Redistricting New Jersey

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Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show,WNYC's senior reporter, Bob Hennelly, talked about the newly drawn New Jersey legislative district map and its implications for the political future of the state.

N.J. Democrats win the final redistricting map.

This weekend, Rutgers Professor Allan Rosenthal, the tie-breaking vote on New Jersey's Bi-Partisan Re-Apportionment Commission, selected the Democratic faction of the panel's plan to redraw the state's 40 state legislative districts.

All of New Jersey's 80 Assembly seats and 40 State Senate slots are up for election this November with primaries scheduled in June. The Commission's work could still be challenged in court.

In published reports Republicans expressed some disappointment but said that the Democrats' map could actually make Republicans more competitive is some districts. Currently Democrats control both the Assembly and State Senate.

New Jersey is one of approximately one dozen states that doesn't let their incumbent state legislature make up the redistricting map. Hennelly said a win for the Democrats isn't just that.

While in the quick headlines it may appear that Gov. Christie lost, the GOP press release that came out immediately afterward says something else. It says "Despite out disappointment, we'll mount a strong challenge in the fall legislative elections. While not successful in having our map adopted, the new map provides a better opportunity than the current map." And so in point of fact, it does do that.

But the map was chosen by a tie-breaker, Professor Rosenthal.

The Republicans have a team...the Democrats have an A team and they work on their strategies that accomplish both their objectives, which is often to protect key incumbents, and also to give themselves a fighting chance in terms of advancing their own fate at the polls. In the mix, you have this 11th tie breaking person...who looks at those and then comes up with the side that he supports. Now, all this is open to legal challenge. The map indeed does change. Municipalities that were once considered part of one alignment are different. About 30 percent of the districts have gone through some kind of change.

The 2010 census numbers make the calls.

There was a large shift in New Jersey's Latino demographic in the last ten years — a significant one.

The 2010 Census told us that the Latino population had risen some 39 percent from 2000 to the point that now 1.5 million of New Jersey residents are Latino and the southern shore had grown by 13 the map  makers had to do two things to accomplish their mandate which is to account for this shift of population from the northern area...down to those counties and then also to make sure there were more opportunities for Latinos to either move up if they had assembly seats or to be part of the new landscape.

Growing pains? Not quite.

New Jersey's population only grew by five percent since the last census, so what does that mean for New Jersey?

It means New Jersey loses one of its thirteen members of Congress so this redistricting is going to be difficult because it means that somebody's not going to have a job anymore.

An election year for New Jersey keeps Gov. Christie on his toes.

And, it's the first big political test for the Governor.

Can't help but not to be. Anytime people go to the polls in New Jersey, even if it's on the school board budgets. Remember last time on the school budget vote, Gov.  Christie demonstrated some real clout getting turn out to go through the roof and having record numbers of budgets turned down. No doubt there'll be national eyes turned to New Jersey to see if he can move this blue state that much more into the Republican.

As for Gov. Christie getting involved in the redistricting process?

There's no law against it.  Basically Gov. Christie has shown that he takes politics very intensely. It's a contact sport for him. So, he saw an opportunity to try and add some strength behind the Republican pitch so he took advantage of it. Really the final referendum is going to be what happens in November. Are they able to add some more Republicans to the Senate and Assembly? That's his critical test.  If he doesn't do that, then it's going to be a bad day for him both in terms of his national rep and his ability to advance his national agenda.