I was at an event in Clifton today doing some work for Delegate Tim Hugo. Part of the festivities involved local dignitaries, and Congressman Gerry Connolly was there just long enough to make an appearance and then bolt, as usual. Before Connolly left I saw him pigeon-hole Delegate Hugo and launch into a heated conversation, and Connolly’s wild gesticulating drew my attention.
Connolly is very, very concerned about the timetable for Congressional redistricting which is supposed to happen this year but increasingly looks as if it’s going to get pushed off into the next legislative session. I find that concern, bordering on near panic rather amusing because it telegraphs a political picture developing that Connolly clearly doesn’t like. When Connolly is deeply concerned about his political prospects, that’s an awfully encouraging development.
Normally you’d think an incumbent Democrat in Northern Virginia would be just fine with redistricting getting pushed back. Every delay makes it that much harder for an opponent to get their act together to unseat him. If it were possible for redistricting to happen in October 2012, Gerry would be overjoyed. So why is Gerry in such a rush?
If Democrats were relatively confident that they would retain the majority in the Senate of Virginia, a delay also wouldn’t be of much concern. Since all three branches of state government have to agree on a redistricting plan, all Connolly needs in order to ensure his district isn’t changed a whole lot in a way he doesn’t like is for one of those bodies to look after him. With divided government, Gerry has defenders. But if we don’t have divided government after the November 2011 elections, then who is going to look after Connolly’s interests?
No one. That’s about the only likelihood that I would imagine could cause Gerry Connolly to start having a heated conversation with Delegate Hugo about redistricting in the middle of the street in Clifton and waving his arms around like he wants to take flight. Gerry is quite obviously deeply concerned here.
A few months back some rather ridiculous competing proposed congressional redistricting maps got published, and while the big public fight is over lines being drawn in Tidewater, there are plenty of folks upset with both the House and Senate plan to draw the 11th Congressional District. Based on input from the incumbents (always a horrible place to start such a conversation) the idea has been to have the 11th CD hug the 8th District in Arlington and Alexandria and outrageously send out three tendrils that would scoop up Dale City/Dumfries, Centreville, and Reston in order to make the district safer for Connolly. Connolly would be much harder to beat in this district than in his current district and be well on his way to becoming one of those long-term pork-barrelers that are so difficult to dislodge.
With divided government, a crappy deal like that might be the only thing that could get passed. If Republicans take the Senate however then such bad deals to satisfy incumbents aren’t required. Gerry could end up running in a district that would look a lot like his current one, one which he barely retained in 2010 against a candidate who couldn’t hold his own in a debate against a random member of the Soil & Water Conservation Board, much less an incumbent Congressman. The 2012 outlook is shaping up as a terrible political cycle for Democrats where the top of the ticket has his approval ratings dropping like a stone while the national economic picture continues to look absolutely terrible.
Now having Connolly doing something like the Chicken Dance on Main Street in Clifton starts to make sense. If Democrats lose the Senate, they’ll lose control of the congressional redistricting process. If that happens, Connolly’s currently narrow swing district could likely swing against him, and Connolly is out of a job. That Connolly evidently thinks this is a rather likely scenario just warms this conservative’s heart.
When Connolly is scared, I’m happy. To keep him scared, all of you need to help make sure Miller Baker and Jeff Frederick win in November. Scared isn’t enough, though. Gerry Connolly needs to be unemployed. That’s when I get really happy.
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