Democrats Nix Illinois Remap

Posted March 9, 2005 at 6:45pm

Illinois Democrats on Capitol Hill said Wednesday they have essentially shut the door on revisiting the state’s Congressional map as a means of retaliation for GOP-led redistricting efforts elsewhere in the country, citing a lack of consensus here and back home on how to proceed.

In holding their fire, Land of Lincoln Democrats also said they wanted to make a statement that they are above recent Republican efforts in Texas, Colorado and Georgia to redraw Congressional boundaries at will.

During a Tuesday night meeting called by Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), nine of the delegation’s 10 Democrats who attended concluded they should not to move forward with the redistricting idea being pushed by Reps. Rahm Emanuel and Jan Schakowsky.

“The conclusion that was reached [Tuesday] night is we have more of a concern for the institution than we do our partisan concerns,” Costello said Wednesday. “There’s not a consensus. There are a few people in the General Assembly and a few people in the delegation that would like to proceed, but there’s not a majority consensus on this so for the moment the issue is dead.”

He added: “Just because this was done in Texas doesn’t make it right.”

Emanuel, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, echoed the sentiment that Democrats wanted to send a message by taking the high road. He also acknowledged the disagreement within the party and said that one of the state’s key players — Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan, who is also the state House Speaker — was cool to the redistricting idea.

“What there is a consensus on is that this was a way to show the hypocrisy of what somehow is bad for Illinois … is OK in Texas, Georgia, Colorado, California,” Emanuel said. “[We] did want to make a statement that we’ve chosen institution over party, unlike our Republican colleagues, and specifically individuals who have significant leadership and who could exercise that leadership to protect the institution.”

Emanuel, however, did not shut the door on the possibility that Democrats in other states, such as Louisiana and New Mexico, might revisit their Congressional maps in response to other redistricting efforts.

“There’s obviously discussions going on,” Emanuel said.

Schakowsky, while not speaking directly to Tuesday’s delegation meeting, seemed to indicate the redistricting issue was not entirely dead — putting more stock in the prerogative of state officials to tackle the issue if they want to than in the desires of Democrats on Capitol Hill.

“The real question is Springfield,” she said. “There’s a good deal of interest among a lot of [state] Senators and Representatives, but there’s no consensus on how to move forward.”

But Schakowsky also agreed it is unlikely that changes will be made if no agreement is struck among key Democrats in Illinois.

The current Congressional map for the Land of Lincoln is the product of a compromise brokered by then-Rep. Bill Lipinski (D) and Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

While most Democrats believe their 10-9 edge in the state’s House delegation doesn’t adequately reflect Illinois’ Democratic leanings, a majority of House Members were apparently unwilling to cross Hastert or jeopardize his influence.

Some Republicans suggested Monday that the decision by Illinois House Democrats to abandon the concept of re-redistricting was a failure of Emanuel’s.

“Rahm Emanuel’s ham-handed attempt to push his personal partisan agenda has obviously failed because other Democrats in Illinois recognize the folly of this proposal,” said Hastert spokesman John McGovern.

Tuesday’s meeting was the first time Democrats in the delegation got together to discuss redistricting, following publicized reports that Emanuel and Schakowsky were pitching the idea. Freshman Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) had a prior commitment and was the only Member not present.

Sources said that Costello, along with Reps. Bobby Rush and Dan Lipinski, Bill Lipinski’s son, had been the most vocal opponents to undoing the current map. But others expressed reservations as well, and Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) said that going into the meeting, a majority of the delegation was already opposed to a remap.

“It’s fairly difficult to determine what might be accomplished,” he said. “If it’s a long shot, do you disrupt an agreement, a level of comity that exists among the delegation at this point?”

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) recalled the state’s last remap was “very bi-partisan, very collegial.”

He remembers that all of the Democrats then in the delegation signed off on the deal with the lone exception of then-Rep. David Phelps (D), who was forced into a Member versus Member contest in 2002 that he later lost to Rep. John Shimkus (R).

Dan Lipinski said he’s not spending much time thinking about a redraw.

“My own personal view is that if the redistricting is done, it’s done in the state Capitol,” Lipinski said. “There’s no reason for me to think about it or get involved.”

A Democratic strategist working on the Illinois redistricting effort concurred, noting that it doesn’t matter whether all of the House Democrats support the effort. While the push to redistrict in both Georgia and Texas was led by Republicans on Capitol Hill, ultimately the decisions were made at the state level.

“You don’t need unanimity among the delegation to move forward,” said the source. “And even if you do have unanimity among the Congressional delegation, it doesn’t mean that it will go forward. The decision is going to be made in Springfield.”

Still, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) said that even though the delegation agreed to step back from their push for a new Congressional map in Illinois, there was a lengthy discussion about the Republicans’ hardball tactics over redistricting in other states.

“The Republican leadership’s apparent contempt for the law and centuries of tradition is becoming more evident every day,” he said.