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Redistricting: GOP plan aims to protect Duffy seat

July 8, 2011
In The News

Milwuaukee Journal Sentinel

By Craig Gilbert

The congressional redistricting map Republicans released Friday is chiefly aimed at protecting GOP freshman Sean Duffy, who faces a hot re-election fight in a northern Wisconsin district that has been marginally Democratic.

To make Duffy's district a few percentage points more Republican, the plan carves out a Democratic chunk of central Wisconsin and attaches it to Democrat Ron Kind's western Wisconsin district. Duffy would be shedding the Democratic-leaning cities of Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids and Chippewa Falls, and gaining Republican areas near the Twin Cities and near the Upper Peninsula.

The resulting lines are significantly more irregular than the current ones, with Kind's district shaped like a lopsided "Y."

Duffy defended the map, while downplaying his role in how it was put together.

"The map makes modest changes to reflect statewide population shifts, but unlike what the Democrats are proposing in Illinois, doesn't make drastic partisan gerrymandering the goal," said Duffy's office in a statement.

"Congressman Duffy didn't draw his own map," the Duffy statement said.

Duffy's GOP colleague, Janesville Rep. Paul Ryan, took the lead in developing the plan, according to sources in both parties.

Like Duffy, Democrat Kind would also have a safer seat under the new GOP congressional redistricting plan. That's because he would be gaining the Democratic voters Duffy would be losing.

But Kind criticized the new plan Friday in a statement.

"It is an incumbent protection map that does little to maintain competitive districts in Wisconsin. We need more competitive districts in order to end the intense polarization of our political system," he said.

The map would generate some notable changes in southeastern Wisconsin. In Milwaukee County, the Democratic-trending North Shore suburbs of Shorewood, Whitefish Bay, Glendale, Brown Deer, Fox Point and Bayside would move from Republican Jim Sensenbrenner's 5th District to Democrat Gwen Moore's 4th District. River Hills and Ozaukee County would move from the 5th to Republican Tom Petri's 6th District. Sensenbrenner's district, which now includes part of West Allis, would absorb all of that community.

Greenfield would move from Ryan's 1st District to Sensenbrenner's 5th; and Ryan would gain more of southern Waukesha County from Sensenbrenner.

Unlike Duffy's and Kind's districts, the state's other six House seats would undergo some geographic changes but their partisan character would not change a great deal.