Sunday, January 15, 2012

Haggerty Swings and Misses

Kevin Haggerty has announced his intentions to challenge Ken Smith in the Democratic Primary to represent Pennsylvania’s 112th Legislative District in the Commonwealth’s House of Representatives. Haggerty penned an attack on Smith, but in his zeal, demonstrated a lack of understating of the issues which he believes are “near and dear to Democrat families in the 112th district.”

His most breathless attack deals with redistricting. In it, Haggerty makes the wild statement that:

“When Mr. Smith talks about why the Governor won’t tax big oil and gas, just take a look at his recent vote of yes for Senate Bill (SB) 1249. This Republican bill is responsible for the most gerrymandered redistricting this state has ever seen, and Democratic leaders are taking this matter to court.”

Senate Bill 1249, deals with Congressional redistricting. And yes, Ken Smith along with many of his fellow Democrats did vote for it. That’s about where Haggerty’s redistricting accuracy ends.

Democratic Leaders are not in fact taking the matter of Senate Bill 1249 to court as Haggerty alleges. Actually, Pennsylvania Democratic Congressmen called for state Democrats to pass this legislation.

What Democrats are doing is fighting the decision of the Legislative Redistricting Commission which dealt exclusively with reapportioning the State House and State Senate districts. There are 11 such challenges which the Supreme Court will hear on January 23rd.

Another relevant document to the discussion of redistricting is the Pennsylvania Constitution. Article II, Section 17 deals with redistricting and explains the process in terms anyone should be able to understand.

Before arguing against the current plan, Mr. Haggerty should also take a look at the alternative Democratic proposal for congressional redistricting. Here is the map, and here is the plan. Democrats deserve credit for proposing an alternative plan but their plan fails to address the primary argument against most redistricting which is that it unnecessarily carves up counties. By that measure, the Democratic plan would be far worse for Northeastern Pennsylvania than the Republican plan.

A review of the Democratic proposal shows that they wanted to carve up virtually every county in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Mr. Haggerty’s home county would have three members of Congress in the Democratic plan instead of two in the Republican plan.

What Smith and many Democrats actually voted for was a plan that better consolidated representation for Lackawanna County with these two congressmen instead of three. The Republican plan also largely gave the more Republican areas of Lackawanna County a Republican Congressman and the more Democratic areas a Democratic Congressman.

In short, this whole line of attack doesn’t appear to be well thought out.

There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of Smith. His vote on redistricting isn’t one of them. Haggerty would do well to put aside the hyper-partisan attacks and instead, focus on the issues that really matter most to all of the families in the 112th Legislative District, regardless of their political affiliation.