Congressional Commission to hold organizational meeting this afternoon

The 2011 Congressional Redistricting Commission will hold its first organizational meeting at 1 p.m. today in the Statehouse Annex.

Chaired by tiebreaking 13th member John Farmer, dean of the Rutgers Law School, and made up of six Democratic members and six Republicans, the commission is charged with producing a statewide congressional district map for the next ten years.

The redistricting effort presents high stakes to New Jersey’s Congressional delegation, as population shifts demand that the state lose one member, reducing New Jersey’s representation from 13 to 12.

“At that meeting, we hope to announce the dates and locations of our three public hearings, which we would like to hold in the early fall,” said a source close to John Farmer.

“Our goal is to complete the process well in advance of the mid-January deadline.”

Gov. Chris Christie’s political strategist Mike DuHaime, former Burlington County Freeholder Director Aubrey Fenton, Morris County attorney Eric Jaso, Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, Cape May Freeholder Susan Sheppard, and Sherine El-Abd of Clifton compose the Republicans’ Congressional Redistricting squad.

DuHaime’s close association with a powerful, hands-on governor gives the team an obvious Christie imprint.  

Sheppard was an anti-establishment GOP candidate who was victorious last year on a wave of Tea Party anger. Sources say she will protect U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo.

Beaten in his re-election bid in 2008, African-American preacher Fenton was a potential lieutentant governor candidate in 2009. A Burlington County loyalist, he is entrusted with watching out for U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan.

Casagrande is a diehard Monmouth County Republican from Colts Neck first elected to the Legislature in 2007, and El-Abd is a decades-long Republican activist who served on the NJ Steering Committee for Bush-Cheney 2004.

“Selecting members to redraw New Jersey’s congressional districts is a deliberative process and after careful consideration, we have nominated citizens that represent the rich communities and divergent views that make our state great,” State GOP Chairman Sam Raia said.

“We went through great lengths to identify a panel of individuals that will bring a wide variety of skills to the process and we are confident that these men and women will provide thoughtful and prudent insight to the redistricting process.”

The Democrats’ congressional redistricting team consists of former Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, former Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez, former Assemblyman Michael Baker of East Brunswick, former Bill Pascrell Chief of Staff Ed Farmer, former Corzine deputy chief-of-staff Jeannine LaRue of Trenton, and Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Phil Thigpen.

“The speaker, Senate president and myself worked collaboratively to pick commissioners to represent the people and geography of the state of New Jersey,” said State Party Chairman John Wisniewski.

Former Speaker Roberts of Sea Isle City, who represented Camden in the legislature, is expected to serve as the Democrats’ quarterback.


Congressional Commission to hold organizational meeting this afternoon