Caricatures of the GOP Elephant and the Dem Donkey
Caricatures of the GOP Elephant and the Dem Donkey (drawn by DonkeyHotey via Flickr)

The new House maps: Reactions and strategies

Bruce Maples
Bruce Maples
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After the House Republicans unveiled their new redistricting maps (albeit through a glass darkly, since there was no precinct info for the maps), I reached out to various Democratic activists, consultants, and insiders for their take on the maps. Here is a collection of their comments, not ordered by the source.

Initial reactions to the maps

  • I went to lunch with XXX and XXX right after the maps dropped, and was MIND BLOWN that not only them, but everyone else, was totally oblivious to redistricting. We forget how few people even know or care that this is happening. Even smart and savvy D's like my lunch bunch.
  • Looking at the maps and going over the new districts made me upset at the initial glance, but we have controlled redistricting for years and never prepared for a doomsday scenario when Republicans would have taken control.
  • I think their maps ARE legal, drat them. The only questions might be whether there is an improper race component, or whether they impacted a “free and fair election” by leaking them to their side early.
  • My actual text to an old union guy – “Will we live long enough to see progress?” Nothing makes me feel that ticking clock more than looking at a wholly reconfigured map!

The Republican strategies

  • The splitting of medium size cities - Hoptown, Etown etc - is an insurance policy to keep these seats GOP for the entire decade.
  • Also, any talk about Greg Stumbo and what the Dems did is literally an admission that these maps are either entirely political or entirely about retribution.
  • One thing that will be REALLY hard for candidates in new districts, which I guess is ALL of them, is the “voting centers” and resulting lack of reported data on how folks vote in each precinct. Contrary to popular opinion, that data IS measurable, and the voting machines CAN run a report on it, but most didn’t. And, I am not sure that the machines retain the ability to run the report once they are cleaned for the next election. That data may now have disappeared entirely.

The Dem response

  • I think the House Dems really missed the opportunity to be assertive and upbeat and to say “Looks like EVERY SINGLE District in the state is now up for grabs. Go file today to be a Democrat and run to represent your county. This is a huge growth opportunity and we look forward to rising to meet the challenge.”
  • Lots of talk from XXX about how under KRS 61.015 and Ky Const. Section 32, you don’t have to live in the District for a year to run. You can just run, no matter where you live, if you move into the district now or even if you don't move into it. Rep Banta’s prefiled bill deals with term limits, and the rumor is that the R’s are going to amend it to also address residency. So, a lot of Dem prospective House candidates (and some existing House candidates who feel disenfranchised) are considering using that argument to file.

Where do we go from here?

  • We might lose some amazing, elected officials based on the new map, and we could also could gain some seats in some places, but in any event, we need to support all our candidates running in red, blue, or purple districts every election cycle and produce an effective message to gain voters.
  • Long story short – the Legislature is lost for at least a decade, no two ways about it, and Dems will probably stay in the superminority.
  • How can Dems stay relevant? Three things:
      1. Be the voice of big business in the cities who can help prevent policies that will drive away investment (ie - good luck recruiting a female engineer in her 20’s if she has zero access to reproductive healthcare).
      1. BLOCK VOTE! Block vote on everything, literally everything, and make this stated policy. Let people know that the caucus will vote on each bill and, if it doesn’t have a majority of caucus support, it will not be voted for. This will allow bill sponsors and GOP leadership to know that the clearest way to get 20 votes for a bill is to get Dem support. Also, use this leverage for fundraising, knowing if a lobbyist wants support for a bill they better not starve the caucus.
      1. Wait. Just wait and wait, and know it’s not coming back anytime soon. Every Dem in KY has asked me “how come we can’t turn blue like Georgia.” My answer is always, “It took 20 years and Atlanta doubling in size.”

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Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. (Read the rest of his bio on the Bruce Maples Bio page in the bottom nav bar.)

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