by Max Brantley
Forget everything you've seen and read. This is the seventh or eighth iteration of this post today. This is as best I can figure it, beginning with the latest map.
And a new name: What else for a map that thrusts an upraised middle finger at the state by use of Madison County?
The Farkle Finger
After a day of dickering and competing maps, a Senate committee today approved a compromise redistricting plan on a voice vote that the Senate will consider Wednesday. It has opposition in the Senate. People who claim to know say this map is dead on arrival in the House. It is nowhere near what Rep. Clark Hall fought to pass in the House, a plan for which several House Democrats paid a steep price for supporting.
Several permutations went around today. Late this afternoon, both Sen. Steve Harrelson and Republican Rep. Duncan Baird distributed maps. Baird's was the one, shown above, adopted in committee. I've been told some different facts about county splits, but the map he distributed is the same as that faxed me minutes ago by Senate staff. So I'm accepting for now that this is the shape of things. I still find irony in getting the best information first from a Republican in a legislature where both houses have Democratic majorities.
In the approved plan, Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Womack got most everything he wanted — all of Sebastian and Washington and Boone Counties, but not all of Pope. Russellville goes to the 4th and DINO U.S. Rep. Mike Ross. Fayetteville can hold a victory parade that it remains in the not-so-warm and not-so-helpful column of a Republican.
Ross' district has a big fat finger jutting up to the top of Madison County, but I suspect "finger" will exit the lexicon if Republicans get their way on this. The 2nd District gives up Democratic Yell County to DINO Ross. White County, in its Republican glory, remains firmly attached.
The 1st is mostly the entire Delta, an aim of Democrats. But the Jeffress brothers are not happy that Ashley went to the first and House Democrats also don't like keeping Baxter and Cabot in the 1st. For those who care, only Searcy and Pope counties were torn asunder. They can complain to Fayetteville.
They passed something. But it doesn't mean they accomplished anything.
Before the final plan emerged, Harrelson distributed a map that showed some territory from Washington and Sebastian counties in the 4th District, but not the cities of Fayetteville and Fort Smith. This map did even worse damage to the 2nd District, by grafting on Hot Springs Village, Cabot and part of Pope County — to help the 4th and 1st and screw the 2nd. Adding parts of three counties to a district that needed to lose population was a sign of how bad the idea was.
You have to feel sorry for Rep. Greg Leding of Fayetteville. He stood with his Democratic House colleagues for a plan many voters in his district opposed more on sentiment than reason. The plan has fallen, but his vote won't be forgotten. Democrats in the Senate exhibited little by way of party loyalty except undeserved deference to a congressman who votes Democratic only about half the time.
I had a sense of the bottom line earlier in the day when I wrote:
The state Senate recessed immediately after reconvening this morning so closed-door negotiations could continue on a congressional redistricting map.
Likely outcome: 1st District somewhat more hopeful for Democrats; 2nd District stronger for the Republican; 3rd District as usual (solid GOP); 4th District, without Fayetteville friendlier to Republicans, particularly when DINO Mike Ross leaves the seat open to run for governor.
Let the angry Democrats of Fayetteville cheer if the plan keeps them under Boss Womack's wing. But let them also know that Republicans are chortling. They've been handed a political tool that they're swinging gleefully and either alternative is acceptable to them. They make hay if the original Democratic plan prevails. If the Republican/Fayetteville opposition prevails, they will have made it harder to elect a Democrat in the 4th in the post-Ross future. No need to worry about a candidate from a population center like Fayetteville.