by Max Brantley
The Democratic plan for congressional redistricting apparently will be unveiled in committee this morning by Rep. Clark Hall. See it above, with the so-called Pig Trail Gerrymander (strictly speaking, of course, it does not follow just the Pig Trail) to include Fayetteville in the 4th District. It's a win-win for Republican talking points. Republican Rep. Steve Womack gets to keep Sebastian, Pope and Boone — all desired by him and other Republicans — but criticize Democrats for moving Fayetteville, which votes against Womack anyway. The Fayetteville chamber wants to stick with the 3rd, too.
I notice the split between U.S. Rep. Mike Ross and House Speaker Robert Moore about some southeastern counties seems to have ended in a compromise — Ross gets Ashley, the 1st District gets Drew. The 1st loses Baxter to the 3rd, which certainly is in keeping topographically and politically.
I get where the Democrats are coming from on this. As gerrymanders go, it is unremarkable geographically. But it will cause enough talk and heartache to exact a political price. It does nothing — actually harms — the Democratic posture in the 2nd Congressional District by lopping off Van Buren, rather than a chunk of Republican-friendly Saline, White or Faulkner. It even adds Republican-friendly Hot Springs Village to the 2nd. It gives Mike Ross far more help than he has earned or deserves in the 4th as a Republican agenda enabler. It adds some Delta votes to the 1st District, but last I looked, hardly anybody lives in the Delta, they didn't vote much in 2010 and districting based on historic voter preferences seems wildly optimistic in 2011 A.T.P.
Look at it hard, though, in general terms. The 2nd is Central Arkansas, still. The 1st is virtually all of the Delta and some lightly populated hill counties. The 3rd is homogenous. The 4th is pretty unremarkable, save that Fayetteville thumb. The question for reactionary critics to answer is, if you put the thumb back in the 3rd, what do you take out?
Let the sniping begin.
Sniping includes Republican Rep. Andrea Lea, who apparently thinks acceptable redistricting rests on what makes Pope County happy. Courtesy of Jason Tolbert, below is her Finger to the Democrats plan. Her plan was defeated in commmittee on a party line vote. Rep. Duncan Baird followed with a different Republican proposal. It followed the Lea example of bulking up Republican chances in the 1st and leaving nothing on the table for Democrats in the 2nd and 4th. Outcome predictable.