Iowa Dem says he wants to avoid redistricting primary fight

Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) says he's willing to move ahead of 2012 in order to avoid a primary match-up with fellow Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley should new congressional district lines proposed Thursday be approved by state lawmakers.

A map put forth by Iowa's nonpartisan redistricting commission would pit two sets of incumbents against one another in 2012. Loebsack and Braley would be forced into the same district, as would Republican Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham.

The new map makes Loebsack's 2nd district an open seat, but the Democrat said if the map wins approval, he'd shift and run in the 2nd district again, rather than run against Braley.

"Given my past, my experience, what I think I've done for the southeast part of the state, my intent is to represent those people," Loebsack told the Quad City Times on Thursday.

King, meanwhile, was cautious Thursday in discussing the possibilities after the map emerged, insisting that he's not coming up with any 2012 contingencies unless it becomes clear state lawmakers might approve the plan.

"It doesn't pay for me to plan a contingency until I get a reading as to whether or not this might pass," King told The Ballot Box. "Until then, if I comment on what I might do, I'm commenting on a hypothetical that can only cause trouble."

Ten years ago, state lawmakers rejected the first redistricting map put forth, and they could do the same this time around. But, according to the Des Moines Register, there's no early sign that this map is dead on arrival. Many lawmakers fear that if they reject this one, a second map could be even worse for state lawmakers.  

If the legislature rejects the map, the state's redistricting commission has a little over a month to come up with a second map. Republican Gov. Terry Branstad also has veto power over any redistricting plan.


Iowa redistricting proposal sets up two intraparty primaries in 2012

Iowa's nonpartisan redistricting commission proposed a new map Thursday that would pit two sets of incumbents against one another in 2012, even though the state is only shedding a single Congressional seat.

The proposed map draws two incumbent Republicans and two incumbent Democrats into newly drawn districts, setting up the potential for two intraparty primary fights next year.  

The plan is just the first proposal, but some members of the state's congressional delegation are sure to take issue with it.

Republican Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham are drawn together in the new map, while Democratic Reps. Dave Loebsack and Bruce Braley would also have to fight for a single district.

King told that he's not gaming out any 2012 plans until it's clear state lawmakers could approve the new map.

"It doesn't look like anything I would have drawn," said King, who is widely popular among conservatives in his district and around the nation. "Of all the ways you could draw a map, it's hard to configure one that would put us in the same district, but they managed to do that."

King said he hasn't yet spoken with Latham and said until and unless it becomes clear that the state legislature will approve the new map, "there's no reason to have a discussion."

The early expectation is that the plan will meet with significant Republican opposition given that Latham and King would have to battle it out in a GOP primary.

The proposed map leaves the state's new 2nd district as an open seat, which could pave the way for Christie Vilsack, the state's former first lady, who has hinted at a 2012 run for Congress.

The map will have to be voted on by the state legislature and either accepted or rejected — amending the map is not an option. According to The Associated Press, the state's redistricting commission would have 35 days to draw up a secondary plan if the one proposed Thursday is rejected by state lawmakers.
Even if the state legislature approves the plan, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad could veto it.


Redistricting will carve up Michele Bachmann's House district

The House district of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) must shed close to 100,000 voters ahead of 2012, the single biggest change that any of the state's eight Congressional districts will see in this year's redistricting process.  

Minnesota will remain at eight House districts, but detailed Census data for the state just released show that the districts of Bachmann and Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) must shed substantial numbers of voters. 

It's the scenario that political observers in the state expected from the start given the population estimates, but the release of the detailed data officially sets off a redistricting battle that could mean fewer Republican voters in Bachmann's district and stands to shift her 2010 opponent into a neighboring district.    


Georgia Republican brushes aside Dems' redistricting worries

Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston (R) said it was "premature" for state Democrats to complain about the redistricting process and warned the GOP could be more heavy handed when redrawing the boundaries.

Georgia Democratic lawmakers have cried foul over the state Republicans shifting responsibility for the details of redistricting from the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government, which is nonpartisan, to a Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office that will be advised by a top Republican lawyer.

Georgia has gained a congressional district as a result of population growth, which will complicate the process.

But Kingston said there was no plan to dramatically tilt the boundaries in his party's favor and noted that Democrats didn't use a soft touch when Gov. Roy Barnes (D) was in power after the last Census in 2000. 

"You might tilt your side here or there to protect an incumbent or two, but I think the Democrats are being a bit premature," he told The Ballot Box. "And I'm just wondering where they were when Roy Barnes was making ink splatters all over the state?

"We had an opportunity to act like Roy Barnes and the Democrats did, but we have not taken that," the congressman added. "We resisted that. We've showed that you could actually do it tempered and be fair."

Kingston labeled the Democrats' complaints sour grapes after years of coming up short on Election Day.

"If they got a gripe that thing's being too partisan in the state of Georgia, it's called the general electorate," he said. "We've gone from being a Democrat state to a Republican state and they know that and can't stand it." 


Ohio redistricting battle impacts Senate race calculus

The impending redistricting battle in Ohio appears to be a factor in the slowly developing race against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Brown's numbers show he's vulnerable in 2012 but no Republican has yet to take a serious step toward challenging the freshman senator.

Ohio will lose two congressional seats before next year so the slightest signal that a GOP House member is seriously contemplating a run could put an unwanted spotlight on their district as Republicans face the difficult task of keeping the 13 out of 18 seats they hold.

Two Republicans mentioned as potential Brown challengers come from within the ranks of the state's congressional delegation -- Reps. Jim Jordan and Steve LaTourette -- and while neither will completely rule out a run, both are busy downplaying the possibility.

"I'm back in the majority, I'm a friend of the new speaker, so life's pretty good," LaTourette told The Hill’s Ballot Box, noting his plum spot on the Appropriations Committee. "The Senate thing will take care of itself whenever. I'm just not even thinking about it right now. No rush."


New Jersey redistricting fight puts junior members at risk

New Jersey’s loss of a congressional seat could translate into trouble for the two most junior members of the state's delegation.

The reconfigured map will likely pit two incumbents against one another in 2012. And the most likely targets — sophomore Rep. Leonard Lance (R-) and freshman Rep. Jon Runyan (R) — are signaling they won't go down without a fight.

Both members warned map drawers last week that it's one of the state's northeastern congressional districts that should be on the chopping block instead of their areas.

"The areas of New Jersey that have not grown in population are not in my part of the state," Lance told The Hill. "They are in northeastern New Jersey."

Lance was just reelected in New Jersey's 7th congressional district, which contains parts of four counties in the northwestern part of the state and is a locale that's been the subject of redistricting talk for more than two years.

Among the most likely redistricting scenarios, according to political insiders in the state, Lance's district is merged with a nearby one, forcing Lance to run against an incumbent in 2012 if he wants to remain in Congress.


Rep. Weiner: 'No way' downstate N.Y. can lose a House seat

Given the new population data released Tuesday by the Census Bureau, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said he suspects there's "no way" downstate New York can lose a House seat in next year's redistricting process. 

That would make his district, which takes in most of Queens, safe, even though there are rumblings that Weiner could be a redistricting target. 

"If the Census Bureau shows the state gained 2.1 percent [in population], then there's just no way you can take a seat from downstate," Weiner told The Ballot Box. "The math doesn't work. There are just too many people."  

With New York the only state other than Ohio to shed two seats, the posturing among the delegation is already beginning, and downstate Reps. like Weiner and Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) are pointing the finger upstate. 

"It seems clear to me that one seat will definitely come from upstate," said Bishop, who emphasized that "the bulk of the population decline" the state has seen is a result of people leaving that area. 

"I guess it's still an open question as to where that second seat will come from, though," said Bishop, who just survived a prolonged and nasty race with Republican Randy Altschuler.   

Democrats in the state would love nothing more than to put the squeeze on some of the newly-elected upstate Republicans, but the GOP is now assured a seat at the redistricting table, given the party's single-seat majority in the state Senate. 

Either way, observers in the state say upstate Democrats are in a good deal of trouble, too. Much of the population loss has come from Western New York, which could put Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Brian Higgens (D-N.Y.) in trouble

"Despite the kind of conventional notion around here that it'll be one seat from upstate, one seat from downstate, one Democrat, one Republican, the straw that stirs the drink is where the people are," said Weiner. "And I do know that Queens, where 70 percent of my district is, has had a population explosion."

Along with the congressional remapping, the state legislative redraw is expected to add to the tension as Democrats are already accusing the GOP of playing politics in the state Senate.