Musical Chairs ’12

Population estimates for 2005, released his week by the U.S. Census Bureau, show that New Jersey’s growth has slowed down considerably, and experts say that rising property taxes and housing costs is a signal that the state may not far well in five years when the next official count is taken. That could be bad news for New Jersey’s congressional delegation: changes in the state’s population in relation to faster growing areas of the nation, could mean a loss of one of the thirteen congressional seats in the 2012 election. The loss of a congressional seat could create a myraid of redistricting scenarios to capture the imagination of political junkies: primaries between Frank LoBiondo and Jim Saxton or Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman; or even a general election matchup between Rush Holt and Chris Smith or Frank Pallone and Mike Ferguson. Only two seats are probably immune to the loss of a seat: the Voting Rights Act would likely protect Donald Payne and the winner of the open thirteen district seat, which is expected to go to a Hispanic. The State Constitution requires congressional districts to be drawn by a bi-partisan panel, with the Senate President and Minority Leader, the Assembly Speaker and Minority Leader, and the two state party chairmen eaching naming two members. Whomever Governor Jon Corzine appoints as Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court this year will name the tie-breaking member of the congressional redistricting commission. Democrats could potentially seek a constitutional amendment that would return the role of drawing congressional districts to the Legislature (as it was until 1995), but one legislative leader says there has been no discussion of such a proposal. New Jersey lost a House seat after the 1980 census and another ten years later. In 1982, mapmakers eliminated the seat of Millicent Fenwick, who was running for the U.S. Senate, and in 1992, Democratic Congressmen Bernard Dwyer and Pallone were placed in the same district; Dwyer retired instead of taking on Pallone.

Musical Chairs ’12