116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
There was a low rumble amid the vinyl castles of north Marion last week. And no, it wasn’t because we all decided to mow our lawns at the same time.
It was the political landscape shifting. Well, potentially.
The first set of new congressional and legislative district maps released last week shook things up considerably in my neck of the mulch.
For example, we were all ready for the loud rumble between U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion, and state Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha, for 1st District congressional supremacy. But the new map creates a totally new 1st District that runs south and east, including Linn and Johnson counties. The new 1st loses several rural counties from its current boundaries, areas where Hinson did well in 2020.
But that’s not all. The new 1st District is also home to state Rep. Christina Bohannan, an Iowa City Democrat who planned to challenge 2nd District U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican from Ottumwa. But if the new map is adopted, Miller-Meeks lives in the newly drawn 2nd District.
Laura Belin, who runs the political news blog Bleeding Heartland, opined this week that Hinson’s predicament could put pressure on U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley to not seek re-election next year, allowing Hinson to run for the Senate. Seismic, if true.
On the legislative front, the new map tosses Mathis, who currently represents my strategically important English Glen subdivision, into a new Senate District 32 with state Sen. Todd Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids. But if Mathis is the congressional nominee in the new Democrat-leaning 1st District, Taylor will face a district that could be tougher to win.
My state Rep. Molly Donohue, D-Cedar Rapids, would get a newly drawn House District 62 that’s also home to Rep. Eric Gjerde, D-Cedar Rapids. They currently represent urban and suburban areas in Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha, Robins, etc. but the new map creates a district covering parts of Cedar Rapids and Marion.
State Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, who currently represents a big chunk of Linn County would represent none of it under the new map. His new Senate District 48 is also home to Republican Senate incumbents Craig Johnson of Independence and Carrie Koelker of Dyersville.
And that chunk of Linn County would be part of a mega state Senate District 49 stretching all the way to southern Johnson County, taking in rural and some suburban areas around both Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. It’s sort of a double-holed doughnut.
Currently, four state senators represent parts of that ground — Zumbach, Taylor, Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, and Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford. Remarkably, only Kinney lives in the new district.
In all, 54 legislative incumbents across Iowa would be tossed together under the proposed maps.
So you’re thinking there’s no way lawmakers will approve this mess. And you’re probably right. But there’s no guarantee a second map will be better. The population trends driving these changes won’t go away. As rural population slides, we’ll see fewer and larger legislative districts in rural areas. As urban and suburban population grows, we’ll see more urban and suburban districts.
Of course, under Iowa’s redistricting process, majority Republicans can reject maps one and two and go for a third map, which they can amend within certain limits. They’ll catch hell for gerrymandering, but after all the bulldozing they’ve done over the past five years, I doubt they care.
Lawmakers will convene a special session on Oct. 5 to consider the first set of maps and have until Dec. 1 to sort this out. Just listen for the rumble. But it could be snowblowers by then.
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