Politics

Gerrymander Endangers Nearly All House GOPers in Illinois

“The plan that the legislature passed in Springfield and that the governor will likely sign in a few days puts just about all of us in political danger,” freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger told HUMAN EVENTS last week, the “us” being himself and the eight other Republican U.S. representatives from Illinois.

In what could fairly be labeled the most blatant case of political gerrymandering this year, the Democratic-controlled house and senate in Illinois recently unveiled a redistricting plan for the Prairie State’s 17 congressional districts.  Where all eight of the state’s Democratic house members find themselves in politically stronger situations than before, three of the state’s nine GOP house members were thrown into districts with Democratic incumbents and a strong Democratic registration edge.

In addition, the Chicago-area 10th District that Republican Robert Dold narrowly won last year was made into a new district without an incumbent that is far more Democratic than before.  (The home of Dold himself was placed in the neighboring 9th District, a Democratic bastion whose congressman is the arch-liberal Jan Schakowsky).

The most dramatic change to come out of the new Democratic plan is to put Representatives Joe Walsh and Randy Hultgren—both freshman Republicans and both stalwart conservatives—into the new 14th District.  The new district roughly comprises one-third of the territory from the present districts of Walsh and Hultgren, and about one-third from neither’s district.

(There are two other new districts in which Republican lawmakers are placed in situations in which they must face uphill battles against Democratic incumbents with major Democratic registration advantages: the new 5th District, in which moderate GOPer Judy Biggert would face Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley, who succeeded present Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in Congress two years ago, and the new 2nd, in which Republican Kinzinger is on the same turf as Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.)

“It’s an outrage and an attempt by Democrats to overturn the election of 2010—nothing less,” Walsh told us last week.  He spoke to HUMAN EVENTS moments before a private conference call among the Illinois Republican House delegation in which it discussed what action to take against the plan that could doom several of them.  (Separate from both the GOP lawmakers and the state Republican Party, a new 501(c)(3) will soon file a suit in court seeking to overturn the Democratic-crafted plan.)

None of the Republicans wanted to talk about what would happen if the legal counterattack fails. Clearly a race between Hultgren and Walsh is something no conservative wants to deal with, as both are popular figures on the Right.  According to several published reports, Kinzinger would move into the new 16th District (Rockford) now held by 10-term Republican Rep. Don Manzullo.

So the actions of a judge are the last barrier between most of Illinois’ Republican House members and a gerrymandered map, which could set the stage for primaries next February that could easily be titled:  “Brother Against Brother.”

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