…but misses the mark on what we said. Not once, but twice.
On Wednesday, I wrote a piece expressing misgivings about the congressional map that most people think is going to end up being adopted during the current redistricting session at the state legislature.
I said I hate it, and then I said why – specifically that it does a poor job of keeping the Baton Rouge area whole, that it splits up Houma and Thibodaux, that it goes overboard in protecting Cedric Richmond by giving him a 62 percent black district when a 55 percent black district could have accomplished the same Voting Rights Act objective without creating a gerrymandered nightmare of a map and that having a district run from Bastrop to Breaux Bridge is ridiculous. And I said I don’t have much use for drawing districts to protect incumbents, and explained – I thought – fairly clearly why I don’t like doing that.
POLITICO’s Richard E. Cohen picked up the post for an article that site has up today, with a focus on the fact Jeff Landry, who represents the soon-to-be-chopped-up 3rd District, is the odd man out with the new district. And Cohen then puts me in with “grass-roots conservatives, who back Landry and oppose the customary legislative deal-making.”
Then I’m quoted.
“From a partisan perspective, it’s great. From an incumbent-protection perspective, it’s even better. I still think it sucks,” wrote Scott McKay, publisher of The Hayride, a web site that writes about Louisiana politics; he also writes for national conservative publications.
I like Landry a lot. I think he’s doing really well and he’s clearly a rising star in Louisiana politics; if he wasn’t before, that line he popped out a few days back reminding President Obama that “April Fool’s Day is weeks away” after Obama tried to brag about all the good he was doing on domestic oil production certainly put him on the fast track.
But I never said I “back” Landry.
If Landry and Rep. Charles Boustany go against each other in a Congressional race next year, I want my role to be as a moderator of sorts. I think both of them have something to offer. I was neutral in the race between Landry and Hunt Downer last year until Downer’s campaign became a waste of time and a destructive waste at that after the first primary. Where Landry and Boustany have differences that I can be helpful in providing perspective about, I’ll jump in and do so, but I don’t plan on endorsing either.
So that’s a little off. The second time Cohen quotes me he misses the mark as well…
The decision to protect incumbents—and throw Landry, the most junior member, under the bus—has drawn strong objections from some who see it as business-as-usual politics. McKay noted that all seven current incumbents have served less than a decade, suggesting that none have achieved enough seniority in Washington to make them invaluable to the state.
“Ten years from now, none of the six guys we’re protecting with these districts…might still be around,” he wrote.
Not exactly. The point I was making was this…
But this isn’t about those guys and whether they can do OK with those districts. Like I said Sunday night, incumbent protection is the worst motive for drawing congressional districts you can dig up. Ten years from now, none of the six guys we’re protecting with these districts, if in fact we’re actually protecting incumbents here (yeah, yeah – just bear with me here), might still be around. Cassidy could beat Mary Landrieu for a Senate seat in 2014, for example. Scalise could be elected governor in 2015. Landry could be Louisiana’s attorney general by then. Boustany could be Surgeon General in the Romney administration by January 2013. Richmond could be the guy running the Urban League, or under indictment. Who knows?
As an aside, the seven congressmen who were in office at the time redistricting was last done in Louisiana were David Vitter, Bill Jefferson, Billy Tauzin, Jim McCrery, John Cooksey, Richard Baker and Chris John. Notice how none of those guys are currently in the House of Representatives.
The point is, we shouldn’t be trying to protect congressmen with a district map; we should be trying to protect voters. If you really think that’s what this map does, God bless you.
Cohen might have found a suggestion that since none of the current Congressmen have 10 years in the House of Representatives they don’t have enough seniority to protect from that passage. I’m not sure how he found such a suggestion and none was intended. In fact, I like the fact that our representatives are mostly new; it means they haven’t been corrupted by Washington, yet. For the most part they haven’t completely lost touch with their districts, yet. But since we’ve managed to produce some turnover in our congressional delegation – which on balance is a good thing – the point I was making was that incumbent protection is the worst consideration possible in drawing districts. Regardless of how much I might like this group. Because chances are most or all of them will be gone by the time we redistrict again.
I thought I was kinda clear about that.
I could launch into a riff at this point about the disconnect between Washington media types and normal folks, but that’s too obvious a point to make. Suffice it to say that one of the worst things about redistricting as a media event is that it’s almost always covered as a function of what happens in the next election and who the personalities are. A matter of politics rather than policy, you might say.
I thought I was clear in my post that we should be considering the voters rather than the politicians in drawing the districts.
But when it got picked up by a national political site, which doesn’t link back here so POLITICO’s readers could see what I actually said, I’m quoted as saying that the map sucks because Landry is getting screwed and that I’d be all for incumbent protection if we had a Don Young or Henry Waxman in the delegation worth protecting.
Thanks for the publicity, Mr. Cohen. That was exhilirating.