The Politics of Redistricting: The Republican Fantasy (With a Poll)
When last Ann Arbor was redistricted out of its Congressional Representative (Democrat Lynn Rivers), there were plenty of bruised feelings. Below is the current map of U.S. Congressional districts in Michigan:
Kiss it goodbye. Slowly, tenderly, and knowing that state Republicans are sharpening their pencils to see which Democratic Districts to target, and which members of Michigan’s Democratic Congressional gang to pit against each other. As was the case when Rivers was forced into a cage match against Representative John Dingell, the idea is to end up with match-ups that are both predictable and advantageous. It is the RNC’s fantasy that Michigan could go red in 2012. The battle for Michigan’s 1st Congressional District (which I covered for the Huffington Post) was a taste of what the RNC could do in 2012. Both the DCCC and the RNC threw millions into the coffers of Democratic state representative Gary McDowell and political newcomer and Tea Party favorite Dr. Dan Benishek. It was one of the most closely watched races by both of the respective national committees, as well as the White House and media.
In 2010, the RNC also made a half-hearted effort to topple Michigan’s 15th Congressional District representative, John Dingell. I say half-hearted, because Republication national political leaders didn’t have the same confidence in Dr. Rob Steele’s chances, because he was opposing Dingell, as they did in Dr. Benishek, who was opposing a Democratic state representative. Make no mistake, however. The national Republican party wants to capitalize on the fact that John Dingell was perceived by Democratic national officials as vulnerable during his most recent bid for re-election. In fact, Mr. Dingell ended up spendig $900,000 running virtually unopposed in the primary election and then another $1.7 million on dispatching his little known opponent. Before Washtenaw County vote tallies came in, Dr. Steele led Representative Dingell in the balloting. In the end, Steele ended up with 40 percent of the vote, a surprisingly strong showing for a first-time candidate against the Dean of the House of Representatives.
Now, look at the map below and see what could be in Michigan’s future, and make 2012 an election season like no other in recent memory.
Here’s what Michigan Radio political analyst Jack Lessenberry posited could happen:
Most likely, they will combine the southeastern districts now held by Gary Peters and Sandy Levin, forcing them to run against each other in the 2012 primary, unless one steps down.
They could also put John Conyers and John Dingell into a seat where they have to run against each other.
Elsewhere, they will try to pack as many Democrats as possible into as few districts as possible, while strengthening Republican incumbents.
Remember that in Michigan Republicans not only hold the majority of the Congressional seats, they also control both Houses of the state legislature, the Governorship, and the majority of the state Supreme Court. This means that redistricting will favor the GOP, and one of the current Democratic incumbents will lose their seat as happened in 2002 to Lynn Rivers and David Bonior.
It’s possible that Sandy Levin might step down in 2012, but certainly not probable. The match-up that the state GOP leaders could favor is a contest that pits Conyers against Dingell. It would be a clash of the titans, as it were. In 2012, Conyers raised $1.13 million dollars, just about half of that from individual donors. It’s the PAC money that would make a race between Conyers and Dingell interesting. Several of the top PAC donations to each man in 2010 were from the same PACs:
The American Federation of Teachers COPE: $5,000
Action Committee for Rural Electrification: $5,000
Honeywell International Political Action Committee: $5,000
To be sure, as I wrote in a previous entry, John Dingell’s 2010 campaign was financed with loads of PAC money, 70.54 percent of the total raised to be exact, according to campaign finance statements filed with the FEC. However, as Politico.com noted last fall, Mr. Dingell had some difficulty fundraising, though he finished the 2010 election cycle with just about the same amount of money he’d raised in 2008.
Where would the liberal voting block that is Washtenaw County stand in a contest between Dingell and Conyers? Conyers, though he served as an assistant to Representative Dingell, prior to running for office, would certainly not step aside. Conyers is, after all, currently the second-longest serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives after Mr. Dingell. Could Washtenaw County Democratic voters resist Conyers, one of 13 founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and one of the original members of former President Nixon’s “Enemy’s List?” Conyers, according to the National Journal, is considered one of the most liberal members of Congress, a list on which Representative Dingell’s name does not appear. Dingell, of course, announced shortly after the November election that he is running again in 2012.
Let’s have some fun. Let’s say the Republicans in Michigan have decided to draw a new U.S. Congressional District map that merges into a single District the Districts formerly represented by Representatives Conyers and Dingell. Who’s gonna get your vote?
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