- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2002

Democrats declared victory in the congressional redistricting process yesterday, saying that with the process nearly complete they have come out about even with Republicans and are in a good position to take control of the House.
Republicans continue to predict up to a 10-seat gain, but Democrats say that the process shows things breaking even, and that there simply aren't enough states remaining to produce the gains Republicans predict.
"The Republicans' redistricting is now … a failure," Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee said at a news conference. "We have excellent chances now to pick up seats in Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Georgia, and we were able to stop Republicans in their tracks in states they were counting on Texas, Ohio and Oregon. Exactly eight months before Election Day, the playing field is level. The end result of redistricting is parity."
But Republicans are still optimistic.
"The advantage is definitely on our side. We continue to project between a three- and eight-seat gain," said Jack Oliver, deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee. At the same time, the National Republican Congressional Committee charged with electing Republicans to the House is predicting an eight- to 10-seat gain through redistricting.
Every decade, seats in the U.S. House are reapportioned among the states based on population gains, and states with more than one representative redraw their districts. To date, 32 of the 43 states due to redistrict have completed the process though several plans are being challenged in court.
Democrats say Republicans at most will have a one- or two-seat advantage through redistricting, and given the historical trend of the president's party losing seats in the midterm elections, Democrats are in good shape to retake the House. But Mr. Oliver says Democrats are behind in the polls. "They lack a clear message so they're trying to further fog the true result of redistricting," he says.
Rep. Martin Frost of Texas, who is in charge of the Democrats' redistricting task force, said his party has gained more new seats than predicted under reapportionment in the Sun Belt states. While those states have leaned toward Republicans in national elections, Mr. Frost said, much of the growth that earned them new seats was among minorities, who tend to vote Democratic.
Democrats said Republican big gains never materialized in part because they failed to capitalize in Texas, where Democrats held an edge in the congressional delegation. Republicans should garner the state's new seats, but the rest of the districts remain fairly unchanged.
Of the states still redistricting, Maryland and Florida present the biggest chances for the two parties. In Maryland, where Democrats are in control, they could pick up two seats currently held by Republicans. In Florida, where Republicans dominate the process, they should get the two new seats the state gained in reapportionment and could pick up another seat currently held by Democrats.
But the actual results of redistricting won't be clear until after the election. For now, that leaves both parties to claim the same seat as a pickup.
For example, the RNC's calculations include a pickup of one of Arizona's two new seats, while Democrats expect to win both. The RNC's predictions include picking up one seat in Virginia, though that stems from a Republican-held seat redrawn from a marginal seat to a Republican-leaning seat.


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