House Republicans look to avoid incumbent battle next election
State House lawmakers are in agreement on almost everything in the newly proposed district maps, but one issue still remains.
House lawmakers held a public hearing at Leg Hall Monday night on their proposed district maps for the next ten years.
But public input was sparse. No one showed up in person, and no more than ten people gave comments virtually.
But House Republicans were on hand, objecting to one change that pushes their own Michael Ramone out of his district, and into Democrat Paul Baumbach’s.
House Minority leader Daniel Short says his team is drawing a new map to try and avoid an incumbent fight.
“We each have our own teams, we each have representatives that we’re trying to work with — and obviously the majority’s in charge” Short says. “You’re trying to accommodate your team, and then also try to work with us to accommodate us the best you can so we’re hoping we can make those changes.”
House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, who leads the map drawing, says it was almost impossible to keep Ramone in, because of the massive drop in population in Newark and the fact that Ramone lives no more than 200 feet from his district line.
He says he’ll take the Republican’s map into consideration, but the most important piece is not partisan lean, rather ensuring the districts remain as equal in population as possible.
“Ten years ago when we did it, we started out with three Republican majority districts in the state, we ended up with three Republican majority districts in the state,” says Schwartzkopf. “I didn’t try to do anything with the D and R stuff; I didn’t try to do anything this time with the D and R stuff. To me that’s minor compared to trying to get the numbers right and just doing all these things.”
Schwarzkopf is referring to the population numbers in each district, which all must lie within five percent of the average.
He says he’s happy to see that while some members of the public brought up specific issues with dividing one community, nobody claimed the maps were gerrymandered to favor one political party.
Advocates did suggest creating a non-partisan redistricting commission to draw new district lines instead of lawmakers.
Lawmakers considered it in the past, and Republican lawmakers support it, but Schwartzkopf says you still need lawmakers to vote on the final maps, and if they don’t like what’s created, it’ll never get enough votes.
Schwarzkopf says it’s better for lawmakers to draw the maps themselves, so it’s something they all like.
Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.