Iowa House and Senate approve redistricting plan

The Iowa House and Senate voted this morning to accept the first redistricting plan proposed by the Legislative Services Agency. Click here to view maps of the redrawn Congressional and state legislative districts.

The Senate vote was 48 to 1, with Republican Sandy Greiner the only dissenter. Greiner would not face re-election in 2012 under the plan, but her new district contains more of Johnson County, and for that reason would have a Democratic voter registration advantage. Republican State Senator James Hahn had previously said he would vote no on this plan; perhaps he and fellow Republican Shawn Hamerlinck have figured out what to do now that they are in the same Senate district.

John Deeth explains here which senators would face the voters in 2012 and how some potential contests between two incumbents might shake out. I would add that Pat Ward is not guaranteed an uncontested GOP primary in the new 22nd district, containing Waukee, Windsor Heights, Clive and a lot of West Des Moines. Other people, including former radio talk show host Steve Deace, may be interested in that safe GOP seat.

In the Iowa House, 91 representatives voted for the plan, including all Democrats present and most of the Republican caucus. Seven House Republicans voted no. Clel Baudler’s House seat was and remains solidly Republican; maybe he just doesn’t like the idea of being in the new third Congressional district (a swing district).

Mark Brandenburg and Mary Ann Hanusa were two more no votes; the plan puts them into the same Council Bluffs House seat, leaving Democrats a possible pickup in the empty district containing the rest of Council Bluffs.

Annette Sweeney was another no vote; she’s risen to the position of House Agriculture Committee chair but now will be thrown into a district with Pat Grassley. He didn’t vote against the plan, so maybe Sweeney feels she will get the short end of the stick there.

Two members of the House Republican leadership team voted against the map. One was Assistant Majority Leader Renee Schulte, and I’m not surprised. She won her Cedar Rapids district by only 13 votes in 2008, and the new map gives Democrats a larger registration advantage there. UPDATE: Schulte said she opposed splitting the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids corridor into two Congressional districts.

House Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Kaufmann was the other member of the Republican leadership team to vote no today. Deeth notes that his new district leans Democratic, losing part of Muscatine County while gaining more of Johnson County. UPDATE: Kaufmann wrote to Deeth:

It would have been nice for you to ask me about my NO vote. It had nothing to do with my new House seat. My seat has always been Democratic-leaning and was actually almost 1200 plus Democrats a few years ago. In fact since it is rural Johnson County it is only about a 500 vote difference than my current district even after the 2010 election. Actually a new map could have been much worse for me in party registration […].

My NO vote had to do with the new Senate District and my constituents, both Democratic and Republican, wanting uniformity in their Senate District instead of a rural county attached to an urban area. My NO vote reflected the desire to have a conversation about uniformity within Senate Districts, something I have talked about for years.

Governor Terry Branstad now has three days to sign or veto the redistricting bill. He has promised a careful review but also indicated that he hasn’t heard “a compelling reason to reject it.” For that matter, neither has anyone else. Yesterday The Iowa Republican blog publisher Craig Robinson suggested that the maps aren’t good for Republicans long-term and said he’d like to see what was behind door number 2. Perhaps Robinson is trying to encourage Branstad to veto the plan, or he could just be spinning.

After today’s votes in the legislature, Representative Dave Loebsack confirmed that he will move from Linn County, which would be part of the first Congressional district, into the new second district, covering most of southeast Iowa.

UPDATE: Statements from Loebsack, Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn and Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky are after the jump.

Tom Latham’s press secretary told the Sioux City Journal’s Bret Hayworth that “the congressman will have no statement on the redistricting plan and what it means for him, since it’s still not official, pending action by the governor.”

SECOND UPDATE: Added Bruce Braley’s statement below.

THIRD UPDATE: Added Leonard Boswell’s statement. James Q. Lynch talked to several of the Republicans who voted no. Excerpts from their comments are below.

Press release from Loebsack for Congress, April 14:

With the approval of Iowa’s Congressional district lines for 2012 by thestate legislature and expected signature by the Governor, Dave Loebsack officially announced his candidacy for re-election to Iowa’s Second Congressional District.

Dave and his wife Terry will reside in Johnson County, running for re-election in a district that includes 14 of the 15 counties Loebsack has represented since his first election in 2006.

In Congress, Loebsack has taken on the tough fights, such as helping bring critical relief to Iowa during the floods of 2008 and the ongoing recovery process.  A strong progressive, Loebsack was an early supporter of President Obama’s during his upset win of the 2008 Iowa Caucus.

Loebsack said, “Now more than ever, we must stand together –  fighting against a Republican Congress that seeks to undermine all the progress we have made in recent years.  If they had their way, they’d jeopardize seniors’ hard-earned health care and privatize Medicare, while giving special tax breaks to oil and insurance companies.  I’ll never stop fighting for what’s right – putting Iowa’s interests ahead of the special interests.”

Statement issued by Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn:

“The map passed today lays the groundwork for a Republican majority in both the Iowa House and Senate for the next decade as we work toward a permanent conservative governing majority in Iowa. Ultimately, it is not arbitrary geographic lines, but rather a consistent message of policies focused on limited government, personal responsibility and individual freedom that will be central to the continued Republican resurgence in Iowa.

“With respect to the congressional districts, I am confident that more Iowans will be represented in Congress by a Republican under this map than are today. Congressman Boswell’s district becomes more Republican and conservative at a time when his voting record is increasingly liberal. I am also confident that Iowa Republicans will continue building on the broad gains seen in Eastern Iowa over the last two years and will be on offense in waging aggressive challenges in those two districts.”

Iowa Democratic Party press release, April 14:

DES MOINES – Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky today congratulated members of the Iowa House and Senate on their bipartisan efforts to pass the state’s redistricting proposal:

“The broad bipartisan support for the state’s redistricting plan reflects how fair and unbiased the entire process is in Iowa.

“With these new district boundaries, Democrats are ready to run aggressive campaigns in the coming election cycles to maintain our majority in the Iowa Senate, retake the Iowa House, and maintain a Democratic majority in our congressional delegation. We will work to field qualified and dedicated candidates in every district who will work to focus the legislature on job creation and economic growth, not a divisive agenda as Republicans have during this session.

“Recognizing the inherent fairness and bipartisan support for this plan, it is our hope that Governor Branstad will stand by this system and sign the new maps into law without hesitation.”

Statement from Bruce Braley, April 14:

“We’re very lucky in Iowa to have a truly non-partisan redistricting process. And while the process is still on going and the lines of my district will change, my commitment to listening, working hard, and getting things done for my current district won’t. I’m honored to represent Northeast Iowa in Congress and I’ll continue to focus on the very serious challenges in front of us.”

Press release from Boswell for Congress, April 14:

“I applaud the members of the Iowa House of Representatives and the Iowa State Senate for showing our nation why our redistricting process is the model that all others should follow. Everyones’ actions and statements throughout this process are what people expect of their elected representatives. Special recognition is also due to the Iowa Legislative Services Agency, whose staff operated in these months in a manner that is beyond reproach.”

“I am excited by the opportunity to serve the new 3rd Congressional District, pending Governor Branstad’s approval. Following his signature, I look forward to immediately becoming acquainted and reacquainted with its 16 counties. While this district will certainly pose new challenges and challengers, I am accustomed to running very vigorous and modern political campaigns and will prepare accordingly. But for the remainder of the 112th Congress, I will continue fighting and delivering for the people of Iowa’s current 3rd District, who I have enjoyed serving for the past eight years.”

From James Q. Lynch, “Lawmaker casts ‘no’ vote against splitting I-380 ‘Corridor’”:

Cedar Rapids Republican Rep Renee Schulte was a “no” vote on the plan. She had heard from community members, including business leaders who have been working to create a “Corridor” brand, linking Iowa City, Coralville, Cedar Rapids and other communities along the Interstate 380 corridor. The brand has been used to promote the region for economic development and professional recruitment.

They told Schulte the congressional redistricting plan that put Linn County in the new 1st District and Johnson in the 2nd could weaken the region’s ability to attract federal assistance – funding and otherwise. […]

Sen. Sandy Greiner, R-Keota, has drawn maps and she thinks the LSA could have done better.

She chaired a commission that drew supervisor districts in Washington County, “so I understand how hard it is.”

But it “bugs me a lot” that the LSA map follows the Iowa River, then carves out Hills before crossing the river, she said.

Based on party registration numbers, Greiner said, it’s probably to her advantage not to have Hills in her district, but there had to be a better way to draw the map.”

She voted no on principle, Greiner said.

Lynch quoted Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky as charging that Greiner and Jeff Kaufmann “sent a clear message to the people of Johnson County, and the rest of their new districts, that they do not want to represent them.”

Kaufmann, who has represented parts of Johnson County for eight years, was outraged. He called comments of Dvorsky, whose husband is a Democratic state senator, “slanderous” and demanded an apology.

His vote was not a reflection of his situation, but his belief that Senate 37, where Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, is the incumbent, mixes rural and urban areas that do not share the same interests.

“I think we need to have that discussion,” Kaufmann said, “whether rural districts should be kept rural and urban districts urban” even if it results in rural Senate districts become geographically large to maintain a population balance.

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