Legal Mischief: Political Realities of Redistricting; Cong. Miller’s Millstone: Sen. Rucho’s Right of Retributive Justice

by johndavis, May 26, 2011

[audio:|titles=JDPR 5 26 11 Legal Mischief] Note: This report is based on research done in preparation for presentations last week to the NC Bar Assn. Foundation CLE Dept. at the Norman A. Wiggins School of Law, Campbell University, Raleigh, and a presentation to the NC Dental Society’s Political Action Committee at their Annual Meeting in

[audio:|titles=JDPR 5 26 11 Legal Mischief]

Note: This report is based on research done in preparation for presentations last week to the NC Bar Assn. Foundation CLE Dept. at the Norman A. Wiggins School of Law, Campbell University, Raleigh, and a presentation to the NC Dental Society’s Political Action Committee at their Annual Meeting in Myrtle Beach. If you are interested in a presentation on the political implications of redistricting for 2012 politics, click here.

Most Fun You Can Legally Have

Mercedes Benz has an ad on TV claiming that driving one of their “C Class” cars is the most fun you can legally have. Wrong. Drawing your political party an advantage over a $20 billion budget for the next 10 years while disrupting the opposition without getting indicted … now that’s the most fun you can legally have.

You can’t govern if you don’t win a majority of the legislative seats. One of the best ways to stack the deck in your favor is to draw a majority of seats predisposed to choosing your candidates. But only the party in the majority after each census can claim the drawing tools. In 2011, it’s the Republicans.

Miller’s Millstone: Rucho’s Right of Retributive Justice

US Congressman Brad Miller, D-Wake, is serving his last term whether he has accepted his fate or not. Why? He “double-bunked” the Chairman of the NC Senate Redistricting Committee 10 years ago.

No one understands the devastating political consequences of redistricting better than someone who got “double-bunked” by the majority party mapmakers. Double-bunking occurs when two incumbents from the same party are drawn into the same district. If you are double-bunked you have two choices: run against each other in a brutal and expensive primary, or someone has to agree to go home.

That’s what happened 10 years ago … to none other than Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, the current Chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee. Who served as Chairman of NC Senate Redistricting Committee 10 years ago? None other than US Congressman Brad Miller.

Then-state Senator Brad Miller put GOP Senators Robert Pittenger and Bob Rucho, both from Mecklenburg County, in the same district. Rucho decided to bow out rather than risk a fortune trying to beat one of the wealthiest members of the state Senate in a primary race in an expensive media market.

Sen. Rucho went home and practiced dentistry for most of the decade. Then-Sen. Brad Miller drew himself a safe Democratic U.S. House seat (connects Raleigh and Greensboro by way of the Virginia border counties) and spent the remainder of the decade as a member of the United States Congress.

In 2008, Sen. Pittenger resigned. Bob Rucho was appointed to fill his unexpired term. In 2010, the GOP won a 31-19 majority in the NC Senate. Now, low and behold, look who is chairing the NC Senate Redistricting Committee!!! None other than Sen. Bob Rucho.

Miller is history.

A couple of other Democrats in the congressional delegation also need to be pricing moving companies for the big haul back to their respective hometowns. According to press accounts: Mike McIntire, D-Robeson and Larry Kissell, D-Montgomery are the #2 and #3 GOP targets after Miller, followed by Heath Shuler, D-Swain. We will find out who has a target on their backs in a couple of weeks.

Remedy for Overindulging at the Smorgasbord of Legal Mischief

The modern era of remapping congressional and legislative districts typically begins with the majority party overindulging at the smorgasbord of partisan mischief, only to have the minority party lawyers file suits against the maps … suits that receive an unfavorable ruling by majority party judges but are eventually reversed and remanded by the minority party appellate courts and ultimately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which hands down a 5-4 decision going one way or the other depending on which party was in the White House at the time of the most recent retirement of a justice. Or, so it seems.

In June, the new Republican versions of congressional and state legislative maps will be unveiled. This much you can count on: Step 1: Republicans will draw themselves a political advantage. Step 2: the state or federal courts or the Obama Justice Department will take much of that advantage away.

In 2001, North Carolina Senate Democrats drew themselves 28 friendly districts and gave the GOP Senators 16. There were six swing Senate districts. Likewise, the North Carolina House Democrats drew themselves 59 friendly districts and gave the GOP 47. There were 14 swing House districts.

Republicans sued. Ultimately, after two years of legal filings, hearings and a dozen rulings, the courts leveled the playing field. Among the 50 Senate districts approved in 2003, 24 favored Democrats, 22 favored Republicans, and four were swing districts. Among the 120 House districts approved in 2003, 51 favored Democrats and 55 favored Republicans. There were 14 Swing districts.

Maps Give You a Head Start; Money Wins the Race

Democrats made up for their losses in the courts by parlaying their political power into a fundraising advantage, outspending Republicans 3-to-1 in legislative races for the remainder of the decade, thereby reestablishing their dominance. Maps give you a head start. Money wins the race.

Republicans were never able to build on the good success of their redistricting litigation, even in GOP-friendly years, because of their inability to raise a competitive war chest.

The financial disparity changed in 2010, primarily because the Democratic leadership imploded under the strain of the worst recession since the Great Depression, high legislative and party leadership turnover, political scandal, and a President who could no longer inspire turnout. While Democrats floundered, Republicans united behind a strong team of political leadership and attained unprecedented fundraising success ... and unprecedented political success with the takeover of the General Assembly.

In 2008, NC Senate Democrats raised $9.7 million, doubling the $4.1 million raised by NC Senate Republicans. In 2010, NC Senate Democrats raised only $8.8 million, down 9.1%, while NC Senate Republicans achieved an unprecedented 93.1% increase over 2008 with $7.9 million.

In 2008, NC House Democrats raised $9.7 million, tripling the $3.4 million raised by NC House Republicans. In 2010, NC House Democrats raised $9.7 million again, while NC House Republicans doubled their 2008 total with $6.8 million, a 102% increase.

The odds of another election year during which everything goes wrong for the Democrats while the GOP is doing everything right are slim to none. Maps give you a head start. Money wins the race.

Past Legal Mischief Foretells the Legal Mischief Coming in June

Last Thursday, I served on a panel on redistricting sponsored by the NC Bar Assn. Foundation CLE Department. Panelists included Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, Chmn. of the NC House Redistricting Committee, Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, former Chmn. of the NC House Redistricting Committee, and Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, a member of the NC House Redistricting Committee.

Rep. Daughtry reminded us that he was a state senator prior to the 1990 redistricting, when he was mapped out of his home territory and forced to run for the House. Daughtry also reminded us that in 2000 he and GOP House member Billy Creech were “double bunked” into the same district. Creech retired.

NC Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, R-Watauga was state Sen. Virginia Foxx 10 years ago when she was double-bunked with Sen. John Garwood, R-Wilkes. Foxx chose to run for US Congress instead. NC Congressman Patrick McHenry, R-Gaston was state Rep. Patrick McHenry 10 years ago when he was double-bunked with Rep. John Rayfield, R-Gaston. He chose to run for US Congress.

This is what you can expect in a couple of weeks, except that it will be the Democrats who will suffer at the hands of Republican map makers. And it will all be legal … legal mischief nonetheless, and the most fun you can legally have!

Remember, Democrats set the standard of fairness for redistricting congressional and legislative districts in North Carolina, and you can count on Republicans to lower themselves to that same standard.

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