National Redistricting News
November 2001 -
Roll Call: "Campaigning: For
former members, comebacks hardly look like a sure thing." January
Roll Call: "Banking
On Seniority: GOPers ahead
in member-member cash battles." January 31, 2002
Roll Call: "DNC
Scales Back Redistricting Commitment." January 24, 2002
The Hill: "State lawmakers carve
out their own districts." January 23, 2002
Roll Call: "Drawing
Even: So far, redistricting hasnít yielded big gains for either
party." January 21, 2002
"Redistricting shortfall may not cost GOP House majority." January
The Hill: "State
dual roles, carving out congressional districts for themselves." January
Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Our unduly selected representatives." January
"Voting rights and wrongs." January 8, 2002
Washington Times: "GOP eyes
10-seat gain from redistricting." January 7, 2002
Washington Post: "A Multi-Party Mess."
January 2, 2002
Washington Post: "Redistricting Rattles In-House Hopes." December 31, 2001
San Jose Mercury News: "Redistricting
Stills the Votersí Voice." December 28, 2001
Wall Street Journal: "Cheating Seating."
December 27, 2001
Washington Post: "The Value of a Vote."
December 20, 2001
Washington Post: "Democrats Hold Edge Over
GOP In Redistricting; Gains Still Possible for Republicans." December 14, 2001
Columbus Dispatch: "Neither Party Pulls Ahead In
Redrawn Congressional Districts." December 10, 2001
- Roll Call : "Hoeffel Takes Fight for
District to Airwaves." December 10, 2001
- FoxNews.com: "The Only Winner So
Far in Bruising Redistricting Battle: Incumbents." December 7,
- The Hill : "As first filing periods begin,
incumbents anticipate easy road." December 5, 2001
- Washington Post : "Safe But Sorry."
December 2, 2001
- Washington Post : "It Could Be a Real
Race." December 2, 2001
- Roll Call: "Few
Minority Gains Seen." November 8, 2001
- Common Sense: "Cut
Out." November 7, 2001
"Redistricting Isn't Sexy, but It Matters." November 6, 2001
"Md. Races Emerge as Key to Gaining House Majority." November 5,
Michael McDonald, an assistant professor at the
University of Illinois-Springfield has compiled a redistricting
information about the redistricting progress in each
Campaigning: For former members, comebacks hardly look
like a sure thing
By Stuart Rothenberg
At least 10 former Members are mentioned as possible or
certain candidates for the House this year. Statistics are tough to
come by, so I don't know if that's a record. But in the last cycle,
just four former Members made comeback attempts (Democrats Scotty
Baesler (Ky.) and Jane Harman (Calif.), and Republicans Dick Zimmer
(N.J.) and Charlie Dougherty (Pa.), and only one was successful.
Although some in this year's crop have legitimate chances to win,
many are running quixotic efforts to return themselves to the
Two of the potential returnees originally left
their House seats to run for higher office: Larry Pressler (R-S.D.)
and Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.).
Eight of the potential comebackers lost
their last bids for the House: Dave Nagle (D-Iowa), Jay Dickey
(R-Ark.), Buddy Darden (D-Ga.), Frank McCloskey (D-Ind.), Robin
Britt (D-N.C.), Merrill Cook (R-Utah), Jill Long Thompson (D-Ind.)
and Clyde Holloway (R-La.).
The biggest problem facing many among
those eight is that the voters have already fired them. Whether it
was because of their voting records, the opposition, changing
district demographics or the national mood, more than half the
former House Members could not convince voters that they deserved to
And yet, most of those considering a comeback in
2002 have reasonable rationalizations for their losses and for why
this year could be different. Redistricting appears to be the major
reason why so many former Members figure that they can again win
election to the House. New districts, which are without incumbents
and often include some of the same territory they once represented,
appear to be tempting targets for ex-Members who miss the Capitol
Clearly, the problem of having been defeated for
re-election is greater for some lawmakers than others. Voters dumped
Dickey in 2000 after four terms. He was first elected in 1992, after
the Democratic incumbent was defeated in a primary and the ethically
challenged nominee failed to unite the party. Two years later,
Dickey faced a strong opponent who was overwhelmed in a great
Republican year. In 1996 and 1998, he was up against second-tier
Although Dickey's name recognition must still be high,
he never proved he could defeat a strong opponent when the political
playing field was relatively level. How can he defeat a Democratic
incumbent, particularly one with a moderate record?
even make it out of the GOP primary last year. His name is
undoubtedly familiar to a large number of voters, but that high name
ID, combined with a loss in his own primary, would not seem a reason
to be optimistic about another bid.
Nagle was defeated by a
razor-thin margin in 1992 by Republican Rep. Jim Nussle, when
redistricting threw the two incumbents into the same district. But
Nagle didn't come nearly as close in a 1994 rematch, losing 56
percent to 43 percent. And now he has the added baggage of a rather
public battle with alcohol.
Tarheel voters retired Britt after
a single term in 1984, when he came up just 2,662 votes short
against GOP challenger Howard Coble. Two years later, in a rematch,
Britt lost again, but by a mere 79 votes. For Britt, little
separated victory and defeat, so it is easy for him to argue that
voters didn't really fire him.
Three former Democratic Members
mentioned for this year's elections were swept out by the Republican
tsunami of 1994: Darden, Thompson (then known as Jill Long) and
McCloskey. That wave was particularly strong in conservative,
normally Republican districts in the South and Midwest, where voters
sent then President Bill Clinton a message about his views on health
care, gays in the military and taxes.
Rep. Bob Barr (R) defeated Darden
by 4 points, the same margin by which John Hostettler (R) prevailed
over McCloskey, a former mayor of Bloomington. Both Democrats can
reasonably argue that they would still be in Congress if it hadn't
been for the GOP wave. Long lost by a larger margin (11 points) to
Mark Souder (R), but two years earlier she had been re-elected with
62 percent of the vote.
Holloway went down in defeat in
1992, when redistricting threw him and Rep. Richard Baker (R) into
the same district. Baker won by just 2,728 votes. Two years later,
Holloway lost a comeback attempt to now Rep. Jimmy Hayes (D). He too
can argue that a unique set of circumstances and events conspired to
keep him out of Congress.
One consideration for some of
those hopefuls is time. Although Darden and McCloskey were on the
ballot eight years ago, Britt has not been before voters since 1986,
an interval of 16 years. Given the growth in the
Raleigh-Durham-Greensboro area, it's hard to believe that many
voters remember much about the one-term Greensboro Democrat.
Pressler and Lazio may each have
lost his last race for office (for Senate), but both left the House
of Representatives voluntarily, to run for higher office. The trio
could well start with a leg up for the nomination. But even in their
cases, much depends on the primary field and on the quality of the
general election opposition. If 2000 is any indication, former
Members have a tough road ahead.
Seniority: GOPers ahead in member-member cash battles
By Chris Cilliza and John Mercurio
January 31, 2002
At least three of the four House
Republicans who have been thrown into new districts with Democratic
incumbents banked significantly more cash on Dec. 31 than their
likely Democratic opponents, new reports show.
GOPReps. Chip Pickering (Miss.),
Nancy Johnson (Conn.) and John Shimkus (Ill.) ended 2001 with war
chests that dwarfed those of Democratic Reps. Ronnie Shows (Miss.),
Jim Maloney (Conn.) and David Phelps (Ill.), respectively, according
to reports filed this week with the Federal Election Commission.
Rep. Tim Holden (D), who may run
against Rep. George Gekas (R) in a new Pennsylvania district, banked
$347,000 at year's end. Gekas had not released his FEC reports
Other disparities emerged as
In two Michigan primaries pitting
House Democrats against each other, the senior incumbents enjoyed
far more successful fundraising efforts than their junior
Rep. John Dingell, who has served
since 1955 and is the current House dean, raised $342,000 and banked
$805,000 on Dec. 31. That's nearly twice as much as his likely
primary rival, four-term Rep. Lynn Rivers, took in and nearly five
times as much as Rivers reported in cash on hand. Likewise, 13-term
Rep. Dale Kildee trounced his Democratic rival, five-term Rep. James
Barcia, in fundraising. He raised $125,000 to Barcia's $43,000 and
banked $772,000 to his rival's $230,000, according to the new
"I am going to run," said Kildee
when asked about his plans. Barcia apparently is seriously
considering a bid for state Senate, one Democratic source said.
As year-end fundraising reports
flood into the FEC this week, few are being as closely watched as
those filed by House Members forced to run against one another due
Currently, there are 11 such
races across the country. Those contests are mostly clustered in the
Midwest and Northeast, where slower-than-average growth caused some
states to lose seats after the 2000 census.
Of the 11 races, four pit a House
Democrat against a House Republican, while five of the remaining
seven are Democratic primaries. Only in Indiana and Georgia do
Republicans face Member-vs.-Member primaries.
In Illinois, where Shimkus and
Phelps are facing off in the restructured 19th district, Shimkus
maintained a solid fundraising lead as of the end of 2001. Shimkus
raised $218,000 in the final six months of the year and finished
2001 with $627,000 on hand.
After collecting only $88,000 in
the first six months of the year, Phelps nearly doubled his
fundraising total during the second half of 2001, bringing in
$151,000 between June 30 and Dec. 31. Phelps had $370,000 on hand as
of the end of last year.
At the end of the June filing
period, Shimkus had $509,000 on hand to Phelps' $288,000.
But Shimkus argued that "[Phelps]
has not shown an ability to close the [fundraising] gap."
In the Mississippi race pitting
Shows against Pickering, the latter has a hefty fundraising
The Republican raised $325,000 in
the last six months, retaining slightly more than $1 million on hand
at the end of 2001. Shows yielded $247,000 in that period, with
$370,000 on hand.
Johnson, who warned supporters
last year in a fundraising letter that she was poised to face
Maloney in a new district, raised $329,000, slightly less than
Maloney's $341,000. But the Republican banked a whopping $1.3
million on Dec. 31, more than four times as much as Maloney had in
In an interview Wednesday,
Maloney, who spent $2.1 million in his 2000 re-election bid, noted
that he's closing the gap with Johnson in cash-on-hand. "She came
into 2001 with a $500,00 surplus, we came in with a $250,000
deficit. ... Six months ago, she had a 10-to-one advantage. Today
she has a three-to-one advantage. By the end of the campaign she may
not have any advantage at all," he said. "We feel very strongly that
we won the redistricting fight."
Although Democrats are optimistic
that the lines drawn by Republicans in Michigan and Pennsylvania
will be overturned in the courts, there are four potential primary
fights in those two states alone.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic Reps.
Joe Hoeffel and Bob Borski are currently in a Philadelphia-area
district, while Rep. Frank Mascara (D) saw much of his 20th district
placed in the new 12th district held by Rep. John Murtha (D).
Hoeffel has been the most
involved member of the delegation on the redistricting front,
pushing to preserve Montgomery County in one district.
Despite his efforts, the county
was split into six Congressional districts by Republican
redistricting agents, and Hoeffel, whose base is in suburban
Philadelphia, would be forced to run against the city-based Borski.
Hoeffel raised $187,000 over the
past six months and retained $242,000 on hand for the race, as of
Dec. 31. Borski's report was filed in error, according to his
office. The correct numbers were not available at press time.
In western Pennsylvania, Mascara
has not yet announced whether he will run in the new 18th district
where he currently resides or in the new 12th district against
Murtha. State Sen. Tim Murphy (R) has already announced his
intention to run in the 18th district, and Republicans are touting a
poll that shows Murphy leading Mascara by 15 points.
If Mascara was to take on Murtha,
the opponents would start on relatively even financial ground as of
the end of 2001.
Murtha led Mascara in dollars
raised over the past six months ($191,000 to $90,000), but Mascara
has a $138,000 to $115,000 cash-on-hand advantage.
Mascara's district director, Lou
Lignelli, said the Congressman "would refrain from saying anything
about potential matchups" until the court case plays out.
A hearing in Pennsylvania court
is scheduled for tomorrow; the federal court will take up the case
Feb. 11. Democrats believe that the rapidity with which the case has
moved through the state courts shows it has merit.
In Michigan the state Supreme
Court heard the Democratic challenge to Republican redistricting
lines on Jan. 23, but no decision has been announced. If the current
lines are upheld, Reps. Dingelland Rivers would run against each
other in the new 15th district.
Although on a financial level
this race remains heavily weighted in favor of the former Commerce
Committee chairman and current ranking member, Rivers' campaign
believes that she will be able to raise the money needed to run
against him from her base in the progressive community.
Rivers received a major
fundraising boost after the year-end filing deadline, when EMILY's
List endorsed her candidacy in mid-January. The organization, which
backs pro-abortion-rights Democratic women for elected office,
bundles campaign contributions to their targeted races and is seen
as the pre-eminent fundraising mechanism in Democratic party
EMILY's List will send two
mailings out to their donors featuring Rivers during the next
reporting period, according to her campaign.
In a potential Ohio primary Rep.
James Traficant raised $11,000 this period with $49,000 on hand. His
potential opponent, Rep. Tom Saywer (D), raised $31,000 with
$121,000 on hand.
In a primary race in Indiana,
where Reps. Brian Kerns (R) and Steve Buyer (R) are running for the
new 4th district, there was insufficient information to compare
their year-end fundraising totals.
Scales Back Redistricting Commitment
By Ethan Wallison and John Mercurio
January 24, 2002
The Democratic National Committee
has sharply scaled back its financial commitment to the party's
Congressional redistricting program, reflecting confidence among
officials that Democrats have minimized expected GOPgains in the
House Democratic leaders and the
DNC have agreed on a payment of $1.5 million to close out
redistricting efforts this year, according to several sources
familiar with the pact. The agreement was reached nearly one year
after newly elected DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe pledged as much as
$13 million for Congressional and legislative redistricting.
The DNC had never previously
involved itself directly in Congressional remapping.
"Redistricting has been an
incredible success so far for Democrats," said Greg Speed, a
spokesman for Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost (Texas), who
leads his party's redistricting effort. "And that's thanks to many
things, but particularly to the financial commitment from the DNC
and Terry McAuliffe."
Speed refused to confirm the
revised figure from the DNC, but he suggested that IMPAC 2000, the
party's redistricting program, had benefited substantially from
fundraising by several state delegations.
Republicans, who are clinging to
early predictions of an eight- to 10-seat gain from redistricting,
scoffed at the Democrats' claims. They said the DNC's move reveals
that Democrats are conceding defeat and realize their resources are
better spent elsewhere.
"It just shows that redistricting
has gone badly for Democrats nationally," said Steve Schmidt,
communications director for the National Republican Congressional
"This is just a recognition on
their part that their lawsuit challenges are not going to be
successful, that [the process] has been legally sound and that their
strategy of nuisance suits is not workable," Schmidt added.
"Clearly, if Democrats thought they could overturn Republican
redistricting gains, they would be manning battle stations, not
heading into retreat."
In fact, word of the sharp
drop-off in assistance from the DNC has sown considerable suspicion
even among Democrats.
Some Caucus insiders have
suggested that the funding discussion with the DNC came down to a
turf battle for control of redistricting. In this scenario, Frost
essentially was pushed aside by Minority Leader Richard Gephardt
(D-Mo.), who relied on McAuliffe as his proxy in the battle.
Gephardt and McAuliffe are
long-standing political allies. That close association is considered
to be a large reason for the DNC's active role in redistricting this
A top Gephardt aide strongly
disputed the theory that the leader and McAuliffe had been in
The aide cast the situation as
one where there was a fortunate confluence of events, in that
Frost's organization won some important court victories just as the
party committee was getting squeezed for cash after Sept. 11. The
successes meant less litigation and, hence, less need for money.
"We've had less to deal with than
expected," the aide said, citing the relatively swift processes in
Texas and Ohio, the latter of which was nearing conclusion at press
Ohio's Republican-led Legislature
approved a redistricting plan this week that would eliminate
Rep.James Traficant's (D) district and increase GOP strength in Rep.
Tony Hall's (D) seat, but otherwise does little damage to Democrats.
A DNC spokeswoman said the
committee is "committed" to providing IMPAC with the resources it
needs to be competitive in Congressional and legislative
redistricting, but she conceded that the amount "may be" less than
was originally pledged by McAuliffe.
The spokeswoman, Jennifer
Palmieri, declined to discuss how much the DNC will ultimately
contribute. But she said, "It's certainly an unprecedented effort,
and we've already enjoyed tremendous success at the state and
Palmieri added that her
impression was that Frost and Gephardt came away "very satisfied"
from a meeting with McAuliffe earlier this month in which the DNC's
financial stake in IMPAC was discussed.
Speed, the Frost spokesman,
described the lawmaker as "grateful" to McAuliffe for the DNC's
"unprecedented" contribution to redistricting.
Whether Frost was in fact pleased
with the amount remains an open question. Insiders said Frost fought
vociferously with the DNC before arriving at $1.5 million - the
figure he told the DNC was "necessary" to carry out the remainder of
the redistricting needs.
Frost, insiders said, has also
continued to pressure the DNC to deliver the money up front rather
than in drawn-out installments over a number of months.
"He likes to push the envelope,"
one insider said of Frost. Noting that it is routine for the
chairman of any political organization to try to shift the financial
burden, the insider added, "Everyone always wants more money than
Still, disclosures filed by IMPAC
with the Internal Revenue Service suggest that the DNC has played
what would seem to be a smaller-than-expected role throughout the
The reports show that the DNC
gave the redistricting committee $363,000 in four installments
during the first half of last year.
The DNC made no contributions to
IMPAC in 2000, though the Democratic Congressional Campaign
Committee gave it $53,000 that year.
And the reports indicate that
IMPAC could use a financial cushion. They show that through the end
of the June 30 reporting period in 2001, the committee raised only
$169,815 more than it spent, even with the gifts from the DNC ($2.41
million in contributions versus $2.24 million in expenditures).
The next report from IMPAC is due
Jan. 31 and will cover the second half of last year.
carve out their own districts
January 23, 2002
article is the second in a two-part series on state legislators who
use their influence to draw congressional districts suited to their
own campaigns for Congress. The first part focused on Republican
candidates; the second on Democrats.
Not many congressional hopefuls
are as fortunate as Charles Walker Jr., a 33-year-old political
novice whose father is one of Georgiaís most powerful Democrats.
Walker is running for the stateís
newly drawn 12th District open seat ó a strangely configured long,
thin line that stretches for hundreds of miles in order to
incorporate such distant Democratic strongholds as Athens, Augusta
Walkerís campaign will no doubt
receive a boost from his father, Charles Walker Sr., the majority
leader in the state Senate and one of the most powerful black
politicians in the country. Indeed, Walker Jr. has already reaped
the benefits of his fatherís influence, according to Georgia
political analyst Bill Shipp.
As majority leader, Shipp said,
the senior Walker weighed in on his peers in the state Senate to
help create a congressional district for a candidate to carry on his
legacy. The chosen one, it turns out, is his son.
ìThey looked at the black census
tracks,î Shipp said. ìThey looked at the last election and they saw
where [Vice President Al] Gore ran very well. In other words, they
formed a black districtî that was ìdesigned for a [black Democrat]
of his choosing.î
The result? A convoluted district
that separates communities of interest, but one where the younger
Walker is already the clear frontrunner in a race that is expected
to draw about a dozen candidates.
ìItís a serious geographical
problem,î Shipp said, ìbut itís no problem for Walker as a
candidate. Heíll win the Democratic nod and I donít see how a
Republican has any hope in the general election.î
Walker, however, denied the
allegation that his father weighed in on the redistricting process
to help him secure a House seat.
ìItís a serious myth that my
father created the district for me,î Walker said in an interview.
ìMy father is considered one of the most powerful members of the
state Legislature and people automatically assume that he knew that
I was going to run and that he would do what he could to make sure
that he would help his son. That did not happen in the least bit.î
He also denied that Georgia
Democrats gerrymandered the district to help elect him as the
stateís next African-American congressman, and instead charged state
Rep. Ben Allen (D) with attempting to draw the district to further
his own interests.
Allen used his seniority in the
state Legislature to create a district that wholly incorporates his
own state Assembly district in preparation for his congressional
bid, Walker said.
ìI donít know Bill Shipp, but I
will say that he certainly knows that Ben Allen drew the map to
[advance] his personal agenda.î
There are three black
representatives in the current 11-member Georgia delegation. In the
2000 elections, about a quarter of the Georgia voters were black.
If Walker wins, he wonít be the
first beneficiary of a state lawmaker who has used his or her clout
to design a custom-made congressional district. Nor will he be the
Nonetheless, he is one of a
relatively small number of state legislators who are pulling strings
behind state legislative doors this year to advance their own
In 1992, seven state lawmakers in
the Georgia Legislature won seven of the stateís then 11 House
seats, a phenomenon that played out in states across the country,
according to data compiled by the Center for Voting and Democracy.
Indeed, 10 years ago, a whopping
40 state legislators ó including a record number of
African-Americans ó won House seats, the data showed. The class of
state lawmakers comprised almost one-half of the 109-member freshman
class that year.
This year, however, state
legislators are expected to win a maximum of two of Georgiaís
expanded 13-seat delegation. Only ina smattering of states, such as
Florida, Michigan, North Carolina and Oklahoma, do similar
A number of factors have
contributed to the relatively small number of ambitious state
lawmakers running for office, a phenomenon that works to the
disadvantage of minority and woman candidates seeking entrÈe into
Rob Richie, executive director of
the Center for Voting and Democracy, said the dominant trend this
year is for state legislatures to shore up incumbents rather than
create new opportunities for rising stars in state and local
Fewer incumbents have retired, he
added, and there are fewer states that are controlled entirely by
one party, where state legislators have the best opportunities to
draw districts for themselves. In addition, several states have
employed nonpartisan commissions to avoid partisan gerrymandering
and costly legal battles.
ìEverything is so finely tuned
with so few seats needed to change control that itís much more
difficult to have oneís personal ambitions be weighed more highly
than the effect on oneís party,î Richie said.
Thatís not to say that all state
lawmakers have given up on their congressional dreams and Capitol
In North Carolina, Brad Miller, a
Democratic state lawmaker who chairs the redistricting committee in
the state Senate says heís just about ready to formally kick off his
campaign for the stateís new 13th District in the central and
northern part of the state.
Miller agreed to chair the
committee last year even though he knew it would be ìawkwardî
because he planned to run for Congress. But he said Senate President
Pro Tem Mark Basnight persuaded him to take the position anyway.
Miller insists that the new
district was not drawn specifically to help elect him and notes that
the new maps were drawn up by the House redistricting committee ó
not the Senate committee.
Still, he considers himself the
strong frontrunner in the new district because he knows the district
and its constituents better than other potential candidate.
Miller currently represents Wake
County, which comprises about half of the Democratic-leaning
district. The fairly compact and contiguous district has a 54-29
percent edge in Democratic registration, but Republicans still say
they have a good chance to win the seat.
Several local newspapers wrote
strongly worded editorials condemning his role in the process. But
Miller said he doesnít think his work on the redistricting committee
will resonate in his campaign.
ìRedistricting is a process in
which a lot of people are acting in their own self interest,î he
said. ìI certainly took my interests into account, but I was Mother
Teresa compared to some.î
California Democrats Sally Havice
and Dennis Cordoza are also running for Congress, as is Tennessee
Democrat Lincoln Davis. None hold leadership positions or sit on
their state redistricting committees. Still, all voted on maps that
made them the clear favorites in these newly drawn districts that
house their hometowns.
In Oklahoma, state Senate
Majority Leader Billy Mickle (D) has no official role in the
redistricting process. But he has nonetheless spent time drawing up
maps in preparation for his congressional bid, according to a
Republican official who declined to be identified.
ìHe showed me what he was working
on,î the official said. ìHe has, on a regular basis over the last
few months, spent several hours a weekî working on new congressional
In Oklahomaís state House, Rep.
Lloyd Benson, the Speaker emeritus and chairman of the redistricting
committee, is also said to be mulling a congressional bid for one of
Oklahomaís five seats, possibly challenging Rep. J.C. Wattsí (R).
But Mickle is a more likely candidate than Benson, according to
Brent Wilcox, spokesman for the Oklahoma Democratic Party.
Mickle has already formed an
exploratory committee for the seat currently held by retiring Rep.
Wes Watkins (R), which leans Democratic and is expected to be shored
up after the Democrats, who control both chambers of the state
Legislature, complete the new districting maps. Gov. Tom Keating (R)
has said he will veto any plan that harms incumbents, a threat that
will most likely cause the maps to be finally drawn in court.
Still, in all likelihood,
Mickleís state Senate district would also be wholly contained within
a new congressional district, Wilcox said. He added that Mickleís
political clout and a tailor-made district would make the
well-regarded state legislator the favorite in what is already
becoming a crowded field.
ìI think heíll have a great deal
of influence [on the process],î added Oklahoma Republican strategist
Tom Cole. ìIf the district exists, heíll be regarded very seriously,
probably, as the favorite for the Democratic seat.î
So far, redistricting hasnít yielded big gains for either party
By John Mercurio
January 21, 2002
Two-thirds of the way through a
national round of redistricting marked by the fierce protection of
incumbents, House Republicans appear poised to make slight gains on
the newly configured House battleground, according to a
state-by-state analysis that still offers Democrats a chance to even
In the 27 states that have
approved lines for 281 districts, Republicans, who have long
predicted an eight- to 10-seat gain overall, now appear to be in a
position to gain a net of one to two seats if little beyond
demographics is considered. But Democrats, who have said
redistricting would result in a "wash,"could break even by gaining
one or two seats when other key states enact new maps later this
Republicans remain convinced that
they are poised for double-digit gains. "Given what we've seen in
states like Pennsylvania and Michigan and what we're likely to see
in the next couple of weeks in Florida, we're firmly on track for
the eight- to 10-seat pickup we've predicted all along," said a
House GOP aide.
"Reality doesn't come anywhere
near their predictions," said Greg Speed, a spokesman for House
Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost (Texas), the Caucus' point
man for redistricting. "We are in a very strong position, and
Republicans are scrambling to make redistricting a wash."
Pennsylvania, which so far has
emerged as Republicans' biggest redistricting coup, could add two
Republican seats while eliminating four Democratic ones.
The Keystone State was forced to
eliminate two House seats in reapportionment. The plan forces three
sets of incumbents to run against one another. Reps. Bob Borski (D)
and Joseph Hoeffel (D) are placed in a Philadelphia-area district,
Rep. George Gekas (R) would face Rep. Tim Holden (D) in a strongly
Republican seat, and Pittsburgh-area Democratic Reps. Mike Doyle and
William Coyne also have been thrown together. Coyne is retiring.
National Republican Congressional
Committee Chairman Tom Davis (Va.), who has relied heavily on
Pennsylvania to deliver hefty GOP gains, sent a letter to members of
the Pennsylvania House Republican caucus last year urging them to
support a state Senate plan that sought to maximize such gains.
"With many other states under
Democrat control working to eliminate Congressional Republican
opportunities and representation, your help in Pennsylvania is
especially urgent and critical," Davis wrote.
Legal appeals at the state and
federal levels are already under way.
Republicans also control the
process in Michigan, which lost one House seat in reapportionment.
State leaders drew a map that pairs six House Democrats in three
districts, which would result in a loss of three House seats for
Democrats, who are aggressively challenging the GOP-crafted plan in
The state Supreme Court is
scheduled to hear a Democratic legal challenge to the map on
Texas disappointed House
Republicans expecting major gains there. A court-drawn map, released
after the divided Legislature failed to produce a plan, creates two
new GOPseats; but it left unscathed several targeted House
Democrats, including Reps. Charlie Stenholm, Max Sandlin, Chet
Edwards andJim Turner.
Georgia, which gained two seats,
represents the biggest Democratic jackpot of the 2002 cycle.
Democrats, who control the Legislature and governor's office,
devised a map that could shift the delegation from eight Republicans
and three Democrats to six Republicans and seven Democrats.
Republicans there are challenging
the plan in court.
A look at the political landscape
taking shape reveals that House Republicans have benefited from a
sharp increase since 1992 in the number of state legislatures and
governor's offices they now control.
In the 1990 remapping Republicans
had complete control of states that contained just five House seats,
while Democrats dominated states with 172 seats. Another 240 seats
were in states where control was split between the two parties,
while independent commissions drew 11 seats. Seven states have
single at-large seats.
By 2000, Republicans had
increased their reach to roughly 100 seats, while Democrats'
outright control fell to about 145.
Specifically, state lawmakers in
Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Oklahoma, Maryland and Ohio are drafting
House maps during legislative sessions that opened this month in
capitals across the country. Democrats are favored to gain a total
of four seats in Alabama, Oklahoma and Maryland, while Republicans
could gain three in Florida and Ohio, and Colorado is a toss up.
New York lost two seats in
reapportionment, but the state's divided Legislature is expected to
force both parties to share the pain and lose one seat each.
Mississippi also has to decide how to draw a map that eliminates one
House seat. Reps. Chip Pickering (R)andRonnie Shows (D) are
preparing to face each other.
The battleground has focused on
about two dozen states, including those that have gained or lost
seats and others in which one party has sought to use its control of
the process to score big gains.
In Arizona, which received two
more seats in reapportionment, an independent state commission
approved a plan that both parties say should result in a one-seat
gain for each party.
California added one House seat,
which Democrats who control the process drew for themselves in Los
Angeles County. More interested in protecting incumbents, state
legislators did not target vulnerable Republican incumbents,
angering some national Democratic leaders who had anticipated an
additional three or four seats from the populous state.
It's unclear at this point how
Connecticut will play out. A commission of state legislators, forced
to draw a map that eliminates one of the state's six House seats,
last month threw Reps. Nancy Johnson (R) and Jim Maloney(D) into a
district that moves about 27,000 of Maloney's 107,000 Waterbury
residents into the New Haven-based 3rd district, a disappointment to
Democrats. Johnson begins the race with a sizable financial edge,
but Maloney, who has twice waged tough re-election fights, is a
Illinois lost one seat in a map
endorsed by most House Members. The notable exception was Rep. David
Phelps (D), who was paired in a GOP-leaning district with Rep. John
Shimkus (R). The new district, which President Bush carried with 56
percent, includes 13 counties Phelps now represents. However,
Shimkus lives in Madison County, in the most heavily populated part
of the district, and Phelps lives about 105 miles southeast of
Madison County in sparsely populated Saline County.
Democrats celebrated an Indiana
remap last year that threw GOPReps. Steve Buyer andBrian Kerns into
the same district. The Member-versus-Member GOP primary ensures that
at least one House Republican will not return to Congress next year.
However, Republicans counter that
the map gives attorney Chris Chocola (R) a fair shot at picking up
the seat of retiring Rep. Tim Roemer (D), meaning they could still
emerge with a one-seat gain.
A court-drawn map released this
month in New Mexico was another setback for Democrats, who had hoped
to increase their party's strength in the Albuquerque-based 1st
district. Nonetheless, Rep. Joe Skeen's (R) retirement announcement
means Democrats still could gain a New Mexico seat this year.
Democrats control the process in
North Carolina and are expected to gain the Raleigh-based district
they drew. State legislators also targeted Rep.Robin Hayes (R) by
giving his district a distinctly urban flavor. The plan includes
109,000 Charlotte residents in the new 8th district, up from zero in
the current plan.
Democrats scored a widely
anticipated one-seat gain in Tennessee this month by enhancing their
strength in the historically Democratic 4th district, which Rep. Van
Hilleary (R) is vacating to run for governor. Democratic leaders
have united behind a strong candidate, state Sen. Lincoln Davis, in
As expected, Republicans who
control the process in Utah went after the lone Democratic member of
their delegation, freshman Rep. Jim Matheson, whose district was
reconfigured from a compact Salt Lake City-based seat into a
sprawling rural landmass. The district is roughly 60 percent
But some Democrats believe the
map jeopardizes their chances of holding retiring Rep. Jim Hansen's
shortfall may not cost GOP House majority
By Stuart Rothenberg
January 21, 2002
As the redistricting process
nears completion and House candidates finalize their plans, the
political landscape for this year's House elections is coming into
focus. At this point, neither party can feel entirely comfortable
with the outlook for November.
Republicans now appear headed for
a net gain of a seat or two through redistricting, while the
Democrats will suffer similar losses. Future redistricting
developments in a half-dozen states (Colorado, Florida, Maryland,
Minnesota, New York and Ohio) could change the bottom line slightly
if either party scores a surprise in any of them.
So far, redistricting has
produced dramatic changes in only three states. In Georgia the
Democrats gain four seats and the Republicans lose two. In
Pennsylvania the numbers are reversed, with the GOP picking up four
districts and the Democrats losing two. And in Michigan, the
Republicans gain two seats while the Democrats lose three. The only
other state in which one party loses or gains multiple seats is
Texas, where the GOP adds two.
Two states that have not yet
finished drawing new lines, Florida and Maryland, could well produce
multiple seat gains, for the Republicans in Florida and the
Democrats in Maryland.
I've limited my calculations only
to districts significantly altered by redistricting and only to
those where a clear partisan change is evident. In a few cases I am
projecting outcomes that are not yet final.
The GOP is likely to gain seats
in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and Florida. Pickups are also
possible in Minnesota and Ohio, depending on the final lines in
those states. The Republicans have suffered redistricting losses in
Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Democratic gains are expected in
Arizona, California, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina and
Tennessee. However, redrawn lines are likely to result in losses for
the party in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Democrats may also lose a seat in both Florida and Minnesota.
Newly created toss-up districts
in Nevada and Arizona, and the "fair fight" seat in Connecticut,
pitting Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson against Democratic Rep. Jim
Maloney, aren't treated as gains or losses for either party.
Districts that may change party primarily because of retirement and
in which no fundamental partisan changes were made are also not
included in my calculations.
The redistricting results mean
that the current lineup of 223 Republicans (including Independent
Rep. Virgil Goode of Virginia) and 212 Democrats (including
Independent Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont) translates into
something closer to 225 GOP seats and 210 Democratic seats going
into November. Therefore, the Democrats will need to net eight seats
nationally to win control of the House.
After examining all of the
redrawn districts in which a serious challenge has developed or is
likely to develop, and adding estimates for those states that have
not yet completed redistricting, I have been able to identify almost
50 competitive House races for 2002. By comparison, two years ago at
this time, I listed 60 competitive contests, and at this point in
the 1997-98 cycle I had rated 92 districts as competitive.
Almost two dozen of this cycle's
competitive districts are currently represented by Republicans,
about another 20 are held by Democrats, and half a dozen are totally
new or combined. That gives the Democrats approximately 30
Republican and new/combined seats to take aim at in their effort to
win control of the House.
Is it possible to identify a
baker's dozen of Democratic opportunities? Sure. Democrats could
pick up a few redrawn seats in Georgia; win GOP open seats in New
Hampshire, New Mexico, South Dakota and Tennessee; and knock off
Republican incumbents in West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina,
Minnesota, Iowa, Connecticut and Kentucky.
Now ask yourself this: Are they
really going to win all of those races if they don't have at least a
modest partisan wind at their back? And can they be certain that
they won't lose a few seats of their own? Remember, for every seat
the Democrats lose, they'll need to take another Republican one.
Numbers remain a challenge for
Democrats. After their top 12 or 15 opportunities, the quality of
the Democrats' chances drops off dramatically. Consequently, they
don't have much room for error.
So what's the bottom line almost
10 months out from Election Day? It looks as if the Republicans are
likely to win between 219 and 224 seats (anywhere from a Democratic
gain of four seats to a GOP gain of a single seat). The single most
likely outcome is a low-single-digit Democratic gain.
But this initial projection is
based on the current national environment. If the economy settles
into a prolonged recession and President Bush's poll numbers plunge
to where they were headed before Sept. 11, a Democratic national
trend is likely to develop. And in that case, their chances of
winning the House markedly improve.
State legislators serve dual roles, carving out
congressional districts for themselves
By Allison Stevens
January 16, 2002
article is the first in a two-part series on state legislators who
use their influence to draw congressional districts suited to their
own campaigns for Congress. The first part focuses on Republicans
and the second on Democrats.
Not many congressional hopefuls
are as fortunate as state Sen. Thaddeus McCotter, a high-ranking
Republican in the Michigan state Senate and a candidate for the
stateís newly drawn 11th Congressional District.
As vice chair of the Senate
redistricting committee, McCotter had a hand in drawing the new
district, which happens to fit him like a glove.
Already the clear frontrunner,
McCotterís current state Senate district is wholly contained in the
new 11th District, so he already represents 54 percent of the
primary vote and 43 percent of the general electorate in the solidly
Republican district. After more than 10 years in local politics, he
is well-known among the new constituency and has already raised more
than $300,000, an impressive showing for a local legislator.
Eager to maximize their chances
for what could be a precious pick-up in a battleground state,
Republican leaders in Washington have joined the effort to ensure
McCotterís victory ó even though the filing period doesnít close
until mid-May and the primary wonít be held until August. Itís an
unusual step for national party leaders, who often stay out of
contested primaries to avoid party infighting.
Nonetheless, House Majority Whip
Tom DeLay (R-Texas) wrote a check to McCotterís campaign for $5,000
and Michigan Republican Reps. Vernon Ehlers and Dave Camp have
endorsed the state legislator.
Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, chairman
of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), took the
unusual step of making a personal endorsement and writing a $1,000
check to McCotterís campaign. Davisí endorsement does not translate
into an endorsement by the NRCC, which has a policy of remaining
neutral in contested Republican primaries.
This scenario would make most
competitors shudder, but McCotter is unopposed ó an unusual
circumstance in a solidly Republican, newly drawn open seat that
would ordinarily draw throngs of GOP hopefuls.
Sensing McCotterís strength,
Republican Tom Hickey withdrew his name from consideration earlier
this year. And David Hagerty, an engineer who has said he may run
for the seat, has not made a final decision.
Democrats have not yet recruited
a candidate, and Rep. Lynn Rivers (D) has downplayed speculation
that she may move to the district.
ìI kind of got lucky in the way
the district got done,î McCotter said in an interview. But although
he wields considerable power as vice chair of the redistricting
committee ó a position he requested two years ago ó McCotter insists
he ìdidnít have control of anythingî in the design of the fairly
compact district in suburban and metro Detroit. ìI was just part of
the maddening crowd,î he said.
McCotter added that he didnít
have much ìwiggle roomî to draw the district because of
restrictions, such as the Voting Rights Act, and laws requiring the
preservation of communities of interest and majority-minority
districts. Still, he conceded, ìitís in the very nature of every
elected official who could run for something to have a unique self
interest [in the process].î
McCotter is not unique among
state lawmakers who hope to move up to higher office and help their
party win control of the narrowly divided House in Novemberís
Indeed, he is merely one of many
who are brokering deals behind state legislative scenes to ensure
that their congressional dreams, and their partyís, become a
The practice occurs most
frequently in states controlled entirely by one party. Indeed,
Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania ó whose legislatures and
governors are controlled by the GOP ó are expected to feature at
least one congressional race starring a powerful local politician
who locked up the race before it even began.
The same is true in Georgia and
North Carolina, where Democrats control the redistricting processes.
In Democratic-controlled California, and in Oklahoma and Tennessee,
where Democrats control the state legislatures but not the
governorsí mansions, Democratic state legislators are also involved
in shaping congressional districts suited to their goals.
While partisan gerrymanders are
perfectly legal and very common, the practice raises ethical
questions for those using their political power to further their own
But voters donít seem to care to
hear the answers. While questions of ethical misconduct may be
raised in newspaper editorials and in candidate debates,
constituents are not likely to pay much attention to this
quintessential game of inside baseball at the polling booth.
Indeed, even though the practice
occasionally backfires, it figures in congressional races in every
decennial redistricting year.
This year, in Florida, for
example, a state that will add two seats to its 23-member
delegation, the remapping process is just beginning. Still, state
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R), a longtime veteran of the state
Legislature, chair of the House redistricting committee, and brother
to Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), says population increases in
south Florida call for a new district in or near Dade County, where
he has held local political office for 17 years.
ìIf a plan that is fair and legal
makes a district that would be one that I could run in, I would
obviously be looking at that,î Diaz-Balart said. ìI would not be
truthful if I said anything other than that. But I will have to be
very careful in not allowing my personal agenda to get involved in
the redistricting process.î
The district will almost
certainly favor Republicans and will likely include a majority of
Hispanics, a district Diaz-Balart, a Hispanic Republican, says is
one that he ìwould be tough to beat in.î
Diaz-Balart is also expected to
draw a district in central Florida designed specifically for Rep.
Tom Feeney (R), the Speaker of the Florida state House and the man
responsible for appointing Diaz-Balart to the chairmanship of the
redistricting committee. Feeney, who will be term-limited out of
office next year, has made his desire to run for Congress known
among political insiders.
ìClearly, there is a new district
in central Florida which is obviously going to be an open seat. I
think Speaker Feeney is going to have as much of a shot as anybody
because his record speaks for himself. There will be a new seat in
the area that he represents.î
Nonetheless, the state Senate
surprised local legislators last week when it produced the first
round of maps and did not include a new seat for Feeney, who is
rumored to be feuding with state Senate President John McKay (R).
But Democratic activist Jim Krug
assured that ìMario is working on [a seat for Feeney]. The Speaker
is not hands-on but he is doing this with Diaz-Balart.î
In Pennsylvania, the Legislature
recently produced a map designed to elect Republican state Sens. Tim
Murphy and Jim Gerlach.
Murphy, a five-year state senator
who said he wasnít interested in a congressional bid last summer,
does not serve on the redistricting committee and is not in the
state Senate leadership. But he told The Hill that after the Sept.
11 terrorist attacks, he informed key state legislators that he had
changed his mind and was interested in running for Congress.
The state Legislature produced a
map earlier this month designed specifically for Murphy, a fiscally
moderate and socially conservative psychologist who state leaders
believed would appeal to the blue-collar constituency that runs
south of Pittsburgh, through Allegheny County and adjoins Rep.
Melissa Hartís (R) Beaver County district.
Murphy has no challengers to
date, but is waiting to hear whether Rep. Frank Mascara (D-Pa.) will
move to the district.
The state Legislature handed
Gerlach, who has served for about 10 years, an even more favorable
district. Although Gerlach is neither a member of the redistricting
committee nor of the leadership, he also said he communicated with
key legislators about the new district lines in southeast
Pennsylvania and ìinformally monitoredî the process.
He is certainly pleased with the
results. The new district is a fairly compact conservative
stronghold that runs across western Montgomery, southern Berks and
northern Chester counties and is euphemistically referred to as the
ìIt seems Ö I would have perhaps
the best springboard [of other potential candidates],î Gerlach said,
noting that his current state Senate seat is ìsmack dab in the
middleî of the new open seat in eastern Pennsylvania. ìI seem to
have an advantage that others [candidates] may not have.î
Indeed, Gerlach, who said he will
announce his decision within a week or so, presently represents more
than 50 percent of the newly drawn district.
He currently has no challengers
in what is a Republican-leaning district and boasts the support of
several key state legislators.
And although both publicly insist
they levied minimal influence in the remapping process, Terry
Madonna, a professor of political science at Millersville University
in Pennsylvania, said otherwise.
The skillful, and perfectly
legal, gerrymanders were ìhand carvedî for Murphy and Gerlach,
Madonna said. ìThereís just no other way to put this.î
Publicly, state leaders kept the
two out of redistricting discussions, pronouncements and arguments,
Madonna said. But their ìconspicuous absenceî in public does not
mean they werenít involved in private discussions of the district
Added Jon Delano, political
commentator and professor at Carnegie Mellon University, ìDonít
believe for a moment that they werenít intimately involved in the
mapmaking. These are two districts that were specifically drawn for
these two legislators.î
Cleveland Plain Dealer
January 13, 2002
At the risk of destroying yet
another cherished illusion from your high school civics class, I
regretfully inform you that, contrary to what you have been told,
you do not elect your member of Congress.
Oh, sure, if you are a
conscientious citizen, you dutifully go the polls every two years
and cast a ballot for or against the incumbent representative in
your district. But, with few exceptions, the outcome in each of the
country's 435 congressional districts is preordained.
As we embark on another
congressional election year, experts are predicting that, at most,
25 to 30 districts in the country will be competitive. The outcome
in the other 405 or 410 districts is a foregone conclusion.
The reason for this is that
members of Congress are, in fact, selected, not elected, by a
process called redistricting that takes place every 10 years
following the national census. Voters have no say in redistricting.
The lines for congressional districts are drawn in almost all states
by governors and state legislators, who have two main concerns: 1)
ensuring that their party, Republican or Democratic, depending on
who's in charge, controls as many districts as possible, and 2)
carving out districts that they themselves might be able to run in
to move up the political ladder to federal office.
By creating districts heavily
weighted toward one party or the other, the state politicians who
draw the lines determine the outcome of all but a small percentage
of congressional races for the next 10 years, until it's time to
redraw the lines again.
Occasionally, an unexpected
result occurs, such as the brief period when a Republican
represented the heavily Democratic district of Youngstown and its
environs, but it is these exceptions that prove the rule. In the
case cited, voters chose Republican Lyle Williams rather than
continue the reign of scandal-prone Democrat Charles Carney. The
district later was returned to Democratic hands, if only nominally,
by Rep. James Traficant.
Designating territory that is
safe for one party or the other sometimes results in contorted
districts spanning several counties with dissimilar legislative
interests. But such disservice to the people living in those
districts doesn't matter to the politicians who draw the lines, just
as long as their selfish goals are achieved.
Usually, this gerrymandering, as
it is called, takes place unobtrusively. Some voters don't realize
what's been done until they show up at the polls.
Much to the chagrin of the
political mucky-mucks in Ohio, the redistricting process has become
very public, through no one's fault but their own. Although census
data have been available for months, the Republican office-holders
who have sole control of redistricting in the state dilly-dallied so
long that it is now too late to redraw the lines in time for the
state's May 7 primary without the consent of the Democratic
Population shifts to the south
and west will cost Ohio one of its 19 congressional seats. With
control fully in their hands, Republican gerrymanderers want to make
sure the seat that is lost is a Democratic seat and would like to
weaken other Democratic districts as well. Because of term limits on
state offices, some legislators want districts redrawn to suit their
Notice how the decision-making
has nothing to do with the voters' best interests.
The Republicans, in their own
best interests, have abandoned their proposal for a separate
congressional primary in August, which would have cost taxpayers at
least $6 million.
In the meantime, they had to
endure Democrats' accusations that they wanted to push back the
filing deadline to prevent Democratic congressmen who are
redistricted from filing for state offices in the May primary.
Ironically, the Republicans'
excuse for delaying the redistricting bill was that their first
priority was dealing with a projected $1.5 billion budget shortfall.
So, their solution is to add to the deficit in order to balance the
Regular readers of this column
know that my solution for this highly partisan exercise is to take
redistricting out of the hands of elected officials by appointing a
bipartisan commission to redraw the lines every 10 years. Better
yet, do away with the current system of single-member congressional
districts and replace it with multimember districts, say, two
five-member districts and two four-member districts.
Ohio once was a national leader
in proportional representation, which allowed voters to cast ballots
that really mattered and produced more broadly representative
The politicians seized back
control of the process and re-established a system they could
manipulate for partisan advantage.
Ohio's Republican leaders were
shamed out of their petty plan to push back the congressional
primaries, but voters need not forgive them for what they wanted to
do, nor forget it next Election Day.
Brazaitis is a senior editor in The Plain
Dealer's Washington bureau.
Voting rights and wrongs
By Evan Gahr
It's business as usual for the
nation's bean counters. September 11 abruptly changed the world for
most Americans. The terrorist attacks were rightly considered an
assault on the values nearly all Americans cherish. Racial fault
lines seemed to disappear amid flag waving and patriotic music.
In the background, however, quota
mongers continue to sing their tired old song. As states redraw
congressional districts in accordance with the results of the 2000
census, these unrepentant bean counters charge racism when the new
boundaries don't conform to their particular notion of "diversity."
Politicians who voted to approve the revamped districts, even if
minorities themselves, are accused of complicity in wicked schemes
to perpetuate white hegemony.
Case in point: In Los Angeles,
the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund seeks to
invalidate two of California's new congressional districts. MALDEF
filed a federal lawsuit Oct. 1 charging that the new districts would
intentionally dilute overall Latino voting power in violation of the
Voting Rights Act. MALDEF contends that the new districts were
designed to ensure the continued election of Anglo representatives.
The proof? Instead of hard evidence, MALDEF falls back on statistics
and suppositions: the districts, it says, contain insufficient
numbers of Latinos to elect "one of their own" ó so to speak.
In a press release announcing the
lawsuit, MALDEF explains that the "congressional district maps
fracture the geographically compact Latino community in the San
Fernando Valley, intentionally placing adjacent heavily Latino area
into two separate districts, thus leaving Latinos to cast
ineffective votes as minority dissenters."
MALDEF's claim makes a certain
amount of perverse sense, if you accept their premise that skin
color is destiny. In other words, minorities can't possibly be
elected without substantial support from other minorities, who
robotically vote for anyone of like skin color.
In the 1990s, this theory spawned
the creation of majority black and majority Hispanic districts,
often drawn in strange shapes to achieve the "right numbers." The
Supreme Court has since declared such blatant "racial
gerrymandering" illegal ó but left room for more modest efforts to
achieve the "right numbers." Nevertheless, the rationale for such
shenanigans seems particularly outdated. There are countless
examples of minorities being elected with substantial support from
whites, and vice-versa.
Moreover, all but three of
California's 26 Latino state legislators even voted for the
redistricting plan that MALDEF seeks to overturn. Nevertheless,
MALDEF sees discriminatory intent behind the new boundaries for
districts now represented by Reps. Howard Berman and Bob Filner.
Both are Democrats. Mr. Berman
seems a particularly odd target for Latino civil rights advocates.
The 10-term incumbent is known for his support of liberal causes,
such as legislation to protect farm workers and loosen immigration
laws ó the kind of stuff which MALDEF presumably favors. Besides,
Mr. Berman has been re-elected with strong Latino support, even when
he defended his seat against a challenge from another Latino. In
response to the lawsuit, Mr. Berman told the Los Angeles Times, "I
guess for MALDEF it's more about skin color and ethnicity than the
philosophy and quality of representation."
This is not an only in California
story. Nationwide, the judiciary is weighing other challenges to new
districts and several cases reportedly could end up before the
United States Supreme Court. Outside the legal arena, some
politicians play a similar race card. Rep. William Clay Jr. recently
attacked his fellow Missouri Democrats for supporting new
legislative boundaries that create insufficient numbers of
black-majority districts. White Democrats, he lamented, have been
"leading the charge" to illegally dilute the voting power of
If anything, the new boundaries
would dilute the power of politicians and advocacy groups who rely
on outdated theories of racial solidarity.
Shouldn't folks who now proclaim
"United We Stand" renounce schemes that would divide Americans by
race the moment they enter the voting booth? Or post-September 11,
have things not changed so much, after all?
GOP eyes 10-seat
gain from redistricting
January 7, 2002
Republican victories in
Pennsylvania's and New Mexico's redistricting last week left party
officials confident they would achieve their goal of picking up
eight to 10 House seats because of the process.
"Nothing that's happened yet has
been drastic enough to change that, and according to our models
we're still going to net eight to 10 seats," said Carl Forti, a
spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the
group charged with electing Republicans to the House.
Republicans want those new seats
to cancel out any losses they may take in the midterm elections,
when the president's party usually loses seats. There aren't many to
spare with the balance in Congress standing at 222 Republicans, 211
Democrats and two independents.
But with more than half of the
states now done or nearly done with redistricting, Democrats say the
process looks like it will be a wash.
"Unlike the Republicans, we have
always had realistic assumptions about the outcome of redistricting
and have always maintained that parity was the most likely outcome,"
said Greg Speed, a spokesman for the Democrats' redistricting task
force. "Other factors will determine the outcome of the elections in
2002, and the Republicans have known all along that is bad news for
Every decade seats in Congress
are reallocated among the states based on population. States then
draw new district lines to account for new or lost seats and for
population shifts within their borders.
The key to redistricting is to
know a region's voting habits, then draw maps to maximize your
voters' reach while minimizing the effect of the other party's
voters. Still, both sides acknowledge the new lines represent
opportunities, not certainties. The parties will have to recruit
good candidates and run good races to make good on their potentials.
Seven states have only one
representative, so no redrawing of lines is needed. About 25 more
states have enacted or are close to enacting plans.
When Democrats tally those
states, they see an opportunity to net six seats solely because of
the new lines ó four seats in Georgia, three in Iowa, two each in
North Carolina and Arizona, and one seat in Nevada, Louisiana and
California, which would offset losses of three seats each in
Pennsylvania and Michigan and single seats in three other states.
But Republicans also see the
chance to net six seats from the same maps ó two each in Texas,
Michigan and Pennsylvania and one each in Utah, Arizona and Nevada ó
to offset losing two in Georgia and one in Mississippi.
Democrats have done well in the
states gaining new seats. The new seats in California and North
Carolina are drawn to favor Democrats, as are the two new seats each
in Arizona and Georgia. Republicans should win the two new seats in
Texas. In their tallies, both parties count on winning Nevada.
In the states losing seats, like
Michigan and Pennsylvania, Republicans are faring better by
squeezing together Democratic incumbents in districts.
In Pennsylvania, which lost two
seats, Republicans control the governorship and both houses in the
Pennsylvania assembly, and approved maps last week that gave them a
strong chance to win 13 of the state's 19 seats. On the other side
of the tally, Democrats would control six seats ó down from the 10
they control now.
Among the states still to
finalize plans, big changes could be seen in three ó Maryland,
Florida and Ohio. Democrats control the process in Maryland, and the
4-4 split in the current delegation could turn into a 6-2 Democratic
edge. But Republicans control Florida, which gains two seats, and
Ohio, which loses a seat, and they can draw lines to maximize
New York, which loses two seats
this year, also has yet to redraw lines, but officials from both
parties said they each will lose one seat.
By Philip M. John
January 2, 2002
Rob Ritchie [letter, Dec. 20] is right
in wanting to create more competitiveness in congressional
districts, but he is wrong in wanting to replace the
single-member-district, winner-take-all method of elections with
winner-take-all mechanism causes the two-party system. To replace it
with proportional representation would be to bring about a
multi-party system, as has occurred wherever proportional
representation has been and is used. Interest groups capable of
gaining enough votes to gain a seat in Congress would turn into
political parties. The most perfect proportional representation
election system ever employed was that of the Weimar Republic, which
produced a parliamentary multi-party system so extreme and
ineffective in governing that it was compelled to hand over power
constitutionally to the Nazis. The Fifth Republic of France was
adopted to separate the executive, a single office elected by
winner-take-all, from the multi-party ravages of parliamentary
proportional representation under the Third and Fourth Republics.
Israel has adopted the same scheme to insulate the executive from
the farcical multi-party Knesset. Italy's multi-party system has
been barely able to keep the Communist Party from taking power by
The reason so many U. S.
congressional districts are not competitive is that they are drawn
by incumbents and majority parties for the benefits of incumbents
and majority parties in the states. Mr. Ritchie and his organization
should direct their reform efforts at that cause of the problem
rather than tinker recklessly with the two-party system.
Philip M. John
Rattles In-House Hopes; Some Incumbents Face Unfamiliar Territory;
Some Face Off With Each Other
By Juliet Eilperin
December 31, 2001
Like most incumbents, Rep. Tom
Latham (R-Iowa) hasn't had to worry much about reelection. A
familiar face in a solidly Republican rural seat, the House member
didn't even have an opponent in 1998. Last year, he won with 69
percent of the vote.
But redistricting has not been
kind to Latham, a seed company owner first elected to the House in
1994. While most members of Congress had their seats shored up
through the process of drawing new congressional districts, Latham
is one of about two dozen lawmakers whose once-safe seats are
suddenly up for grabs -- either because their district no longer is
as solidly Republican or Democratic as it once was, or because two
districts have been merged into one, pitting two incumbents against
The unfortunate members who find
themselves in Latham's position after the redistricting range across
the political spectrum. They include two Georgia Republicans, John
Linder and Robert L. Barr Jr., who are now pitted against each
other, and a Democratic stalwart, John D. Dingell (Mich.), who faces
the prospect of a difficult primary contest against a more liberal
colleague, Rep. Lynn N. Rivers. At least five other incumbents,
facing tougher races in revamped districts, have simply announced
their intention to either retire or run for higher office.
Closer to home, Maryland
Democrats have vowed to move enough of their party's voters into GOP
Rep. Connie A. Morella's already-liberal district in Montgomery
County to try to gain a Democratic victory there next fall. The
General Assembly will consider a redistricting plan early next year,
but already several prominent Democrats are maneuvering for the
Over the years, both parties have
skillfully used reapportionment -- in which state officials redraw
congressional districts to reflect the most recent census figures --
to winnow the number of truly competitive House seats across the
But this time the rejiggering has
also created a small set of races that could determine which party
controls the House after the 2002 election. With most incumbents
nearly unbeatable, moving thousands of voters from one district to
another -- and thus changing the demographics of a lawmaker's
constituents -- often represents a party's best chance of unseating
a sitting member.
"If you have someone who's been
coasting for the past three or four election cycles, political
operatives are always worried about that kind of candidate,"
observed political analyst Stuart Rothenberg. "It's not like these
incumbents don't have any advantages. It's whether they apply
themselves and they use their advantages."
Latham, who once had the most
Republican seat in Iowa, suddenly finds himself in a district with
tens of thousands more Democratic voters, thanks to the state's
independent redistricting commission. While George W. Bush enjoyed a
13 percentage point edge over Al Gore in Latham's old district, Bush
would have won by just one percentage point in the new one. So
Latham has switched into an unfamiliar campaign mode. He recently
invited lobbyists to lunch to solicit their help in transforming his
sleepy political operation into a million-dollar campaign.
"It's going to be some different
territory," Latham acknowledged. Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (N.Y.), who
holds the No. 2 post on the House GOP's campaign committee, had a
blunter assessment. "He's got a tough seat," Reynolds said, pausing,
"that in the end he will win."
Latham has begun reaching out to
his allies in the business community and calculating how best he can
make use of his coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee. Bill
Miller, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's political director, who
attended the lunch with Latham, described that position as "a
monster sledgehammer" the House member can wield over potential
The lobbyists urged Latham to
begin touting the projects he has delivered for his district in
recent years, and to consider holding a field hearing in Iowa. They
also discussed how he could target fundraising efforts at the
industries that are most directly affected by his committee posts,
including agriculture and energy.
Gary Andres, another GOP lobbyist
who attended the lunch and heads a task force aimed at helping
vulnerable Republican incumbents, said Latham is "doing all the
right things. He's getting together with Washington lobbyists who
can help him."
He's not the only one, in either
party. Dingell, who has served in Congress since 1955 and survived
four previous redistricting cycles, had a similar session with
supporters at the National Association of Broadcasters'
Dingell could face his fiercest
challenge in nearly four decades. Unless the Michigan courts
overturn the new congressional map drawn by the Republican-dominated
legislature, he will be running in an August primary against Rivers.
Both lawmakers have already sent
out fundraising appeals highlighting their potential advantages in a
head-to-head matchup. Dingell's memo noted that he has "a long
history" of attracting votes other Democrats cannot. Rivers's letter
emphasized, "In any district which includes incumbent members of any
party, I will be the only pro-choice, pro-gun safety,
As the top Democrat on the Energy
and Commerce Committee, Dingell can tap a broad fundraising base.
Guests at a recent breakfast for supporters, for example, included
union and automobile industry officials as well as representatives
from the telecommunications industry.
"I've learned that if I work
hard, I win, and we are working," Dingell said. "I did not fall off
the cabbage wagon yesterday."
But Rivers has already enlisted
her own allies. The Democratic women's political action committee
EMILY's List is issuing an appeal on her behalf next month, and
several prominent women's issue activists -- including EMILY's List
President Ellen R. Malcolm and Human Rights Campaign President
Elizabeth Birch -- are hosting a fundraiser.
"I've never been in a primary
with a friend," Rivers said. "This is a whole other animal."
While Dingell and Rivers are
eyeing each other warily, Georgia Republicans Barr and Linder are
engaged in a full-scale brawl. Thrown together by the state's
Democrat-controlled legislature into Georgia's 7th District outside
Atlanta, they have posted dueling messages on their campaign Web
sites and bickered publicly over a recent trade bill and legislation
boosting funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After Barr tried unsuccessfully
to sponsor Linder's CDC bill, for example, he took the unusual step
of publicly distributing a letter suggesting Linder add his name to
the bill or risk implying "that you are refusing to add co-sponsors
for petty or personal reasons."
Linder fired back, suggesting
that his rival would be better off contacting him directly "rather
than in a letter distributed through the press and carbon copied to
the House leadership."
Both lawmakers have begun to woo
future constituents, greeting voters in each other's home counties.
"Just as he's working in my back yard, I'm working in his," Linder
Other House members are also
doing their best to meet new voters while continuing to serve their
constituents. They are struggling with what the Democratic
Congressional Campaign Committee's national field director, Cathy
Duvall, calls a "half-open seat," in which they retain many of the
advantages of incumbency but lack the widespread name recognition
they enjoyed in their old districts.
The district of Rep. Jim Matheson
(D-Utah) went from covering 250 square miles around Salt Lake City
to encompassing 50,000 square miles, while Reps. John M. Shimkus (R)
and David D. Phelps (D) got thrown together in Illinois's 19th
District and are both working to cover new territory.
"I have a lot of miles to drive
and a lot of people to meet," Shimkus acknowledged.
And Phelps -- who spent a recent
morning celebrating the construction of a power plant in his old
district and the afternoon addressing unemployed workers in his new
one -- said he has been hampered by the House's unusually long
schedule this year. "It is one big frustration," he said.
At least Shimkus and Phelps face
the same scheduling constraints. While Latham was stuck in
Washington, his opponent, John Norris, was completing a week-long
tour of all 28 counties in the new northern Iowa district.
With all of these incumbents,
Rothenberg observed, only an aggressive campaign in the coming
months will quiet their critics and reassure their allies. "There's
a big question mark hanging over their heads," he said, "until
they've done it."
San Jose Mercury News
Stills the Votersí Voice
Richie and Steven Hill
December 28, 2001
VOTERS, beware. Redistricting is back.
Every 10 years it revisits us like a recurring plague. This year's
shenanigans show just why the renewed civic pride in the wake of
September's terrorist attacks won't bring many disenchanted
Americans back to the polls.
After the release of new census
numbers, all legislative districts in the nation must be redrawn to
make sure that they are closely equal in population. In California,
for example, that means about 639,000 residents for each U.S. House
Whichever political party
controls the line-drawing process has the God-like powers to
guarantee themselves majority control and make or break individual
political careers. They rely on ``packing'' and ``cracking'':
packing as many opponents into as few districts as possible and
``cracking'' an opponent's natural base into different districts.
Powerful computers and software have made this process of unnatural
selection ever more sophisticated and precise.
Does it make a difference? You
bet it does. In Virginia, the Democrats this year won their first
statewide race for governor since 1989. But Republicans went from
barely controlling the statehouse to a two-thirds' majority. How?
That's right -- they drew this year's district lines.
The best example of partisan
gerrymandering used to be California's congressional plan in the
1980s. The late Congressman Phil Burton, its chief architect, called
it his ``contribution to modern art.'' One district was a ghastly
looking, insect-like polygon with 385 sides.
The result? In the 1984 elections
the Democrats increased their share of California's house seats to
60 percent even as Ronald Reagan's landslide win helped Republican
congressional candidates win more votes than Democrats in the state.
Today's computer technology makes
such redistricting magic the norm. In some states one party indeed
has stuck it to the other -- just ask a Republican who was mugged in
Georgia or a Democrat roughed up in Michigan.
But 2001's real story is that
both parties have often colluded to take on their real enemy: the
voters. This year will go down in political history for the crass
way it has raised ``incumbent protection'' to a whole new level.
Take California -- please. The
California Democratic Party controlled redistricting, and its
leaders decided to cement their advantage rather then expand it.
Incumbents certainly took no chances. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez
acknowledged to the Orange County Register that she and most of her
Democratic U.S. House colleagues each forked over $20,000 to Michael
Berman, the powerful Democratic Party consultant in charge of
The money was classic
``protection money.'' Sanchez said that ``20,000 is nothing to keep
your seat. I spend $2 million (campaigning) every election. If my
colleagues are smart, they'll pay their $20,000, and Michael will
draw the district they can win in.''
California's Republican Party,
which has vociferously opposed past Democratic redistricting plans,
was largely mute. That's because their pliant incumbents also were
bought off with the promise of safe seats. The one incumbent facing
a tough re-election battle promptly announced his retirement; the
rest are likely free from serious competition for a decade.
The story has been the same in
state after state. The Wall Street Journal in a November editorial
on ``The Gerrymander Scandal'' estimated that as few as 30 of the
435 U.S. House seats will be competitive next year. Already fewer
than one in 10 House seats were won by competitive margins in 1998
The ones hurt by these back-room
deals are the voters. For most voters, their only real choice in the
next decade will be to ratify the candidate of the party that was
handed that district in redistricting. One-party fiefdoms will be
the rule no matter what changes are made in campaign financing and
term limits until we reform how we create districts.
There once was a time when voters
went to the polls on the first Tuesday in November and picked their
representatives. But that's changed. Now, the representatives pick
us first. Following on the heels of Florida's election debacle, this
only further undermines confidence in our already shaky political
Rob Richie and Steven
Hill are, respectively, the executive director and the western
regional director of the Center for Voting and Democracy
By Editorial Staff
December 27, 2001
When last we wrote about the
"bipartisan scandal" known as gerrymandering, we zeroed in on the
way it takes the competition out of Congressional elections. But it
turns out things are worse than we thought: Gerrymandering is even
affecting votes in Congress. Witness the ideological pirouette now
being performed by California Representative Ellen Tauscher.
Ms. Tauscher is a three-term
Democrat from the suburbs of San Francisco who won her seat as a
moderate free-trader. She became vice chair of the Democratic
Leadership Council, chiding her own party' protectionists and voting
for several trade accords. Business groups threw their support and
cash behind her re-election, along with other "New Democrats."
So they (and we) were shocked to
discover that in the critical vote to grant President Bush trade
promotion authorityówhich passed by a single voteóMs. Tauscher cast
her lot with the "nays." At first we suspected pressure from Big
Labor, but that proved to be only half right. The bigger cause of
her 180-degree ideological shift turns out to be California's
once-a-decade gerrymander. Like every other Congressperson in our
most populous state, Ms. Tauscher has suddenly been granted a "safe"
seat. Provided she plays by the new rules, that is.
Ms. Tauscher's new safe seat is
part of a redistricting plan which Democrats saw as a way of
protecting their 32 to 20 advantage in the state's Congressional
delegation. The deal they struck protected incumbents of both
parties, pushing Democratic voters into districts with Democratic
representatives and Republican voters into districts with Republican
representatives. Only a handful of these seats had ever been
competitive, and Ms. Tauscher's was one of them.
But now essentially none of them
will be. The head of the GOP Congressional campaign committee, Tom
Davis, has already suggested he'll invest no money in any California
races in 2002. Given California's size, that means that one-eighth
of the entire U.S. House of Representatives will face no real
competition from the other party.
As Ms. Tauscher's trade vote
shows, all of this has real-world political consequences. Though Ms.
Tauscher no longer need worry about losing to a Republican, what she
does have to worry about now is the Democratic primary, where the
new challenge will come from a labor-left far less amenable to her
Her local paper, the Contra Costa
Times, calls this "punitive redistricting." And Ms. Tauscher herself
blasted the redistricting plan as retribution for her pro-business
views and her failure to endorse San Francisco liberal Nancy Pelosi
for minority House whip. Liberal line-drawers stretched what had
been a compact district all the way to Sacramento County, replacing
her swing suburbanites with union members and liberals.
For Ms. Tauscher that means that
the safest political play now is to repudiate her former principles
and become a protectionist. Which is exactly what she's now done.
The California gerrymander also
affects Gary Condit, whose relatively moderate district (53% of whom
voted for George W. Bush) has just been stuffed with more Democrats.
This includes a significant boost in Hispanics who might be more
likely to vote for primary challenger Dennis Cardoza, a state
assemblyman, and an influx of more Democrats from Stockton expected
to favor a more liberal challenger.
Now, we don't mind a good
ideological fight. But gerrymanders mean that such fights actually
matter less in the public arena because they have less chance to
change any votes or seats. Members in "safe" seats seldom change
their minds, and only the rare national tidal wave can make more
than a handful of gerrymandered seats competitive.
It tells us much about the state
of play in Washington that despite its corrupting influence on our
politics, gerrymandering never attracts the passion that, say,
attaches itself to campaign-finance "reform"ówhich would only help
make incumbents safer in their seats. But maybe that's the point. As
the Tauscher turnabout shows, gerrymanders mean that the voters no
longer choose their politicians; the politicians choose their
The Value of
Joanne Dann made a number of
cogent points in her Dec. 2 Outlook piece arguing that it is time to
establish criteria-driven, nonpartisan approaches to redistricting.
But I would like to correct one error and suggest a broader
First, only 42 U.S. House races
were won by less than 10 percent in 2000 -- meaning that for the
second straight election, fewer than one in 10 House races could be
categorized as competitive. Second, criteria-driven redistricting
creates more competitive elections, but only to a point. In
Massachusetts, for example, all House seats are held by Democrats in
districts where George W. Bush won no more than 38 percent, while in
Nebraska, all House seats are held by Republicans in districts where
Al Gore won no more than 38 percent of the vote. The country has
many such swaths, where voters are doomed to no-choice elections
under winner-take-all rules no matter how district lines are sliced
We should join most
well-established democracies in using systems of proportional
representation in multi-seat districts. Use of proportional systems
in modest three-seat districts would lower the share of votes
necessary to win to 25 percent, which at least would give supporters
of both major parties a fighting chance to win everywhere in the
nation and provide a fairer balance among moderates and partisans.
Center for Voting & Democracy
Edge Over GOP In Redistricting; Gains Still Possible for
By Thomas B. Edsall
December 14, 2001
With congressional redistricting
halfway completed, Democrats have thwarted a Republican bid to gain
a decisive advantage in the 2002 contest to control the House. But
the GOP still has a number of opportunities to pull ahead in the
states that have not finished drawing new district boundaries.
Democrats and Republicans each
claimed to have gained a substantial edge over their adversaries,
but neutral observers discounted the assertions of both.
"There is no big tidal wave for
either party," said Amy Walter, who analyzes House races for the
Cook Political Report. Her view is shared by Stuart Rothenberg, who
runs the Rothenberg Political Report.
A Washington Post analysis of 21
states that have completed redistricting of 236 districts (up from
230 before census-directed gains) suggests that the Democrats have
an edge in three districts, the GOP in two, and a new district in
Nevada is competitive.
In addition to redistricting
fights in the remaining states, the Democrats face a daunting task
in trying to take back the House for another reason: The overall
number of competitive districts is being reduced by plans that
protect incumbents. The smaller the number of close races, the
tougher it will be for the Democrats to win a majority in the House,
which is split 221 Republicans, 211 Democrats.
Preliminary Democratic success in
the decennial struggle can largely be attributed to the Georgia
Legislature, which maximized Democratic opportunities, and the Texas
Legislature, which could reach no agreement, allowing a federal
court to draw new districts protecting incumbent Democrats with only
token reflection of the strong Republican trends in Texas.
The Georgia redistricting, where
Democrats are expected to gain the state's two new seats and two
seats held by Republicans, outraged GOP strategists. "Democrats
rewrote the book when they did Georgia, and we would be stupid not
to reciprocate," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.), chairman of
the National Republican Congressional Committee. Davis vowed that
when the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature redistricts
the state, "it will make Georgia look like a picnic."
In fact, the Pennsylvania state
Senate this week backed a plan that would force eight Democratic
incumbents into four districts in what would be the most extreme
case study of partisan vengeance this year if given final approval.
Rep. Martin Frost (D-Tex.), the
principal Democratic redistricting strategist, declared, "We are
very satisfied" with the process so far.
Frost's major success was
thwarting a Republican bid to turn redistricting in his home state
of Texas into a Democratic massacre. Over the past two decades,
Texas has undergone a Republican realignment. Exit polls in the 2000
election showed that a plurality of voters in the
once-overwhelmingly Democratic state are now Republicans, who
outnumber Democrats 42 percent to 35 percent. Many pollsters believe
these numbers underestimate Republican strength.
Despite these trends, the
Democrats, largely because of artful redistricting in 1991, hold a
17- to 13-seat majority. Both parties generally agree that after the
2002 elections, Democrats are likely to retain all 17 seats, and the
GOP will pick up only the two new seats added as a result of
population growth, to produce a likely delegation of 17 Democrats
and 15 Republicans.
The GOP's most successful
redistricting has taken place in Michigan, where the
Republican-controlled Legislature crammed four incumbent Democrats
-- John D. Dingell, Lynn N. Rivers, Dale E. Kildee and James A.
Barcia -- into two districts and converted the district held by
retiring Rep. David E. Bonior (D) into Republican terrain.
Michigan Democrats are banking on
rescue by the state courts, where they have filed a challenge to the
plan. Just as Davis was furious with the Democratic-devised plan in
Georgia, Terry McAuliffe, Democratic National Committee chair,
attacked the Michigan plan.
"I join civil rights groups and
Democrats around the country in condemning the actions of the
Michigan Republican legislators," McAuliffe declared in a statement.
"This process . . . shines a bright light on how this Republican
government in Michigan and its leaders choose to interact with the
people they represent."
States where one of the parties
is likely to gain or lose a seat are Arizona, California and North
Carolina, all one-seat pick-ups for the Democrats; Illinois, a
one-seat Democratic loss; and Utah, a possible gain of one for the
GOP and a loss of one for the Democrats.
In a number of states still to be
redistricted, Democrats are preparing to take plans to court if
Republicans succeed in their announced goal of decimating the
In Florida, where the Democratic
Party has been rebounding recently and where two seats will be
added, Republicans plan to strengthen their 15 to 8 majority to as
much as 18 to 7 after 2002. Such a lopsided margin would require
surgical precision in a state where Democrats and Republicans are
about even in voting strength.
Similarly, in Pennsylvania, where
voters are evenly split between the two parties, according to 2000
exit poll data, the GOP plans to boost its 11 to 10 House delegation
majority to a 13 to 6 majority as the state loses two seats.
To do so, the GOP would pack at
least six Democrats -- William J. Coyne with Mike Doyle, Joseph M.
Hoeffel III with Robert A. Borski and Tim Holden with Paul E.
Kanjorski -- into three districts. In addition, the state Senate
would put Democrats John P. Murtha and Frank R. Mascara into the
same southwest Pennsylvania district.
In Ohio, which has a
Republican-controlled legislature and will lose one seat in 2002,
the GOP is gearing up to draw lines that could endanger at least two
incumbents, and perhaps more, Democrats. Among those on the target
list are Reps. Sherrod Brown, Ted Strickland and Thomas C. Sawyer.
But Democrats say they remain
optimistic. After the most recent state completed redistricting,
creating a Democratic-leaning seat in North Carolina, Frost
declared: "Success in another key redistricting state is more proof
that it's time for Republicans to retire their bogus redistricting
spin. After North Carolina, Republican strategists had better figure
out how to win elections while running on an unpopular agenda
because redistricting won't bail them out next year."
Davis scoffed at Frost's
assertions, claiming that when the process is complete, the GOP will
have gained a strong advantage in eight to 10 seats.
Pulls Ahead In Redrawn Congressional Districts
By Robert Tanner
December 10, 2001
Less than a year before elections
put control of Congress to voters, the behind-the- scenes struggle
to gain an advantage through redistricting has kept both
Republicans and Democrats from making decisive gains.
Republican strategists say
they'll come out ahead after GOP-controlled legislatures in Ohio,
Florida and Pennsylvania finish their work. Democrats see more to
back their prediction that the balance will remain unchanged, a view
many political scientists echo.
"This is a game in which people
are grinding out one yard at a time by brute force. There are no
long-run touchdowns here,'' said Bernard Grofman, a
political-science professor at the University of California-Irvine.
"The potential for really changing the map just isn't very large.''
Redistricting is the redrawing of
political lines to account for population changes after a new
census. Maps from Congress to city councils must be redrawn so
electoral districts are equal in population.
Republicans came into the process
hoping that they would wind up with a chance to expand their 10-seat
majority in the House by creating a bunch of new, GOP-majority
But GOP hopes were damaged,
though not destroyed, by a court-ordered Texas map last month that
creates only two new likely Republican districts. Some state leaders
had predicted an eight-seat gain.
In California, Democrats cut a
deal that drew the state's new seat to their side, adding one to
their current 32-20 hold over the state's delegation. Some Democrats
had hoped for a three-seat gain.
As 2002 approaches, 20 states
have finished congressional redistricting, slightly less than
half that must. So far:
Republicans appear likely to see
a five- seat swing in Michigan, two seats in Texas and a possible
Utah seat. They are likely to lose a seat in Indiana. In all, that
would be a seven-seat gain.
Democrats might gain single seats
in Arizona, California and North Carolina, and lose a seat in
Illinois and maybe Utah. In Georgia, new maps would give Democrats a
six-seat swing, although those maps face federal scrutiny. That
would also mean a seven- seat gain.
The GOP is hoping to break ahead
by gaining as many as eight seats combined in Ohio, Florida and
Fight for District to Airwaves; Members increasingly look to public
for aid in keeping seats
December 10, 2001
Redistricting, a process
typically controlled by ambitious state legislators and fretful
Members of Congress and largely ignored by voters, has found its way
on to Philadelphia's airwaves.
Rep. Joseph Hoeffel (D), who has
represented the Montgomery County based 13th district since 1998,
launched a media blitz last Monday shortly before a scheduled vote
in the state Legislature that may carve up his district prior to the
"Many people have come to
understand our seat is at risk," said Hoeffel, explaining his
decision to take the normally "insider" issue to the public.
"This has been a concrete
campaign for months," agreed Hoeffel Chief of Staff Josh Shapiro.
"It is a public-interest issue."
Hoeffel's attempt to exert
pressure on state legislators before they redraw the state's
Congressional lines is the most aggressive example so far this year
of how Members endangered by redistricting have tried to take
matters into their own hands.
Although Members from across the
country have taken an active interest in the redistricting process,
in places such as Pennsylvania, New York, Oklahoma and Illinois--all
of which lost Congressional seats after the 2000 census--there has
been a great deal of public campaigning to save districts endangered
in the remapping process.
Hoeffel is running a 60-second ad
on several Philadelphia radio stations and has distributed 50,000
mailers to voters in his district pushing for the preservation of a
Montgomery County seat in Congress.
He would not reveal the exact
dollar figure he is spending on the ad campaign, but said it is in
the "tens of thousands."
"In a few days the Pennsylvania
Legislature will consider a bill that will redraw the lines of all
the Congressional districts in the state," the ad says. "One county
in our part of the state, Montgomery County, is ending up with the
short end of the stick."
"This is not about saving Joe
Hoeffel, this is about saving a seat for Montgomery County," Hoeffel
The area has had a Congressional
Representative since the inception of the institution. And, in fact,
the first Speaker of the House, Frederick Muhlenberg, hailed from
the area, Hoeffel noted.
The direct-mail piece strikes
much the same chord as the radio ad, urging voters to "demand that
our Montgomery County legislators fight for our seat in Congress."
It also lists the phone numbers for all of the Montgomery County
state legislators as well as State House Majority Leader John Perzel
Perzel's spokesman, Stephen
Drachler, dismissed the efficacy of the Hoeffel ad campaign.
"I don't know of any calls to
Harrisburg, and it wouldn't matter anyway," said Drachler.
"Perzel will do what is important
for the entire state," he added, referring to Hoeffel's actions as a
Hoeffel said Thursday that he
expects the Legislature to vote on redistricting plans tomorrow.
Drachler contradicted him, saying there is only "a chance" that
redistricting will come up this week.
Other Pennsylvania Democratic
Members who may either see their districts eliminated or be pushed
into a race against a colleague were less forthcoming about their
Reps. Paul Kanjorski, Tim Holden
and Bob Borski, all of whom are Republican targets in redistricting,
did not return numerous calls for comment.
Hoeffel claimed his aggressive
approach for his ad campaign came from observing Rep. Amo Houghton
(R-N.Y.), who has engaged in a multiyear fight to save his Southern
Tier 31st district from redistricters' knives.
"I was inspired by Amo's work on
this," said Hoeffel.
Houghton, 75, has resisted
retirement in the past two cycles in order to try to preserve his
western New York seat.
He has also formed the Millennium
Project, which is designed specifically to rally financial and
institutional support to save the district.
Houghton, an heir to the Corning
fortune, has donated more than $250,000 to Republicans in the state
Legislature to curry favor and has organized a bipartisan petition
drive among his constituents.
Houghton would not comment for
Although Houghton has been the
most active among the New York delegation, a number of his
colleagues are taking special precautions to ensure that they are
not left standing when the game of political musical chairs ends
Democratic Reps. Nydia Velazquez,
Gary Ackerman and Maurice Hinchey have all hired lobbyists to
represent their interests in Albany while they are tied up in
Velazquez, who has represented
the strongly Hispanic 12th district since 1992, calls her decision
to hire a lobbyist a matter of practical politics.
"He is a good friend of mine,"
she said, "and when I am [in D.C.] I want to make sure someone is
"We all know that when
[redistricting] starts, the political games will begin," Velazquez
added. "I want to be in the game."
Her district must gain 30,000
people before the 2002 election in order to fit the ideal district
population for the state.
Hinchey's upstate 26th district
is more than 60,000 people short, and Ackerman's Long Island based
5th district was heavily altered in the 1992 round of redistricting,
and even slight changes could affect his re-election prospects.
Following in the footsteps of
Houghton, a number of New York Members have made donations to their
caucus in hopes of protecting their district lines next year.
Democratic Reps. Velazquez,
Carolyn Maloney, Jose Serrano, Anthony Weiner, John LaFalce and
Eliot Engel have all contributed to the Democratic Assembly Campaign
And although Houghton carries a
wide lead in terms of contributions, GOP Reps. Jack Quinn, James
Walsh, John McHugh, Sue Kelly, Sherwood Boehlert and Ben Gilman have
all added to the Republican Senate Campaign Committee's coffers.
Democrats control the state
Assembly in New York, while Republicans have the majority in the
state Senate. Gov. George Pataki (R) has veto power over any
Several other Members have sought
to use the courts to defend the boundaries of their districts.
Rep. David Phelps (D-Ill.), who
found his district split up between GOP Reps. Tim Johnson and John
Shimkus, filed a lawsuit in June to overturn the map, but decided
late last week to drop the case.
Phelps said he "felt like we
should challenge [the map]" to defend the interests of southern
Illinois, and then "people started calling my office and saying,
ìSign me up.'"
Even though the suit had
bipartisan support, Phelps decided last Thursday to drop the case
because it would likely interfere with the Dec. 17 filing deadline
for Congressional races.
Phelps plans to file for the race
in the new 19th district against Shimkus today as well as formally
announce his candidacy.
In Oklahoma, Rep. Ernest Istook
(R) has broached the possibility of taking redistricting control
away from the Legislature and allowing state courts to draw the map.
Pointing to the fact that the
special election in the 1st district to replace Rep. Steve Largent
(R) has slowed the process considerably, Istook said it is
"unrealistic" to expect any movement on redistricting in the
Legislature before March.
"The public is not well served by
the delay," he added.
Istook said that while he has
mentioned the redistricting situation in mailings to constituents
and donors, he has not considered devoting radio or television time
to the issue.
"It is very difficult to get the
public interested in redistricting during normal times," said
Istook. "It is near impossible to get people to focus on it
The Only Winner So
Far in Bruising Redistricting Battle: Incumbents
By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos
December 7, 2001
With 20 state redistricting plans
final and the rest either caught up in court, state legislatures or
both, it appears that neither party stands to gain enough of an
advantage from the new congressional district boundaries to change
the make-up of the Congress in the 2002 elections.
ìThis is going to be a break-even
nationally, and then the election will be determined on the merits,î
said Democratic Rep. Martin Frost from Texas, which will gain two
new seats in heavily Republican areas. The current Democratic
majority in the Texas delegation shouldnít be affected, however.
Nationally, both parties are
picking up seven seats each, according to the plans that have
already been approved. But many more are up for grabs. Experts say
that Republicans may come out on top in this race by the time it's
all over, but only marginally.
The GOP in fact was confident
that it would come out of the process a big winner all over the
country, especially since it had won a High Court battle over how
the census count would be taken.
The Democrats fought hard for
statistical sampling of the population used to come up with the
final census headcounts. Such a move would likely have added more
minorities and city dwellers to the rolls ó and they historically
Republicans, who argued that
statistical sampling would not truly reflect the state of the
population, brought their case to court and won, on at least one
level. The Supreme Court ruled that statistical sampling could not
be used for congressional redistricting, but the ruling did not
apply to redistricting for state legislatures and federal aid
ìI think Republicans had
anticipated they would be doing better,î noted Rob Richie, executive
director of the Center for Voting and Democracy. ìWhile they have
done well here and there, as of now thereís nothing to prevent the
Democrats from retaking Congress in 2002.î
Despite the ìvicious bloodsportî
behind the scenes to win this once-a-decade battle, he said, the
real story is that the status quo was preserved in most states and
incumbents in their respective parties are safer than ever. ìTheyíve
made more races non-competitive,î he said, noting that there will be
only 30 to 50 competitive races out of almost 400 at the midterms.
ìThe only way you can lose a seat
thatís safe is by losing a primary,î he said. ìThat is the bigger
Mike Franc, a government policy
analyst for the Heritage Foundation, says this has helped reinforce
extreme-left or -right party affiliation and partisanship in
Washington D.C. ìIncumbents get locked in for one party or another;
there is a constant diminishment of moderates,î he said. ìAll of
your members are on one end of the spectrum or the other.î
But redistricting is far from
over and, in most cases, stateís political fates will be decided in
a court of law. But it appears here that incumbents were the real
winners of this much-anticipated match. ìThe idea was to come to
some sort of compromise and that compromise was, ëletís just protect
what we have,íî said Richie.
In more notable state
New York will lose two seats and
they could come from both Republican and Democratic strongholds when
the lines are redrawn.
California gets one new seat and
itís going to the Democrats ó though they hoped for three new seats
Connecticut loses one seat. There
is currently an impasse in court over which party will give it up.
There is currently an even 3-3 balance between parties in Congress.
There are two new seats in
Arizona, with one clearly going to the Democrats and the other up
Democrats seek to pick up six new
seats in Georgia, while Republicans gain five news seats in
Associated Press contributed to this report.
As first filing
periods begin, incumbents anticipate easy road
By Allison Stevens
December 5, 2001
Congressional incumbents may want
to think about including their state lawmakers on their Christmas
Thanks to the pro-incumbent
atmosphere after Sept. 11, the ever-rising cost of congressional
elections, and a redistricting year in which state legislatures
shored up many of last yearís marginal districts, most incumbents
can go home this holiday season looking forward to easier races next
Incumbents have a lot to be
thankful for in a year that began with warnings that as many as 100
seats would be in play in next yearís midterm elections, and is
ending with predictions that only two dozen races will actually be
competitive in 2002.
ìChristmas is coming early for
incumbents,î said Marshall Wittmann, a governmental scholar at the
Hudson Institute. ìThere were a lot of expectations that
redistricting would change the whole landscape. But that just hasnít
He added, however, that an
unforeseen shift in the political winds ó a deepening recession, for
example, or a backlash against the Bush administration ó could
But unless that happens, the
three states that have filing periods this month ó California, Texas
and Illinois ó serve as apt openers for a mid-term election year
that will likely be marked by a small smattering of competitive
races across the country.
In California ó once a
battleground state that was home last year to half-a-dozen
competitive racesó party officials are predicting a lackluster
election year in which the stateís 33 Democratic-leaning districts
and 20 Republican-leaning districts produce few surprises.
Less than a week before
Californiaís first-in-the-nation filing deadline on Friday,
California Democratic Party spokesman Bob Mulholland conceded,
ìThereís not going to be much action here.î
The conventional wisdom, he said,
is that even vulnerable House members ó like Democrats Ellen
Tauscher and Cal Dooley and Republicans Elton Gallegly and Dana
Rohrabacher ó appear to be on more solid ground. ìWe wonít know
until the March primaries whether any more districts will be
competitive,î he added. ìMaybe some wacko Republican will get
Democratic-leaning district has been reconfigured to contain more
Republicans, said he was somewhat relieved as he heads into the
election year but cautioned that no California Republican should
ever take anything for granted.
The lack of excitement comes
after a watershed year in which Democrats ousted four Republican
incumbents and this year forced one more ó Rep. Steve Horn ó to
retire. The muted politicking has forced political junkies to turn
instead to primaries for election year fireworks.
Embattled Rep. Gary Conditís (D)
shored-up district, for example, has drawn more than its share of
media attention. To date, only one Democrat, state Rep. Dennis
Cordoza, has emerged as a credible primary threat to Condit, while
two Republicans ó state Sen. Dick Monteith and City Councilman Bill
Conrad ó have lined up to mount longshot bids in the newly shored up
district in central California.
Meanwhile, Democrat Linda
Sanchez, attorney and sister of Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.),
created a bit of a stir when she announced her intention to run in
the new Democratic stronghold in Los Angeles. If both Sanchez women
win next year, they would become the first sisters ever elected to
Democratic state Reps. Sally
Havice and Marco Antonio Firebaugh have also announced plans to run
for the new Hispanic majority seat.
The Golden Stateís 51 other
districts have little to report. Aside from Condit, several members
have drawn primary opponents so far, but none appear to be strong
enough to take down an incumbent. These members include GOP Reps.
Bill Thomas, Richard Pombo, John Doolittle, Mary Bono, Ken Calvert
and Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, according to
documents filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Nathan Fletcher, political
director of the California Republican Party, said he is focusing on
recruiting candidates for the general election before the Friday
deadline. ìWhat weíre looking for is people to give the Republican
perspective on the issues and stand with President Bush,î he said,
adding that he expects to field GOP candidates in every district.
The picture is similar in Texas
where few credible candidates are lining up to take on incumbents as
the Jan. 2 filing deadline looms on the horizon.
Republicans had hoped to draw a
map that would put a number of Democrats at risk but wound up with
an incumbent-protection plan that virtually guarantees the
reelection prospects of the stateís 17 Democrats and 13 Republicans
and creates two new solid GOP districts.
While Republicans say they have
their best chance in a decade of unseating three Blue Dog Democrats
ó Reps. Chet Edwards, Ralph Hall and Charlie Stenholm ó even the GOP
concedes that they are more likely to win the seats after the three
veteran centrists retire.
ìHonestly, the split is probably
going to be 17-15,îsaid Ted Royer, spokesman for the Texas
Republican Party. ìThe numbers say there is going to be little
Edwards, considered by Royer the
most vulnerable of the three, agreed. ìI think there will be a lot
of competition, but when the dust settles in November of 2002 most,
if not all, of the incumbents will have been reelected.î
Republicans also concede that one
of the stateís few open seats, vacated by Rep. Ken Bentsen (D) to
run for the Senate, will also likely be succeeded by another
Democrats are also optimistic
about their prospects in the 5th District, currently held by Rep.
Pete Sessions (R), who is vacating the seat to run in the more
compact and more conservative new district near Dallas. Sessions
leaves behind a marginal Dallas-based district that will be sure to
draw attention next year.
Republicans who have yet to field
a candidate in the 5th, maintain they will hold this GOP-leaning
district in Dallas. They are also confident they will win the two
new seats in central Texas and Dallas, where Sessions is unlikely to
face serious opposition. Republicans state Sen. Steve Ogden and
state district judge John Carter have expressed interest in the race
for the central Texas seat.
Aside from a potentially
competitive race to succeed Sessions, political observers have
little to look forward to in the Lone Star State where at least two
Republican incumbents, Reps. Lamar Smith and Sam Johnson, have drawn
challengers, and one, Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R), has drawn a
primary opponent according to FEC documents. DeLay, however,
defeated the same candidate, Michael Fjetland, by a landslide last
ìThe districts have become
marginally more competitive,î Royer said. ìTheyíre moving to the
right, but the Democrats are still very entrenched.î
In Illinois, a battleground state
last year, party officials also have little to look forward to as
the stateís Dec. 17 filing deadline fast approaches.
As in Texas and California,
Illinoisí new map also presents few opportunities for either party.
The new map protects most of last yearís vulnerable incumbents, such
as GOP Reps. Mark Kirk and Tim Johnson and Democrat Lane Evans.
Democrats have also targeted Rep.
Jerry Weller (R). But Wellerís district has been made more
Republican and his primary challenger, Patricia Clemmons, recently
withdrew her name from consideration.
Republicans, meanwhile, have
little opportunity in the stateís only open seat ó the southwest
suburban Chicago seat held by Rep. Rod Blagojevich (D), who is
retiring to run for governor.
So far, three Democrats,
including former Clinton aide Rahm Emmanuel and former state Rep.
Nancy Kaszak, are running, while only one Republican, financial
consultant Mark Augusti, has said he plans to run. Two other
Republicans are also exploring bids. The filing period opens Dec. 10
and closes Dec. 17.
Illinoisí star attraction will no
doubt be the race that features Rep. David Phelps (D), who was
paired with Johnson but has indicated that he will move to Rep. John
Shimkusí (R) district.
Phelps has not yet chosen which
district he will run in and may continue to pursue his legal options
ìI have said I would run in the
district where most of my constituents are,î Phelps said in an
interview. ìThat appears to be the new 19th District. Republicans
are favored, but itís doable.î
Safe But Sorry;
The Way We Redistrict Destroys the Middle Ground
By Joanne Dann
December 2, 2001
Barely six weeks after the
post-Sept. 11 sheathing of partisan swords on Capitol Hill, politics
was -- in House Majority Leader Dick Armey's understated phrase --
"back to usual." The rancorous congressional debate over the
stimulus package and the airport security bill should have surprised
no one: The polarization of the House of Representatives, which took
decades to develop, is so deep-rooted that not even a terrorist
attack is enough to reverse the trend for very long. The moderate
voices who once forged compromises have all but vanished from
committees and the floor.
Where has the House middle ground
gone? That's a good question. Here's a better one: Why don't more
moderates get elected?
The answer, in part, can be
traced to changes in the redistricting process, that once-a-decade
ritual undertaken by each state after the Census Bureau releases new
population figures. A century ago, moderates had a strong voice in a
House where competitive elections were the norm (election records
show that fully half the seats in the 1890s were won by margins of
10 percent or less). Today, in all but a handful of states, the
lords of redistricting engage in fierce partisan battles to create
"safe" districts for one party or the other (in most congressional
elections over the past 40 years, fewer than one-fifth of the seats
were decided by margins under 10 percent).
There are still a few states,
such as Iowa and Washington, which routinely host some of the most
hotly contested congressional elections in the country. It's no
coincidence that both states have handed over redistricting to a
nonpartisan or bipartisan group -- and thatboth have a track record
of sending independent-minded moderate representatives to Capitol
Hill. "I can't believe everyone doesn't use our system," Marlys
Popma, executive director of Iowa's Republican Party, told me.
Ironically, the overall decline
in competitiveness -- and the House's current fractured state -- can
be seen as an unintended consequence of a landmark series of Supreme
Court rulings that were intended to open up the political process:
the "one-man, one-vote" cases of the 1960s. The court, citing
Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, required congressional
districts to have roughly the same number of people. Before the
court's rulings, districts could be of varying population; boundary
lines generally were redrawn only when population changes caused a
state to lose or gain a seat.
Creating districts of equal
population was clearly a better way to ensure equal political power.
But in effect, the court's ruling opened every district to
redistricting mischief every 10 years. The process had always been
highly political, but now the majority party in each state capitol
had a greater opportunity to carve out safe seats. Or, in cases
where the two parties share power, they can dicker and bargain over
which districts will be primarily Democratic and which will be
primarily Republican. Working with increasingly sophisticated
computer programs, consultants hired by state legislatures can draw
these partisan districts with ever sharper expertise. These designer
districts now dominate the political landscape. As Tom Hofeller, the
Republican National Committee's redistricting director, recently
told the National Conference of State Legislatures: "In the politics
of redistricting, politicians get to choose the voters."
These safe districts encourage
hard-line views. "If you have districts drawn so that incumbents are
always safe and don't worry about being reelected, it leads to less
attention paid to the constituency," says Rep. Adam Smith, a
Democrat from Washington state's 9th District. Think about it: If
you represent a district that votes 80 percent Republican or
Democratic, why worry about the views of voters from the other
party? It's the winners of close elections who often are willing to
soften an uncompromising stance.
Over the past four decades,
redistricting has twice caused a blip of renewed competitiveness in
the first election after new maps were released, with the number of
close races higher in 1972 and 1992. Perhaps the process itself, and
the accompanying hoopla, attracts both new candidates and voters.
But as the decades wore on and the parties became entrenched in most
of these carefully crafted districts, competitiveness tended to
decline again; in 2000, for example, only 57 of the House's 435
seats were decided by margins of 10 percent or less -- an
astoundingly low 13 percent.
Will this year's redistricting
follow this familiar pattern? There's no reason to think otherwise.
Eighteen states have already finished their work, and lawsuits
spawned by cutthroat redistricting politics already clog more than a
dozen state judicial dockets, with especially contentious battles
underway in Texas and Georgia. Incumbents continue to petition their
state legislatures to draw district lines in their favor, or at
least so their districts remain on the map.
Now is the moment to take a
serious look at less partisan methods of reshaping congressional
districts. Iowans may have the most experience with the nonpartisan
approach; in 1981, disgruntled by never-ending lawsuits, the state
legislature handed the job to the Legislative Service Bureau, a
highly respected agency that also drafts bills and does research for
the legislature. Under the law that created the bureau, it is not
permitted to use party data in its redistricting. The law also
stipulates that counties not be divided and that contiguity must be
The bureau submits a
redistricting plan to the legislature, which can accept or reject
the first two attempts but cannot offer amendments until the third
try. If no agreement is reached, the process goes to the courts.
That has never happened.
This year, the legislature turned
thumbs down on the first map, but approved the second -- which
almost guarantees competition in four of the state's five
districts.Thirteen-term Republican moderate Jim Leach, thrown into
the 1st District with incumbent Republican Jim Nussle, has chosen to
move from his home in Davenport to Iowa City so he can run in the
unfamiliar terrain of the newly designed 2nd District. "We have zero
input," Leach said. "The maps are put on the Internet at a given
hour, and we have no pre-knowledge." None of his House colleagues
quite believe it, he added.
Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from
Iowa's 3rd District and former president of the state senate, says
he watched carefully 10 years ago to see if the redistricting plan
truly surprised state legislators when it was put on their desks.
"Guards were at the doors," he recalls. "I watched the face of the
majority leader when he opened his envelope. I know it was a real
surprise." To run in the newly shaped 3rd, Boswell also must move
from his hometown.
After the initial shock of having
to move their political bases, Leach and Boswell maintain they
support Iowa's nonpartisan approach. "It's the fairest way I know
of," says Democrat Boswell, who manages to please both the AFL-CIO
and the Chamber of Commerce. Leach, who frequently bucks Republican
leadership, agrees: "Good nonpartisan redistricting is good for the
public," he says.
There is, of course, internal
political grumbling, criticism and accusations about how Iowa's
system sometimes works. "There's still politics in the process," the
chair of the Democratic state party, Sheila Riggs, emphasizes. As
there should be; after all, this is politics at its most raw. But so
far, Iowa's nonpartisan approach has produced the desired result, at
least according to the people in charge of it. "You've got to say
the process shuffles incumbency," Gary Rudicil, the computer expert
on the Legislative Service Bureau team, told me. Ed Cook, the head
honcho for this last redistricting, agreed. "It's difficult to
create safe districts using our method," he said.
Washington state, meanwhile, has
gone the bipartisan route, setting up its first commission in 1991.
The commissions consist of two Democrats and two Republicans chosen
by the state legislature, and a non-voting fifth member picked by
the four others; the panels go out of existence after each
redistricting is complete. The redistricting plan must be favored by
three of the voting commissioners and passed by the legislature.
In 1992, the state added a new
district, the 9th, as a result of population gains. A Democrat won
in 1992, and then the seat changed hands -- and parties -- in 1994
and again in 1996. Democrat Smith has held the seat since then. The
commission drew the boundary lines, he said, with the intent of
creating "a 50-50 district," with an equal number of Democratic and
"A split is good public policy,"
Smith said. "But it's bad for me personally. Obviously, I would like
to be guaranteed my seat. But redistricting that sets out to protect
incumbents harms democracy. It polarizes people and it makes the
district less competitive."
Both Iowa and Washington have
more than their share of congressional moderates. Leach, known for
his independence, bucked President Bush on three energy-related
votes in August. Democrat Boswell, meanwhile, broke from his party
ranks to vote with the president on the same issue. Three of Iowa's
five representatives frequently vote independently, as do five of
Washington's nine representatives.
Only a half-dozen larger states
now have redistricting panels or commissions that bypass the
legislature, but the number is growing. Arizona, which gained two
congressional seats in the 2000 censusand will have a total of eight
for the 2002 election, recently joined the fold in an attempt to
avoid the legal fights of the past. It remains to be seen whether
this year's multiple legal hassles will lead more states to take the
Let's hope so. That may be the
best way to create more competitive districts and bring back the
voices of moderation and compromise that are so urgently needed on
the House floor.
Dann, a Washington writer and former journalist, has been studying
the effects of redistricting.
It Could Be a Real
By Rhodes Cook
December 2, 2001
Ready or not, many members of
Congress may face something next year that they have not encountered
for the better part of a decade: serious competition.
In the election of 2000, a
presidential year, fewer than 15 percent of victorious House
candidates won with less than 55 percent of the vote (a standard
benchmark for defining a competitive race). This paucity of
competition is not unusual for the end of a decade, when incumbents
are so firmly rooted in their domains that potential challengers
tend to defer a bid until redistricting -- a process taking place
right now around the country -- creates a new political map.
In all but the seven smallest
states, which elect only one representative, boundaries will be
redrawn. For some districts, little more than a tummy tuck is needed
to reach the "one man, one vote" requirement that has been legally
mandated since the 1960s. Many, however, will require major surgery
to make them of equal population with other districts in their
The question now is: What will
the new lines produce in the 2002 campaign? Will there be little or
no increase in the number of competitive races, as occurred in the
elections of 1972 and 1982? Or will there be the kind of dramatic
spike in competition that defined the 1992 congressional elections
(111 competitive races, as defined by the 55 percent benchmark,
compared with just 57 two years earlier)?
Why the sudden burst of
competitiveness in 1992? Not all of it can be attributed to
redistricting; other powerful factors were at work that year. There
was the strong scent of lax ethics emanating from Capitol Hill,
courtesy of the House banking scandal. As the campaign season began,
the nation was widely perceived to be in recession, which added to
theunpredictability of the political backdrop. And nearly 15 percent
of House members had decided to call it quits, a post-World War II
record that produced an unusually large number of open seats.
All in all, it was a volatile
environment that is unlikely to be replicated in 2002. House
departures are not expected to come anywhere close to the 65
retirements in 1992. No scandals have tarred large numbers of
congressional members. And the 2000 reapportionment resulted in the
smallest shift of House seats from the Frost Belt to the Sun Belt in
decades -- just 12 seats -- which will limit the amount of political
volatility produced by the need to create or eliminate districts.
But politics have a way of making
any forecast -- and any forecaster -- look foolish. The full
political impact of the terrorist attacks, and the events that have
followed, is still to be determined. But we do know that Sept. 11
produced one of the quickest agenda shifts in the nation's history,
and that Congress is one of the focal points of that shift. Then
there's the economy: There are no signs there will be a quick
recovery from the recession that became official last week. If the
economy is still struggling next year, it will create political
turmoil, as it always does. Add the effects of congressional
redistricting, and it's possible -- how's that for a bold statement?
-- that 2002 could join 1992 as one of the most competitive
elections in years.
One caveat, however: In 1992, the
level of competition did not translate into a major shift of power;
in the House, the Republicans scored a modest gain of 10 seats. But
the highly competitive nature of that election was quite noticeable
in other ways: Forty-three incumbents were defeated (the highest
number in any election since the post-Watergate contest of 1974),
including 19 members who lost in their party's primary (the highest
number since the end of World War II).
In short, the skirmishing for
House seats in 1992 was not confined to November. For those who
believe in competition, there's still time for history to repeat
itself in 2002.
Cook analyzes political trends at RhodesCook.com and is the
co-author of "America Votes," Congressional Quarterly's biennial
summary of national election results.
Gains Seen; Remap May Net Just One New Majority-Black District
By John Mercurio
November 8, 2001
Ten years after redistricting
created a record-breaking 13 new districts that ended up sending
African-Americans to the House, remapping may produce just one new
majority-black seat in 2002, a drop that stems from a decade of
court rulings, population shifts and House Democrats' loss of
"There's even a possibility there
won't be one [new seat] at all," said David Bositis, senior
political analyst with the Joint Center for Political and Economic
Studies and a nonpartisan analyst of politics and race. "There is a
possible scenario in Louisiana and one in Massachusetts. But there's
just no obvious place where such a district would be created."
One key dynamic shaping this
trend is a debate developing between African-Americans in some state
Legislatures who want to create additional majority-minority
districts, and black Democrats who already hold House seats. Aiming
to regain the majority, those House Members are more focused on
creating opportunities for Democrats, regardless of race.
The trend is not limited to
blacks. While the nation's Hispanic population grew dramatically in
the 1990s, the 18-Member caucus is likely to gain no more than three
new Members based on new maps, a far cry from the six
Hispanic-majority seats added 10 years ago and earlier projections
that redistricting could result in another 12 Hispanic seats in
And despite strong population
growth among Asian-Americans, few redistricting officials have even
raised the prospect of drawing a district with an Asian
The post-2000 census round of
redistricting, which is roughly midway through the state-by-state
process, is also notable for the relative lack of legal battles and
contentious partisanship that marked the 1990s.
"The demographics have driven
this, so it's been more harmonious than before," said Mark Gersh, a
redistricting expert with the National Committee for an Effective
Congress and a consultant to the Democratic Congressional Campaign
Committee. "Nobody knew what the rules were 10 years ago. But the
Supreme Court decisions of the 1990s, combined with the fact that
retrogression is a violation of the Voting Rights Act, have created
guidelines that make things much clearer."
That new landscape, both legal
and political, is being challenged by African-Americans in state
legislatures across the country, and lawsuits could still arise in
southern states that have rejected black legislators' efforts to
create more majority-minority districts.
In Louisiana, state Rep. Arthur
Morrell (D), chairman of the black caucus in Baton Rouge, whose plan
to create a second majority-minority district was rejected along
racial lines in the state Legislature, plans to challenge the
state's House map in court because he claims it violates the Voting
"They said it was reverse
discrimination because it created a black district. But they created
six white districts, which is also gerrymandering,"Morrell said. "So
it's apparently OK to create six white districts, but it's not OK to
create one minority district."
Such fights have started to put
black state legislators at odds with black House Members within
Morrell, for example, laid scorn
on African-American Rep. Bill Jefferson (D-La.), who he said failed
to consult with the legislative caucus before he endorsed the
Congressional delegation's incumbent protection plan. That proposal,
which the Legislature largely endorsed, left Jefferson with the
state's only majority-minority district.
"It was adopted because all of
the incumbents were looking out for themselves," he said. "Jefferson
... could have waited to see what plans were out there before he
committed. He could have and he should have."
Indeed, the tension between
Morrell and Jefferson underscores a broader debate that has existed
since Republicans took control of the House in 1994, throwing all
but one black House Member into the minority.
Since then, black House Members
have been lobbied aggressively by party leaders to support efforts
to draw districts with significant, but not overwhelming,
percentages of African-American voters, a strategy that enables
Democrats to distribute their support to more districts.
"There's a belief that
majority-minority districts contributed to Republicans taking over
the House," Bositis said. "Since every Member of the [Congressional
Black Caucus] is a Democrat, they definitely have a goal of helping
the Democrats take over. So black Democrats realize that if the
number of Democrats is going to increase, there needs to be a
significant number of black voters in districts that will be
winnable by white Democrats."
Other groups also are being
lobbied to place their party's bid for the majority ahead of their
community's desire for increased representation. Congressional
Hispanics, for example, privately agreed earlier this year to back
incumbent Democrats in primary contests with Hispanic challengers,
regardless of the incumbents' race.
"Clearly, if we want Members to
vote with us on the issues of importance to our community, we need
to support them," Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Bob Menendez
(N.J.) said at the time.
National Republican Congressional
Committee Chairman Tom Davis (Va.) said white Democrats who control
state legislatures are not eager to create more majority-minority
districts. "Why do that, because then everything else is
Republican?" he said this week.
"The key is, you use minority
straight-ticket Democratic votes to elect white Democrats - that's
their formula. Partisanship is driving redistricting, not racial or
Still, some House Democrats said
redistricting officials could achieve both.
"The idea that you have to choose
between two white Democrats or a black Democrat and a white
Republican is false," said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), who's
challenging a GOP-drawn map of his state that shifts thousands of
black voters from the district of new Rep. Randy Forbes (R), who is
white, to Scott's majority-black district in Richmond. "You don't
have to choose. You can have both if you draw the districts
In an Oct. 12 letter to the
Justice Department, Scott said the current House map in Virginia
does just that. He said the existing 4th district, which is 39
percent African-American, is acceptable because it created the
"opportunity" for black voters to elect the candidate of their
Redistricting this year has been
shaped by six major Supreme Court rulings during the 1990s, all of
them decided by 5-4 votes.
In perhaps its most pivotal
decision, the court in Shaw v. Reno in 1993 rejected a "bizarrely"
shaped district drawn for black Rep. Mel Watt (D). Writing for the
majority, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor warned against giving states
"carte blanche to engage in racial gerrymandering."
That ruling paved the way for
fresh challenges to some of the new black and Hispanic districts
created in 1992.
In the Georgia case of Miller v.
Johnson, the court ruled in 1995 that "strict scrutiny" applied when
race was the "predominant" factor used to create new
Several rulings influenced the
1996 re-election bids of black House Members.
In United States v. Hayes, the
court struck down the Z-shaped district held by then Rep. Cleo
Fields (D-La.), calling it an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.
Fields, who is black, subsequently retired.
The court's ruling in Johnson v.
Mortham forced Florida to redraw Rep. Corrine Brown's (D)
majority-black district, decreasing the black voting-age population
from 50 percent to 42 percent. That same year, in Vera v. Bush, the
Supreme Court struck down the majority-minority districts of black
Texas Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D), as
well as Rep. Gene Green, a white Democrat who represents a
In 1997 the High Court let stand
a lower court ruling that Scott's district in Virginia was an
unconstitutional racial gerrymander, forcing state legislators to
reduce its black population from 64 percent to 54 percent.
Federal courts also reviewed
challenges to the districts held by Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.),
Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and James Clyburn (D-S.C.).
Although African-American gains
in the House appear to have reached a plateau in 2002, some analysts
suggested there's still room for growth within the CBC. According to
Bositis, black voters are more widely represented by white
Republicans in the South than Democrats of any race.
In the 98th Congress, elected in
1982 following the post-1980 redistricting, 4 percent of the black
population in the 11 Southern states was represented by black House
Democrats, 69 percent by white House Democrats and 27 percent by
white House Republicans, according to Bositis.
By the 103rd Congress, elected in
1992, 37 percent of the Southern black population was represented by
black House Democrats, 40 percent by white House Democrats and 23
percent by white House Republicans.
And by the 107th Congress,
elected in 2000, 26 percent was represented by black House
Democrats, 20 percent by white House Democrats and 53 percent by
white House Republicans.
"So more blacks are represented
in the South in Congress today by white Republicans than either
black or white Democrats," Bositis said.
Wall Street Journal
Americans will go to the polls a
year from this week in the quaint belief that they will be electing
a new Congress. But the real story is that nearly all of those races
have already been decidedóby politicians in backrooms and long
before anyone even votes.
The reason is the bipartisan
scandal known as redistricting, or more colorfully as the
"gerrymander." That is the process by which state politicians sit
down every 10 years to carve up Congressional districts. This time
they're doing it with an even more blatant mix than usual of
partisanship and incumbent protection. The result is that perhaps
only 30 of 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will even
be competitive next year.
The process is turning American
democracy on its head. The House was supposed to be the legislative
body closest to the people, the one built to reflect swift changes
in the popular will. But nowadays the Senate is more open to popular
opinion, despite six-year terms, because no one has yet figured out
how to gerrymander an entire state.
Gerrymanders have been part of
American history at least since the term was coined in 1812. But
today politicians use computer data bases to build districts so
precise in their demographics that they resemble bugs splattered on
a windshield. The line drawers know enough about party registration
to divide people on different sides of the same street.
This year, as usual, both parties
are in on the scandal. But because Republicans have more House
incumbents, and more governors, they're likely to get the partisan
advantage, creating perhaps a dozen new safe GOP seats. Michael
Barone, author of the Almanac of American Politics, says the way
redistricting is going "will make it next to impossible for the
Democrats to retake the House." This may be good for Republicans,
but it's bad for democracy. A year ago more than 20% of the entire
House had no major party challenger. George W. Bush won Florida by
only 537 votes, but 10 of the 21 Florida House incumbents ran
Gerrymanders can produce
effective disenfranchisement. Witness the scam Republicans pulled
off this year in Utah to defeat the state's Democratic Congressman,
Jim Matheson. The state's GOP legislature carved up his urban Salt
Lake City district and mixed city neighborhoods with 14 rural
counties. The GOP plan moved 684,000 people from one district to
another, while competing plans moved fewer than one-tenth as many.
Democrats won 41% of the vote in House races in Utah last year, but
next year they'll struggle to get even one of the state's three
House seats. (See the nearby maps.)
And that's not the worst. In
Michigan, which Al Gore carried by five percentage points, a GOP
gerrymander has stuffed six Democratic incumbents into only three
seats. The likely result is that a nine-to-seven Democratic majority
delegation will become a nine-to-six GOP majority. In a burst of
candor, one of the stuffed Democrats, Representative Jim Barcia,
admitted that "If the shoe were on the other foot, we would be doing
the same thing."
And Democrats did precisely that
in Georgia, pushing four GOP incumbents into two districts and
creating four ungainly new Atlanta districts tilted toward
Democrats. Stu Rothenberg of Roll Call newspaper says Georgia's
legislature should be "publicly humiliated" for its brazen line
drawing. One new district has four strange peninsulas that resemble
in turn: Long Island, Cape Cod, Malaysia and the genie from the
It's tempting to say "that's
politics" and assume that the partisanship balances out over time.
But that can be a very long time. Meanwhile, the public will is
stymied, fewer elections are competitive and more and more Americans
decide not to vote at all. What's the point in voting if you know
the outcome in advance?
We know that courts or bipartisan
"commissions" don't always do a better job than politicians in the
messy work of redistricting. But both Canada and Britain appoint
boundary commissions that somehow are universally respected by all
parties and create far more competitive seats. This year in the
U.S., both Iowa and Arizona used nonpartisan bodies to draw compact
districts, with much success.
That was the model Ronald Reagan
had in mind when he warned Americans in 1989 about the "conflict of
interest" legislators have in drawing their own districts. He said
gerrymandering would remain a "national scandal" so long as the
public was uninformed about how it renders many elections
Mr. Reagan's sensible voice has
been stilled, so we hope other leaders will take up the call.
Perhaps former Congressional leaders without a stake in the process
can help. The sad truth is that incumbents and party hacks are using
this year's gerrymanders to fix next year's elections in advance.
It's no consolation that this time around the smarter, more brazen
hacks are Republicans.
By Paul Jacob
November 7, 2001
O, the humanity! Again and again,
I've talked about the unfair process of congressional redistricting.
Why won't they listen?
Here's the deal: Every ten years,
using the new census numbers, brand new political boundary lines are
fashioned. These new lines are used to elect representatives at the
state and congressional levels.
The process has been hijacked by
politiciansówho draw lines that benefit the incumbents. This is all
done very scientifically using party affiliation, voting trends,
race, income, etc. Recently a congresswoman out in California
admitted that the politicians there were bribing the top line-maker
with $20,000 per district.
But it's never enough. Incumbents
have come up with yet another method for derailing that most evil of
democratic happenings: political competition. Seems congressional
lines are not only being drawn to stack the deck in favor of
incumbents, they're also being drawn to cut out likely challengers
of the incumbent.
In Illinois, wiggly new district
lines just happen to mysteriously eliminate potential opponents of
incumbents like Congressmen Phil Crane, Tim Johnson, Bobby Rush, and
Luis Gutierrez. Sure, this can happen once in a while, by
coincidenceóbut this often? And in Congressman Crane's case it was
three separate challengers who got deleted by the re-mapping.
Reforms in Washington state and
Arizona take redistricting out of the hands of the politicians and
guide it by non-political criteria. It's about time we did this
This is Common Sense. I'm Paul
Sense is U.S. Term Limits' weekly radio commentary program by
National Director Paul Jacob. Common Sense can be heard on 277 radio
stations in 49 states.
Isn't Sexy, but It Matters
James E. Garcia
November 6, 2001
Why should we care more about
redistricting? Because the decisions being made today about how to
redraw electoral boundary lines could affect you for the rest of
Sometimes I wish there was a
sexier way to say it. A way to get people excited as soon I
whispered the word. A way to make them want to talk about it, read
about it, and, yes, even do it.
I'm talking about the infamously
tedious, political process known as "redistricting." The thing is
that this seemingly dull and uninteresting exercise -- which occurs
just once every 10 years -- also happens to represent one of the
most significant, periodic events in American politics.
Political junkies know exactly
what I mean. To redistrict is to redraw the geographic boundary
lines of the thousands of local and regional voting districts across
the nation. I'm talking about the areas represented by your city
council members, state representatives and members of Congress.
If you haven't heard or read much
about this year's redistricting process in your local news, don't
feel too bad. It's not all your fault.
Reporters, as a general rule,
would rather stick hot pokers in their eyes than cover
redistricting. Why? Because it's a complicated subject. It doesn't
produce great pictures. And unlike a house fire, the story isn't
there and gone in a day. The redistricting process can take months
As for the publicóthe audience
for this seemingly mundane news storyómost of us would rather hear
about a congressman's sordid love affair than whether our district
fairly represents the interests of minority or low-income voters.
Unless, of course, you're a minority or low-income voter.
Fortunately, we have
organizations like the Mexican American Legal Defense and
Educational Fund, known as MALDEF, which fight for the rights of the
proverbial little guys. Because little guys tend to have little or
no power, they need groups like MALDEF and the NAACP working on
Why should we care more about
redistricting? Because the decisions being made today about how to
redraw the boundary lines of your congressional districts, for
example, could affect you for the rest of your life. How's that for
a serious consequence?
It's because the stakes are so
high that MALDEF and others have filed lawsuits across the country
challenging some of the initial proposals to redraw some boundary
lines. In its California lawsuit, MALDEF is arguing that the
proposed redistricting plan violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act by
minimizing the ballot-box influence of the state's Latino and Asian
Meanwhile, a lot of incumbents
are less than thrilled about the idea of redrawing the boundary
lines of their districts. The way they see it, democracy is all well
and good, as long as it doesn't threaten their grip on power.
So, you see, it is an important
process -- even if it is a little boring. Now say it with me. And if
it helps, go ahead and say it in a sexy voice: redistricting ...
Didn't that feel good?
Garcia is editor and publisher of AmericanLatino.net. E-mail the
writer at [email protected]
Races Emerge as Key to Gaining House Majority; Redistricting
Democrats Grapple With Leveraging Liberal Vote
By Jo Becker and Spencer S. Hsu
November 5, 2001
Maryland Democrats in charge of
congressional redistricting are under intense pressure to deliver
big for their party this year, as uncertainty over a far-off court
case and GOP advantages elsewhere raise the stakes in the
state-by-state struggle to influence the composition of the U.S.
House of Representatives.
Democrats hold an almost 2 to 1
registration advantage over Republicans in Maryland, yet the party
controls only half of the state's eight House seats.
While a plan has yet to be
formalized, the state is seen as key to the Democratic Party's
strategies, and party officials who control the redistricting
process have settled on an aggressive goal of redrawing political
boundaries to maximize their chances of picking up two seats.
"I've been told that it's very
doable," said a top national Democratic redistricting strategist.
"This is a state where one party has an advantage, and we'll try to
press that advantage to gain as much as we can."
Every 10 years, the political
boundaries of districts are redrawn to reflect population shifts.
Districts must be roughly equal in population to ensure equal
But figuring out which voters to
pack into what district is a high-stakes political battle that can
determine which people stay in power and who gets to vote for
For Democrats, the pressure is
particularly intense: To reach a majority of 218 in the House,
Democrats must gain six seats. To do that, they must win 31 of the
50 competitive races in 2002, a difficult task.
In states such as Florida,
Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Republicans are pulling out all the
stops to design districts they can win. Democrats, for their part,
have fought to maximize their advantage in states they control,
recently winning a crucial victory in Georgia, where the party could
pick up as many as four additional House seats.
In Texas, a plan that could have
resulted in the loss of as many as nine Democratic seats was
scrapped amid legal wrangling, and redistricting is now in the hands
of a three-member panel of federal judges.
With two of the three members of
the panel appointed by a Democratic president, the national party is
less worried than it was initially. But the outcome is uncertain,
which adds to the pressure that Maryland Democrats face.
"We have heard a lot from
Democrats who say, 'Remember the Alamo, remember Texas,' said Isiah
Leggett (D-At Large), a Montgomery County Council member who is part
of a five-member redistricting task force appointed by Gov. Parris
Even apart from pressure from the
national party, most of Maryland's congressional Democrats have
concluded on their own to push for a map with six Democratic
"I think we recognize that
everyone among the four [Democratic] incumbents will have to make
some sacrifices to accommodate that goal," said U.S. Rep. Albert R.
Wynn (D-Md). "We are going to do that."
A spokeswoman for Rep. Steny H.
Hoyer, dean of Maryland's Democratic delegation, said members were
closing in on a plan.
Target number one for Maryland
Democrats is U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella, an eight-term
Republican who represents most of Montgomery County.
Significantly increasing the
number of Democrats in Morella's 8th District would be easy, if that
were all the party wanted to accomplish. But picking up two seats
without hurting Democratic incumbents is difficult, because there
are only so many Democratic voters to go around. Political mapmakers
run the risk of maintaining the 4 to 4 status quo if the districts
aren't drawn with strongly Democratic majorities.
One plan would increase the
number of Democrats in Morella's district, while attempting to
convert the district currently represented by U.S. Rep. Robert L.
Ehrlich Jr. (R-Md.) into the Democratic column by centering it in
the Baltimore County area.
The idea is to design a district
where Baltimore County Executive C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger could
mount a competitive challenge. But the plan could also persuade
Ehrlich to enter the governor's race against one of the Democrat's
rising national stars, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
The other plan involves splitting
Montgomery County's 8th District into two Montgomery-centric and
Democratic-leaning districts, while continuing to give Wynn a small
slice of the liberal jurisdiction. That plan has the benefit of
avoiding a bruising Democratic primary fight between Del. Mark K.
Shriver (Montgomery) and state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr.
(Montgomery), two party up-and-comers who are vying to challenge
Morella. One could challenge the Republican incumbent in a
rejiggered, more heavily Democratic district, and one would get a
free shot at an open seat.
But to pack both districts with
enough Democrats, map drawers would probably have to snake one of
them up to liberal Columbia, which is currently represented by U.S.
Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.).
Cardin might not want to lose
those Columbia liberals.
"I think it would be extremely
difficult for Maryland Democrats to pick up two seats," he said,
refusing to comment on specific plans.
The redistricting panel is
expected to submit a draft plan within a few weeks, and Glendening
must make a final decision by