You could almost hear the groans of California Republicans at their state convention in Los Angeles this weekend over the new redistricting plan that is very likely to cost them six U.S. House districts. The worst part of the new plan for the Golden State’s 53 House districts, several conventioneers told HUMAN EVENTS, is that in two circumstances, one Republican House member is forced to run against another.
The same is true in Illinois, but more so. In three new districts, there are situations of Republican vs. Republican and, unless the court overturns the district lines or lawmakers move elsewhere, Republican activists will be faced with painful choices, such as between Representatives Joe Walsh and Randy Hultgren—both stalwart conservatives elected for the first time in 2010.
But in large part because Republicans control the redistricting process in more states than Democrats, there are also similar situations of civil wars on the Democratic side. In three states over the last few weeks, the redistricting process has yielded or is poised to yield contests in which decidedly left-of-center Democratic House members will compete for a single district.
The three contests will inarguably be fascinating to watch—to see how far left lawmakers will move to court their necessary constituencies, and how friends become former friends in the name of survival.
Put another way, Republicans who are upset about the brother-against-brother battles in California and Illinois can take some comfort in knowing leftist Democrats feel their pain.
Michigan: Peters Gives His Final Answer
Ever since the Republican-controlled state legislature passed and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed the Water Wonderland’s new congressional district map, the biggest question has been this: “What will Gary Peters do?”
With Michigan losing one of its 15 districts, Democratic Rep. Gary Peters was thrown into the same Oakland County district as fellow Democratic Rep. Sandy Levin. Two-termer Peters—lifetime American Conservative Union (ACU) rating: 8%—was a definite underdog to the venerable (30 years) lawmaker Levin, the last Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and brother of Sen. Carl Levin (D.-Mich). At one point, Peters reportedly considered a challenge to Oakland County’s Republican County Executive Brooks Patterson instead of a reelection bid.
But Peters recently decided to seek reelection in the newly drawn Detroit-area district and against freshman Democrat Hansen Clarke. In 2010, Clarke, half African-American and half Bengladeshi, unseated fellow Democrat and Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kirkpatrick (mother of disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick) when the district was primarily black and Wayne County (Detroit)-based.
Clarke switched to this district, which stretches from Detroit to parts of Oakland County, after the redistricting knife put the freshman in with 48-year Rep. and fellow Democrat John Conyers of Detroit. The race could become complicated and racially charged, pitting wealthy neighborhoods against lower-income turf. There are other Democrats running, including Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence. Geoffrey Fieger, who is white and famed as the attorney for the late Jack Kevorkian, has hinted he may run as well.
At the very least, this is a mighty interesting race.
Ohio: Kucinich, Kaptur, and an Advance to the Left
Whoever wins in the newly drawn northern Ohio district, the far Left of the Democratic Party will lose one of its leading spear-carriers. Reps. Dennis Kucinich (lifetime ACU rating: 9.77%) and Marcy Kaptur (lifetime ACU rating: 15%) will vie against one another in a district that stretches from Kucinich’s base in Cleveland (where he was mayor from 1977 to ’79) to Kaptur’s home turf of Toledo.
In their own ways, both lawmakers are icons of the Democratic Left. Kucinich has run for President, called for creating a Department of Peace, and once pursued the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney. Kaptur, who first came to Congress in 1982, is Big Labor’s pinup, by far one of the most vocal protectionists in Congress and a major opponent of trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Although 57% of the new district is former Kucinich turf, no one is betting on a winner yet.
Pennsylvania: Last Hired, First Fired
Nothing is final or even official in Pennsylvania yet, but the worst-kept secret in Keystone State politics is that its loss of one House district will come from merging those in the western part of the state now held by three-termer Jason Altimire and freshman Mark Critz.
Altmire came out of nowhere in ’06 to unseat Republican Rep. Melissa Hart in a major upset. Styling himself a moderate (lifetime ACU rating: 24%), Altimire (who at the last minute opposed ObamaCare in January of 2010) beat Hart in a rematch in ’08 and last year won a reelection squeaker over lawyer and conservative stalwart Keith Rothfus.
Altmire will almost surely square off against Critz, the longtime top aide to the late Rep. John Murtha (D.-Pa.). When Murtha died in 2010, Critz won his seat in a special election and retained the western Pennsylvania district in the fall.
Now he will likely face Altmire and a district that includes much of Altmire’s current 4th District (Aliquippa-Beaver Falls). At this point, the smart money says that the more junior Critiz will be the underdog in a case of last hired, first fired.