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Why the Illinois GOP Is Right on Redistricting

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Why the Illinois GOP Is Right on Redistricting
Jack Higgins

State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) is holding the first of several hearings today on redrawing the state’s legislative districts, the Lee Newspapers report:

The Illinois Senate Redistricting Committee plans to hold at least five hearings in the state on the map-making process. The current schedule includes an April 6 hearing in Springfield, followed by sessions April 16 in Kankakee and Peoria, and April 19 in Cicero.

The hearings are designed to give Illinoisans a chance to outline what they’d like to see in a new legislative map, which is drawn every 10 years after the U.S. Census figures are released to account for shifts in the state’s population.

Democrats control state government, giving them the upper hand in determining how the new boundaries will look. Republicans argue there should be more than five hearings. And, GOP lawmakers say those hearings should be held after a final map has been proposed, so that citizens can see what actually is being contemplated.

I agree with the Republican Party. And I agree specifically because of the shape of Raoul’s own district, which was redrawn in 2002 to suit the political ambitions of its former occupant, Barack Obama.

Obama sat down with a Democratic Party staffer in a room at Springfield’s Stratton Office Building known as the “inner sanctum,” with a very specific idea of what he wanted his new district to look like: a narrow band, following the Lake Michigan shoreline from 95th Street to downtown. Obama got rid of low-income Englewood and added the Gold Coast. He would no longer be a South Side Senator. He’d be a Lakefront Senator, representing most of Chicago’s monuments – Soldier Field, the Adler Planetarium, Grant Park – as well as the Magnificent Mile and its multi-million dollar high-rise condos. Mayor Daley would be a constituent. So would Oprah Winfrey. Obama wanted to run for U.S. Senate, and the new district was an ideal platform. Losing to Bobby Rush had taught him that his natural constituency wasn’t inner-city blacks, but well-educated eggheads of all races. Also, he’d be representing some of the most generous Democratic donors in the state. They’d see his name on a ballot, and his face on the “Legislative Update” every senator sends home.

Raoul shuns comparisons to his predecessor. He once said he’s going to write a biography called “I Got My Own Shoes.” Preventing politicians from crafting districts to advance their careers would be a good place to start. 

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