MINOT, N.D. — A legislative committee has largely finalized a plan for redistricting, and the Republicans who dominate that committee apparently forgot they were supposed to engage in gerrymandering.
For months the far-left group North Dakota Voters First has insisted that gerrymandering, or the redrawing of district lines to achieve specific election outcomes, was a fait accompli. Jim Fuglie, a former executive director of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL, was circulating a plan this spring to refer to the ballot any plan passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and replace it with a Democratic plan that would introduced as a ballot measure.
"Republicans are going to continue their pattern of gerrymandering until we have virtually nothing left," Fuglie whined in his May missive. "They don’t just want a supermajority. They want every seat."
Except, now that the Republican-led redistricting committee (14 Republicans, 2 Democrats) is nearly done with their work, there's no evidence of any gerrymandering at all.
Don't take my word for it. “It was everything I’ve been advocating for, and that was that it shouldn’t be political,” Rep. Josh Boschee, the Democratic Minority Leader from Fargo, told the Bismarck Tribune.
As things stand now, just one Democrat will be moved to a new district, and that's Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman. That's an easy one for Democrats to swallow as it's widely expected that Heckaman, who has been in her seat since 2007, wasn't going to be running for another term anyway.
The rest of the changes (and, keep in mind, these aren't final) impact Republicans.
Sen. Jerry Klein of Fessenden will be in the same district as Heckman.
Rep. Gary Kreidt would move from District 33 to District 36.
Rep. Kathy Skroch would move from District 26 to District 25.
Rep. Jeff Delzer would move from District 8 to District 33.
Rep. Sebastian Ertelt would move from District 26 to District 24.
Rep. Jeff Magrum would move from District 28 to District 8.
Rep. Bill Devlin, who is on the redistricting committee, would move to District 29 (which is also home to House Majority Leader Chet Pollert), though he's publicly announced that he's not running for re-election.
The Headland/Wanzek move is the one most likely to be tweaked. I'm told there's some consternation about moving Headland and Wanzek from the mostly rural District 29 to the more urban District 12 (each in the Jamestown area). Republicans hold all six seats in the district, and Headland, who is on the redistricting committee, advocated for the move, but apparently, it's likely to be undone.
Ertelt, Magrum, and Skroch, who are all members of the Bastiat Caucus of hardcore Trumpists who have been giving the Republican majority headaches of late. It was widely rumored that the Bastiats, which is assumed to be a larger caucus in the Legislature than the Democratic-NPL (though they keep their membership a secret so that can't be confirmed) would be targeted during redistricting. It seems they weren't, for the most part.
Of the three who may be moved to new districts, it would seem to me that Magrum would be in the most peril given the shifting demographics of the new District 8, though expect to hear some complaining from District 26 where both Skroch and Ertelt are presently.
Delzer is another interesting name on the list. The long-time lawmaker, and powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was defeated as the incumbent at his district convention in the last cycle. He was then defeated on the June primary ballot as well after Gov. Doug Burgum made the high-profile decision to back the Republicans challenging him. Delzer only got to keep his seat after one of the challengers passed away from COVID-19 and the courts, dismissing a legal challenge from Burgum (I'm still not sure how a dead person is a qualified elector), allowed the local NDGOP committee to pick Delzer as the replacement.
Delzer getting moved is somewhat surprising, but it's not clear how that will impact his ability to retain his seat. He won't be pitted against an incumbent as Kreidt is moving from District 33 to 36 and isn't expected to run for re-election anyway.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.