GOP is considering more ruthless redistribution

“The people here in Missouri want to find out who wants to support a 7-1 card,” he said, “and who wants to give a few seats in Congress away.”

Republicans have mostly played it safe in the states that have completed the redistribution so far, and locked into the status quo with durable cards that are more likely to withstand demographic change and legal unification. But amid a growing sense of frustration that the party is wasting its advantage, some in the GOP are advocating a new level of ruthlessness. It is an attitude driven by a desire to appease an activist base, empower ambitious politicians and win retaliation against bold democratic gerrymandering in blue strongholds.

The aggression exhibited in Missouri is also emerging elsewhere. In Tennessee, Republicans are already pushing for a plan to crack down on Nashville in three districts that judge the Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis was so dissatisfied with his legislature’s proposal to redraw their cards that he proposed one that could give Republicans 18 or more of the state 28 districts. Kansas Republicans this week revealed a plan that would split the Kansas City area into two districts, though they could have gone even further in targeting reps. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.).

It could mark a departure from the strategy of states like Kentucky, Nebraska, Indiana, and Georgia, where Republican lawmakers refused to use their redistribution pens to eliminate more Democratic seats with little or no opposition or complaints. And in larger places like Texas, card makers prioritized the protection of established governments rather than creating more competitive seats or energetically going after democratic established ones.

And while Republicans feel confident they can claim the majority in the fall, there are questions about how durable it would be in tougher political environments. To add to their concerns: Democrats have not missed any chance of cutting aggressive gerrymanders in states like Illinois, Oregon, Nevada and New Mexico that could pose a high risk when the party faces national headwinds, but high rewards in a more favorable climate.

“If you look at what’s going on in Illinois, those guys are cutting the hearts out of two Republicans,” the rep said. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Who represents a fluctuating Omaha district that did not become more favorable even though Republicans drew. the map for the next decade. “It seems to me that the Democrats seem to be more ruthless in this redistribution effort.”

In Missouri, management has been steadfast in their desire to leave Kansas City intact, citing the potential for litigation in the liberal-oriented Supreme Court, the high voting threshold needed to pass a card that will take effect before the primary and esteemed communities of interest. State House Wednesday sent a card likely to produce a 6-2 result to the state Senate.

“I have serious questions about the viability of a 7-and-1 card, with the courts, and also, even with the issue of constitution,” the Missouri State Rep said. Ben Baker, a member of the State House Redistricting Committee. “I think what you’re seeing is that people running for office want to use this as campaign material to turn to the base. And I think that’s a shame.”

But opponents, including Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and Senate candidates Billy Long (R-Mo.) And former Gov. Eric Greitens, insist on anything that could be overcome.

And some are particularly upset about the layout of the Republican rep. Ann Wagner’s suburban seat in St. Louis on the map passed by the State House. Then-President Donald Trump would have carried the redistributed version by a relatively narrow margin in 2020 compared to other versions where Wagner’s seat was much redder.

The conflict may soon come to a head with a state-senate filibuster showdown.

“I just look into the distance and hope that it is the wisdom of maintaining a two-party system in the state of Missouri that ends up being approved,” said Cleaver, the potentially threatened Democratic incumbent. “Obviously, it’s challenging and frustrating.”

Similarly controversial is the redistribution in Florida, which has 28 seats up for grabs. The state legislature’s two chambers were already arguing over how far to go in canceling a 2015 state Supreme Court ruling that transformed two Republican districts into new democratic seats, which have since been held by reps. Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy.

The state The Senate has put forward a status quo card that is denounced by many state and national Republicans. Then DeSantis weighed in with an even more drastic option that could knock the seats back on Crist and Murphy and even front seats occupied by two black Democrats. (Murphy resigns, and Crist faces DeSantis as governor.)

“I agree with what the governor proposed,” said GOP State Representative Anthony Sabatini, who is running for Murphy’s now open seat. He also took a shot at the state Senate: “I think you have a weak leadership in the senate that has no interest in any national issues.”

A state constitutional amendment approved by voters prohibits lawmakers from considering bias when making cards. But DeSantis and Senator Rick Scott, his predecessor as governor, have been packing the state Supreme Court with conservative judges since 2015, and some in the Legislature see his proposed card as a sign that he is planning a veto if a less aggressive card reaches his desk. .

“If you’re a lawyer like me and you understand the Voting Rights Act, you understand Florida case law, you understand the court that is in power right now. There is no legal fear,” Sabatini said. “If you are a doofus and not know what you’re doing – and there are many of those in the state government because they are not qualified to hold office, “he added,” so, yes, I think it’s scary.

Top party strategists have called for a certain level of restraint throughout the cycle, calling for lawmakers to sign “10-year cards” that the party can hold until the next redistribution in 2032. But privately, some GOP agents are smoking , that some states have left seats on the table out of fear or myopic thinking.

In Georgia, cardmakers largely left untouched rep. Sanford Bishops (D-Ga.) Southwest Georgia seat, which is not protected under the Voting Rights Act. And in northwest Indiana, cardmakers refused to overwhelm the city of Gary with red counties to oust freshman Frank Mrvan (D-Ind.).

“I had concerns like all members, but I succeeded,” Mrvan said. “I realized that very often they choose to keep communities of interest in line.”

The Republicans in Nebraska’s one-chamber legislature were thwarted by a Democratic filibuster – but they did not really try to play hardball, even though their state is one of two that allocates college ballot after congressional district, and Bacon’s district could feature a tight presidential election.

But the divide between country and city, between Omaha and the rest of the state, was also a crucial factor. Kansas needs to navigate a similar division. The management’s favorite proposal released this week would threaten Davids, but the new district would have gone after Joe Biden in the last presidential election. And they appear to have decided to pursue another configuration that would nullify any chance of her re-election by grouping parts of Kansas City with rural areas to the northwest.

In Kentucky, Republicans chose not to crack Louisville, home of the only democratically-held district of the six in the state – even after the incumbent, rep. John Yarmuth, decided to retire.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed the Kentucky card Wednesday, calling it a Republican Gerryman. But the GOP has enough votes in the state legislature to override it.

“It would be such a disturbance to the existing districts and you have five sitting Republicans running again,” the rep said. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). “The national interest is probably one way and the state interest is probably the other. And I think the state interest won out. If the NRCC drew the card, I think you would have a 6-0 state. “

Because redistribution is a state-by-state process, party strategists do not draw all the cards – and any national effort to maximize house seats is often replaced by parish concerns in state capitals.

“It is embarrassing that Republican lawmakers are pulling strikes in the redistribution while Democrats are out for blood. Any Republican backing a Pelosi-friendly card in this cycle should be forced to prosecute this vote in a future primary election, ”said a national GOP strategist involved in house races, who was given anonymity to discuss internal party strategy.

Redistricting has always been a lawsuit, but Republicans are facing an increasingly contentious democratic legal operation. The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, formed in 2016 and chaired by Obama-era Justice Minister Eric Holder, stockpiled millions of dollars to challenge GOP-drawn cards as unconstitutional party-political gerrymanders, particularly in state courts.

Their efforts in the time up to 2021 have created legal precedents to rein in some card makers – and scare others.

“It’s not the threat from the trial. It’s the threat of losing the trial because they have lost and the court is against them,” said Kelly Ward Burton, president of the NDRC.

“I think Eric Holder deserves a wealth of credit for that,” she added. “I think there’s a real benefit to the strategy he’s led and we’ve been running for five years.”

Ohio State Supreme Court gave Democrats a massive victory last week, when it struck down a Republican-drawn card that could have given the GOP 13 of the 15 congressional seats. North Carolina’s Supreme Court has also expressed concern over Republican maps there.

“The Democrats’ court battle – their audacity with the courts and going deep politically on court planning – is to me much more interesting than what they did in Illinois, or what they want to do in New York,” the rep said. Patrick McHenry (RN.C.).

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