Illinois Loses A Congressional Seat

Your Ward Room blogger spent the spring as an enumerator for the U.S. Census Bureau, trying to track down all you Chicagoans who didn’t mail back your questionnaires. I was not unaware of the connection between my job and Illinois’s power in Washington. Indeed, I was motivated to knock on doors in apartment buildings with no buzzer and broken front doors by the thought that every person I found meant more federal dollars for Chicago. And maybe, just maybe, Illinois could avoid losing a congressional seat for the first time in 80 years.

Sigh. That didn’t happen. I got yelled at by a Romanian landlady who didn’t want me counting her tenants for nothin’. The Census figures were announced this morning, and as usual, Illinois is losing a congressman to the faster-growing states of the South and West. The question now is, “Who’s it going to be?” After the last two censuses, the legislature eliminated a seat in Southern Illinois. Both times, a Democrat lost the game of musical chairs. This redistricting will be fun because the Democrats kept control of state government while losing four congressional seats. They have the power to draw a new map, and they’ll be using it to get rid of as many Republican freshman as possible.

The Washington Post has an analysis of the redistricting, highlighting Illinois as " the biggest prize on the map for either party."

Democrats control the drawing of the map in only seven states this year. But none of them compare in size or influence to the Land of Lincoln.

In fact, in the other six -- Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, Arkansas, West Virginia and Rhode Island -- the Democrats already control 25 of 32 congressional seats. That doesn't leave much room for map expansion.

Illinois is another story. Republicans just won four seats from Democrats this November and now hold an 11-to-8 edge in the state's congressional delegation. That means lots of room for gains for the other guys.

The most talked about scenario is eliminating Rep. Aaron Schock’s 18th District, by redrawing soon-to-be Rep. Bobby Schilling’s western Illinois district by cutting out Quincy and adding Peoria. That would force Schock and Schilling into a primary, with the prize being the Republican nomination in a Democratic-leaning district. The Cook Political Report has even drawn a map of what the new district will look like. The 29-year-old Schock is the a celebrity congressman who brings youth to the GOP’s grumpy old-man image, and the Democrats would love to destroy his political career before he has a chance to become a long-serving senator or governor.

Taking out Schock may not be so easy. As a state legislator, he represented an inner-city Democratic district. He’s an enthusiastic young man with bipartisan charm (which is precisely why the Democrats want to get rid of him). The Democrats would have a much easier time eliminating Tea Party Rep. Joe Walsh, by shifting some of McHenry County into an adjoining district, or North Shore congressman-elect Bob Dold, by adding Evanston to his district.

Whatever they do, you can be sure that when the music stops in 2012, a Republican will end up without a chair.

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