GOP map triumphs in NJ redistricting

Reps. Rothman (D) and Garrett (R) will face off, if both choose to stay where they are and seek reelection.

The tie-breaking member of New Jersey’s bipartisan redistricting commission has sided with a Republican-drawn map for the state’s congressional districts, merging the territories of a liberal Democrat and one of the House’s most conservative Republicans.

The new Garden State map sets the stage for a general election showdown in 2012 between Reps. Steve Rothman (D) and Scott Garrett (R), if both choose to stay where they are and seek reelection. But much of Rothman’s old district was drawn into Rep. Bill Pascrell’s (D), so it could be tempting for Rothman to challenge a fellow Democrat instead.

{mosads}Both the Democratic and Republican proposals drew Rothman and Garrett into the same district. But Democrats said they wanted that new district to be evenly split between Democratic and Republican voters, while Republicans sought an advantage.

The panel’s tiebreaker, Rutgers Law School Dean John Farmer, notified the two parties Friday that he had chosen the GOP map, The Record reported. Garrett is expected to have an advantage of about 4 points in the new district, based on past election results.

New Jersey lost one seat in the once-per-decade map-redrawing process due to population growth that was slower than in other parts of the country. The new map makes it likely that each party will hold six of New Jersey’s 12 House seats.

Other changes to the state’s congressional map will shore up Reps. Leonard Lance (R) and Jon Runyan (R), according to PolitickerNJ.

Rothman and Garrett would likely have little trouble winning their primary races if they seek reelection in the new district they were both drawn into, but what would happen in the incumbent-vs.-incumbent showdown is less clear. Each had more than $1.5 million in the bank to use for his reelection, as of the end of September.

Garrett, a Tea Party-affiliated Republican serving in the House since 2002, could face voter backlash from the perception that the GOP-controlled House has obstructed progress on the economy.

But alongside Rothman’s name on the ballot will be another prominent Democrat — President Obama — who received the early and vocal support of Rothman during the 2008 Democratic primary. Obama won big in New Jersey that year, but his approval ratings in the state, as elsewhere, have dipped below 50 percent, and it remains to be seen whether he will be a boost or a drag for down-ballot Garden State Democrats in 2012.

All in all, the once-per-decade map-redrawing process in New Jersey was characterized by a remarkable lack of rancor and hostility, especially compared to other states that also lost congressional seats and had to decide whether to dismantle Republican or Democratic territory. Commission members, who holed up in a suite of hotel rooms starting earlier in December, wrapped up the process in a matter of weeks without major threats of legal action.

Democrats scored a big win earlier in the year when the new map for New Jersey’s legislative districts shored up their chances to hold on to control of the state Legislature over the next decade.

— This post was updated at 12:21 p.m.


New NJ map could pit Democrat, Republican against each other

Democrats in New Jersey have submitted their proposal for the state's new congressional map, drawing Democratic Rep. Steve Rothman and Republican Rep. Scott Garrett into the same district.

The tie-breaking member of the state's redistricting commission could choose as early as today between the Democratic map and a Republican map that has not been made public, the Star-Ledger reported.

Democrats, under their map, would have six safe seats in New Jersey, while five would go for Republicans and one would be competitive for both parties. If the Democratic map stands, Rothman and Garrett could face each other in a general-election square-off to save their spot in the House.

New Jersey lost one seat in the once-per-decade map-redrawing process due to population growth that was slower than in other parts of the country. Democrats wanted two Republican districts to be merged and Republicans wanted the opposite, but the commission system made it more likely that both parties would take a hit.

The redistricting fight in New Jersey, which didn't get started in earnest until December, has been remarkably muted and tame in comparison to the all-out slugfests that have characterized the processes in other states this year.

John Farmer Jr., the tie-breaking swing vote on the commission, has set a goal of resolving the new map by Christmas.


Ariz. redistricting panel OKs contentious new map

Republicans are balking over a new congressional map approved Tuesday by Arizona's independent redistricting commission, but the map could spare Arizona Reps. David Schweikert (R) and Ben Quayle (R) from a primary showdown.

Minor changes to the initial map smoothed over specific grievances lodged by Republicans opposed to the map, but the new plan maintains a political balance that favors Democrats and led to a brutal and unpredictable inter-party battle in November. The new map, which has been tentatively approved but still needs a Justice Department sign-off, creates four likely Republican districts, two likely Democratic districts and three toss-ups.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who is facing a rematch with the Democrat he ousted in 2010, will see his district become more difficult for him to hold.


NJ redistricting head eyeing new map by Christmas

The head of New Jersey's redistricting panel is hoping that by Christmas, the panel will reach an agreement on a new map — and on which two House members will be forced to square off against each other.

New Jersey is losing one seat in the once-per-decade redistricting process due to population growth that was slower than in other parts of the country. Neither Democrats nor Republicans, who have an almost even split in the state's current congressional delegation, want one of their districts dismantled.

John Farmer Jr., the tie-breaking member of the panel and the dean of Rutgers Law School, said the panel might be able to reach a deal by Christmas, the AP reported, even though the deadline isn't until mid-January.

Potential incumbent-on-incumbent match-ups in New Jersey include Rep. Steve Rothman (D) against Rep. Scott Garrett (R), and Rep. Leonard Lance (R) against Rep. Rush Holt (D).


Florida state House adds 7 draft maps to redistricting fray

The state House in Florida put forward its proposals for new congressional districts on Tuesday, the Orlando Sentinel reported, another step in what is expected to be a drawn-out and contentious redistricting battle.

A Florida state House committee released a series of seven sample maps, and the state Senate released its own draft version last week.

Most of the House proposals would create a new district in the Orlando area that could be winnable for a Hispanic Democrat. The maps also would have the likely effect of pitting numerous incumbents against one another.

Sorting through the various proposals is expected to carry on well into 2012, and will likely involve court intervention.


Florida map proposal maintains GOP advantage

A Florida state Senate panel released a draft layout of the state's new congressional districts Monday, unveiling plans for a map that largely maintains the status quo — and in doing so, does a favor to Republicans, who already control a majority of Florida's congressional delegation.

Of the two new districts that Florida gained due to population growth over the past decade, one will be winnable for Hispanics and include 40 percent Hispanic voters, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The other will be solidly Republican.

Rep. Tom Rooney's (R-Fla.) district will be adjusted slightly and will become slightly more competitive for Democrats, while Rep. Dan Webster's (R-Fla.) district will become safer for Republicans.

“Today, Florida Republicans have taken a state — which experts have long considered one of the most malapportioned states in the country — and worsened it," Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said in a statement.

The Senate map proposal likely marks the first leg of a long and contentious journey to picking new boundaries that will serve Florida for the next decade. The state House will also draft a map, and the process is expected to require court involvement.


Brewer takes another swing at Arizona redistricting chairman

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) and her allies in the Republican-controlled Legislature are making a second go at ousting the chairwoman of the state's Independent Redistricting Commission, asking the state's highest court to keep her off the panel while the drama plays out in court.

The fight over Arizona's congressional map is far from over.

Brewer's regrouping comes less than a week after the state Supreme Court threw out her decision to remove the chairwoman, and makes it clear that while Brewer and the state GOP may have been knocked out in round one.

"I maintain that my action was lawful to remove the IRC Chairwoman based on her misconduct and neglect of duty, and ask that the Court reconsider its order of reinstatement," Brewer said in a statement. "At a minimum, the Chairwoman should be barred from resuming her duties until the Court has provided clarity regarding its cursory order."

Brewer is also asking for clarification about why the court overruled the will of the governor and the state Senate, which voted to approve Brewer's removal of Colleen Mathis, the head of the nonpartisan panel. Brewer accused Mathis of neglect and gross misconduct, but has had difficulty articulating exactly what Mathis did that was unconstitutional.

Democrats accused Brewer of an unprecedented power grab and trying to sabotage the map drafted by a voter-approved panel of two Democrats, two Republicans and an independent chair. The map they came up with benefited Democrats more than Republicans by shoring up some Democratic seats and creating a new Phoenix-area district that Democrats have a chance at winning.