Michigan Redistricting Looms On Horizon


Arguably, the most important piece of legislation that will be undertaken by the
state legislature in the next term will be the redistricting of Michigan's elective
districts. And with a working majority in both houses and a Republican Governor
(57-53 in the house and 23-16 in the senate -- although Mike Rogers has just won
election to the US Congress leaving one seat vacant), they should be well positioned to put together the basis of a more Republican delegation in the US House from
Michigan. It currently stands with 7 Republicans and 9 Democrats, so it would
take only slight adjustments to make the state more favorable to electing a Republican delegation.

Democrats have been in control of the state delegation for four decades, and with
Republican majorities in both houses of the state legislature and a long term Republican Governor, it can be suggested that having Democrat control of the
congressional delegation is out of sync with the voting patterns of the state in
recent elections. Furthermore, with the loss of population in the city of Detroit,
it stands to reason that the districts near the city will have to be extended in their
boundaries, cutting away at some of the districts nearby which have tended to vote
Democrat. The state is also likely to lose at least one seat in the US House as a
result of relatively slow population growth as compared with such states as Texas,
Florida, and California, among others. In the past, this has meant that incumbent
Democrats have found themselves thrown into districts with their Democrat colleagues. James Blanchard's seat in the House was an example of this, and
he stepped aside to run for Governor, and the seat held by Dennis Hertel was broken
up and mixed in with districts largely in Detroit and that of Democrat Whip Bonior.

Bonior's district has handily re-elected him in most recent contests, but it is likely
to become less Democratic as its borders will have to be extended outward into
more Republican areas. The same thing could happen with the districts represented
by Rivers, Levin, Barcia, and Kildee, if not that of the longest serving of the crew,
Dingell, who has held the seat since 1955 (his father held it before him dating back
to the 1930's). That would have the impact of at least cutting the number of Democrats from Michigan in the US House by three seats. It is not only feasible, but eminently arguable to do this.They also have the opportunity to redraw the state legislative districts so as to cement their position in the State Senate and increase their margin in the State House over the next few elections.

Since federal law almost requires that the redistricting be done to fairly well guarantee that the two black representatives, Conyers and Kirkpatrick, win
re-election, the chances for a more Republican redistricting arrangement are pretty
good. It would otherwise be strategically valuable to put them in the same district
against one another, especially given the declining population of Detroit, although
that would make it less plausible to redistrict as effectively outstate.

The last time redistricting occured, the state was more evenly split in partisan
control, and the redistricting plan had to be finally drawn by the courts. But this
time, it is less likely to have to go that route. The courts may end up involved
as Democrats seek remedy for their loss of power in the judiciary, much as Gore
has been trying to do with regard to the Florida Presidential vote in the 2000 elections, but the numbers may make it very difficult to redraw the boundaries in
any way they could find satisfactory. They will have a hard time holding on to their
edge in the delegation after the next redistricting. And with the state Supreme Court
in the hands of a working Republican majority, there is less of a chance that the
Democrats would be able to manipulate the judiciary toward their ends, unless
as they invariably may try, they move the question into the federal courts, where
Clinton has had eight years to appoint left leaning judges.

What Republican lawmakers should try to do is to draw districts that throw Rivers
and Levin against one another and put Barcia and Kildee in the same district. That
would allow for an extension of Bonior's district into Republican areas so as to make
that seat more vulnerable as well. They could then make Mike Rogers' new seat
much more amenable to his reelection prospects. It might be possible to redistrict so that Democrats have a credible shot at only perhaps six or seven of the probably 15 seats that Michigan will have after reapportionment. This would be an essential part
of Republican prospects to maintain control of the US House in the next decade,
and would be a fitting capstone to the legacy of Governor Engler, who is less than
likely to seek re-election to another term. Michigan has a very good chance to come
out of redistricting with a Republican delegation in the US House for the first time
in forty years.

The news media will bellow, but they will be only focusing attention on their partisan
bias, because if the Democrats had the hand, they would play it, as they have
whenever they have had it. Their justice blows in the wind. And they are going to do
that whether the Republicans assert themselves or not. In all likelihood, they will
blow harder if the GOP shows any sign of what they would consider weakness.
The 'other side' is armed for battle and Republicans should not go into any fight
with one arm tied behind their back. They should go into the fray loaded for bear.

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