GOP Blew It, Big Time.
Steve Adubato, Ph.D.
The United States census is not exciting stuff. Important, from
a political point of view, but definitely not exciting. If counting
a population is boring, imagine how boring it is to create a new
map of legislative districts to account for population shifts in
The legislative redistricting of New Jersey may not be exciting,
but it is critically important to deciding the balance of political
power in the Statehouse. The 1990 redistricting created legislative
districts that clearly favored the Republicans. While Democrats
like Jon Corzine and Al Gore won big at the polls last year in New
Jersey, Republicans still control both houses of the legislature.
Who controls the legislature dictates who will be the Senate president
and the speaker of the assembly-the politicians decide who serves
on what committee and which bills get voted on. We're talking about
really important stuff down in the state capital.
As they say, that was then-this is now! This time around, the GOP
appeared to be asleep at the switch as the legislative district
lines were redrawn. The way this redistricting thing works is pretty
odd. A commission is established with five Democrats and five Republicans.
Of course, these highly partisan players are in no position to agree
on the new legislative map that would be fair to both parties. So,
an eleventh member is appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court, in this case Deborah Poritz, who was appointed by then governor,
Well, Chief Justice Poritz appointed a Princeton University Professor
Larry M. Bartels, who wound up being swayed by the argument of the
Democrats as to what the new map should look like. From all accounts,
the Democrats were organized, focused and persuasive. Conversely,
the Republicans on the redistricting commission were sloppy, overconfident
and ill prepared. When Bartels cast a deciding vote in favor of
the Democratic map, the Republicans went nuts. They screamed and
yelled that the new map was unfair not only to the Republicans,
but also to minorities whose voting strength would be weakened by
spreading blacks and Latinos into more legislative districts. Republican
lawyers then sued to block the new map saying that it violated the
Voting Rights Act of 1965 as well as the civil rights of minorities.
According to Matt Stowe, a Washington lawyer representing the Republicans,
"This is the first court anywhere in the country to say it
is ok under the constitution to eliminate majority black districts."
What a joke. The Republican Party going to court to protect the
rights of minority voters. The party of Jessie Helms and Strom Thurmond
fighting to make sure black and Latino voters are fairly represented
in the state legislature. In fact, the Republican Party in New Jersey
has a disgraceful track record of promoting minorities for public
office. Other than Christie Whitman and a few token women and minorities,
we're talking about a party largely dominated by white men. Talk
about a credibility gap.
According to Democratic Senate leader Richard Codey, who led the
Democratic redistricting effort, "How disingenuous is that?
Every 10 years the Republicans want to come to the aid of minorities."
What the Republicans are really trying to protect in their lawsuit
is their control of the Senate and the Assembly. They are in big
trouble and they know it. In fact, the new legislative map, if implemented,
increases the odds that more minorities will be elected to higher
posts in the legislature. The most notable case is black Assemblywoman
Nia Gill (D-Essex) who has been redistricted into the new 34th district,
which includes a significant enough number of black voters to allow
her a reasonable chance of moving up to the State Senate. Clearly,
if the new map were unfair to minorities, Nia Gill and other black
and Latino legislators would be up in arms, and they are not.
Bottom line, the Republican Party in New Jersey is in dire straits.
Not only are they in danger of losing control of the legislature,
odds are they will no longer hold the governorship come January
2002. Can you say, "Governor McGreevey?" The Republicans
have become lazy and sloppy and their performance in this critical
legislative redistricting shows it. The tide is about to turn in
Trenton. It looks like Christie Whitman got out just in time.
Steve Adubato, Ph.D. is a commentator, lecturer and former state
legislator. Dr. Adubato is also an Emmy Award-winning television
anchor and syndicated columnist.
He can be reached by fax (973) 509-1659 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back to Syndicated Column