Tea party steeped in redistricting

by
March 9, 2011

By ALEX ISENSTADT, Politico

After making a raucous national debut and helping to power a grass-roots uprising that swept conservatives into office, tea party activists are now taking on a more sophisticated and decidedly insider-oriented electoral frontier: redistricting.

With state legislators across the country set to redraw the congressional landscape, the tea party is attempting to further the political gains it made last fall when a slate of activist conservatives won House and Senate seats.

“They understand that the way districts are drawn impacts our political culture perhaps more than anything else,” said Mark Meckler, co-founder and coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, a national umbrella group. “It’s advancing the gains they made and adding to the places where they aren’t yet competitive.”

But for a movement that generally shuns such inside-the-Beltway instincts, the tea partiers’ involvement in redistricting comes dangerously close to emulating the professional politicians they so often disdain — a sign of the movement’s maturation process and a recognition that it can expand its political power in ways that go beyond the ballot box.

To local groups reorganizing to take on redistricting fights, however, there could be nothing more true to the tea party spirit than fighting the sort of tailor-made districts and partisan line-drawing that serve as a once-a-decade incumbent protection plan.

Some groups are jumping in to protect favorite pols or to target long-serving liberals. Others are trying to expand the ranks of tea party officeholders. But also driving the conservative push, activists say, is resistance to gerrymandering — the drawing of near-foolproof districts that allow long-serving members of both parties to burrow into seats where they are immune from competitive reelection bids.

“End Gerrymandering,” reads the redistricting page on the website of the Bayshore Tea Party Group, a New Jersey organization that is heading up a petition drive seeking 10,000 signatures.

Barbara Gonzalez, the group’s founder, called gerrymandering anathema to grass-roots conservatives — many of whom railed against incumbents last cycle — and said the tea party wanted to see members from both parties face more competitive races.

To read more, visit: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/50818.html#ixzz1G6HvxKKe

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