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Democrats Enjoy Their Map-Making Spoils PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 22 May 2011 05:34

Statehouse paranoia and angst always peak every 10 years in Springfield.

Why? The new state legislative-district maps are drawn, and that highly political process always involves generous amounts of partisan mischief-making and revenge.

This year is no different. The Democrats control both legislative chambers and the governor’s office, so they can pretty much draw any map they want as long as they follow federal and state voting-rights laws that protect minorities and other “communities of interest.”

The Republicans, locked out of power and influence, just knew they were in for a beating, and they got one. In many respects, it probably wasn’t as bad as it was 10 years ago, when the Democrats drew a map so solidly partisan that the House and Senate Democratic majorities easily survived one of the biggest Republican landslides in history.

Partisanship aside, though, imagine being told that the only way to keep your job was to sell your house and move your family a few miles, or even a few blocks. That’s what some legislators have to go through every 10 years during remap season, and it’s what quite a few Republicans are facing – again – this time around. Several have been mapped into districts with fellow Republicans. One of those legislators in each of those districts will have to retire, move, or suck it up and run in a primary against a fellow GOP legislator.

So when Republicans such as state Senators Kyle McCarter and Dave Luechtefeld are put in the same district, reporters heard some very angry complaints. Luechtefeld’s house has essentially been pulled out of his old, deep-southern-Illinois district and put into a new district farther north that is (for the most part) currently represented by Republican Senator John O. Jones. Jones’ house has been put in what is now Luechtefeld’s district. A big chunk of McCarter’s current district has been shoved at fellow Republican Senator Sam McCann.

Confused? That’s the whole idea, man.

A new map usually means representing new territory, and that means legislators must get to know thousands – even tens of thousands – of voters who have no idea who they are. That can be a dangerous thing in these politically volatile times. But in the case of Luechtefeld and Jones, they have to either familiarize themselves with almost 200,000 new faces or move or retire.

The Republican pairings are quite numerous. Senators Tim Bivins and Christine Johnson are in the same district. The Democrats even paired Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno with Senator Ron Sandack. Sandack will likely run for a House seat.

Over in the House, southern-Illinois Republican state Representatives Ron Stephens and John Cavaletto are in the same district, as are central-Illinois Representatives Dan Brady and Keith Sommer. Eastern-Illinois Representatives Chapin Rose and Bill Mitchell have been put together.

The mischief goes beyond pitting two Republicans against each other. Northwest-suburban Republican Representative Sid Mathias has been placed in the same district as Democratic Representative Carol Sente. The district clearly favors Sente, so Mathias will either have to move or take a big risk.

Clearly, some of these folks had better hope the housing market improves soon.

And it’s not just the pairings that grate on the minority party’s nerves every decade. Much of Senator Dave Syverson’s Rockford-area district was taken from him so the Democrats could create a very favorable district for Marla Wilson, whom the Dems backed against Syverson last year.

I could go on, but I’m pretty sure you get the idea. Keep something in mind here if this makes you angry. Two constitutional amendments were proposed a while back to change the way districts were drawn. Backers of both proposals fell far short of the required petition signatures. Some of the same Republicans who are griping now about the way the maps are drawn probably should’ve put a whole lot more effort into one or both of those amendment petition drives.

Many of those Republicans might not have worked on those constitutional amendments because they figured they’d win the governor’s race and that would be enough to block the Democrats from drawing the map without a fight. After all, how could they possibly lose after Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment and during an inept Pat Quinn administration? Oops.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax (a daily political newsletter) and

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