By M.D. Kittle
MADISON —Gov. Tony Evers’ “fair” and “nonpartisan” People’s Maps Commission sure took a partisan swipe at Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District.
The commission’s final product would convert the long-time Republican district — a district that has not elected a Democrat to the House since 1993 — Into one much more advantageous for Democrats. So much for the left’s complaints about Republicans drawing “gerrymandered” maps.
As currently drawn, the 1st Congressional District covers a portion of Rock County, and all of Racine and Kenosha counties, and most of Walworth County. It also includes a share of Waukesha and Milwaukee counties.
The Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index, a measurement that scores congressional district partisan strength, rates the district a +5 for Republicans.
Evers’ redistricting panel puts nearly all of Rock County in the 1st District, while taking away half of Walworth County and a portion of Waukesha County and giving them to the Republican-dominant 5th Congressional District.
Waukesha County is one of the most Republican counties in the country, part of the conservative vote power block WOW counties — Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington. Not a single Democratic presidential candidate has won Walworth County since John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Rock County has consistently voted for Democrats. Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by 11 percentage points in 2020. Evers beat Republican incumbent Scott Walker by nearly 20 percentage points in the 2018 gubernatorial election. The county leans so blue that Republicans didn’t bother fielding a local candidate in the last election.
It’s where incumbent U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil resides. The Janesville Republican said he’s waiting to see how it all shakes out, noting that state and federal courts will ultimately settle Wisconsin’s redistricting battles.
“We will have the opportunity (in a year) to make the case to the American people that the direction Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are trying to move our country is the wrong direction and we have to change course. And No.1, we have to retire Nancy Pelosi once and for all,” the congressman said. To do that, Republicans will have to re-take the House.
The GOP has a great shot at picking up the 3rd Congressional District, with the retirement of U.S. Rep Ron Kind. The La Crosse Democrat, who has held the seat since 1997, announced he won’t run again in a purple district turning red. Barack Obama won the 3rd by 11 points in 2012. Trump won it by 4 points in 2016, and four years later the Republican president won it by about 18,000 votes, almost as many votes as the slim margin of victory Biden claimed statewide.
Kind had easily won election after election until last November, when he defeated Republican Derrick Van Orden by just 3 percentage points. Van Orden has announced another run for the seat in 2022. Kind has said he has “run out of gas,” but he clearly sees the political writing on the wall.
Currently, Republicans control five of Wisconsin’s eight House seats. The final maps will play a key roll in where those numbers go.
The People’s Commission maps face an uphill battle. Legislative Democrats effectively rejected them last week, bringing their own hastily drawn maps to the table. Critics raised concerns the maps cut up minority districts in Milwaukee in order to manipulate Democratic Party advantage elsewhere. A version of the People’s maps would eliminate one of the Latino districts, reduce the the number of African American assembly districts from six to four, and eliminate one of the two African American senate districts.
Republicans, who control the Assembly and Senate, passed their version of the political maps last week, with Evers poised to veto them.