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Between the Lines: Roll Crimson Tide — Governor Signs Map in Alabama

Gov. Robert Bentley (R) on Wednesday signed into law a new Congressional map that significantly strengthens the seats of the delegation’s Republican Members in competitive districts.

Top Republicans in the state said the Congressional delegation “is good with these maps.” And for good reason.

The new map shores up GOP voters in the 2nd district, where Rep. Martha Roby (R) defeated former Rep. Bobby Bright (D) last year. Under the new map, the black voting-age population in the district decreases slightly and the number of GOP voters increases slightly, according to numbers crunched by a Republican source. Most significantly, the district loses western Montgomery County and Lowndes County, which backed Bright over Roby last year by 48 points. Those counties move to the heavily Democratic and majority-black 7th district, currently represented by the delegation’s only Democrat, Rep. Terri Sewell.

The map also strengthens GOP chances of keeping the northern Alabama 5th district, which, until former Rep. Parker Griffith switched parties in 2009 and became a Republican, had been represented by a Democrat for more than 100 years. Rep. Mo Brooks (R) beat Democrat Steve Raby in every county in the 5th, except Lawrence. The good news for Brooks: Lawrence County will be moved out of his district along with Colbert County, which swung for Brooks by the thinnest of margins — only 251 votes. Those two counties will be part of the heavily Republican 4th district, represented by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R).

Rep. Mike Rogers’ 3rd district is also significantly more Republican under the new map. It now includes all of St. Claire County, which went for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) with 81 percent in the 2008 presidential election. “Although the 3rd has been a good conservative district, Democrats in the state, for some reason, always think they had a chance of winning that,” said a Republican source in Alabama. “And now, I think, it’s out of reach.”

Texas: Infamous Shrimp District Gets Cooked

The state Senate passed a Congressional map Monday, sending its proposal for the state’s 36 House districts — including four new seats — to the state House.

But the GOP-controlled chamber made some changes to the map originally proposed jointly by House and Senate leaders last week. Most of those changes were in east Texas.

In the first proposed Congressional map, a new 36th district sprawled from north of Houston and around the 2nd and 8th all the way to the Gulf of Mexico coastline — producing an odd form that was immediately dubbed “the shrimp district” by local media. The Senate tweaked the 36th before passing the map, moving it eastward to the state’s border and including Chambers, Liberty, Hardin, Orange, Newton, Jasper, Tyler and Polk counties.

“We just came up with a better district, one that’s more compact,” state Senate Redistricting Chairman Kel Seliger (R) said.

But these changes could have big consequences for Rep. Ron Paul (R) of the current 14th district, who would find himself representing unfamiliar territory along the coastline if the map is passed. Although the district would still be a solid GOP seat, Paul, 75, is no stranger to primary challengers — and would be more susceptible to one from the northern part of the district if the new map passes.

Seliger said his counterparts in the House were made aware of the changes to east Texas before they were passed by the state Senate, but he cautioned it is now up to the other chamber to make whatever changes it sees fit.

Georgia: Rep. Hank Johnson Expects a Fair Deal

While some Democrats are concerned redistricting lines could leave them with a smaller delegation in January 2013, Rep. Hank Johnson (D) said he has faith that Gov. Nathan Deal (R) will be fair to the state’s Congressional delegation because he once served in it himself.

“We got a governor here who understands — who has served in Congress for many years, and he understands how important it is that these Congressional districts are fairly apportioned,” Johnson said in an interview with Roll Call.

Deal won the governorship last fall after serving in Congress for 17 years.

Georgia gained one seat following reapportionment. It’s likely the new district will be anchored in Hall County, northeast of Atlanta, where both Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R) are from. The area has seen significant population growth over the past decade. Democratic Reps. Sanford Bishop and John Barrow are considered the most vulnerable Members in the state.

“Right now, everyone is on pins and needles,” Johnson said.

The Georgia Legislature is expected to be called into a special redistricting session in mid-August.

Johnson thinks things will all work out. “I anticipate that Georgia will not be among the states that have to challenge the redistricting,” he said.

Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Georgia must get its new Congressional lines approved by either the Department of Justice or a federal court. As Roll Call reported last month, Republicans are considering bypassing DOJ and going directly to the courts instead.

Oregon: Miles Apart on Map, Plan Will Head to Court

Legislators agreed Tuesday to new state legislative district boundaries but remain far apart on an agreement for Congressional lines, setting up a likely legal fight over the state’s five House districts.

After both parties derided the first proposed Congressional map, Democrats in the state Legislature submitted a second Congressional plan three weeks ago. But the process is still likely to head to the courts.

In fact, a Republican lawsuit has already been filed in state court asking for a three-judge panel to produce a nonpartisan plan, the Oregonian newspaper recently reported. The party hoped to get a jump on the process, even though the Legislature still has time to complete a plan.

Kyle Trygstad contributed to this report.

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