SCOTUS decision to take up gerrymandering case draws applause, but wait

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case (Gill v. Whitford) challenging the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering should be a hopeful signal to everyone—well, except hardline, win-at-all-cost partisans.

Unfortunately but predictably, I’m finding some short-sighted takes on this news. “Democrats should be cautiously very happy with this,” gushes The Fix’s Aaron Blake.

In The Atlantic, Vann Newkirk’s slightly steadier hand warns that the Court will not have decided whether there is merit to hear the case until after a hearing.

The more stridently left-wing Think Progress engages in a bit of breathless pleading for Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy to stay on the Court “just a little longer” to avoid, as they would describe it, decades of doom.

Writing in Western Journalism, Randy DeSoto flips the perspective to argue the same point but sympathetic to the GOP: “[T]he Republicans have more at stake” with this case, even though there is a case against Democrats in Maryland participating in the same thing.

Granted, it was the GOP that recently got good at drawing lines for their advantage, and capitalized on that edge. We don’t have to look anywhere outside Tennessee to find this out. The current supermajorities in both House and Senate are not exclusively indebted to the 2011 redistricting, but it can’t have hurt. And it’s likely we haven’t reached the end of how it will play out. The Tennessee Democratic Party is clearly squeezed into narrower confines.

But a focus on that is missing the larger point. There is no convincing me that any other party, given the opportunity, would not do the same thing. That is why this is an important case.

David Savage quotes Trevor Potter, former Republican chair of the Federal Election Commission, in the Los Angeles Times:

“The threat of partisan gerrymandering isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s an issue for all American voters,” he said. “We’re confident that when the justices see how pervasive and damaging this practice has become, the Supreme Court will adopt a clear legal standard that will ensure our democracy functions as it should.”

The Texas state legislature faces multiple legal challenges to its district maps, for racial gerrymandering in addition to the partisan flavor. The rich tapestry of interlocking issues could explain the Dallas Morning Newsanalytical approach to reporting on Monday’s announcement. To my eye, Jamie Lovegrove’s piece carefully treads among the facts about which party has current complaints, without giving in to angst or defensiveness on any side.

Bottom line: The benefit from the reform that’s needed is not for the party that is currently on the outs. Voters need protection from being “cracked” and “packed” into districts by partisan puppeteers. I’m fully aware that there is no ideally “pure” way to do this: an independent redistricting commission would inevitably be chosen and staffed by political people. But it can get better than it is.

And instead of cheering the news, Democrats should soberly reflect on the fact that a partisan gerrymandering ban would also apply to them, when the pendulum swings their way.

Posted in Commentary, Election Laws Tagged with: , ,

Cui bono?

Tennessee Senator Mae Beavers

After Sen. Mae Beavers announced that she is running for governor, Mark Rogers mused about who might be urging her candidacy in order to stymie Sen. Mark Green’s bid.

Here is a list of signatories pleading for Green’s re-entry into the race (which isn’t happening).

What do you think? Is Beavers’ run a faction-driven ploy, or an earnest antithesis to moderates in the GOP primary? Now that Green’s out I guess Rogers’ question hardly matters. But if there were such a motive, that might make the rest of the campaign just that much more interesting.

Posted in Political News, TN Gubernatorial Elections Tagged with: ,

Gov. Haslam visits Woodmore Elementary, meets with school officials

Posted in Governing Tagged with: , ,

Does your member of Congress listen when you tweet at them?

This has been making the rounds, but in case you haven’t seen it elsewhere, I’ll share this Twitter thread by a former congressional staffer, on the subject of contacting your U.S. Representative or U.S. Senator.

There’s some good advice in it.

Posted in Governing, Write-in Votes Tagged with:

Election Day 2016 Links with Commentary

It’s tempting to start with the election for president, but that’s a rabbit hole to be saved for later in the post—or maybe for its own post.

So here are some musings about local, state, and federal elections.

Ballot initiatives


Citizens of Soddy-Daisy and several unincorporated towns in Hamilton County voted overwhelmingly to allow wine to be sold in grocery stores in their respective areas. They have to play catch-up to everywhere else wine in retail shops has been flowing since July. There were similar initiatives throughout the state.

City of Chattanooga

Ordinance No. 13007
A move to restrict city employee residence to the state of Tennessee (grandfathering in out-of-staters from 1990 on) was approved by Chattanooga voters. But here’s the thing: Greater Chattanooga is in a multiple-border situation, and the border isn’t even drawn where it was supposed to have been, and people make housing choices based on a lot of factors. I meant to vote against this, but I have an odd feeling that I may have cast a vote for it, based on its introduction and wording on the ballot. I might have double-over-thought it, which is a recurring fear when it comes to charter amendments on the ballot. “No meaning Yes,” and so forth.

Ordinance No. 13039
This one was to appoint a management analyst to assist the City Council with contract and budget analysis. I voted against (I’m sure), because I wasn’t convinced that there aren’t already the talents in place to do this. I could be wrong. It was approved.

Hamilton County Commission

District 3

There was a special election to fill the seat vacated by Marty Haynes, who became Assessor of Property earlier this year. Dr. Greg Martin won more votes than Joe Smith in a race that saw typical GOP allies split between these two. Since Martin is a current Board of Education member, that will mean even more change on a school board already dealing with newness as they maneuver through the superintendent selection process.

Tennessee House of Representatives

Here at home, there was really no action as most House candidates were unopposed, and all incumbents are returning to Nashville. So let’s look around the state for a few notable races.

District 96

Incumbent Rep. Steve McManus lost to Dwayne Thompson in the Democratic Party’s only seat pick-up.

District 43

Republican Paul Sherrell defeated incumbent Rep. Kevin Dunlap, offsetting the above Democratic Party gain.

District 69

And in a loss that some may argue represents the extinction of rural conservative Democrats in this state, Republican Michael Curcio picked off the seat he had tried for last time, bringing the Democratic Party’s total statewide to a loss of one House seat.

Tennessee Senate

District 10

Democratic challenger Khristy Wilkinson, who surprised many in August with her primary win over power pick Nick Wilkinson, actually won Hamilton County over GOP incumbent Sen. Todd Gardenhire. But as everyone knows, including Andraé McGary, Bradley County voters hold the key to this seat following the major redrawing of its lines in 2011. Gardenhire was re-elected by a 12-point margin.

District 20

U.S. House of Representatives

8th Congressional District

The only new member of our congressional delegation, David Kustoff, won this open seat by a wide margin. Perennial candidate and eugenics advocate James Hart garnered 4,048 votes, according to the unofficial total.

3rd Congresssional District

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann easily held off challenger Melody Shekari. But the datum I want to point out is that independent candidate Rick Tyler, who made the news more than once with his “Make America White Again” billboards, collected the votes of some five thousand ninety-one people. Granted, that’s only about two percent of the district’s votes. But in light of everything I haven’t included in this roundup, it’s nonetheless disturbing enough.

Posted in Chattanooga City Elections, Hamilton County Elections, Local Elections, TN House Elections, TN Senate Elections, U.S. House Elections Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,