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Redistricting Watch: Metcalfe’s Harrisburg Hearing

By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor

Daryl Metcalfe has the reputation of a partisan warrior in Harrisburg, but some believe that his fidelity to the Constitution and Tea Party principles may yield a more equitable redistricting process.

Metcalfe chairs the State Government Committee in the PA House, which is charged with developing a new congressional map based on last year’s census results. It’s a significant step on the path toward deciding the new districts.

He’s promised to make the process more open and transparent. As evidence, he cites public hearings his committee has held on the topic – the third of which occurred this morning in Harrisburg.

“Whether Democrats or Republicans or Independents are happy with the final product,” Metcalfe said, “I think everybody on the whole will be happy if the final produce is constitutional, legal and fair.”

In today’s hearing, lawmakers heard from Barry Kauffman, Executive Director of Common Cause of Pennsylvania, as well as citizens Amanda Holt and Don Hossler who offered their thoughts on the process.

Kauffman asked lawmakers to consider a number of factors when deciding the map, including:
avoid splitting up political subdivisions where possible; strive for compact and contiguous districts; and most interestingly, to exclude explicitly the home addresses of incumbents or likely challengers, voter registration data, and voting performance.

Indeed, Republican and Democratic sources each indicate that map drawing can begin in earnest only after accurate data are obtained about registration and voting patterns. Much of this data will come from national campaign committees.

In a later interview, Kauffman described the specific rules governing the redistricting process of PA legislative districts, which are listed in section 2, article 16 of the Pennsylvania constitution. Congressional redistricting, he said, is more open.

The other witnesses called for contiguous and compact districts that avoided splitting up local political entities like counties and boroughs, echoing testimony from previous hearings.

This is where Metcalfe’s identity as a Tea Party conservative comes into play. More than any liberal or Democrat, Tea Partiers despise entrenched incumbents. The U.S. Constitution and interpretations thereof favor compact and contiguous districts, and the Pennsylvania Constitution has even stricter rules for the process.

Some of Metcalfe’s conservative compatriots are looking to him to set an example on a constitutionally valid redistricting process.

“Constitutional conservatives certainly would like to see redistricting done according to the letter and spirit of the Constitution,” said Joe Sterns of the Citizens Alliance for Pennsylvania. “Redistricting will be a critical test for Daryl Metcalfe.”

One conservative member of Republican State Committee was even more blunt.

“There are some who believe that ‘Mr. Constitution,’ Daryl Metcalfe, ignores the Constitution when it benefits him. He takes the pension and various unconstitutional privileges. Will he go along with gerrymandering to curry favor with House leaders and protect his own incumbency?”

In an interview after the hearing, Metcalfe stressed repeatedly that the final product will be “constitutional, legal and fair,” and that “we actually produce that with more transparency than you’ve ever seen.”

He resisted suggestions that the congressional delegation and party leaders hold sway in the process, but seemed to dismiss Mr. Kauffman’s suggestion that information about incumbents be excluded from consideration.

“Incumbents are citizens too, so, as we move through the process we’ll be looking at what the precedents are.”

He said that he wouldn’t commit to preconditions against splitting municipalities. Metcalfe predicted the first draft of the new map in mid to late fall, and said that state legislative seats will likely be determined first.

The true test will come after the hearings are done, when bills begin to filter through the committee.

“Once these bills start going through his committee, that will be really interesting to watch,” said Kauffman.

4 Responses

  1. I do not live in Rep Metcalfe’s district; however, after being subjected to the likes of Rep Babette Josephs, and now witnessing what her successor (Chair/Gov’t Committee-Metcalfe) has/is accomplishing, it is apparent that we need to clone Rep Metcalfe if we are to restore law and order in this state and cleanse Harrisburg of the bought and paid for reps owned by special interest groups.

  2. Metcalfe loves the modern institution in which he serves. He rakes in all the trappings of office, and all the incumbency protections that have our framers spinning in their graves! When you hear a lawmaker say “We’re going to look at precedent” bend over and grab your ankles. I can’t wait to hear Metcalfe’s explanation when his committee adopts a redistricting plan that just happens to look a lot like Sy Snyder predicted many weeks ago that it would. Any bets to the contrary?

  3. Keegan,
    NEVER diss Daryl nor provide the mechanism for anyone else to diss Daryl. His posse of minnions will come crashing down on you. These robots don’t care about the Representative’s methods. The end justifies the means. Remember, Daryl uber alle.

  4. Nice – a “conservative” State Committee member can hide behind the cloak of anonymity and make a questionable (dare I say baseless) charge, have these comments published in this article, and not have to defend the comments, much less face the results in his / her next State Committee election. How convenient!

    May I also then anonymously slam individual members the Republican State Committee and have them published? Keegan – give me the go ahead, and I’ll gladly comply.

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