Brady's support for GOP redistricting plan stirs controversy
December 21, 2011By Dave Davies
Many Democratic leaders are condemning new Congressional districts for Pennsylvania adopted by the Republican legislature and awaiting Governor Corbett's signature.
But while the state Democratic party has denounced the map as Republican gerrymandering, it appears at least one powerful Philadelphia Democrat helped corral votes for the plan in the State House of Representatives.
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic party, admitted that he told Democratic friends and allies in the legislature that the redistricting plan was acceptable.
Pennsylvania's congressional map had to be re-drawn by the legislature to reflect the 2010 census, and with Republicans in control, the districts proposed drew quick and heavy fire from Democratic leaders.
"It's a naked power play by the Republicans in the state to disenfranchise a lot of people in a lot of ways," said David Landau, chairman of the Democratic Party in suburban Delaware County. His county has for years been the heart of the 7th Congressional District, a competitive seat captured last year by Republican Pat Meehan.
But the new 7th, as drawn by Republican lawmakers, snakes through southeastern Pennsylvania in a bizarre pattern that is anything but compact.
Landau said it's a better district for Meehanto to run in, but it splinters communities with common interests who deserve a single voice in Congress.
"Who is Patrick Meehan going to be responsible to now?" Landau said. "You have five counties in there now with incredibly divergent interests."
State Rep. Darryl Metcalfe, a western Pennsylvania Republican who played a key role in crafting the redistricting plan, said it wasn't easy to draw maps that met legal requirements.
He said lawmakers had to divide the state's 67 counties among 18 congressional seats, and that meant towns and counties would be split and some districts might have odd shapes. But he said the new map is "constitutional, legal, and fair."
And he said the charge that the proposal amounts to Republican gerrymandering doesn't square with the vote in the State House.
"The almost two to one vote in the House shows that this was adopted in a bi-partisan way, and that there was both Republican support and Democrat support for the final product," Metcalfe said.
Indeed, there were reports that Republican leaders facing opposition in their ranks got Congressman Bob Brady, chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic party to make calls to get Democratic votes for the map.
Republicans needed help because some GOP lawmakers from the Lehigh Valley were angry that the area was split into two Congressional districts.
Brady acknowledged in a telephone interview that he spoke to Democratic legislators, though not because Republicans asked him to. Brady said he told them he and others in the state's congressional delegation could live with the new map
"What, are we going to get better? The Republicans were in charge of this. It's what they do," Brady said. "It's what we would do if we were in charge of this probably."
Brady said he feared that rejecting the map might result in something worse being adopted. He said he saw an earlier proposal that scrambled the congressional districts of Philadelphia-area U.S. Represenatives Chaka Fattah and Allyson Schwartz.
"Either Allyson would have (had) to run against Chaka or Chaka would have (had) to run against Allyson, or she would have to move into another district that they created," Brady said. He said he made his preferences clear, and that proposal for southeastern Pennsylvania was changed.
Brady says the map adopted is better, though he acknowledged it will help Republicans.
But his acceptance of the proposal meant that while the state Democratic Party denounced the plan over the past week, Brady, the party's Philadelphia chairman, was advising his friends and allies to vote for it.
Montgomery County Democratic chairman Marcel Groen doesn't approve of the map or Brady's endorsement of it.
"I think it's short-sighted and, in the long term," Groen said, "is not only wrong for the process, it's wrong for our party. And it's wrong for the people, which is the most important thing."
Forty percent of House Democrats voted for the map.