May 9, 2015
By Alan Fram, Associated Press
Vulnerable House incumbents are fattening their campaign accounts as the Supreme Court approaches a decision on a case that could force legislatures to reshape congressional districts in 13 states or more, perhaps in time for next year’s elections.
Political advisers from both parties say Republican-run Arizona and Democratic-led California are the likeliest states where lawmakers could need to redraw House district lines if the plaintiffs prevail. Ironically for Arizona Republicans who brought the lawsuit, that could mean that the seat or two their party might gain in their House delegation would be outstripped by lost GOP seats from more populous California.
“Probably not a huge shift for either state,” said GOP consultant Chris Jankowski.
Some lawmakers from both states are amassing more cash than they did two years ago, aware that they may suddenly be running in less-hospitable districts. They include GOP Reps. Jeff Denham and David Valadao of California and Arizona Democrats Ann Kirkpatrick and Kyrsten Sinema, all possible targets of unfriendly legislatures if redistricting is ordered.
The justices are considering whether Arizona’s independent redistricting commission, created by voters in 2000, has usurped a role the Constitution intended for state legislatures. Republicans running the state legislature filed the lawsuit after complaining that the commission helped Democrats by packing large numbers of GOP voters into just a few districts.
California voters gave similar power to an independent commission in 2010. Both states left virtually no redistricting role for their legislatures, and most experts think both would be affected if Arizona’s commission is deemed unconstitutional.
Underscoring California Republicans’ distaste for the lawsuit’s potential impact, Valadao spokesman Tal Eslick said, “California voters spoke clearly — Sacramento politicians in smoke-filled back rooms should no longer get to choose their voters by drawing partisan districts.”
Valadao is seeking a third term from his Central Valley district and reported raising $358,000 through the first three months of 2015, quadruple what he raised two years ago.
The nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures says commissions share redistricting power with legislatures in 11 other states. Combined, those states hold 152 seats in the 435-member House.
Since no one knows how far-reaching the justices’ ruling will be, those states might also be affected in a decision expected by July. But the impact could be limited and no one expects the GOP to lose control of the House, which it dominates 247-188, including two Republican-leaning vacancies.
Control of the legislature and governor’s office is divided between Democrats and Republicans in six of those 11 states, meaning neither party could dominate a redrawing of congressional lines. Those states are Iowa, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New York and Washington.
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