ByÂ ALEX ISENSTADT, Politico
After making a raucous national debut and helping to power a grass-roots uprising that swept conservatives into office,Â 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 theÂ 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.
â€œThey understand that the way districts are drawn impacts our political culture perhaps more than anything else,â€ said Mark Meckler, co-founder and coordinator of theÂ Tea Party Patriots, a national umbrella group. â€œItâ€™s advancing the gains they made and adding to the places where they arenâ€™t yet competitive.â€
But for a movement that generally shuns such inside-the-Beltway instincts, the tea partiersâ€™ involvement inÂ redistricting comes dangerously close to emulating the professional politicians they so often disdain â€” a sign of the movementâ€™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 â€” 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.
â€œEnd Gerrymandering,â€ 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 groupâ€™s founder, called gerrymandering anathema to grass-roots conservatives â€” many of whom railed against incumbents last cycle â€” and said the tea party wanted to see members from both parties face more competitive races.
To read more, visit:Â http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/50818.html#ixzz1G6HvxKKe
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