Illinois Republicans Face Gerrymandered Redistricting Map

The last hope of Illinois Republicans that they might be saved from a redistricting plan that endangers all but one of their nine U.S. representatives was dashed yesterday, as a federal court upheld the plan enacted by the Democrat-controlled legislature and signed by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

Initially, Republicans had hopes of upending what they considered a case of basic gerrymandering.  When the court agreed to hear their suit against the plan—part of which was based on disenfranchisement of Latino voters in Chicago districts—the judges ordered the Prairie State’s filing deadline extended from December 5 to December 27.  If they are going to postpone the filing deadline, state GOPers felt, then it was to give more time for a newer, fairer plan.

But this was not to be.  Reacting to the decision of the court last night, State GOP Chairman Pat Brady told reporters that “the serious issues in the case regarding Latino disenfranchisement were thrown by the wayside.

“This map has never passed the smell test from Day One—Pat Quinn and [state House Speaker] Mike Madigan have been the only ones who have consistently said with a straight face that this is a fair map.”

So under the lines that were allowed to stand, three of the nine GOP lawmakers were thrown into districts with Democratic incumbents and the Chicago-area 10th District of Republican and narrow 2010 winner Robert Dold was made into a far more Democratic district. In addition, there were two situations in which Republican House Members were headed toward collision clashes for a single district.  In the new 16th, freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger squares off against twenty-year Rep. Don Manzullo. Both are strong conservatives.

A similar clash was avoided when freshman Rep. Joe Walsh chose not to oppose fellow freshman conservative Randy Hultgren for nomination in the new 14th, which became the site of both of their homes.  Swashbuckling “tea partier” Walsh instead chose the better part of valor, opting for a race in the new and open 8th District, which also includes a third of his old district.  Walsh should handily defeat a primary foe and then faces a tough fall campaign against left-wing Democrat Tammy Duckworth, a former Obama administration official who lost a race in ’06 in the old 6th District against Republican Peter Roskam. 

In striking contrast, virtually all of the eight Democratic House Members from Illinois are now stronger than they were before redistricting. The Southern Illinois-based district of retiring Rep. Jerry Costello actually grew more Republican and could well be picked up by former lieutenant governor nominee Jason Plummer.

A defiant Brady vowed that the map the judges refused to overturn would not result “in the giant power grab that the Democrats planned when they schemed up this gerrymandered and completely unfair map” and that, “at the end of day, Springfield and Illinois Democrats have proven themselves so toxic that Republicans will still have a tremendous year in 2012.”