Larson splits with caucus rivals on redistricting

Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), the latest entrant in the race to become the next Democratic caucus vice chairman, does not believe his House colleagues should adopt the Republican practice of redrawing congressional boundaries outside of the traditional 10-year process.

Larson’s approach to redistricting distinguishes him from his two rivals for the House Democrats’ No. 4 slot. Both Reps. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) support plans to redraw congressional maps in off years and have made their support part of their pitch to their fellow lawmakers. Crowley, however, is making his support more integral to his campaign than Schakowsky.

Larson’s view aligns him with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has said that she does not believe Democrats should engage in a tit-for-tat redistricting game outside of the prescribed 10-year census cycle.

However, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) strong support to retaliate against Republicans for their Texas cartography appears to be gaining momentum in the caucus.

“I don’t think it’s a wise path to follow what [House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay [R-Texas] is doing,” Larson told The Hill, referring to the successful Texas redistricting last cycle that netter the GOP an additional five seats.

“There are constitutional protections, and I still think that Texas might be overturned,” Larson said. “But I think we ought to seize the high ground on this and say, ‘We’re not going to engage in that.’”

Larson acknowledged that his position might be unpopular in the caucus in the current climate, calling much of the debate around off-year redistricting “emotional” and “visceral.”
But in the face of such a passionate debate, Larson said that Democrats would be well-served to think about the integrity of the constitutional process, even though he admitted it was difficult to say goodbye to four of his Texas colleagues.

“When you see your colleagues brutally redistricted, there’s a visceral reaction and it’s contagious, but you have to step back and restrain yourself,” Larson said.

Democratic aides and strategists were divided on how the third entrant into the race would affect the dynamic between Crowley and Schakowsky. The consensus view was that Larson would siphon off votes from Schakowsky, who shares with Larson a more progressive voting record.

“This divides the liberals in the caucus,” a Democratic leadership aide said.

But there was another view that Larson’s geographical proximity to Crowley could split the Northeastern vote. Nearly all aides and lawmakers stressed that the race was still in its very early stages and that voting blocs and alliances had yet to emerge.

Larson entered the race a few days after Crowley and Schakowsky but said that he has already called all but six of his Democratic colleagues and that he has actually spoken with roughly 130.