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The Journal Gazette

GOP unveils new House, Senate maps

Incumbents Espich, Leonard put in same district

The Journal Gazette
The Journal Gazette

– The proposed map detailing Indiana House districts includes one northeast Indiana seat that would pit two incumbent Republicans against each other, while the suggested congressional map would keep the 3rd District reliably Republican.

The maps – including generally status-quo Senate districts – were unveiled by House and Senate Republicans on Monday and will be voted out of their respective elections committees Wednesday.

“We said this was going to be different this year,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.

Republicans, who currently control 60 seats, redrew 100 Indiana House districts with intriguing results.

For instance, the proposed House map has eight districts with no incumbent; three districts in which two Republican incumbents reside; three districts in which two Democratic incumbents live; one district in which three Democratic incumbents reside and four districts in which a sitting Republican and a sitting Democrat live.

The map also unifies 113 cities and towns; 22 school districts and three counties that previously were split between districts.

Bosma said his caucus hasn’t run political voting patterns to see how Republican the map would be.

But he conceded “there is hardly a way to draw the map without leaning Republican. I’m sure this one does as well.”

If approved as drawn, two well-regarded area Republicans would face each other in the 2012 primary, should both decide to run again.

House Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, and Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, both live in the proposed House District 50, which would cover all of Huntington County and parts of Wells and Allen counties.

“It’s an unfortunate circumstance. It’s not something I relish,” Espich said. “He’s my friend, and we’ll have to see what the people think.”

Espich has served in the Indiana House since 1972 and said he plans to run again.

Leonard – who has spearheaded efforts to overhaul the state’s unemployment insurance fund – joked that “it’ll be a hell of a primary.”

He said he is sad to see his district lose Whitley County voters but overall he thinks the House map is much more logical around the state.

Leonard said he had planned to run again, but now it’s a decision to be weighed. He harbored no ill will, complimenting the mapmakers and saying “it’s hard to draw maps for all 100 people and keep them happy.”

A new House District 82 has no incumbent under the proposed map. It covers all of Noble County and small parts of Elkhart, Whitley and Allen counties.

To run in that district, a person must live there one year in advance of the November 2012 election.

Rep. Win Moses, D-Fort Wayne, is still examining the proposed map to see whether his district or Rep. Phil GiaQuinta’s, D-Fort Wayne, has been diluted.

“I don’t know how that is going to work politically,” Moses said. “It’s a map that is heavily tilted toward Republican success.”

House and Senate Republicans jointly presented a congressional map.

The proposed 3rd District would run more south than west, reaching from the Michigan line to Jay County.

It currently contains six full counties and parts of Allen and Elkhart. The proposed district would contain 10 full counties and parts of Kosciusko (including the city of Warsaw) and Blackford counties. It picks up Huntington, Wells, Adams and Jay counties while losing Elkhart County.

“It’s a more natural shape,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne. “If you look at the federal guidelines and where metropolitan areas are, these counties are more commonly found together.”

The proposed congressional map would likely make it more difficult for a Democrat to win in the 2nd District, currently held by Rep. Joe Donnelly. He has said he might be interested in running for governor if his district becomes unwinnable.

“That one jumps out at you as some politics being involved,” said Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, which is part of the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission. “It will be a tougher row to hoe for Democrats.”

In Marion County, Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th, is drawn into the Democratic-held 7th District.

The proposed maps for the Indiana Senate’s 50 districts probably saw the least change since they were already drawn by the GOP majority.

Some small tweaks include consolidating the East Allen County Schools district into Senate District 14, which is held by Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn. It previously was split into two districts. Also, Steuben County would be contained wholly in Senate District 13 represented by Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange.

“I think everything was really tightened up,” Glick said. “Over time, the Republican and Democrat labels will fall away. It’s all about our constituents.”