The Odd Redistricting Reasoning of John Wallace

Wallace and company

TRENTON – The Democrats won today’s redistricting fight because they lost the last time.

The idea of alternating wins and losses may be appropriate for a third-grade game of kickball, but it does seem a bit odd for something as significant as drawing congressional district maps for the next 10 years.

Still, that was John Wallace’s surprising admission this morning as he officially selected the “Democratic map.”  As is the norm, the six Democrats and six Republicans on the state’s Redistricting Commission each proposed different maps; Wallace, a one-time state Supreme Court Judge, had been named commission chair for this very purpose – to break the tie.

By the time the 10:30 a.m meeting rolled around, Wallace’s decision to go with the Democrats had already been reported on political news sites. His decision was known in advance, but not how he would frame it.

He began, as one would expect, by praising both sides for their professionalism, adding that this was a “very difficult decision.”  He and the rest of the commission had spent a few days holed up in a Cherry Hill hotel deliberating over the map.

Wallace then noted that he was going with the Democrats’ map simply because a previous commission had selected the Republicans’ map 10 years ago. That was true as far as it went. Republicans won the redistricting battle after the 2010 Census and their win had immediate political consequences. Two Democratic House members – Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman – wound up fighting each other in a primary. Pascrell won.

Still, it must have seemed surprising to everyone in the room that Wallace was making a decision today just because Republicans won the contest in 2011. Any objective observer would have liked to hear some scholarly reasons why Wallace did what he did.  They heard none.

It also makes one wonder if Republicans are now in line to win the redistricting battle after the 2030 Census. They are, according to Wallace’s logic.

Republicans weren’t thinking about 2030 today.

Doug Steinhardt, the GOP commission chair, was somewhat guarded in his meeting comments, saying that he was “disappointed.”

He was a bit angrier after the meeting.

Referring to Wallace’s alternate wins philosophy, Steinhardt said, “It isn’t with the spirit of the process.”

He then said Wallace had confirmed what Republicans knew all along. That he was really the seventh Democrat on the 13-member committee, not a true independent.

Bob Hugin, the state GOP chair, fired off a statement accusing Wallace of nakedly partisan gerrymandering and saying he has “undermined the basic tenets of our representative democracy.”

Janice Fuller, the Democratic commission chair, struck a different tone.

Noting that Wallace had an unblemished and impeccable career on the bench, she said the GOP attacks against him were unfortunate. Fuller stressed that this was a bipartisan process and that the Democrats’ map was not perfect. She said Democrats were “uncomfortably, comfortable” with the map.

It will take time for all the changes to settle in, but quite clearly, some are going to be more comfortable and uncomfortable than others.

The prevailing wisdom was that Dems would seek to “sacrifice” Tom Malinowski in CD-7 and bolster Democratic-leaning districts nearby. That’s exactly what happened.

All of Republican Warren County was added to CD-7 and the district loses at least two staunch Democratic towns – Millburn in Essex County and Dover in Morris.

The beneficiary of some of this shuffling will be Mikie Sherrill, whose 11th District will pick up both the aforementioned towns. CD-11 will also lose – to CD-7 – five towns in very-Republican Sussex County,

Larry Casha, one of many Republicans seeking the GOP nod in CD-11, was philosophical, saying it just means more of a battle and he’s ready for it.

Josh Gottheimer in CD-5 also is getting a boost.

His district picks up some Democratic-leaning towns in Bergen County, which is the heart of the district, and loses his towns in GOP-centered Warren.

Frank Pallotta, one of the GOP hopefuls in CD-5, somewhat mirrored Casha’s remarks.

He said no matter where people live, they are “concerned about inflation, supporting our small businesses and getting through the pandemic. And we know that Washington continues to fail us on all fronts.”

The thing to watch now is how the new maps prompt people to run – or not to run for Congress – in the new environment.

Along those lines, Republican Mayor John Flora said today he now plans to run for Congress in CD-7, not CD-5. He is the mayor of Fredon, which was moved from CD-5 to CD-7.

Don’t expect him to be the only one to change plans as a result of Wallace’s decision.

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2 responses to “The Odd Redistricting Reasoning of John Wallace”

  1. Doesn’t matter about Flora. He’ll lose no matter wherever he runs. He has no chance of beating Sherrill.
    And Filthy Frank Pallotta just lost all hope in CD5.

    And Dougie Steinhardt, crying towels are on sale at Walmart.. You can buy one for that doofus Hugin as well.

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