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Democratic memo reveals plan to "destabilize" Illinois House Republicans

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WASHINGTON--The Illinois GOP lawsuit challenging the Democrat-drawn congressional remap has turned up a memo from the Democratic House political operation based here that exposes the naked partisanship of redistricting.

"A critical part of the remapping process is altering the districts of incumbent Republicans to complicate their paths back to Washington," wrote Ian Russell, the Midwest Political Director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in a memo prepared for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago).

That part of the memo, which contained suggestions about district lines, was subtitled, "Destabilizing Republican Incumbents."

The case--where the major plaintiffs are the Illinois House GOP incumbents--is set for trial before a three-judge panel Thursday and Friday in a Chicago courtroom. Cullerton is fighting a subpoena served on him by the Republicans and that motion to quash will also be considered this week.

The main argument for the GOP at this stage of the case is that the Democrat map violates the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act by creating a racially gerrymandered district super-packed with Hispanics and that the lack of creation of a second Hispanic district improperly dilutes Hispanic votes.

While the court on Nov. 1 dismissed a claim of partisan gerrymandering in the case
filed against the Illinois State Board of Elections--memos that surfaced during discovery show the involvement of the Illinois Democrats and the DCCC in trying to draw districts lines that would make it easier for Democrats to win.

The Russell memo, dated May 24 contains not only details on how to draw districts to make it hard for GOP incumbents to win, he also states a common goal was to "draw durable districts that Democrats can hold from election to election."

It's no secret--and not improper for the DCCC and its GOP counterpart, the National Republican Campaign Committee to help partisans in states where legislatures draw district boundaries. As the DCCC said in a filing fighting a GOP subpoena, the DCCC and a redistricting consultant, the National Committee for an Effective Congress have been partners for 15 years.

Other memos in e-mails from Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) and his chief of staff, Eric Lausten show his deep involvement in redistricting. The e-mails are to Tim Mapes, the top staffer for Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago), who is also the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois. "Tim--"Just finished revising the map for Congressman Lipinski's 3rd District. I thinks its moving in right direction...," Lausten wrote.

Although many Hispanics are Democratic-leaning voters, the Republicans argue in their brief that Lipinski was trying to cut down the number of Hispanics in his Democratic district because of his votes on immigration measures.

"He did not seek to reduce the number of Hispanics in the Third District," Lipinski spokesman Nathaniel Zimmer told me.

Indeed, the Democratic map did yield potential for Republicans to lose the pick-ups they made in 2010 through two techniques: drawing districts with so many Democratic voters that a GOP incumbent would be silly to run in it and tossing Republicans in the same district. Though Illinois lost a seat because of population declines, all eight Illinois Democrats had "safe" districts drawn from them and none of them face major GOP challengers.

Democrats also carved out a new 8th district in the northern suburbs so Democratic no well known Republican is bothering to run in it. Democrats Tammy Duckworth and Raja Krishnamoorthi are locked in a primary battle in that district.

At present--under the Democratic map-- freshmen GOP Reps. Joe Walsh and Randy Hultgren are facing each other in a primary. Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger is in a primary against veteran Rep. Don Manzullo. Rep. Judy Biggert, whose present district is safe for a Republican, under the Democratic map avoids a primary but will face a big general election fight against former Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.)

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on November 16, 2011 3:50 PM.

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