About the Author
Opinion Archives
E-mail Scott
Scott's Links

2005 county government redistricting - Part I

By Scott Tibbs, August 10, 2005

The Monroe County Commissioners approved a panel at their August 5 meeting to study the existing County Council districts and look at ways they might be improved. Democrats are in a snit about this, as you can see above.

A few points:

Drawing these districts is always partisan. The Democrats drew the districts in 2001 to keep the council in Democratic hands. From an editorial in the Herald-Times a few days ago, regarding the "political intent" of the districts:
  • "District 3 was to be a heavily Republican suburban and rural district"
  • "District 4 was to be a heavily Democratic urban-to-rural district"
  • "District 1 was to be a mildly Democratic but GOP-winnable urban-rural district"
  • "District 2, the Perry Township half of Bloomington plus heavily developed parts of Perry Township outside the city plus two small urban parts of Van Buren Township, was envisioned as being reliably Democratic."
As you can see, the Democrats drew the districts to benefit themselves, and were lucky enough to be in power right after the 2000 census. Apparently Democrats expect Republicans to wait until at least 2011 and hope they have a majority on the Commissioners.

Combs makes a strange boast that Republicans are worried because of Democratic victories in 2003 and 2004. Combs may want to rethink his argument. 2003 was not unusual, as Democrats traditionally dominate city elections. Just as in 1999, the Democrats won seven of nine City Council seats. The GOP ran candidates for Mayor and City Clerk in 2003, which they did not even bother to contest in 1999. Democrats won six of nine City Council seats in 1995 and a hotly contested race for Mayor. Furthermore, Democrats won eight of nine seats in 1991, as well as the Mayor and City Clerk races.

Last year was a John Kerry sweep. Nationwide, the left wing of the Democratic Party was energized and motivated to defeat President George W. Bush. In Monroe County, the intense opposition to the war in Iraq and (unfounded) fears of a military draft helped create a huge anti-Bush turnout. Monroe County Democrats rode Kerry's coattails hard, winning every contested race but one.

2000 and 2002 were a different story. In 2000, Republicans replaced a Democratic Surveyor and won two of three at-large seats on the County Council. Republican Randy May, who placed fourth, finished less than 100 votes behind the first place finisher, "Green Democrat" Scott Wells. Wells was the top vote-getter by one vote in the official count. In 2002, Republicans won three of four County Council districts (and came close to winning the last one) and unseated Democratic County Commissioner Brian O'Neill.

Referring to the last redistricting process, Combs whines that no one objected. I wonder why that is? Perhaps people did not think the Democrat-dominated Commissioners would listen to objections. Recall that those same Commissioners eliminated a voter board set up as a watchdog two years earlier. In fact, the perception that O'Neill treated constituents in an arrogant and condescending way was one of the reasons he lost. It is also important to remember that County Commissioners meetings are at 9 a.m. every other Friday, when most people have to be at work.

Combs' complaints that there were not objections is not even true. From the Herald-Times:
"It seems like they're trying to cram something through, and we just don't know what it is at the moment," (Republican Party chairman Marty) Stephens charged.

"I think they strategically waited until there was no time and no latitude," he said. "This is going to influence elections the next 10 years, and it's important that it be done responsibly and in the interests of the voters."
I'm not entirely sure about the redistricting. Until I see the new map and have a chance to compare it to the old map, I won't be able to make an informed opinion about the districts themselves. Regarding some rumored scenarios, I do not agree with making Marty Hawk's district less Republican, nor do I agree with pitting her and Mark Stoops against each other in 2006.