Redistricting maps could force incumbents to compete

BY ALLIE WRIGHT | APRIL 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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A newly proposed redistricting map puts two incumbent Democratic congressmen in the same district, but officials said it’s too early to know what that means for Iowa or for the two politicians.

Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, whose current district includes Johnson County, will be in the same district as Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa.

Party officials said they are still examining the new maps and don’t know yet whether the two men will eventually face off.

“It’s entirely up to the individual legislators,” said Ed Cook, senior legal counsel for the Legislative Services Agency. “They can run for Senate or run for a different office.”

The possibility of legislators such as Braley and Loebsack running against each other is not something that is taken into account when making the redistricting maps, he said.

In redistricting, one such matchup isn’t unusual, but Iowa will have two, a far less common occurrence, said University of Iowa political-science Associate Professor Tim Hagle. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, ended up in the same district as Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa.

Loebsack would only lose one of the 15 counties he currently represents if the plan is approved and he moves to the new 2nd District, he told The Daily Iowan.

“The bottom line is that the Iowa process for redistricting is the most fair of any in the country,” Loebsack said, noting that it puts “Iowans over politics.”

Iowa’s nonpartisan redistricting system is somewhat unusual, Hagle said. Some states base their districts on which political party has control. Iowa’s, on the other hand, is based on population and compactness — or evenness of districts.

“It’s such a good model that I signed legislation that would make it the [trend] across the country,” Loebsack said.

The Iowa Legislature still needs to approve the plans.

Hagle said the shrinking number of Iowa representatives will likely lessen Iowa’s voting power nationally.

In addition to the changes to Congressional boundaries, districts for state officials, including local state representatives, will also change.

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, will lose several precincts, including one to Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City. He said he’s not concerned about how it could affect his re-election because the two legislators are friends.

“We’ll work something out to keep the people well-represented,” Jacoby said.

Jacoby said he will also lose Tiffin and North Liberty in his district, which is the only aspect of the proposed plan with which he has a problem.

Mascher echoed Jacoby’s thoughts and said it is too early for speculation on future plans for the next election and any decision would be premature before the maps are completed.

“Once the maps are done, we can make decisions accordingly,” Mascher said, and she is more concerned with public input at this time.

Cook said he has not heard of any public concerns, but hearings will be held in the coming weeks.
Casey Mills, communications director for the Republican Party of Iowa, said the party is examining the first release of the maps, but has no preliminary concerns.

Sue Dvorsky, the head of the Iowa Democratic Party, said the party is also going to wait to see the final maps before they make any political analysis.

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