Redistricting Q&A: Mike Thompson
Welcome back to Hotline On Call's Redistricting Q&A feature, where we sit down with some of the people most involved with the reapportionment process. On Tuesday, we brought you an interview with Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who is leading the efforts on the Republican side.
We now jump across the aisle and chat with California Rep. Mike Thompson (D). Thompson served in the California state Senate for eight years before coming to Congress and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tapped him to coordinate the Democrats redistricting efforts last year. In an interview in his congressional office before the official release of the census numbers, the Northern Californian discussed how Democrats are working to be sure Republicans don't catch them by surprise this time, what he is already telling congressional delegations in closed door meetings and the Democratic strategy for states where Republicans have complete control of the redistricting process.
The Hotline: Let's begin with what Democrats have been doing to start the redistricting process. I know there have been meetings with congressional delegations to get them up to speed on what's been going on.
MT: I think it's safe to report that the Democratic caucus does not want to follow in the footsteps of previous reapportionments. Republicans have always been very, very aggressive. You don't have to look any further than the Tom DeLay plan for Texas [after the last census]. And we want to make sure that that doesn't happen again to any delegation, so we have been meeting, looking at statistics, population numbers. We're making sure that we fully understand the legal requirements for reapportionment and we're making sure that every delegation knows the importance of being plugged into this stuff and starts thinking about it.
The Hotline: Has there been discussion sort of what maps are going to be proposed in different states?
MT: I think it's still pretty early to start looking at specific maps. We don't have any population numbers, the census findings -- down to the precinct level -- are not out yet. So, I think you're probably looking at early in the spring.
The Hotline: Republicans gained a lot of control of the redistricting process this year -- especially in states that are projected to lose seats.
MT: I think that as a result of the election there are about 16 states now where Republicans will control redistricting. I think there are about nine states where Democrats will. I think there's about 12 states that are toss-up states. Some states, as you know, are at-large-states and there are a number of states that have commissions. So the commission issue is separate.
The Hotline: So in states where Republicans have control, how does that influence your strategy? Are there deliberations about whether it's worth drawing your own maps or how to go about making sure you hold on to certain Democratic seats? Are there some states where Republicans have so much control that there's not much you can do?
MT: What we can do right now is best understand the population numbers, and best understand the law. We just want to make sure that most states draw lines that comply with the law.