July 12, 2014
Susan Walsh/Associated Press
State House Speaker Ben Luján (left next to Speaker John Boehner) controls redistricting in New Mexico. Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján (right) is the state lawmaker’s son.

When Redistricting’s All in the Family

For many current and former Members of Congress, redistricting is a family affair and House district boundaries run as thick as bloodlines.

It's not uncommon for state lawmakers to hand-carve districts for their political allies in Congress during the once-in-a-decade mapmaking process.

It's much less common when they share a last name.

But this cycle, state lawmakers in Indiana, Michigan and New Mexico are tasked with redrawing House districts that will determine a family's political posterity.

Rep. Dan Burton's (R-Ind.) brother, Woody Burton, serves on the redistricting committee in the Hoosier State Legislature, which completed its new Congressional map in April.

"I'm sure Woody had some influence because, obviously, if your older brother is a Congressman, that enhances your position in the Legislature," said Brian Howey, an independent political analyst in Indiana.

The new map was widely viewed as helpful to Hoosier Republicans, including Burton, who won less than 30 percent of the vote against six Republicans in the primary last year. The new map moves three of his four top primary competitors into other Congressional districts.

Woody Burton told Roll Call that he talked with his brother before the Congressional maps were drawn and passed along his comments to the redistricting committee.

"We talked about it," Woody Burton said. "He said, 'All I wanted is to be treated fair.'"

Woody Burton cautioned that while he offered his input on the new Congressional map, he did not personally draw the new boundaries saying he didn't even see the final maps until the day before the first committee hearing.

Nonetheless, the Congressman's strongest competitor in the 2010 primary, Luke Messer, is now running for the open 6th district seat instead. Rep. Burton will now face a primary challenge from the one challenger who stayed put in the district, former Marion County Coroner John McGoff. McGoff has challenged the Congressman twice before.

In Michigan, a former Member's son will attempt to take back the House seat his family lost two cycles ago. Former Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R) lost a bid to Rep. Gary Peters (D) in 2008. Now the Republican's son, state Rep. Marty Knollenberg (R), is on the redistricting committee in the Michigan Legislature.

Marty Knollenberg has already announced he will run for Congress, and with his plum spot on the redistricting committee, he will have major pull in what the new Congressional map will look like in the GOP-controlled Legislature. The state is losing a House seat in 2012. Peters is expected to be moved into the same district as one of his Democratic colleagues, most likely Rep. Sander Levin, although an official map will not be released for another couple of weeks.

comments powered by Disqus