Indiana Republicans move to take out Donnelly, shore up Young with redistricting proposal

at 02:36 PM ET, 04/11/2011

Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) knew today was not going to be a great day for him. And he was right.

Republicans in Indiana’s state legislature came out with a redistricting plan for the state’s new congressional districts this morning that, as expected, hands Donnelly the very short end of the stick.

The GOP plan, which is expected to sail through the legislature given Republicans’ large majorities, would also take steps to shore up freshman GOP Rep. Todd Young in southern Indiana.

The goal for Republicans is a map where they can hold onto a seven-to-two edge over the next decade. (Republicans currenbtly have a six-to-three edge in the congressional delegation.)

Democratic Reps. Peter Visclosky and Andre Carson will be tough to beat in heavily blue Gary and Indianapolis districts, respectively, but if Republicans can take Donnelly’s seat and keep their 2010 gains, the delegation should be more than three-quarters Republican for the foreseeable future. (See The Fix’s preview of the map-drawing in Indiana from November.)

Donnelly is the first domino that must fall before we know where the races will stand heading into 2012.

Under the new map, his district will be significantly altered in a way that would make it very tough for him to win. Gone are heavily Democratic Michigan City in the northwest and Kokomo in the south. The district shifts east to pick up all of heavily Republican Elkhart County and part of Kosciusko County from neighboring Rep. Marlin Stutzman’s (R) 3rd district. It also grabs two smaller counties that lean significantly toward Republicans — Miami and Wabash — from Rep. Dan Burton’s (R) 5th district.

(Follow along on the current congressional map here. The proposed map, for comparison’s sake, is above.)

Donnelly was one of few targeted Democrats who survived in 2010, but after a narrow win he faces a potential rematch with former state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R), who is already running for the seat. As an alternative, he has been eyeing a run for Senate, with Sen. Richard Lugar (R) facing what looks to be a tough primary that may open things up in the general election.

In a statement put out in response to the proposal, Donnelly notes that the newly drawn district would have given President Obama 49 percent of the vote in 2008 and says he is confident that Democrats can still win it.

“As for my future plans, my decision will ultimately be based on how I can best serve the people of this great state,” Donnelly said. “I will soon be sitting down with my wife and children and expect to make a decision in the coming weeks.”

In the southern part of the state, Young gets a little help as his Bloomington-based 9th district get more compact. But the seat , which was held by Democrat Baron Hill for most of the last decade, will not be completely safe.

Under the new map, Young would give away much of the eastern part of his district to Rep. Mike Pence’s (R) 6th district -- Pence is likely to run for governor -- and the southwestern part of his district to freshman Rep. Larry Bucshon’s (R) 8th district.

In exchange, Young would move northwest to pick up GOP-leaning parts of Monroe County and Morgan County and all of strongly Republican Lawrence and Johnson counties just south of Indianapolis. Young’s district would be anchored in the Indianpolis suburbs to the north and the Louisville suburbs to the south.

Buschon’s southwestern 8th district would cede three Republican counties to the north — Warren, Fountain and Putnam — to Rep. Todd Rokita and picks up three slightly less friendly counties to the southeast — Dubois, Spencer and Perry — from Young.

Pence’s district shifts the most of anyone, dropping into the southeast corner of the state, but Stutzman’s and Burton’s districts undergo significant changes as well.

That could be of real concern for Burton. The 15-termer, who is his 70s and won a crowded primary with just 30 percent of the vote last year, would sacrifice three of the five counties he won in that primary — Miami, Wabash and Huntington.

That’s certainly not a good outcome for him. But the good news is, his top 2010 competitor, former state Rep. Luke Messer (R), has now been drawn into Pence’s 6th district. Messer would have to choose between running against Burton in a district where he has built up his name ID or running for an open seat in his home district.

Another Republican who could run for either of those districts is former Rep. David McIntosh (R), who left his seat to run for governor in 2000.

Stutzman, meanwhile, loses lots of his base in the northwestern part of his district, but it’s not clear whether the tea party favorite would face primary problems.

Among Democrats, Visclosky’s northwestern 1st district gets bluer by gaining Michigan City and yielding more Republican counties to Rokita, while Carson’s Indianapolis-based 7th district gives some of northern Marion County (Indianapolis) to Burton and shifts south to run up against the southern border of Marion County.

That there would be such extensive changes to the map isn’t surprising. Democrats controlled the drawing of the lines in 2001, giving themselves their best chances to win in the 2nd and 9th districts. Now that Republicans are in full control of the process, many of those changes are simply being undone.

Democrats decried the plan Monday afternoon.

“Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) and Hoosiers across our state said they wanted compact districts that respect communities of interest,” state Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said. “Simply put, these maps fail that test.”

But despite the Democrats’ objections, the new map actually looks significantly cleaner than the one Democrats drew in 2001.

Daniels has called for a clean map — where communities of interest are intact and the districts aren’t contorted into odd shapes — and he appears to have gotten it.

Barring something unforseen, the current proposal is expected to pass without major changes. And that could mean some significant changes in the Hoosier delegation.

 
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