New Jersey redistricting fight puts junior members at risk

Lance said he's placing his faith in the state's bipartisan redistricting commission, which will come up with a new map and presumably "make decisions based on the facts and figures."

But the state's redistricting process has traditionally protected incumbent members and rewarded seniority. In addition, Democrats now hold a one-seat advantage in the delegation, upping the political stakes of this year's redraw and making a process that is free of politics all but impossible.

"Focusing on my district wouldn't be based on population, as I'm confident the Census figures will show," said Lance. "It would probably because I haven't been here as long as some others."

Lance added: "Although, I'm not the most junior member. Jon Runyan is."

Runyan ousted Democrat John Adler this past November and said that despite his status as the only freshman member of the state's congressional delegation, he doesn't think he'll end up being a target thanks to population growth in the southern part of the state, where his district is located.

"You're always a little worried when you're losing a seat," admitted Runyan. "But I don't think it's going to play out that way" he said of the possibility his district could end up merged with another.

Like Lance, Runyan pointed to the population trends in the northern part of the state. "That's where the population loss is coming from," he said. "So I would think the boundaries should move up."

If Lance has faith in the state's bipartisan commission to find consensus on a new map, Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) is much more skeptical.

"I'd like to see us reach an agreement," Andrews said. "But given the fact that we're losing a seat, I doubt that we will, candidly."

Should the state's redistricting commission, which is split between Democrats and Republicans, hit a standstill on appointing a tie-breaking independent member to lead the group's efforts to draw a new map, the New Jersey Supreme Court will appoint the person. That's exactly what happened 10 years ago in the state.

"I think whoever that person ends up being will draw a map that respects the Voting Rights Act and that reflects where the population has gone," said Andrews, who also pointed the finger at the northeastern region. "The population patterns are pretty clear."

An ideal scenario for Republicans could be the merging of two districts in the northeastern part of the state, which has left some Democrats hoping the final population figures from the Census Bureau, which are due out by early spring, show the region took less of a hit than everyone assumes.

Democratic Reps. Albio Sires, Steve Rothman or Bill Pascrell would figure into that equation if New Jersey Republicans in the state had their way.

Rothman, however, wasn't eager to talk about the looming redistricting battle. Asked how he expects the process to play out, Rothman would only say, "I expect justice will be done."

No matter the scenario, Lance indicated that he would forge ahead in 2012.

Asked if he intended to run against an incumbent member of Congress should his district end up being merged with a neighboring one, Lance said, "I intend to continue to serve in Congress."