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Congressional district map:
It's the Republicans's turn

Charles N. Wheeler III


The other redistricting shoe fell on Illinois Democrats recently when a three-judge federal panel approved a Republican plan for new congressional lines that will ship two Democratic seats to California. The ruling "atones in some measure for what the court did to us Republicans 10 years ago," beamed U.S. Rep. Robert H. Michel, referring to a 1981 federal court decision that favored a Democratic map which sent two Republican seats to Florida. (Actually, of course, the two seats Illinois lost to reapportionment following the 1980 and 1990 censuses were not earmarked for some other state; but California was the biggest winner this time, picking up seven seats, while Florida was top dog a decade ago, gaining four.)

The court ruling was the latest in redistricting bad news for Democrats, who earlier lost a winner-take-all sweepstakes for the ninth, tie-breaking spot on the deadlocked Legislative Redistricting Commission, giving Republicans a free hand to draw new legislative boundaries that threaten to end the Democrats' decade-long General Assembly hegemony. While the Republican legislative plan is still being challenged in court, the GOP congressional boundaries are the ones that will be used for elections in 1992 and the rest of the decade, and that bodes very well indeed for Republicans.

To understand how significant mapmaking can be to a party's fortunes, consider the gains Democrats made in the past decade.

Going into the 1981 redistricting, the GOP held a 14-10 edge in the Illinois delegation. Under the Democratic map the two seats Illinois lost to reapportionment were ones held by suburban Republicans, despite suburban population gains during the 1970s. Then, thanks to favorable lines and some seriously flawed GOP candidates, Democrats during the decade pushed their edge to the current 15-7, for a loss of seven GOP seats since 1980.

Under the new map, Republicans probably won't pick up five seats, as Democrats did since 1981. Party strategists believe the plan will protect the seven GOP incumbents and create 11 relatively safe Democratic districts. The other two districts should be competitive, GOP analysts believe, and a strong showing by President Bush next year could pull them into the Republican column. (Maps of the new districts are on pages 19 and 21.)

Perhaps the best shot for Republicans is against freshman U.S. Rep. John W. Cox Jr, of Galena, who last year became the first Democrat elected to Congress in more than a century from the state's northwest corner. The new map runs his 16th district farther east, taking in heavily Republican McHenry County, which has almost one-third of the district's population and is home to Cox's likely GOP challenger, state Sen. Jack Schaffer of Cary.

Republicans also are targeting the new 3rd district, which begins on Chicago's southwest side and slices through west and south suburbia. Although suburbanites make up about three-quarters of its population, a GOP takeover will not be easy. The Chicago portion contains some very potent Democratic strongholds, including Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan's 13th Ward. In addition, the GOP hopeful almost certainly will have to face a seasoned incumbent, either U.S. Rep. William O. Lipinski or U.S. Rep. Martin A. Russo, who are girding for a bruising Democratic primary. Although Russo does not live in the new 3rd, it includes much of his old district. Lipinski lives there, but saw a chunk of his old turf become the southern part of a new Hispanic majority district, the 4th.

Russo's South Holland residence wound up in the 11th district, home to U.S. Rep George E. Sangmeister, a fellow Democrat. Most of the 11th runs like a Band-Aid through the far south suburbs all the way west to Bureau County. Along the Indiana border, though, a skinny tentacle crawls up to Chicago's southeast side, engulfing South Holland along the way.

Besides Russo and Sangmeister, four other incumbent Democrats were thrown together by the GOP map.

U.S. Rep. Frank Annunzio was placed with U.S. Rep. Sidney R. Yates in a Chica-

6/December 1991/Illinois Issues

go-based district including strong concentrations of Jewish voters, which should help Yates, the state's only Jewish congressman. If Annunzio wants to run on more familiar ground, he could face U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkotowski, who picked up some of Annunzio's old territory to replace population he lost to the northern nodule of the Hispanic district. More likely, Congress watchers say, Annunzio will retire after this term, his 14th.

The GOP plan also carves up the 22nd district in southern Illinois, now held by U.S. Rep. Glenn Poshard, giving pieces of it to three other Democratic incumbents. Poshard's Carterville residence is in the 12th district, which has almost 70 percent of its population in the Metro East bailiwick of U.S. Rep. Jerry F. Costello. Other portions of Poshard's old district were appended to the 19th, where U.S. Rep. Terry L. Bruce of Olney is the incumbent, and the 20th, held by U.S. Rep. Richard J. Durbin of Springfield.

The map preserves three black-majority districts in the Chicago area. The south side 1st and the west side 7th are anchored solidly in the city, but suburbanites make up almost half the population of the 2nd, which begins on the city's south side and runs almost within hailing distance of Will County. The influx of suburban residents, most of them white, could lend new vigor to perennial attempts to oust the 2nd's long-time Democratic incumbent, U.S. Rep. Gus Savage.

In a first for Illinois, the GOP plan also creates a Hispanic-majority district, the 4th, which includes the predominantly Puerto Rican community on the city's northwest side and largely Mexican-American neighborhoods on the southwest side. The two Hispanic population centers are linked by a narrow, twisting umbilical cord that snakes from one to the other all the way out to the Cook County line and back. The connecting thread is so tenuous, that in two townships River Forest and Riverside it takes in no population. (See article on pages 22-24.) Although the result makes Elbridge Gerry's famous salamander look almost compact, the court held the gerrymander was proper to advance the goals of the Voting Rights Act by electing a Hispanic to Congress. Republicans, of course, are hoping the rest of the package does as well for GOP candidates.

Charles N. Wheeler III is a correspondent in the Springfield Bureau of the Chicago Sun-Times.

December 1991/Illinois Issues/7

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