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Recalling the time Republicans won the map

In 2011, the GOP prevailed in drawing new congressional districts

By David Wildstein, November 08 2018 10:46 am

If the current numbers hold up and Andy Kim beats Tom MacArthur, Republicans ought to return their trophy for winning the 2011 congressional redistricting battle.

The consensus in December 2011 was that the GOP scored a win when redistricting tie-breaker John Farmer voted for the Republican map.

At the time, Democrats had a 7-6 edge in the delegation at a time when New Jersey lost a House seat following the 2010 census.

The Democratic plan was to take out Republican Scott Garrett by putting him in a district with Democrat Steve Rothman – a race that Rothman would likely have won.  They also tried to make the 3rd district, where Jon Runyan was a freshman Republican congressman, a little more favorable.

But Republicans had a better idea: put two Democratic incumbents, Rothman and Bill Pascrell, in the same district and let them fight it out.

The Republican argument was that their map was fair.  They said that their map was drawn in a way to accurately reflect voter sentiment.  The Republicans even argued that Democrats could win their map in a blue wave.

Republicans won the map.  The GOP map had six Republicans and six Democrats.   But in winning the map fight of 2011, they agreed to have some of the Republican congressmen take on more Democratic towns.

Simply put, the Republican map allowed some of their incumbents to add some Democratic territory in order to save Garrett.  Rodney Frelinghuysen, for example, picked up Montclair, Bloomfield, Nutley and West Orange in Essex County, and swing towns in Passaic County,  trading some solidly Republican towns in western Morris and Somerset counties.

Rothman could have run against Garrett anyway – Democrats encouraged him to do that – but instead he thought he could hold his seat, since he represented more of the new district than Pascrell did.  Rothman got shellacked in the Democratic primary.  Pascrell, fueled with record turnouts in Paterson and a 90% win the Passaic County portion of the district, beat him with 61% of the vote.

Garrett was gone four years later anyway, defeated by Democrat Josh Gottheimer.

Democrats flipped four more Republican seats in 2018, ousting MacArthur and Leonard Lance and winning the seats of Frank LoBiondo, who retired, and Frelinghuysen, who quit the race earlier this year rather than take on Mikie Sherrill and a growing grassroots resistance to him serving another term.

Today, it looks like the Republican map has produced 11 Democrats and Chris Smith.

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