers have proposed spinning off part of New Britain to the 1st District to close the gap of Democrats to Republicans, Johnson disowned that idea Monday, saying she opposes splitting up New Britain, her hometown.
One More Chance
The Connecticut Supreme Court has ordered state legislators to take one more stab at drawing a House map that eliminates one seat.
The court said the nine-member Reapportionment Commission, which is dominated by state legislative leaders, has until noon on Dec. 21 to agree on a new map. If the Legislature is still unable to reach a consensus, the court will be forced to take over and produce a map by Feb. 15.
The panel, which was reviewing a plan to merge the districts of Reps. Jim Maloney(D) and Nancy Johnson (R), was embroiled in partisan bickering and missed its Nov. 30 deadline, sending the issue to court.
Judges expressed some reservations about the extension, noting that it could ultimately force them into a bind. "I tell you, two weeks - to me personally - seems to be a little long, because if it comes back to us, we have less than 60 days"to approve a plan, said Chief Justice William Sullivan.
Eric Sutherland knows Danbury is somewhere out west, but he'd be hard-pressed to locate it on a map.
It's news to him that Meriden, his home of seven years, is linked with Danbury in the 5th Congressional District - a link that is now at the heart of a partisan dispute making history in Connecticut.
"I don't keep track of politics. I'm just a little guy," said Sutherland, who wouldn't venture a guess as to the name of his congressman.
Like many of his fellow residents, Sutherland couldn't care less in which district Meriden lands, once a committee of state lawmakers draws new boundary lines to consolidate the state's six congressional districts into five.
"They can leave us where we are, or they can put us with Hartford or New Haven," he said with a shrug. "I do more stuff in New Haven - shopping or whatever - but really, does it matter?"
Meriden's political fate may not matter to most citizens of this hardscrabble city, which touts its location in the dead center of the state. But behind closed doors at the Capitol, Meriden is being lobbed back and forth in a high-stakes turf war that could affect the balance of power in Congress.
The bipartisan reapportionment commission, which missed its redistricting deadline for the first time ever, now has until Dec. 21 - a new deadline set by the state Supreme Court - to come up with a new congressional map.
Although a consensus had emerged months ago that parts of the 5th and 6th districts should be merged, lawmakers on the commission, which was empaneled in February, spent most of their time drawing new state House and Senate districts. Serious talks on a congressional map didn't get under way until mid-November. When time ran out Nov. 30, negotiations were bogged down on how to ensure a "fair" fight in 2002 between Rep. James H. Maloney, the 5th District Democrat, and Rep. Nancy L. Johnson, the 6th District Republican.
Today, in the final stretch of negotiations, Democrat-heavy Meriden remains a sticking point. For weeks, Republicans had volleyed the city to the New Haven-based 3rd District or Hartford-area 1st District, while Democrats had argued on Maloney's behalf against breaking up the 5th District trio of Meriden, Danbury and Waterbury.
Meriden has been a focus, not only because it could give Maloney a boost, but because it is the only municipality in the state that touches on four districts - two represented by Republicans, and two by Democrats.
Just before the Nov. 30 deadline, Democrats made some concessions, agreeing to move Meriden to the 3rd District - a bonus for Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro - and to include Avon and some other GOP towns in the merged district. But Republicans rejected that offer because it removed some Republican-leaning towns, such as Middlebury, from the new 5th District and gave Maloney a Democratic edge of more than 18,000 voters.
After rejecting the final offer, GOP leaders backpedaled, asking the Supreme Court to give the commission another chance to reach agreement. If no deal is reached by Dec. 21, the court could take over drawing a new map itself.
On Wednesday, Republican leaders came back to the table with what Democratic Rep. Melody A. Currey, a deputy House speaker, called "a good-faith attempt to actually meet us halfway." The GOP leaders expressed a willingness to include Meriden, Danbury and Waterbury in the merged district, as long as Maloney and Johnson end up with a roughly equal number of constituents from each of their existing districts.
"It's a step forward," said Currey.
House Minority Leader Robert M. Ward, a Republican, said he still believes "it will be easier to get a deal if Meriden is out." But he added, "We're not drawing a line in the sand with any one town."
Meriden, with a 2-1 edge of Democratic to Republican voters, isn't the only city being tossed around in an elaborate swapping game that will bring changes to all six districts. Democrats may have to give up Bristol and some of Maloney's Naugatuck Valley towns to the 1st and 3rd districts, in exchange for keeping Meriden in the new 5th District.
Republicans may have to give up some of Johnson's eastern towns, such as Simsbury, to the 1st District. They also may have to let Democrat-rich Middletown stay in the 2nd District, now represented by Republican Rob Simmons, in exchange for getting Killingworth and other 3rd District GOP towns into Simmons' territory.
Leaders of both parties admit that the maneuvering has more to do with protecting incumbents than with ensuring that a city like Meriden ends up sharing a congressional district with communities of similar characteristics, as the law requires.
Some Meriden residents say all the haggling is silly, considering that their city has little in common with Danbury, Hartford or New Haven. In a runoff between New Haven and Hartford, many say they'd prefer that Meriden join the southern district.
"Being with Danbury, it doesn't give you much clout, as far as cities go," said resident Tom Karney. "I'd rather go with New Haven than Hartford. It's a more prosperous area."
Cheryl Therrien couldn't name her congressman - ("Is it that guy who ran for vice president?" she asked, alluding to Democratic Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman) - but she liked the idea of hooking Meriden with New Haven.
"When you get referrals [from doctors], they usually send you down there," she said.
While the gamesmanship may be lost on regular folks, Connecticut's re-mapping is being closely watched by leaders of both national parties. Republicans outnumber Democrats 221-211 in the U.S. House of Representatives going into the 2002 elections.
Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg said that with fewer than 50 competitive congressional races, "This is a big seat. ...The Democrats need to pick up six seats, while the Republicans have got to hold on to a majority. So they've each got a lot at stake. ... This one [seat] is attracting a lot of attention from D.C."
Both Johnson and Maloney have been in close touch with lawmakers, weighing in on options. Neither wants to see the matter decided by the court, which could opt to jettison Johnson's hometown of New Britain or Maloney's hometown of Danbury from the merged district.
Ward said the GOP's goal is to see a roughly equal balance of Democrats and Republicans in the merged district. But Currey said that could be a point of contention, given that the 5th and 6th districts now have about 22,000 more Democrats than Republicans. She said ensuring a "fair fight" means looking at voting patterns of towns, not just at party affiliation.
Meriden recently ousted its four-term Democratic mayor in favor of a GOP-backed independent. Turnout in that mayoral race was higher than in the 1998 congressional election - another sign that local politics may matter more than the national balance of power.
Legislative leaders who missed a Nov. 30 deadline to remap the state's congressional districts will get another chance.
The state Supreme Court Friday ordered the bipartisan Reapportionment Commission to come up with a redistricting plan by noon on Dec. 21.
The high court issued the ruling shortly after a 30-minute hearing in which the commission formally requested another chance.
The nine-member redistricting panel, dominated by legislative leaders, had been charged with eliminating one of the state's six congressional districts. Connecticut must give up one House seat because its population did not grow as fast as those of other states.
The group had focused on a plan that would combine the current 5th District, represented by three-term Democrat James H. Maloney, and the 6th District of 10-term Republican Nancy L. Johnson. The panel became snarled in a state Supreme Court.
The commission filed a petition Thursday seeking the second chance.
The seven justices appeared willing to grant the request from the outset of Friday's hearing and focused most of their questions on timing.
Chief Justice William J. Sullivan said he was concerned about giving the commission too much time. The court faces a final deadline of Feb. 15 to approve a redistricting plan.
"I tell you, two weeks - to me personally - seems to be a little long, because if it comes back to us, we have less than 60 days" to approve a plan, Sullivan said.
Sullivan asked Associate Attorney General Gregory D'Auria - who represented the commission - how likely it was that lawmakers would agree on a new plan, if given the chance.
"If you're telling me it's 99 percent certain you're going to resolve it, fine. If it's 20 percent, that makes a difference on the timing," Sullivan said.
D'Auria said he did not know, but added: "The fact that our office represents all nine members shows they are reasonably certain they can come up with a plan."
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin B. Sullivan, D-West Hartford, said he was grateful that the justices acted so quickly. The high court issued its ruling barely an hour after the hearing ended.
Kevin Sullivan, who serves on the reapportionment panel, also was grateful that court gave the commission just two weeks to finish its work.
"That's either exactly enough time to do it, or, if we are not going to do it, gives [the justices] the time they need to come up with a plan," he said.
The Senate leader declined to say how likely it was that the panel would meet the new deadline.
But House Minority Leader Robert M. Ward, R-North Branford, said chances were "over 90 percent" that the group would come up with a deal.
"I'm very confident we can reach an agreement," Ward said. "Both parties are committed to resolving our differences and completing a plan."
House Speaker Moira K. Lyons, D-Stamford, also was confident a deal was imminent.
"It's our responsibility to finish the job quickly, and we will," she said. "The court has given us plenty of time to do that."
Still, Lyons and other lawmakers added a note of caution.
"Merging the districts of two experienced, effective members of Congress is a very difficult job," Lyons said. "No one should underestimate that. We'll be successful if our goal - and our guide - is fairness."
When the Avon Town Council is indignant about an issue, it habitually asks its state representative for help.
But Tuesday night, that option became much more complicated. The issue was the redrawing of state legislative districts, which split Avon in half. Should they call their longtime representative to complain? Or the newcomer from West Hartford, who'd picked up half the town as part of his district?
"See, we don't even know who to write to," fumed Avon Councilman William J. Shea II. "I realize we have no say in this, but it's a ridiculous plan.
"I can't do a thing about it, but that doesn't mean I have to like it," he said.
Officials in Avon and Farmington worry residents will be in the same boat: unsure whom to contact with their concerns, outnumbered by residents in neighboring towns with whom they now share districts.
The Connecticut Reapportionment Commission, a nine-member bipartisan group, recently created new political maps to reflect growth trends statewide, including for West Hartford, Avon and Farmington.
So far, the reaction is mixed.
Some local leaders are pleased, saying the legislative boundaries were drawn fairly. Others say their towns were cannibalized to benefit larger neighbors.
"Nobody asked us how we wanted it, that's for sure," said Farmington Town Council Chairwoman Arline Whitaker. "It's an unfortunate thing to do to a town, and I think it's going to be a very difficult adjustment."
West Hartford will retain its three legislative districts - although the boundaries will change. Other nearby communities, including Simsbury and Canton, will see no change in their political borders.
Generally, the districts are redrawn to the benefit of local incumbents, a practice the courts have ruled is acceptable. "I would assume there was some horsetrading going on," said West Hartford Democratic Town Chairman Larry Price.
The reapportionment panel has asked for more time to finish drafting the state's congressional districts, so no one is sure when the new legislative map will take effect - or if it already took effect when the state House and Senate maps were approved.
"I haven't found any legal answer to that question," said state Rep. Robert Farr, a West Hartford Republican whose 19th House District will include the eastern half of Avon and part of Farmington.
The western half of Avon, split roughly along the Rails-to-Trails route, will remain in the 17th House District of Canton Democrat Jessie Stratton.
All Avon residents will still be in the 8th Senate District, represented by Simsbury Republican Thomas Herlihy.
The split in Avon's House districts will take some getting used to. Residents have always congregated at one polling place, and thought of themselves as belonging to one town rather than a collection of geographic areas.
The new lines would also create another problem for the new 19th District: Avon has no public buildings on its east side in which to set up a new polling place. That means it would have to rent space or set up separate machines at Avon High School - currently, the town's only polling place.
"On the finance and logistics side, it would change the way we conduct elections," Town Manager Philip Schenck said.
Farr said he believes West Hartford, Avon and Farmington residents all have similar concerns, such as education, environment, quality of life and the value of their homes.
"If somebody calls me from Avon or Farmington with a concern, I'm not going to check the map for their street and say, `Sorry, can't talk to you, you're on the wrong side of the line,'" said Farr, who has represented the 19th District since 1980.
"My view is that I'm another voice at the Capitol for Farmington and for Avon," he said.
Many Farmington residents will also see either their House or Senate district change.
The 21st House District has to shrink by about 1,700 people.
Thus, the Devonwood area in north-central Farmington, near the polo grounds, will switch from the 21st House District - currently represented by Demetrios Giannaros - to Farr's 19th District.
Under the new map, an eastern portion of Farmington will be removed from state Sen. Kevin B. Sullivan's 5th District and shifted to the 6th District, which currently is represented by state Sen. Thomas A. Bozek of New Britain.
"It's not great and I understand that, and we try to minimize town cuts as much as possible," said Sullivan, a member of the reapportionment commission.
The change concerns Farmington's Whitaker, who worries it will hurt residents who already must deal with the traffic and development issues in that area, near Westfarms mall.
"Those people are already feeling particularly isolated and vulnerable because of situations in their part of town, so this does not help," Whitaker said.
Although the 21st District loses the well-off and solidly Republican Devonwood neighborhood, Giannaros, a Democrat, doesn't believe the change will have a big impact on Election Day.
In Farmington, as in much of the region, unaffiliated voters now outnumber party members.
"Voters these days are much more apt to vote for the person and not the party affiliation," Giannaros said.
Price, the West Hartford Democratic chairman, agreed.
"Voters are more pensive, the party lines are more blurred," he said. "That's probably healthy."
In West Hartford, the 18th House District currently represented by Democrat Andrew Fleischmann is the only one of the town's three districts that was left largely untouched.
The 19th House District, a political battleground in which Farr held on to the seat last year by nine votes, lost some of its ground to the 20th District.
In exchange, Farr's district picks up the Avon and Farmington voters across the mountain - and potentially more Republicans, which some politicians have joked could help Farr gain re-election and shed his sarcastic nickname, "Landslide Bob."
The 20th House District shed several neighborhoods in Hartford's South End, gaining a deeper reach into the northern portion of West Hartford.
"Anytime you redraw district lines, you're going to split things up," said Rep. David McCluskey, the West Hartford Democrat who represents the district.
Courant Staff Writer Daniela Altimari contributed to this report .
Legislative leaders who missed a Nov. 30 deadline to remap the state's congressional districts will ask the state Supreme Court for another chance on Friday.
Members of the bipartisan Reapportionment Commission, which includes legislative leaders, formally asked the court Thursday for a second chance to come up with a redistricting plan.
The high court is scheduled to hear arguments on the petition - and a similar one filed this week by a former Republican lawmaker - at 2 p.m.
Lawmakers from both parties said they are optimistic that the court will give them another chance - despite the partisan bickering that prevented the commission from completing its work last week.
"It's my hope that the justices would determine that it would be to everyone's benefit to allow more time for those who've already been working on the issue to finish it - and to do so because we've asked for (the job) as opposed to somehow being compelled to do it," said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin Sullivan, D-West Hartford.
Sullivan was referring to a petition filed Monday by former state Sen. Paul Munns, R-Manchester, requesting that the court send the redistricting issue back to the commission and compel lawmakers to complete their work.
The nine-member redistricting panel was charged with reducing the state's six congressional districts into five. Connecticut must give up one House seat because its population did not grow as fast as those of other states.
The group had focused on a plan to combine the current 5th and 6th districts, but became snarled in a partisan dispute and missed a Nov. 30 deadline. Missing the deadline sent the redistricting work to the Supreme Court.
A spokesman for the court said Thursday that the justices have agreed to consider the petitions of Munns and the commission at the same time.
No ruling is expected Friday, spokesman Jim Senich said, adding that a decision should be released within 10 days.
In their three-page petition, the former members of the reapportionment commission, which includes the four top leaders of the General Assembly - pledged to submit a redistricting plan by whatever date the court sets.
Sullivan said in an interview that he hopes the court gives the commission a short leash, with a deadline of no later than Jan. 1 and possibly before Christmas.
Gary Berner, redistricting director for House Republicans, said his caucus agrees that "a tight timeframe makes sense, is realistic and is likely our best chance of leading to success."
State law gives the Supreme Court some discretion in completing the redistricting by the final, Feb. 15 deadline. The court may compel the commission to perform its duty, draw boundary lines itself or appoint a special master to come up with a solution.
Democratic and Republican leaders in the legislature have petitioned the Connecticut Supreme Court for what amounts to a reprieve. Give us a few more weeks, they pleaded, and we will come up with a new map that consolidates six congressional districts into five.
The justices do not have to grant the lawmakers' wish, but they would be wise to give Connecticut's Reapportionment Commission one last chance.
The commission, empaneled in February, failed to meet last Friday's deadline for redrawing the congressional map. It agreed on new state House and Senate district lines, but fell apart in partisan bickering over congressional maps.
The shifting of district lines to make up for the loss of one of the state's six districts was bound to be difficult. It would have been best if the commission, made up of eight state lawmakers and one appointed member, got the job done on time.
Courts are institutions of last resort. When politicians fail to settle their differences, the justices have to take over. That has never happened in Connecticut because political mapmakers settled their differences before their deadlines.
Not this time, however. The court has scheduled a hearing on Friday to consider a petition requesting that the redistricting commission be allowed to continue its work in hopes of reaching an agreement soon.
State law gives the high court discretion in figuring out how to consolidate the six districts into five by Feb. 15, the final deadline for a new map. Among other things, the court can compel the commission to act or it can name a special master or it can redraw the boundary lines itself.
There is consensus on which districts should be merged: the 6th, represented by Nancy L. Johnson, Republican of New Britain, with the 5th, represented by James H. Maloney, Democrat of Danbury. Before the redistricting commission's deadline last week, the Republicans rejected a last-minute Democratic compromise for merging the two.
Throughout the negotiations, commission member Robert Ward, who is the House minority leader, argued that the new 5th District boundaries be drawn to favor Ms. Johnson, who is a senior member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
The first job of the commission should not be to protect incumbents or maintain partisan advantage. But perhaps it's too idealistic to expect the kind of statesmanship that focuses on the welfare of constituents.
Unfortunately, Connecticut is losing a seat in the U.S. House because the 2000 Census shows healthier population growth in other parts of the country. There is no choice but to try to come up with the most reasonable consolidation.
approach is to create a district whose geography is rational and that
gives each incumbent approximately the same number of voters from each
party. If the court grants the commission more time, legislative leaders
from both parties must not fail to carry out their public responsibility.