An amicable tenor of bipartisan cooperation quickly evaporated following the Wednesday Reapportionment Committee meeting when, after patting themselves on the back for drawing the lines for the House and Senate districts, legislative leaders criticised each others’ Congressional proposals.
Since the nine-member commission had not met its Wednesday deadline for one-third of its task, the group will ask for a time extension from the state Supreme Court to see if it can come to agreement on the five Congressional Districts. But an agreement seemed a ways off as Republicans and Democrats exchanged barbs after the meeting.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero released the proposed Republican Congressional map to reporters after the meeting adjourned, citing criticism made by Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney earlier in the week. Cafero said both sides had promised to remain silent about the maps until a vote.
“We found it unfortunate, frankly that the agreement between the commissioners was broken. But that being the case the only way to respond was to share exactly what we did propose,” he said.
Looney said the Republican map proposed “radical” changes to the 4th which was bound to make is a district “no Democrat could win.”
“It was drawn that way to create a strictly partisan advantage,” Looney said Tuesday.
Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola, Jr. said he thinks combining Bridgeport and New Haven into the 3rd District balances many interests.
But taking Bridgeport out of the 4th District is creates a district that no Democrat could win, Looney said. He contends that the 4th District, even with Bridgeport, is a competitive district, which was held by Republicans in three out of the last five elections. He said it only changed in 2008 when U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat, was elected.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney rejected the notion that the 4th District proposed by Republicans was drawn to ensure a win for the minority party.
“From 1968 to the present time, Republicans have held the 4th District for all but three terms. So the current district is a winnable district for a Republican,” he said.
McKinney said the proposal his party drafted was not about drawing the lines for incumbents and individuals, rather it was about meeting the constitutional obligations. He criticized the state’s Congressional delegation, which earlier Wednesday released a statement saying that no major changes needed to be made to the district lines.
The five Congressional Districts were compacted in the map Cafero produced, which he said achieved a zero deviation from the required 714,819 residents.
Sen. President Donald Williams released the map Democrats proposed more than two weeks ago, which made far fewer changes to the current lines. The changes were mostly of minor shifts to account for population changes, he said.
“We do that because we believe that the Congressional Districts in the state of Connecticut are competitive,” he said.
Connecticut dropped down to five districts a decade ago and over the last 10 years, three out of the five have been won by Republicans several times, he said. Williams said Democrats felt it was their responsibility to balance the population shifts rather than make redistricting a political process.
Cafero said that by putting Bridgeport and New Haven into the 3th District, the Republican proposal honored a legal obligation to try to create a minority influenced district.
“It will be the first minority influenced district in the state of Connecticut and if you were at the public hearing as we all were, you heard over and over again, representatives of the minority community in this state saying ‘we deserve to have as many minority influenced or as minority majority districts as possible,’” he said.
Williams said the Democrats’ proposal followed civil rights and communities of interest laws. He suggested the Republican proposal may have been designed to do the opposite of what Cafero said.
“We should take a closer look at what they’ve done to determine if the ultimate purpose there is to dilute the influence of minority populations in multiple Congressional Districts,” he said.
He said that by concentrating the minority population in one district, the Republican map may dilute minority influence in the rest of the state.
Both sides agreed that an agreement was feasible within the next couple weeks. Cafero said that the commission must place 169 towns in five Congressional Districts and has already agreed on 139 of them.
“We’re 82 percent in agreement and 18 percent disagreement. If the court gives us a couple weeks, to say that we can’t resolve 18 percent of the issue, I think is wrong,” he said.