Governor signs congressional map drawn to help Democrats
Gov. Pat Quinn, shown at a news conference earlier this week, today signed into law the new Congressional map for the state. (Heather Charles/Tribune photo)
Gov. Pat Quinn today signed into law the state’s Democratic-drawn map of new Congressional boundaries, a plan designed to reverse Republican gains in last year’s election that is expected to face a court challenge by GOP interests.
Democrats had unfettered control of the map-making process, a once-every-decade process mandated following the federal Census, by virtue of running the General Assembly and the governor’s office. Due to Illinois' slow population growth in contrast to other states, the state will lose one of its 19 congressional seats for the next decade.
More than just reflecting population shifts, the map lines also reflect the political power of controlling the cartography.
The map pits some incumbent Republicans against others, stretches boundaries to allow incumbent Chicago Democrats to reach out into the GOP-leaning suburbs or gives GOP congressmen vast swatches of new unfamiliar territory.
In last year’s mid-term elections, Republicans picked up four seats while keeping control of the North Shore 10th District opened by Mark Kirk’s successful Senate bid. giving the GOP an 11-8 edge. But the alignment of voters in the new districts could allow Democrats to pick up at least three seats.
“I have carefully reviewed the congressional redistricting map. This map is fair, maintains competitiveness within congressional districts, and protects the voting rights of minority communities," Quinn said in a statement. He did not hold a news conference to sign the bill.
Even before Quinn signed the map, several campaigns began to materialize.
In the new open-seat northwest suburban 8th District, former state deputy treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi, an unsuccessful Democratic primary candidate for comptroller, was preparing a bid. Tammy Duckworth, an unsuccessful 2006 Democratic congressional candidate, recently stepped down as an assistant U.S. Veterans Affairs secretary and may explore a run for the seat.
In the new far west suburban 11th District, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster of Batavia has put together a comeback bid. Foster lost in the 2010 mid-terms to Republican Randy Hultgren of Winfield, a former state senator.
Republicans are expected to try to challenge the map in federal court through a group led by Foster’s predecessor, former U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Plano, and former U.S. Labor Secretary Lynn Martin, also a former GOP congresswoman.
Ten of the 11 members in the state’s GOP House delegation released a statement, saying the Democratic governor’s “actions do not match his rhetoric.”
“This map will be challenged in court, and we do not expect to comment further on a matter that now will be the subject of litigation,” the GOP congressmen said. “As we have said before, we do not believe this map will stand.”
The only Republican congressman who did not join the statement was Rep. Tim Johnson of Urbana. He recently told the News-Gazette of Champaign that he did not expect a legal challenge to succeed.
For their lawsuit, Republicans have sought to gain favor from Latino groups seeking greater representation.
Pat Brady, the state’s Republican Party chairman, said Quinn’s signature on the map after the governor had said he wanted fair and competitive boundaries was “a little disingenuous.”
“I wish he would have been more honest and just said that he’d sign the map,” Brady said. “This is what we’ve come to expect from him since he was sworn in.”
The congressional map received the least amount of scrutiny of the political boundaries drawn by Democrats this year. Though Democratic state lawmakers held several public hearings, very little time was devoted to the congressional map that was unveiled for Memorial Day weekend.
“They held a bunch of preliminary hearings and that’s great,” said Whitney Woodward of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “But throughout the process, what we and other groups asked for were hearings and the data to consider a new map. Instead, we saw a couple of hearings on draft maps without much demographic information.”