Republicans ramp up redistricting efforts

at 11:38 AM ET, 05/31/2011

The Republican State Leadership Committee, which played a key role in delivering the GOP nearly unprecedented control over the current round of redistricting, is taking on an increased role as an advisory arm for GOP state legislators who are drawing the new congressional lines in key states.

The RSLC’s decision to step forward is growing evidence of the committee’s prominence on the political landscape, as it will take on much of the redistricting role traditionally filled by the Republican National Committee.

The RSLC’s assistance will be available to all states, but will be focused on the 18 states that are adding or losing congressional seats. Only a handful of states have completed their new legislative district maps so far, with plenty of important states who have just started the process or will do so in the months ahead.

“We saw a need here. It’s very important for the long term in terms of protecting gains made in the U.S. House and legislatures in this past year,” said RSLC chairman Ed Gillespie. “We need to make sure Republicans are maximizing our opportunities in this once-every-decade process.”

Republicans control the drawing of more than 200 of the 340 districts that will be redrawn by state legislatures (many other districts will be redrawn by commissions or come from single-district states). That number is more than four times as many districts as Democrats will redraw.

As a committee that doesn’t deal with federal campaign finance rules, the RSLC is the more ideal clearinghouse for redistricting assistance than the RNC or the party’s House campaign committee. And it has contracted out many of the same redistricting experts that the RNC has used in the past, linking them up with state legislators in key states.

Another way that what the RSLC is doing differs from the major party committees is that it is less closely tied to incumbents. So rather than serving as an incumbent protection apparatus, the RSLC can focus on what would be most advantageous for the party as a whole. (Often, incumbents will have to make concessions if their party is to add winnable districts to the map, and the RSLC says it aims to be more of an honest broker in that negotiating process.)

Because of its non-federal status, the RSLC can also raise unlimited sums of money from individual donors. And that’s important, given the resources required to work on the issue on a state-by-state basis and the lack of widespread interest in it among the general public.

The RSLC spent nearly $20 million on state legislative races in 2010, taking control of 20 legislative chambers from Democrats.

“We heard from legislative leaders, and they were asking for help,” RSLC President Chris Jankowski said. “With new leadership of the RNC, we have been able to work very well to see what voids were not being filled.”

 
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