Between the Lines: Partisanship on Center Stage in Redistricting Fights

Posted March 7, 2011 at 6:08pm

Editor’s Note: Every decade the states redraw district lines following the release of the U.S. Census. This column will explore redistricting news on the ground as it develops.

Pennsylvania: Republicans Hold Private Strategy Meeting

The state’s Congressional Republicans met privately with the GOP state House caucus in Harrisburg on Monday afternoon to discuss redistricting strategy, a process that local Republicans largely control.

The meeting, first reported by, is meant to avoid the mistakes of 2001, when local Republicans also controlled the remapping process that ultimately left Keystone State Republicans more vulnerable than the plan’s architects had hoped.

While the content of the meeting was not immediately clear, PoliticsPA outlined a handful of scenarios that were likely topics of discussion. The state is losing one seat in the House.

The likely topics include merging the districts (and forcing a “fratricidal showdown”) of powerful Democratic Reps. Chaka Fattah and Allyson Schwartz; helping GOP Reps. Jim Gerlach and Patrick Meehan by shifting their districts west and into more conservative-friendly territory; and doing little to improve the re-election prospects for Republican freshman Rep. Lou Barletta.

— Steve Peoples

Pennsylvania: Event Aims to Push Commission Approach

We hope you’ve been training.

Pennsylvanians pushing for redistricting reform have organized a 1,000-mile “human trek” around the Keystone State to begin April 1.

Dubbed the PennUltimate Run, the event aims to raise awareness of the benefits of replacing the state’s current legislatively led approach with an independent commission. A handful of states have already moved in that direction.

“The partially pre-mapped-out route will include daily jogs, situated along the shoulders and berms of public roads, passing through hundreds of communities, with overnight stops determined by fate and fatigue,” reads a description on the event website. “Mile upon mile the runner will offer a baton symbolically to those who would help to fulfill The Run’s dream.”

— S.P.

Virginia: State Senate Democrat: Not Out to Be Greedy

State Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw opened up in a radio interview recently about his strategy when it comes to the upcoming special session on redistricting.

“If I lose a few seats as a result of redistricting, and I’m in the majority, I’m not doing a very good job,” Saslaw said in an appearance on WAMU’s “Kojo Nnamdi Show” last week. He said he wouldn’t “interfere” with the lines the state House draws for House districts.

“I would simply say, well, our goal is to make the Democratic districts, particularly the marginal ones, a little better than they are now,” Saslaw said. “I’m not greedy; I’m not trying to put the Republicans out of business.”

He said the GOP did not do that to his party when they were fully in charge during the last cycle.

Republicans control the state House, and GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell must approve whatever plans are drawn.

State lawmakers will meet next month to determine each district’s new lines, earlier than most states since there will be legislative elections this fall.

— Christina Bellantoni

Send news items on redistricting to Between the Lines here.