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N.J. Mapmakers Hope for Redraw This Week

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Reps. Bill Pascrell represents a densely populated area outside New York City that did not keep pace with the rest of the state in population growth. As a result, their districts could see significant changes during the mapmaking process.

One of the dirtiest political processes is about to take place in a state with one of the most corrupt political reputations. But parties involved in the Garden State’s redistricting are taking a strikingly bipartisan tone.

The 13 members of the New Jersey Redistricting Commission will begin meeting today in New Brunswick and will initiate the process of hashing out the state’s new Congressional boundaries.

The group has a grim task ahead because New Jersey lost a seat in this round of reapportionment. The map the panel draws will play a large role in determining which Member will not return in 2013. 

Yet the commission members are headed into the process with a positive tone.

“I would anticipate a spirited exchange between both sides, but ultimately, we’ll all work together for a map that makes sense given the changes we’ve seen in New Jersey over the last decade,” Republican Commission Caucus Chairman Mike DuHaime said.

The commission is made up of six Democrats, six Republicans and one independent member.

“I want to keep the tone as civil as possible,” commission member John Farmer Jr. added.

And a senior state Democratic Party official described the process as “civil and professional in tone.”

Any map passed must get seven votes from the group. The commission delegations from each party have been plotting out different map scenarios that could help their party’s incumbents and still win the vote of the 13th independent member who is known in New Jersey circles as “the tiebreaker.” The tiebreaker this year is Farmer, the dean of Rutgers School of Law-Newark.

Farmer is politically unaligned. He served in the administration of Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R), but over the years he has gained the trust of Democrats. When the time came for the 12 partisan commissioners to choose the independent, they unanimously selected Farmer.

“To the extent possible, I want the map to be driven by demographic changes that have occurred,” Farmer told Roll Call.

Although New Jersey grew in population during the past 10 years, it did not keep pace with the rest of the country. None of the state’s 13 incumbents have given any indication they are retiring, and so the dilemma now amounts to a political game of musical chairs.

Trying to prognosticate which Member will be left out is virtually impossible.

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