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The Illinois congressional remap: Inside story on internal Democratic wrangling

Meanwhile, Republicans Chris Christie and Mike Pompeo blasted the draft Democratic Illinois congressional map designed to elect 14 Democrats and 3 Republicans.

(From left) Illinois Democratic U.S. Reps. Lauren Underwood, Bill Foster, Jan Schakowsky, Robin Kelly, Danny Davis and Sean Casten were among the Illinois Democrats who met Tuesday in D.C. to discuss the draft congressional map. They are pictured here in Elk Grove Village earlier this month.
(From left) Illinois Democratic U.S. Reps. Lauren Underwood, Bill Foster, Jan Schakowsky, Robin Kelly, Danny Davis and Sean Casten were among the Illinois Democrats who met Tuesday in D.C. to discuss the draft congressional map. They are pictured here in Elk Grove Village earlier this month.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

WASHINGTON — Democratic Illinois House members huddled Tuesday at the headquarters of the House political operation to air grievances against the draft congressional remap drawn by Senate President Don Harmon and Speaker Chris Welch and figure out what to do next, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Meanwhile, Republicans Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, and Mike Pompeo, former President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, at a news conference blasted the draft Illinois map drawn by the state Democrats — which carves out 14 Democratic districts and 3 for Republicans.

Nationally, Democrats, led by former President Barack Obama and his first attorney general, Eric Holder, have been on a campaign against Republican gerrymandered maps, with the latest in Texas, tilted toward the election of GOP House members.

Illinois is one of the few states where Democrats hold total control over mapmaking and they are — as are Republicans — gerrymandering district lines.

MEETING AT DCCC

The Illinois Dems met in the offices of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Tuesday afternoon in a session organized by Rep. Robin Kelly, also the chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

The Harmon/Welch draft map was released Friday with the 14D-3R lines considered weak because, under the right circumstances — if 2022 is a GOP year — Reps. Marie Newman and Lauren Underwood could find their own Democrats drew them what, in reality, could turn out to be swing districts. Two other downstate districts also did not maximize Democratic strength.

To note:

· The DCCC is trying to keep its fingerprints off of a 15D-2R draft map it is promoting, parts of which have been shown to members. Since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi controls the House by only three votes, the Illinois remap — by Democratic mapmakers — now has enormous national significance for 2022.

· There is no consensus among House incumbents — or state Democratic powerbrokers — over 15-2 or 14-3.

· Rep. Bill Foster presented a 14D-3R map he drew; I am told there were no immediate takers.

· There are 13 Democrats in the Illinois delegation; 11 of them were at the DCCC for the meeting. Reps. Brad Schneider and Cheri Bustos sent staffers to monitor.

· Keep this in mind. Illinois Democrats in Congress have NO power over mapmaking. It is entirely in the hands of the state House and state Senate and Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who must sign the new map.

· The members do not, at the moment, even have a guaranteed seat at the table. The conversation over the new congressional map that counts is in Springfield, not Washington. The plan is to pass a new congressional map by the end of the month.

· It’s not like the old days under Mike Madigan where a priority was to draw a district either Bill Lipinski or son Dan could win. Springfield and the DCCC want a congressional map that can survive federal court challenges, follow Civil Rights Act laws regarding Black and Hispanic districts while maximizing Democratic wins.

· Individual incumbents may have to give up some favorable turf to help the team — especially Newman and Underwood.

CHRIS CHRISTIE/MIKE POMPEO

Christie and Pompeo are the co-chairs of the National Republican Redistricting Trust. They are pledging to provide legal help if there is a federal challenge to the Democratic-crafted congressional map in Illinois — which, if the past is predictive, there will be.

During their press call, they focused on the Tuesday ruling of a three-judge federal panel voiding the Illinois General Assembly map for state House and state Senate districts. The panel said the Democratic-drawn map violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and sent state lawmakers back to the drawing board. Wrote the judges, “We declare the Illinois House and Senate districts in the June Redistricting Plan unconstitutionally malapportioned. “

The panel rejected a request to order a legislative redistricting commission to draft a replacement plan.

Christie and Pompeo said the Tuesday ruling against the Democratic-drawn legislative maps should serve as a warning to Pritzker and state Democrats as they try to maximize the election of Illinois Democrats to Congress.

“I’m hoping this sends a very clear wake-up call to Gov. Pritzker,” said Christie.

I asked about GOP-led remap efforts that the Democrats are complaining about — such as in Texas — and why what they are saying isn’t hypocritical, given Republican gerrymandering.

Christie said they are only looking for “fair and constitutional” maps, which is what every Democrat in Illinois also says to me when they are on the record.