Thursday, July 18, 2013

Did Redistricting Board Intentionally Target Tea Party Members?

At the Sunday Redistricting Board meeting, I met a woman who had an email that had been sent out to, I think, Republican legislators from Randy Ruedrich with a:
  • list of sitting Senators
  • what percent of their district remained the same
  • if they had to run in 2014
The woman was angry.  The Board had gerrymandered, she told me,  so that two Republican senators and two Republican representatives had to run against each other.  And a third Anchorage area Republican Senator only had 50% of her old districts while a bunch of Anchorage Democrats had 100% of their old districts.  And that Senator had to run again in 2014 and only for a two year term.

I pointed out that the Board was made up of four Republicans and one Democrat.  That didn't seem to matter - she said something about them not being real Republicans.  I also mentioned that since there are a lot more Republicans in the legislature than Democrats, so if every thing was done without bias, Republicans would be more likely to be affected than Democrats.  She seemed to have her mind made up and nothing I said made a dent. 

Rep. Tammie Wilson

Sen Fred Dyson Introducing Joe Miller 2012
But as we look at the Republicans who got pinched in these things - Tammie Wilson in Fairbanks (paired with Doug Isaacson) and Fred Dyson in Eagle River (paired with Anna Fairclough) - we see that both Wilson and Dyson supported Tea Party favorite Joe Miller in 2010. 

Cathy Giessel, the Anchorage Republican Senator who lost half her constituents and who, thus,  has to run again in 2014  and for only a two year seat is also of that far, far right Republican persuasion.  Is this all a coincidence?  The Republican Party has had a big internal fight between Tea Party activists and the traditional power brokers of the Party.  Randy Ruedrich, until recently the Chair of the Republican Party, has feuded with the Tea Party Republicans.  He was also very involved in creating the AFFER map and actually made a comment from the audience when the Board was discussing truncation and determining how to figure out the two year and four year seats.  Although audience members are not allowed to speak, they let him, took a recess, and came back with the solution he had suggested from the audience: to renumber some of the districts.  

But, in fairness, both Isaacson and Wilson are listed as from North Pole and one of the principles in redistricting is to leave political subdivisions intact.  So perhaps it was the previous redistricting that allowed two different North Pole districts that was the problem.  Also, though not as critical, pairing the two Eagle River house seats into one Senate seat makes a lot of sense.  Finally, Giessel's old Senate district included the northern Kenai House district and this time they tried to keep Kenai more intact.  But those issues didn't prevent the Board from breaking Matsu twice, even though Calista offered a map that would have kept Matsu whole.  And I'm sure if they had wanted to, they could have kept these incumbents in different districts.

Anyway, below is an adaptation of the chart from the email.  I added the letters of the current (2012 election) and new (2014 election) Senate seats and I added the last column, because the email didn't say how long the terms would be for people not running in 2014. 

Republican or D
(current - new District)
Kept of 2012 District Status Next Term
Kelly  (B-A) 97.6% running 4 yr seat
Coghill (A-B) 77.0% not running 2 years
Bishop (C-C) 46.8% running 4 yr seat
Huggins (E-D) 96.9% not running 2 years
Dunleavy (D-E) 52.0% running 4 yr seat
Open (M-F) 49.3% running 2 yr seat
Fairclough (M-G), Dyson (F-F) 50.1% running 4 yr seat
D-Wielechowski (G-H) 100% not running 2 years
D-Gardner (H-I) 100% running 4 yr seat
D-Ellis (I-J) 100% not running 2 years
D-French (J-K) 100% running 4 yr seat
McGuire (K-L) 100% not running 4 years
Meyer (L-M) 100% running 4 yr seat
Giessel (N-N) 50.1% running 2 yr seat
Micciche (N-O) 50.3% running 4 yr seat
Stevens (R-P) 51.3% running 2 yr seat
D - Egan (P-Q) 92.7% running 4 yr seat
Stedman (Q-R) 90.7% not running
D - Hoffman (S-S) 54.3% running 4 yr seat
D - Olsen (T-T) 80.3% running 2 yr seat

Some background for people who haven't been keeping track of these things:

Senators have four year terms.  The terms are staggered so that ten senators run in one election and ten in the next.  That way there are always at least ten Senators who aren't brand new.

If a new Senate district is changed so that a substantial number of people are new, the seat is truncated.  Truncation means that instead of serving out their full term (if it would not be up at the next election), their term is cut to two years and they must run in the next election.  The reasoning here is that a substantial number of people will now be represented by someone they didn't have an opportunity to vote for (or against.)

So, how many is substantial?  Last year's discussion of truncation said that any district that had more than a 10% change would be considered substantially changed.  Last year there was only one district that was less then 10% - Juneau - and the next was 65%.  This year they decided that the cut off would be 70%, which allowed Sen. John Coghill (75% change) not to have to run for reelection in 2014.  (Generally, people set standards before they know who will meet them and who won't so they aren't biased by knowing how the standards will affect real people.)  In any case, Coghill was also a Joe Miller supporter, so that would suggest that they weren't necessarily after Tea Party folks.

The gerrymandering charges this year were from Democrats.  But might it be possible the Tea Party is going to challenge the redistricting plan?  Can you charge gerrymandering when it's Republicans out to get Republicans?  (I'm not saying that happened here, just a hypothetical.)  Maybe this isn't over yet. 


  1. Well, if the Tea Party wing thinks this plan negatively affects them, they certainly won't think it was a coincidental occurrence.

    I'd have to think about it more before I would state an opinion.

    The thing which strikes me is that both sides of the Republican Party in Alaska could have spent years sharpening the knives and plotting to play the redistricting game. Neither believes the party can survive with the other side of the party in control. Occam strongly hints that to both the true enemy is not the Democratic Party. This is the easiest and best way to cheapshot the other side.

  2. I don't have anything to add to what you said, but I appreciate your comments.

  3. Doesn't it make a bit of sense that the corrections from last year's districts, which heavily favored Republican candidates, would lean a little more to the center?

  4. But John, they've told us repeatedly there was no gerrymandering involved. (is there an irony icon?)(I checked, yes, a Malaysian Tweeter called Irony Icon.)

  5. I would speculate that in order to maintain Fbks area senators in Republican status, a sacrifice had to be made with the two North Pole area House reps to keep the boundaries more favorable for senate races. Most likely one Eagle River senator wasn't going to run again and this pairing supposedly lessens the board looking to favor R's.


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