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Bad news out of New Jersey this morning, where a decision has been reached as to how the Garden State's 13 Congressional districts will be reduced to 12, and what they will be comprised of (population-wise and politically alike).

As in Arizona, New Jersey has an "independent" Redistricting Commission, with 6 Democrats and 6 Republicans on each side. The tiebreaker vote (lucky #13, one supposes) is either selected by mutual agreement of the other 12 or is decided by the State Supreme Court Chief Justice, per state law. The 13th vote is supposed to be a non-partisan, open-minded citizen who will break the inevitable impasse between the proposed Democratic and Republican maps.

In this case, both sides agreed to choose former New Jersey Attorney General John Farmer. Unfortunately for Democrats, Farmer has chosen the GOP's proposed map for  New Jersey's Congressional districts.

Read below the fold for the details.

Politicker NJ report with more details

There's nothing good about the GOP's proposed map. Since New Jersey had to lose 1 seat in the House due to the 2010 Census, 2 Congressmen had to be thrown together or have a district evaporate. Since the northeast part of New Jersey has a smaller proportion of voters than it did 10 years ago (losing ground to South Jersey), that put Congressmen Steve Rothman and Scott Garrett in the most jeopardy.

Rothman is a liberal-to-moderate Democrat; Garrett is a right-wing Republican neanderthal who was, quite frankly, a Tea Party-er before the term existed in Congress.

Bergen County, which Rothman and Garrett split between them (Rothman has more Democratic parts, Garrett the Republican turf) came into clearer focus this week as the Commission settled into the Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick, New Jersey to settle on a map. Or, to be more accurate, for John Farmer to settle on a map.

Democrats produced a map that would have created a "fair fight" district (VPI of +0) between Rothman and Garrett, combining parts of each of their current districts. Republicans proposed a map that was much more beneficial to Garrett, with a VPI of +4 for a Republican. To put that in perspective, that means Barack Obama would have carried the district, but by about half of his statewide margin.

In a normal cycle, this new district will give Garrett a 4-point "leg up" on any opponent, per an anonymous source within the Commission hearings.

Farmer went with the GOP's proposed map. Perhaps the former Attorney General - who served under Republican Christine Todd Whitman - will give an explanation at 10AM today, when the formal vote is held. I'd certainly like to know why a legitimately "fair fight" map was passed over for a GOP gerrymander.

For make no mistake about it: the GOP map greatly helps them preserve the 6 seats they currently hold in New Jersey's delegation. Some other pluses for them are:

Congressman Leonard Lance gets a strongly more Republican district, one that Barack Obama presumably did not win in 2008.

Congressman Chris Smith gets a large part of Republican turf in Monmouth County added to his district, making the seat a safe bet for him and whoever might replace him (if he retires) between now and 2020.

Congressman Jon Runyan (the former NFL player and the newest member of the delegation) saw his seat get a slightly more reddish hue, although it will still be a possibility for Democrats to win.

The other Republicans are Rodney Freylingheusen and Frank LoBiondo. Freylingheusen represents solidly Republican Morris County, and is safely ensconced in his seat for as long as he wants it. LoBiondo represents a very competitive district on paper, but is highly popular and should likewise be able to hold his seat without too much difficulty. Apparently neither district saw any real changes to its political makeup.

There is no map that has been officially unveiled as of 820AM EST. When a map is released I will make sure to post it here and give some more details about each district.

For now - thanks for nothing, John Farmer!  

- Stephen Yellin

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    "We are the leaders we've been waiting for." - Paul Wellstone

    by MrLiberal on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 05:28:18 AM PST

  •  Some background on Rothman vs. Garrett (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, TomFromNJ, nycyoungin

    Rothman was first elected in 1996 when Bob Torricelli ( of "when did we become such an unforgiving people?" infamy) left the competitive 9th district open to run for the US Senate. Rothman beat Bergen County Clerk Kathleen Donovan and has easily won his seat ever since. (

    (The Torricelli reference is from his announcement that he was abandoning his bid for reelection due to a ethics scandal that was going to cost him his seat. Frank Lautenberg stepped in and won instead)

    Scott Garrett was a State Senator in one of the most staunchly conservative districts in New Jersey in the 1990s. He twice challenged moderate Republican Marge Roukema in the GOP primary, coming close in 2000 to ousting her. In 2002, when Roukema retired, Garrett squashed 2 opponents in the primary and easily defeated the Democrat in this staunch Republican district.

    Although Garrett is safe on paper, his right-wing positions and caustic remarks on many issues causes a number of his constituents to cross party lines every 2 years. Nevertheless, Garrett has won with at least 55% in every cycle, getting 65% in 2010.

    If Garrett's new district gives him an alleged edge over Rothman, then it's quite possible New Jersey's resident Tea Party-er will win the "do or die" match-up in 2012.

    Of course, if President Obama wins New Jersey handily and has a decent showing in the new district, then Rothman has a shot.  

    "We are the leaders we've been waiting for." - Paul Wellstone

    by MrLiberal on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 05:36:01 AM PST

    •  Garrett (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      has made racist comments before. I would love to see Rothman use that against him, especially given that the district as now drawn must have a pretty considerable Korean population.

      21, male, RI-01 (voting) IL-01 (college), hopeless Swingnut

      by sapelcovits on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 07:15:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Asians in Bergen Cty (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        As an Asian who grew up in Bergen, actually it's a tough call on how the votes will go given where they're distributed.

        -Most of the areas that were added to the new 5th, while more Korean than before, are only roughly 15-20% Asian. Most of the heavily Asian towns (40%-50%+) like Palisades Park, Fort Lee, Leonia, etc. will be in the new 9th district. Also, many towns like Old Tappan and Demarest that were in Garrett's old district were already moderately (15%-20%) Korean.

        -In any case, the Asian vote in Bergen is not as Democratic as perhaps in other places. While there are still many socially liberal Asians in the area, there are also a lot of socially conservative Asians, muting the effect of including the more Asian-predominant areas.

        •  Haha (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY, dufffbeer

          Speaking of socially conservative Asians, I passed by a church today somewhere around Englewood or Tenafly called End of the Earth church. How uplifting.

          Socially conservative or not, though, Garrett's racism and xenophobia need to be aired for these voters to see.

          21, male, RI-01 (voting) IL-01 (college), hopeless Swingnut

          by sapelcovits on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 08:37:58 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I kind of suspected that would happen (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sapelcovits, dufffbeer, MichaelNY

    given that the tie-breaker is a Republican.

    Anyway, this is an Obama district, and Rothman is worth fighting for.

    Ok, so I read the polls.

    by andgarden on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 06:04:36 AM PST

  •  Reasons (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    I'll bet he'll focus on the fact that the growth areas of the state are in Republican districts.  Republicans also made a lot of noise that district 2 is actually a Democratic-leaning district.

    BTW, LoBiondo is disliked by the teabaggers and could face a primary challenge.

    “If you think I can be bought for five thousand dollars, I'm offended." Rick Perry.

    by Paleo on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 06:35:45 AM PST

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