Redistricting could determine control of Congress
- Not *could* but *will* --- as in the past 212 years (also affects the state
legislature gerrymanders--- for the past 224 years). Duh !!!! Standard no
mention of proportional representation. At least AP did a story (which will
be long forgotten by Nov. 2002 when the new gerrymanders take effect).
campaigns - Subscribe to the Campaigns and Elections List at
Redistricting could determine control of Congress
By KATHY BARKS HOFFMAN, Associated Press
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - At 22, Erin Carey is a foot soldier in a hard-fought but
overlooked battle to control state legislatures and redraw congressional
districts in Michigan and 19 other states.
Come summer, the University of Michigan graduate student and a few thousand
other recruits and volunteers will be marching door-to-door here, handing out
campaign literature for a Democratic Statehouse candidate.
Carey will be paid by Democrats 2000, a Washington, D.C.-based group that is
recruiting young adults nationwide to help gain or protect Democratic
majorities in state legislatures.
It's a sign of how important those seats are in a nationwide political web
that could determine everything from state tax and welfare policies to who
controls Congress - and whether the next president will have an easy or hard
time turning proposals into law.
"We have an opportunity to change the course of history," U.S. House Minority
Whip David Bonior told Carey and other University of Michigan students last
With redistricting based on the 2000 census, state lawmakers elected this
year will have a large say in how the lines dividing legislative and
congressional seats look for the next 10 years.
Draw the lines one way, and districts now held by Democrats could include
more GOP voters. Draw them another, and it could increase Democratic voters.
The results will likely decide the majority in the U.S. House.
That's given the parties ample reason to pour their resources into
legislative races this year in Michigan, Arizona, California, Colorado,
Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada,
New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee,
Texas and Wisconsin.
In each state, a change of six or fewer seats would flip control in at least
one legislative chamber.
Seven other states have the same narrow balance, but they are considered less
critical because they have fewer congressional districts.
If Democrats gain a majority in the U.S. House, there is a chance Michigan's
Bonior could become speaker.
But if the Michigan House remains in Republican hands, after the 2002
elections, "I certainly will be out of a job ... because of the way they draw
the lines," Bonior said.
Republican Gov. John Engler of Michigan is as focused as the Democrats on
control of the Statehouse. Republicans now hold a 58-52 majority; in 1997-98,
Democrats held a six-seat edge.
Engler says GOP candidates can give voters lots of reasons to keep the
Statehouse in Republican hands.
"They will have a record that is a nice contrast with the two years previous,
where things weren't happening under Democratic leadership," Engler said.
Republicans don't have an exact match for Democrats 2000, which was founded
more than a decade ago to create a farm team of Democrats who could advance
to higher office.
Instead, the Republican Legislative Campaign Fund plans to funnel millions of
dollars into states to help win GOP legislative majorities.
Democrats 2000 is more concerned with giving candidates trained workers like
Carey, executive director Kelly Young said.
In Michigan, more than a dozen Statehouse races are targeted. So is the race
for a U.S. House seat left vacant by Democrat Rep. Debbie Stabenow, and her
challenge of Republican U.S. Sen. Spencer Abraham.
Democrats 2000 is recruiting and training 2,000 field directors and
volunteers in eight states. It plans to spend $30,000 in Michigan, with field
directors in 20 races and volunteers to knock on more than 100,000 doors,
The grass-roots aspect appeals to Carey, a graduate student in public policy
who said Bonior sold her on the need to get involved.
"It's really useful to hear people like that say, 'Yes, we need policy
people, but we really need people who can put the policy-makers in place
supporting the decisions we would,'" Carey said.
It's the presidential race that's going to draw voters to the polls this
fall, more so than legislative races, but that turnout is something groups
like Democrats 2000 can capitalize on, said Larry Sabato, director of the
University of Virginia Center for Governmental Studies.
The fights will be fierce in Illinois, where Democrats have a six-seat edge
in the House and the GOP has a five-seat majority in the Senate; in Vermont,
where controversy over the rights of same-sex couples could wipe out
Democratic majorities in the Senate and House; and in California, which
expects to gain four congressional seats.
In Texas, GOP Chairwoman Susan Weddington said the defending the GOP's
one-seat Senate majority could rival congressional races in intensity and
expense. Republicans are within four seats of winning House control.
"It's close to the key battleground in 2000," Weddington said.