The Cook Report today reported that New Jersey’s redistricting battle, scheduled to be decided the week of December 19, is leaning toward a combined district that includes U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett’s 5th and U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman’s 9th.
The two men would then presumably battle to represent the combined district in November.
But sources tell PolitickerNJ, the combined district is just one option under exploration by the committee, which includes six Republicans and six Democrats and counts Rutgers Law School Dean John Farmer Jr. as its 13th and tie-breaking member.
Sources connected with the committee tell PolitickerNJ that Farmer plans a decision by December 21 after three days holed up at the Heldrich Hotel, similar to the way the legislative process was decided in April.
The potential combination of the 5th and 9th Districts was explored in a PolitickerNJ analysis last July and makes sense as the largest population loss in the state came from the cluster of Democratic Districts in the northeast portion of the state. In July, some Republicans said they hope to convince Farmer that the correct way to proceed would be to combine two Democratic districts, with the likley targets being those represented by Rothman and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell.
For their part, Democrats hope to convince the 13th member that combining two Republican districts makes the most sense as New Jersey is still a blue state at its core. One source told PolitickerNJ the likely targets of that map would be some combination of districts 5, 7 and 11, represented by U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen.
But both sides in several interviews have conceded that a so-called “fair fight” district is a likely outcome. Early speculation focused in part on the 7th District, represented by Leonard Lance and the 12th District represented by Rush Holt. That district would be the easiest to draw and Lance is in only his second term and has little seniority.
But the combination that includes Rothman and Garrett also makes sense, sources have said. Garrett’s district is sprawling and runs across the entire top of the state, along the way, touching Districts 11, 8 and 9. Both the 5th and the 9th District need to grow substantially, giving the commission fewer displaced voters to deal with.
At least one source said including Garrett could have negative repercussions.
Garrett, the most conservative member of the delegation, is a favorite of the Tea Party and his inclusion in the so-called fair fight district is likely to rile his base, who made their voice heard during last year’s House races.
But all sources say speculation, while rampant, is premature as neither side has yet submitted a map to Farmer.
District Current Population Population needed
1 669,169 63,489
2 692,205 40,453
3 680,341 52,317
4 724,596 8,062
5 666,551 66,107
6 668,806 63,852
7 672,885 59,773
8 660,424 72,234
9 661,379 71,279
10 634,343 98,315
11 674,349 58,309
12 701,881 30,777
13 684,965 47,693