Attorney General George Jepsen filed this request with the Connecticut Supreme Court Friday to extend the deadline for drawing the new congressional districts. The court has yet to rule, but 10 years ago it gave the previous commission an extension.
The legislature’s nine-member Reapportionment Commission was unable to finish drawing the five Congressional District lines by its Nov. 30 deadline. The commission did unanimously approve new district lines for the 151 House and 36 Senate districts.
It’s likely the Supreme Court will give the nine-member commission an extension like it did in 2001 when it gave them until Dec. 21 to finish the job. It was that year that the commission had to figure out how to eliminate a Congressional District, pitting two incumbents against each other. It was also a time at which Connecticut’s Congressional delegation was evenly split amongst Democrats and Republicans.
This year they don’t have to eliminate a district, but they have to figure out how to shrink the 2nd Congressional District which grew by 15,000 people. And they have to deal with the reality that all five Congressional seats are held by Democrats. Republicans seem more than willing to let the court step in and draw the lines if need be, but Democrats may have an advantage in that the ninth tie-breaking member added to the commission in November was a former Democratic lawmaker.
The bipartisanship the commission expressed when it completed the 187 General Assembly Districts only went so far. Immediately after passing the new General Assembly districts Democratic and Republican commission members without taking a breath started criticizing each other’s Congressional maps.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero released the proposed Republican Congressional map to reporters last Wednesday 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.
The Republican map takes Bridgeport and New Haven and puts them in the 3rd District, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, and creates a new 4th District comprised mostly of the southwestern suburbs where Republican registration is good.
Cafero said that by putting Bridgeport and New Haven into the 3rd 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.
Sen. President Donald Williams said the Democrats’ proposed map 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.
“It was drawn that way to create a strictly partisan advantage,” Looney said referring to the Republican map.
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 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 until 2008.
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 released a statement saying that no major changes needed to be made to the current district lines.
The map proposed by Democratic commission members makes few changes to the current map.