National Redistricting News
: "Smaller Congressional Battleground Poses Challenges for Both
Parties." October 24, 2001
: "In 2002, Settling For
'Dangerous Half-Dozen' Open House Seats." October 24, 2001
: "Census Head Count to Stand; Adjustments Rejected."
October 18, 2001
: "National parties help lawmakers in Miss.
Redistricting." October 18, 2001
Judge Revises Redistricting Proposal." October 12,
Michael McDonald, an assistant professor at the
University of Illinois-Springfield has compiled a redistricting
information about the redistricting progress in each
Congressional Battleground Poses Challenges for Both Parties
By Chris Cillizza
October 24, 2001
Redistricting has been completed
in nearly half of all Congressional districts across the country,
but the full-scale redesign of all 435 House districts has not
produced an expected increase in the number of competitive House
seats, a development that has significant implications for the
battle over the House majority.
In fact, a Democratic Party
strategist conceded last week that there will actually be
approximately half the number of competitive House seats in the 2002
elections than existed after the last election following
redistricting in 1992, when there were approximately 100 competitive
This new reality has caused both
Democrats and Republicans to re-examine their game plans in the
high-stakes struggle for control of the House. But Democrats, who
need six seats to gain control of the majority, point out that the
2002 battleground will still be much larger than in the previous two
"There are very contradictory and
paradoxical elements in what's happening," explained Democratic
redistricting guru Mark Gersh in an interview Friday.
Gersh, an analyst at the National
Committee for an Effective Congress, believes that while
"redistricting is creating less competitive seats than was the case
10 years ago," there will "still be enough seats [in play] to change
control of the House" in the 2002 elections.
"I didn't think Democrats had
much of a chance to win in 2000 because the percentage of marginal
seats they needed to win was greater than [the percentage]
Republicans won in 1994," said Gersh, referring to the year when
Republicans took control of the House majority and the playing field
was much larger. "The chances of winning the House back this time
are much better than in 2000."
Rep. Tom Davis (Va.), chairman of
the National Republican Congressional Committee, agreed with Gersh's
assessment of a smaller-than-expected playing field.
"There are fewer targets than we
initially anticipated," said Davis, ascribing the disparity to the
fact that "lots of marginal incumbent seats have been strengthened."
Originally, national Democrats
and Republicans were relying on the redistricting process in states
where they controlled the legislatures to give them opportunities to
increase their numbers. But in states such as California and West
Virginia, incumbents have acted to protect themselves rather than to
help swell their parties' national ranks, meaning there are fewer
chances to knock off vulnerable Members or pick up open seats than
national strategists would have hoped.
According to Gersh's analysis,
out of the 193 seats that have been redrawn in the redistricting
process, just 20 to 25 are marginal.
Gersh defined marginality by one
of three factors: an open-seat race in a district where both parties
have been competitive on the presidential level, an incumbent who
won by less than 10 percent of the vote in a district that is not
entirely dominated by one party, or a district where substantial new
territory was added.
He projected that "We are
probably going to get to 50 [competitive] seats,"a number that is
scaled back from his expectation of 70 to 75 competitive seats when
the year began.
Asked why he has backed off his
earlier predictions, Gersh explained that "In more states there are
partisan divisions [in the legislature]," meaning that a large
number of states have one party in control of the state House and
another in control of the state Senate or governor's chair.
Gersh also said state delegations
are concerned about "the role the courts could play" in the
redistricting process, which is why they would rather draft a
compromise plan that bears their imprint than see control of the
process taken totally out of their hands. As a result, incumbents
from both parties have been "compelled" to "work together" more now
than they did 10 years ago, he said.
There is no better example of
incumbents banding together to protect one another than in
California, where some observers expected the redistricting process
to yield large Democratic gains in the 2002 elections.
Instead, the California
Congressional delegation focused their efforts on shoring up
themselves, eliminating only the Democratic-leaning district of Rep.
Steve Horn (R), who promptly retired. Two new open seats were
created a Republican-leaning one in the San Joaquin Valley and a
Democratic district in Los Angeles.
In other typically competitive
states, such as New Jersey and Illinois, Congressional incumbents
offered compromise plans aimed at creating more safe seats for each
In Illinois, Speaker Dennis
Hastert and Rep. Bill Lipinski (D) crafted a compromise plan that
was signed by GOP Gov. George Ryan earlier this year with little of
the typical partisan fanfare.
Bound by the state's slow
population growth, Hastert and Lipinski decimated the district of
second-term Rep. David Phelps (D) in southern Illinois. He has
announced he will likely challenge Rep. John Shimkus (R) next year.
And even in some states where the
levers of the redistricting process are entirely controlled by the
opposition party, some incumbents seem primed to escape relatively
unscathed from the redistricting imbroglio.
In West Virginia, for instance,
Democrats expected to further marginalize the district won by Rep.
Shelley Moore Capito (R) in 2000, making it virtually impossible for
her to win a second term in this Democratic state.
But, the state Legislature
overwhelmingly approved a map in September that only slightly
changes the partisan makeup of the state's three districts and will
likely have little to no effect on Capito's re-election prospects in
Another state in which partisan
redistricters may miss the mark is Kansas, where Rep. Dennis Moore
(D) was expected to have his re-election prospects severely hampered
by the Republican-controlled state legislature and governor's
A plan proposed by the
Legislature's Special Committee on Redistricting would split Douglas
County, which is dominated by the city of Lawrence, between the 2nd
district held by Rep. Jim Ryun (R) and Moore's 3rd district.
However, Moore would hold onto
the University of Kansas, a Democratic stronghold, which would keep
his re-election hopes alive.
"Whatever happens in the end, I
am going to come through this OK," Moore said in an interview. "They
may cut the margin some, but we had a 9,000-vote margin last time.
"The people in this district
expect that the Legislature will deal fairly and not just make this
decision on the basis of partisan politics," he added.
Amy Walter, the House analyst for
the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, predicted that 50 seats will
be contested by the parties in 2002. But she warned that with large
states like New York having not even embarked on the redistricting
process yet, a degree of uncertainty still exists about how wide the
playing field will be next year.
Walter also pointed out that in
1992 there were an extraordinarily large number of retirements that
contributed to the fertile open-seat landscape. According to her
figures, at the end of October 1991 there were 14 open seats, which
is comparable to the 15 House incumbents who have announced they
will either retire or run for higher office in 2002.
By May 1992, however, there were
62 open seats, and by July 1992 that number had jumped to 78 open
seats. Walter does not expect a similar open-seat boom this cycle
because of two factors she argues are specific to 1992: Ten years
ago, a number of incumbents left to escape the House banking scandal
and it was also the final year Members were allowed to personally
accept the funds remaining in their campaign accounts.
Despite their agreement on the
smaller-than-expected playing field in 2002, Gersh and Davis draw
very different conclusions on what that means for their respective
parties in the coming election.
"If you have the majority and you
are going to pick up a few seats in redistricting," Davis argued,
the smaller playing field works to Republicans' advantage. "Every
seat we can take off the list just gives them fewer targets."
Gersh believes his estimate of 50
to 55 competitive seats in 2002 "is going to be 50 to 100 percent
more than in 1998 or 2000."
Gersh noted that in the past
several cycles, one party has won 55 to 60 percent of the marginal
seats. In 1994, Republicans won nearly 70 percent of all districts
Jenny Backus, a spokeswoman for
the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, also noted that in
the past four midterm elections following a presidential election,
the fewest number of seats the president's party has lost is eight.
"Democrats only need to win six
seats" to win back the House, added Gersh. "If [Democrats] needed 15
seats, it wouldn't happen."
2002, Settling For 'Dangerous Half-Dozen' Open House Seats
By Stu Rothenberg
October 24, 2001
Last cycle I wrote a number of
columns about the most competitive open House seats, arguing that
the outcomes in those contests would determine control of the House.
Republicans held their own in those races, making it impossible for
the Democrats to gain enough seats to win a House majority. It's far
too early this cycle, given the slow process of redistricting and
significant questions about the partisan landscape next year, to
come up with an equally useful list of open seats. But even now, a
few very competitive and intriguing House contests without
incumbents are starting to take shape.
Much of the early attention to
open seats has fallen on Nevada's new 3rd district and Indiana's
redrawn 2nd district (which really is closer to retiring Rep. Tim
Roemer's (D) current 3rd district than to Rep. Mike Pence's (R)
current 2nd district).
The new Nevada district, which is
located entirely within Clark County but takes in suburban and rural
areas, not the city of Las Vegas, has already boiled down to a
shoot-out between Republican Jon Porter and Democrat Dario
Herrera. Registration in the new
seat is virtually even (127,214 Republicans to 127,157 Democrats),
as was the 2000 presidential vote (48.4 percent for Al Gore to 47.9
percent for George W. Bush).
Porter, 46, is a former city
councilman and a sitting state Senator who drew 44 percent against
Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) in last year's 1st district race. (Bush
drew 42 percent in that district.) The Congresswoman outspent Porter
$2 million to $1.4 million.
Herrera, 28, is a former state
assemblyman who currently sits on the Clark County Commission. He
announced his candidacy for Congress hours after the new district
was drawn, and he appears to have little or no opposition for his
The partisan makeup of the
district, the potential impact of the significant Hispanic
population, Herrera's age and Porter's experience all make this one
of the most interesting and closely contested open seats of the 2002
In Indiana, the retirement of
Roemer has already set off both an interesting Democratic primary
and an intriguing general-election contest. The new 2nd district,
like Roemer's current district, includes all of St. Joseph and
LaPorte counties (on the state's northern border). But after that,
it is quite different. The redrawn district will now include only a
portion of Elkhart County and none of Kosciusko County. Instead, it
stretches south, even picking up Kokomo in Howard County.
GOP calculations show that the
newly drawn district gave Bush 53.8 percent of its votes. That's a
little more than 2 points less than what he received in the district
Roemer now represents.
Four Democrats are battling for
their party's nomination, including former
Rep. Jill Long Thompson and state
Sen. Bill Alexa. The likely GOP nominee is Chris Chocola, a low-key,
likable businessman who drew a credible 47.4 percent against Roemer
last time. The challenger actually outspent Roemer $1.1 million to
In an interesting twist, the
Democratic state Legislature drew Chocola's home out of the new 2nd
district, into which Chocola refuses to move (saying it would
disrupt his family). And although he said he will buy property in
the district, he won't "pretend" to live there, as, he noted, a
number of other hopefuls plan to do.
The Republican may well be
referring to both Thompson and Alexa. Thompson served two terms in
Congress but represented the city of Fort Wayne and counties in
extreme northeastern Indiana, none of which are in the new 2nd
district. Alexa has been residing outside of the new district.
Also deserving early attention
are open seats in Maine and Tennessee.
Democratic Rep. John Baldacci's
bid for governor of Maine opens up his sprawling 2nd district, which
covers all of the state except the extreme southeastern portions.
Proving once again that nature abhors a vacuum, the open seat has
already drawn at least nine significant contenders (five Democrats
and four Republicans). Both primary fights may be affected by
geography, ethnicity and ideology.
Republican Rep. Van Hilleary's
gubernatorial effort creates a vacancy in Tennessee's 4th district.
Although the state Legislature has not agreed on a final
redistricting plan, the redrawn 4th is likely to remain a
politically competitive middle Tennessee district. The early
frontrunner for the Democratic nomination is state Sen. Lincoln
Davis, but he may well face a primary. Meanwhile, the race for the
Republican nomination has not yet taken form, although former
University of Tennessee quarterback Heath Shuler may run.
There are other open seats, such
as the two new districts in Michigan, that could see competitive
races, depending on the candidates and the particular circumstances.
But so far those states that have completed redistricting have
tended to produce fewer, not more, competitive districts. Only time
will tell whether I'll be able to do another series of "dangerous
dozen" open-seat columns. It's possible that I'll have to settle
this cycle for a "dangerous half-dozen."
Potential GOP Gains With Redistricting
October 25, 2001
The slowly emerging outlines of
the congressional redistricting map appears increasingly better for
the Republicans in next year's elections.
No one wants to make any firm
predictions based on the preliminary lines that are even now being
drawn in key states, but the early evidence suggests that a House
Democratic takeover is becoming increasingly remote.
Veteran elections analyst Stuart
Rothenberg, whose Rothenberg Report closely tracks congressional
races for the political community, stated earlier this month that
the chances of the Democrats winning back the House "seems a
Of course, about half the states
have not even drawn or approved their new district boundary lines to
readjust them to changed population counts. The process won't be
completed until sometime next summer. Many of the proposed plans are
being or will be challenged in court.
But an early reading of what is
in the works thus far indicates that the Republicans stand to make
significant gains from redistricting alone ˇ perhaps as many as 10
new seats. Winning some of the open seats or defeating incumbents
would be icing on the cake for the GOP.
In Michigan, for example, GOP
lawmakers merged two Democratic districts and have made the district
of Democratic Rep. David Bonoir (he is leaving his seat to run for
governor) more Republican. That plan, if it holds up, could result
in a devastating three-seat loss for the Democrats there.
Pennsylvania is slated to lose
two House seats. But Republicans, who control the legislative
process there, hope to come out ahead by redrawing two to three
Democratic majority districts to favor the GOP.
"The GOP's 11-10 congressional
district advantage is likely to grow to 12-7 or even 13-6," Mr.
Perhaps the most furious
political battle in the redistricting sweepstakes is going on in
Texas, which stands to gain two seats under population
reapportionment. But the GOP thinks it can do better than that ˇ
possibly winning four to six more seats in the state's delegation,
where the Democrats now have a 17-13 advantage.
A GOP plan approved earlier this
month by a Democratic state judge would have decimated the
Democrats' congressional ranks. But the judge, in a struggle filled
with backroom intrigue and enormous political pressure, reversed
himself and adopted a competing map that the Democrats favored.
Then, last week, an all-Republican state Supreme Court rejected that
plan in a 6-3 decision, ruling that the judge improperly switched
plans at the last minute. Stay tuned.
Meantime, California has turned
into a deep disappointment for the Democrats. The party had once
hoped to gain more than five seats, but may gain one at best.
The Democrats control the state
house and the legislature, and thus were in a solid position to
redraw the state's district lines anyway they wanted. But
traditional deal making between the parties to protect their
incumbents in the 52-seat delegation has prevented that from
With one proviso: Rep. Gary
Condit is under intense pressure from top Democratic officials not
to seek re-election after the mysterious disappearance of former
intern Chandra Levy, with whom Mr. Condit had an intimate
relationship. The GOP has a good shot at winning that seat.
Republicans are expected to pick
up additional seats elsewhere, including Florida, Arizona and
Democrats will partially offset
some of these GOP gains by picking up at least two new seats in
Georgia and, possibly, two other redrawn Republican districts that
have opened them up to a potential Democratic takeover.
Another big factor working on
behalf of the Republicans in this election cycle is the power of
incumbency, which is going to be especially strong in an election
season that is overshadowed by the war on terrorism. It will be very
hard for challengers to be able to raise other issues against an
incumbent, especially wedge issues, in a wartime environment when
voters are far less likely to favor change.
In recent elections, there have
been roughly 50 congressional races that were considered
competitive, though this time it may be much less than that.
"Obviously, the fewer the number
of competitive races nationally, the more difficult it will be for
the Democrats to gain the six net seats that they will need to take
over the House," Mr. Rothenberg says.
There are other wild cards in the
coming months that could affect the outcome of the 2002 elections:
whether the economy picks up or the recession lasts longer than
anyone expects and unemployment continues to rise, or a major
disaster in the war on terrorism that causes Mr. Bush to plunge in
But for now, political prospects
do not look good for House Democrats. And the gains that the GOP
will make in this year's redistricting battles are probably going to
last for the rest of this decade, if not beyond.
House Control Tough Goal for Democrats
October 22, 2001
The combination of Republican
redistricting gains and fewer competitive races is making a
Democratic takeover of the House increasingly remote next year, say
"Those few states that have
either completed redistricting or are moving ahead with likely plans
seem to be drawing relatively few competitive districts," says
Stuart Rothenberg, a veteran congressional elections analyst.
"Obviously, the fewer the number
of competitive races nationally, the more difficult it will be for
the Democrats to gain the six net seats that they will need to take
over the House," Mr. Rothenberg said in a recent report assessing
next year's congressional races.
Of course, the 2002 midterm
congressional elections are still a year away and anything can
happen to change the political dynamics between now and then,
especially if the economy takes a lot longer to recover than current
But for now, the chance of the
Democrats taking control of the House "seems a formidable task," Mr.
The biggest factor that
Republicans have going for them is the congressional redistricting
process, which is drawing new district lines to adjust for changes
in each state's population. Republican campaign officials believe
they may pick up a net gain of 10 House seats once all the lines are
drawn, largely in those states where they control the legislative
Some Republican National
Committee officials think their gains may be somewhat less than
that, perhaps half a dozen or so. Democratic congressional campaign
officials now believe that the redistricting trade-offs probably
will be a wash at best.
About half the states have not
yet drawn or approved their new district boundary maps, a process
that is unlikely to be completed until sometime next summer, and
several of the changes are expected to be challenged in the courts.
In many cases, that will delay candidate recruitment in both
But the early indications are
that Republicans stand to make significant gains from redistricting
In Michigan, for example,
Republican lawmakers have merged two Democratic districts and have
made Democratic Rep. David E. Bonior's seat ˇ which he intends to
leave to run for governor ˇ more Republican, resulting in a
potential three-seat loss for the Democrats there.
Pennsylvania will lose two House
seats under the reapportionment process, but Republicans, who
control the state redistricting machinery, are attempting to create
another two Republican seats by erasing two to three Democratic
districts. "The GOP's 11-10 congressional district advantage is
likely to grow to 12-7 or even 13-6," Mr. Rothenberg forecasts.
In Texas, which will gain two
additional seats, a redistricting plan being fought out in a state
court could boost the Republican delegation by at least two seats
and perhaps more if Republicans are successful in their appeal.
California, which will gain one
new seat, is turning into a debacle for the Democrats, who have
hoped to make its biggest congressional gains there. However,
deal-making between the parties to protect their incumbents probably
will result in giving the Democrats only a single pickup, though
even that could be offset by a Republican victory in Rep. Gary A.
Condit's district. Democratic officials there were urging Mr. Condit
not to run in the wake of the disappearance of a former intern with
whom he had an intimate relationship.
Elsewhere, Republicans are
expected to pick up new seats in Florida, Arizona and Nevada.
Democrats likely will offset some
of these redistricting losses by picking up at least two new seats
in Georgia, and perhaps two other redrawn Republican districts that
have opened them up to Democratic takeover.
Democrats in North Carolina,
where they control the entire redistricting process, seem likely to
pick up that state's new seat as well.
Head Count to Stand; Adjustments Rejected; U.S. Funds at
By DÝVera Cohn
October 18, 2001
Census Bureau officials said
yesterday that they will not statistically adjust the 2000 Census
numbers and instead will go ahead with plans to use the door-to-door
head count as the basis for distributing billions of dollars in
federal program funds.
They said they could not improve
on that basic count by adjusting the numbers, as they had hoped,
because a quality-check survey they conducted was seriously flawed.
The decision disappointed
Democrats, civil rights groups and big-city mayors, who had hoped
the adjusted numbers would raise the population total for
minorities, who were disproportionately missed in the head count.
Republicans, who have questioned whether the adjusted numbers would
be more accurate, praised it.
The contentious debate over which
set of census numbers is the most reliable has been raging for years
because of the high stakes: Democrats believe they benefit from
adjusted figures, while Republicans say the figures add "virtual"
people to the Democrats' advantage. The issue was fought in a
lawsuit that went to the Supreme Court, which ruled that adjusted
numbers could not be used to apportion House seats among the states.
Then, in a surprise decision in
March, the Census Bureau said that a statistically adjusted count
could not be used to redraw other political boundaries within
states, from congressional to local school districts.
Commerce Secretary Donald L.
Evans had the final say in that decision, but he left yesterday's
ruling in the hands of the career officials at the bureau.
The latest decision means
adjusted figures will not be used to parcel out funds for Medicaid
and other social service programs. In addition, government measures
of poverty and unemployment, which are now based on adjusted counts,
likely will use the basic count in the future.
Acting Census Director William G.
Barron Jr. said he and other bureau officials made the decision
because, over the summer, they discovered problems with the
household survey that they had conducted to double-check the raw
census count. That survey, he said, failed to detect that a
significant number of people had been counted twice by the census.
Many of them, census officials
said, could have been college students, children in joint custody
and people with second homes -- all of whom have more than one
address during the year.
Because of that shortcoming,
Barron told a news conference, the post-census survey results
"simply cannot be used in their current form" to adjust the census.
The new information, he said, makes it even more clear that it
"would have been a terrible mistake" to release adjusted figures for
Furthermore, Barron said it is
"unlikely" that it will be practical for the bureau to release
adjusted redistricting numbers in the future because the tight
deadline set by law does not allow enough time for a proper
determination of whether an adjustment would improve data quality.
Redistricting counts are due by
April 1 after a census year.
"A census is tough enough without
the political maelstrom" that surrounds the adjustment issue, he
said. "I wish it would just stop."
Political agreement on this issue
appears unlikely, however. Shortly after the decision was announced,
Rep. Dan Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House
Government Reform Committee's
census panel, issued a statement saying that "it is time to put
adjustment, for political purposes, to rest."
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.),
a former ranking member of that subcommittee, put out a statement
saying that the announcement "gave us more questions than answers"
and challenging the bureau's reasoning. The U.S. Conference of
Mayors, some of whose members are threatening to sue over the
decision, said the decision is "unfair and unwise" and means that
"America's cities will get the short end of the stick."
However, Barron said the
discovery that the census erred in counting more people twice than
was previously thought is not entirely bad news. It means that, at
the national level, the double-counts compensate for those who were
missed, yielding a more accurate net total. Census officials said,
however, that this may not be true at the local level.
The Census Bureau has
acknowledged that it missed 1.6 percent of the population in 1990.
According to the new research, it missed less than 1 percent in
The net undercount of Hispanics
and African Americans has been reduced, Barron said. On the other
hand, he said, "there may actually have been an over-count of the
Barron said he hopes the
quality-check survey results can be improved enough so they can be
used in the future for distributing federal funds.
The Commercial Appeal
National parties help lawmakers in
By Reed Branson
Even as state officials and political
strategists huddle behind computer terminals, sketching competing
congressional redistricting maps, Republican and Democratic
officials in Washington are working even further behind the scenes
to keep tabs on the process here.
a narrow 219-210 Republican majority in the U.S. House of
Representatives, Republicans and Democrats alike are focusing on
redistricting battles here and in pivotal states around the country,
offering technical advice and legal assistance where needed.
efforts illustrate that drawing new congressional district
boundaries is about far more than connecting geographical
loyalists in both parties are most concerned about whether redrawn
districts are packed with Democratic- or Republican-leaning voters.
is a key process for the (2002) elections right now," said Carl
Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional
Committee in Washington. "We believe we'll pick up 8 to 10 seats
through the redistricting process."
are equally focused.
is a real priority for Democrats, clearly," said Greg Speed, a
spokesman for Impac 2000, a national Democratic committee focusing
solely on redistricting efforts around the country.
is an opportunity to craft a fair district that (Mississippi
Democratic U.S. Rep.) Ronnie Shows can win, and we've been thus far
primarily working with the delegation and providing a forum for them
to share their concerns."
handle congressional redistricting in a variety of ways. In some
states, special commissions draw the maps. In many, such as
Mississippi and Tennessee, state lawmakers do it. Regardless, the
key is which party is in charge.
control, said Speed, is split rather evenly around the country. In
the Mid-South, though, it is controlled by statehouses dominated by
Democrats, but often driven by other interests.
state legislators completed the task earlier, essentially preserving
the status quo, a 3-to-1 Democratic advantage. Mississippi lawmakers
are expected to address the issue in a special session later this
year. And Tennessee lawmakers may address it when they return in
is of particular note, though. Because it is losing one of its five
congressional seats due to national population shifts, the outcome
here will be crucial in the battle for control of the U.S. House.
Most observers predict the reduction in the number of districts will
put Shows and Rep. Chip Pickering, a Republican, in the same
here currently hold three of five House seats. And supporters of
Shows, who has a base in Southeast Mississippi, and Pickering,
representing East-Central Mississippi, are battling over how to
merge the two districts.
leadership appears at an impasse.
large measure, that comes because so many key players, from House
Speaker Tim Ford (D-Baldwyn) to Senate President Pro Tem Travis
Little (D-Corinth), are also from Northeast Mississippi.
key players in that region vehemently opposed Democratic
redistricting plans that lump them in with conservative Jackson
an interview Wednesday, Ford signaled his support for parts of a
Democratic proposal that would include some Jackson suburbs in a
predominantly Northeast Mississippi district.
seen organized campaigns out of (congressional offices) to go one
way or another. That's been a hindrance, but it's part of the
political process,'' said Ford, who said a House-Senate compromise
could emerge next week. "After that, all bets are off."
loyalists, both here and in Washington, are taking note, meeting
privately with key leaders and testing loyalties.
pressure is immense from both sides," said Sen. Mike Chaney
(R-Vicksburg), who serves on a committee seeking a consensus. Key
House and Senate leaders are being deluged with telephone calls from
partisan supporters as well as community leaders.
would be a travesty for a state led by a Democratic governor, a
Democratic (House of Representatives) speaker and Democratic
lieutenant governor to hand over three seats to the Republican
Party," said state Rep. George Flaggs (D-Vicksburg), who serves on a
joint panel now struggling to build consensus around a plan.
argues that while a Democrat, U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, currently
occupies the congressional district on the Coast, it is essentially
a district that favors Republicans.
is among the most conservative Democrats in Congress.
the national Republican and Democratic presence is not particularly
visible on the ground here, their presence is nevertheless notable.
help put together legal strategies and fund legal efforts for
states, and we provide technical assistance in terms of map drawing,
providing members the opportunities to look at data and understand
the affected potential maps may have,"Impac's Speed said.
more than anything else," he said, "we've been trying to work with
delegations, get them on the same page and get them communicating.
Mississippi is a great example of where we've seen success so far."
the politically diverse Democratic delegation - especially Shows and
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), would appear to be working
closely to communicate with state lawmakers.
here said state party officials are more active. But, on the
national level, the party is ready for battle as well.
have legal counsel watching. The Republican National Committee has a
separate redistricting office with counsel on staff," the NRCC's
Forti said. "If anybody had to step in, they would."
Jackson, Miss., Bureau reporter Reed Branson at (601) 352-8631.
Politics Without the Voting
By David S.
October 17, 2001
sight but not out of mind is the apt description for politics in
America at this moment. The focus on terrorism has made partisanship
Candidates for mayor in cities across the
country and for governor in New Jersey and Virginia, the two states
holding elections next month, are debating as usual about taxes and
transportation, crime and corruption, whether the public is
listening or not.
Capitol Hill, the old squabbles over economic policy and the role of
government are beginning to resurface after a month of unusual unity
following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
the most consequential political strugglesˇthe ones with
long-lasting effectsˇare taking place largely unnoticed by most
citizens. These are the battles over redistricting that will
literally set the lines of electoral advantage for the next decade.
reminded of this reality the other day here when I saw Michigan
state Sen. Dianne Byrum. Byrum was the Democratic nominee in a race
for the House of Representatives that I had covered last yearˇa
classic open-seat contest in which she ultimately lost to Republican
Mike Rogers by a scant 160 votes.
Rogers-Byrum race in the district formerly held by Democrat Deborah
Stabenow, now a U.S. senator, was so competitive and so vital to
both parties that it became the center of national attention and
fund-raising. It is exactly the kind of race where one would expect
a rematch. But when I asked Byrum if she was planning to run again
next year, she said, ýAbsolutely not.ţ
will be term-limited out of her state Senate seat in 2002, she said,
so she is considering three options. She may seek statewide office,
step back and run for the Michigan house of representatives, or
retire to private life until another political opportunity opens.
not run against Rogers again? Because, she said, a Republican
redistricting plan has boosted the GOP voting strength by about 5
percent, making the once-competitive seat almost safe for the
same plan so radically redrew the home district of the No. 2
Democrat in the House, Minority Whip David Bonior, that Bonior has
decided to end his House career and jump into a three-way primary
for governor. And it also altered the territory of the senior House
Democrat, John Dingell, sending him away from his familiar
blue-collar, labor constituents in Down River Detroit and into the
independent, academic high-tech atmosphere of Ann Arbor.
the political fortunes of many incumbents and potential
challengersˇand the future representation of millions of
citizensˇhave been altered without a single vote being cast. Similar
changes occur every 10 years, when the post-Census remapping of the
House takes place. But this time around, few other than the
politicians are paying attention. Worries about terrorism and
anthrax put everything else in the shadow.
yet, because the parties are so even in strength, the line-drawing
taking place now may well determine whether the House of
Representatives has a Republican or Democratic majority, not just
for two years but for the next decade. Whichever party can gain an
edge in the current redistricting will have an immense advantage.
Ironically, the final word in this vital
political struggle is often held by unelected officialsˇfederal
judges. This week, for example, a three-judge federal court is
scheduled to hear a dispute on the new congressional map for Texas.
Partisan stalemate in the legislature left it
up to District Judge Paul Davis, a Democrat who had decided not to
seek reelection to the state bench, to draw the first, provisional
version of the 32 districts Texas will have for the next decadeˇtwo
more than its current delegation. In early October Davis had
sketched a map that would have forced five Democratic incumbents
either to run in Republican-leaning districts or face each other. It
would have virtually guaranteed Republicans, who now hold 13 of the
30 seats, a majority in the delegation.
after a week of complaints from Hispanic groups, who claimed they
were being denied proper representation, and pressure from
Democrats, who said his map would doom their efforts to recapture
the House, Judge Davis redrew his plan. The new version protects
almost all incumbents and makes it likely the Democrats will emerge
with either their current 17 seats or one more. Now the Republicans
are crying foul.
Similar schemes are playing out in a couple
dozen other states, usually for smaller but still vital stakes.
Virtually unnoticed, politics go right on.
Santa Fe New Mexican October 15, 2001
New Mexico not alone in redistricting
By Barry Massey
Texas, redistricting has fallen to the courts because the
Legislature failed to approve any plans. In Oregon, the governor and
Legislature couldn't agree on new congressional
New Mexico faces the prospect of having courts
decide the shape of new congressional, legislative and state Board
of Education districts. It could become clearer in the next few days
how judges will handle redistricting in New Mexico.
court in Santa Fe has scheduled a "status conference" on
redistricting lawsuits today. That could determine a timetable for
how the judge will proceed.
A panel of three federal judges
holds a hearing Wednesday in Albuquerque to consider whether to give
the Legislature another chance to work on redistricting or have the
court move ahead with a pending lawsuit.
"There is nothing
surprising about what has taken place in New Mexico. It very much
fits the pattern," says Tim Storey, a redistricting analyst for the
National Conference of State Legislatures.
States having the
most difficulty with redistricting, he says, are those with a
divided government, like New Mexico.
Republican Gov. Gary
Johnson vetoed plans passed by the Democratic-
Legislature for new boundaries of congressional, House and Senate
and Board of Education districts. Johnson signed a bill for
redistricting the Public Regulation Commission, which regulates
utilities and other industries.
Redistricting is the
once-a-decade task of adjusting district boundaries for population
changes reflected in the decennial census. The goal is to equalize
populations in district to comply with the legal doctrine of "one
person, one vote."
Republicans and Democrats see
redistricting as a way to gain or preserve influence during the next
decade. The boundaries of a district can be drawn so the
demographics and voting behavior of its residents favors candidates
from one party.
In Oregon, courts are handling legislative
and congressional redistricting. The Democratic governor of Oregon
vetoed a congressional redistricting plan approved by the
GOP-controlled Legislature. Republicans and Democrats in the
Legislature failed to agree on a legislative redistricting
Oregon, unlike New Mexico, has its secretary of state
draw new legislative districts if legislators and the governor can't
reach an agreement. But lawsuits were filed contesting what the
secretary of state did.
In Texas, a federal court is to start
a trial later this month to review a congressional redistricting map
drawn by a state judge.
Courts got the assignment after the
Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry, decided not to call a
special session of the Legislature because it appeared unlikely that
lawmakers could reach a consensus on new congressional
Johnson made a similar decision after the New
Mexico Legislature's special session on redistricting last month.
Johnson didn't ask lawmakers to convene yet another special session
on redistricting because he thought it would prove
However, that could change if judges - federal or
state - make it clear that they will decide redistricting if the
Legislature and governor don't try again to put aside their
political differences and reach a compromise.
judges will do that remains uncertain. One option is for a court to
set a timetable, saying that it will move ahead with a lawsuit
starting on a certain date.
That effectively would give the
Legislature and the governor a deadline for reaching an agreement,
says Deputy Attorney General Stuart Bluestone. He doubts a court
would directly order the Legislature to begin work again on
"I don't think any court can order the
Legislature into a special
session or order the governor to
convene a special session," Bluestone said. "By the separation of
powers principle, you can't have one branch of government ordering
the other what to do."
If the courts take the approach that
Bluestone envisions, Johnson will have a critical decision to make:
call another special session on redistricting or let the courts do
it. The Legislature has the power to convene itself into a special
session, but it's never done that.
Even if Johnson and the Legislature agree on a
redistricting plan, there's nothing to prevent it from being
challenged in court. Judges could end having the final word on
Texas Judge Revises Redistricting
By Thomas Edsall
A Texas state judge
has revised a congressional redistricting plan to the great benefit
of Democrats, abandoning a proposal that could have cost the party
at least five seats.
Judge Paul Davis, a
Democrat, had infuriated members of his party with his original
plan, issued last week. Since then, Democratic state House Speaker
Pete Laney had sought revisions, and late Wednesday the judge agreed
to many of Laney's suggestions.
The new plan is a
victory for Democratic strategists seeking to gain control of the
House in 2002, and for Texas Democrats, who would likely continue to
hold 17 of the state's 32 seats, even though the state has been
trending strongly toward the GOP. Because of population growth,
Texas is gaining two congressional districts.
Under the original
Davis plan, the prospective Democratic losses in Texas were so large
that the party's chances of taking back the House in 2002 were
outraged Republicans. "We are dumbfounded by the bizarre actions
undertaken by Judge Davis," Susan Weddington, the state GOP chairman
said yesterday. "These radical changes have dramatically changed the
delighted: "We got a good break," said Rep. Martin
The scope of Davis's
revisions surprised both parties. Republican and Democratic
operatives said the new plan, which must be reviewed by a
three-judge federal panel, would likely result in a 17 to 15
Democratic edge in the post-2002 delegation. This would represent no
losses for Democrats, who hold a 17 to 13 majority now, and a gain
of two seats for Republicans, far smaller than the party had hoped
Under the plan Davis
initially proposed, Republicans could have won 19 to 21 districts,
for a net pickup of at least six seats and a net loss for the
Democrats of at least four.
While these are
relatively small numbers in the 435-member House, such differences
can have major consequences. Experts expect only about 50 races to
be competitive, so an advantage of six or a deficit of four can
determine which party wins overall control.
have a nine-seat advantage in the House, have said they will gain 8
to 10 seats as a result of redistricting nationwide, while Democrats
contend neither party will gain or lose seats in redistricting. The
competing predictions are important, because fundraisers and
candidate recruiters have a far easier sell if they can legitimately
claim that their party will be in the majority after
Both parties are
conducting detailed analyses of the new Texas plan, but the
preliminary findings are that the reelection prospects of Democratic
Reps. Max Sandlin, Ralph M. Hall, Charles W. Stenholm, Jim Turner
and Frost have improved. Only one Democratic incumbent remains in
trouble: Ken Bentsen, who is white, was put into an overwhelmingly
black and Hispanic district with fellow Democratic Rep. Sheila
Jackson Lee, who is black.
went from leaning Republican to solidly Democratic. Sandlin's
district became 3 percentage points more Democratic, and Turner's
gained 6 Democratic percentage points, according to an analysis
using voting results from a recent, close statewide
they will use the Voting Rights Act to argue for the creation of a
more Democratic-leaning district in the Houston-Harris County area
in which Bentsen could seek reelection. Bentsen is considering a bid
for the Senate seat being vacated by Phil Gramm
Six States That Are Redistricting
October 11, 2001
Here are the six
states that because of redistricting could have House primary races
involving incumbents from the same party, and the probable
Republicans Bob Barr and John Linder
Republicans Steve Buyer and Brian Kerns
John Dingell and Lynn Rivers; Democrats James Barcia and Dale Kildee
Democrats Robert Borski and Joseph Hoeffel; Democrats Tim Holden and
Legislature still redrawing lines
Democratic Legislature still redrawing lines
Redistricting Creates New Face Offs
Democratic Reps. Tim Holden and Paul Kanjorski are friends and often
travel together to their adjoining northeast Pennsylvania districts.
Next year, those districts probably won't exist and the congressmen's trips
will be aimed at putting each other out of
The two Democrats are among eight pairs
of House incumbents from the same party who, because of redistricting,
are likely to face each other in primaries in
Holden-Kanjorski matchup is the probable outcome of a redistricting
plan drawn up by the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature to
incorporate a two-seat loss because of stagnant population growth. A race between Democratic Reps.
Robert Borski and Joseph Hoeffel in the Philadelphia
area also is likely. The final plan is expected to be
approved by the Legislature by the end of the
is resigned to making the best of a bad
"We have talked a lot about it but
have vowed not to become enemies even if we are opponents.
But I am going to run and win,'' he
Holden said he is
"withholding speculation and comment until the final draft is approved, though
running against a fellow Democrat is not my first
Primary matchups between members of the same party also
are likely in Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma, Michigan, and
Ohio. In Georgia, Indiana and Ohio the contests involve Republicans, while
the races in Oklahoma and Michigan would be between
In 1992, after the last redistricting, there
were nine member vs. member matchups, including four in
parties say they will not take sides in such primaries. Neither party relishes the
idea of a bruising primary that could leave
an incumbent damaged in a year when both parties believe they
can win a majority. Republicans now hold a nine-seat
All the primaries
would be in states losing seats except Georgia, which is gaining two
seats because of population growth. There,
Democrats who control the Legislature redrew the lines to try to reduce the GOP's
8-3 advantage in the congressional delegation. As a
result, Reps. Bob Barr and John Linder, both Republicans, are expected
to run against each another in a suburban Atlanta
The outcome of races involving incumbents is hard to predict,
even if the composition of the new district
strongly favors one of the candidates, said Amy Walter, who follows
House races for the Cook Political Report, a Washington
important but a lot of it depends on
the mood the voters are in and what is going on in the country.
During a national security crisis, one with a
strong military background might have an advantage even though he does
not represent a majority of the new district,'' she
Walter notes that when
members of the same party compete, seniority is often
But sometimes the primaries can get
1992, when Reps. William Lipinski and Martin Russo were thrown together in a Democratic
primary for a Chicago-area seat, Lipinski said Russo
was a "legislative front man for special interests.'' Russo called Lipinski
a "machine politician who hits up his employees for
Lipinski won by 22 percentage
Dale Kildee, D-Mich., said the prospect of facing
fellow Democrat Jim Barcia next year "puts a certain strain'' on
the election. But that is part of politics, he
"No one owns the job.
We have to fight for it every two
years and this is another race to keep my seat, though
one that happens to be against a colleague,'' Kildee
go to court for redistricting OK
October 11, 2001
suit Wednesday in federal court to win approval for new
redistricting maps instead of taking them to the U.S. Justice
Department, which the state has always done in the past.
State Attorney General Thurbert
Baker said Tuesday the issue is likely to be settled much more
quickly by going straight to the court, which is where it likely
would end up anyway.
"We have elected to proceed
directly with judicial review ... in an effort to save valuable time
and minimize the cost to Georgia taxpayers," Baker said.
who had little influence during two special redistricting sessions
in August and September, announced their intention to join in what
is expected to be a lengthy trial before a three-judge panel in
"It is extremely
rare for a state to take this route," said Senate Minority Leader
Eric Johnson, R-Savannah. "It is also more expensive and slower."
The federal Voting
Rights Act requires Georgia and several other states to submit those
changes for review to the Justice Department or a federal court
before any change in election law goes into effect.
In the past, the
state has submitted such matters to the Justice Department.
chose to go straight to the courts by filing the lawsuit against the
Republican-controlled Justice Department.
"It's a matter of
getting to a much fairer forum," said John Kirincich, executive
director of the Georgia Democratic Party.
The General Assembly
is required to redraw legislative and congressional districts every
10 years after the census to reflect population changes. Democrats
have said the new districts were drawn to secure their majority in
the Legislature and to make gains in the Republican-dominated