St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

3 saved Dems' seat at MO redistricting table

When a commenter to an earlier post mentioned the impact of next year's congressional redistricting in Missouri, I noted that Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon could veto any gerrymander by the Republican General Assembly, and that Republicans would need to win 20 net Democrat house seats (out of the 74 current Democrat seats) to gain the two-thirds majority necessary to override the veto. That seemed pretty safe.

But Republicans, who haven't controlled redistricting in Missouri since 1921, came damned close. They knocked off 10 Democrat incumbents and picked up seven Democrat-held open seats without losing any of their own incumbents or open seats, for a 17-seat net pickup. They also increased their senate majority (where they already had a two thirds) by three seats and now hold a three-quarters majority. Wow!

Democrats can thank these three candidates for winning tough contests. These are the Democrats that prevented Republicans from gaining a full veto-proof General Assembly:

State Rep. Sara Lampe (D-Springfield) held on to win reelection by a single percentage point (103 votes), Democrats' narrowest house win. (An independent candidate won over 5%, but I don't know which major candidate his campaign hurt.)

State Rep.-elect Jay Swearington held the open seat vacated by Rep. Trent Skaggs by winning 51.3% of the vote, a 2.6% margin.

State Rep. Ron Casey (D-Festus) defeated a former state rep. to win reelection with 51.9% of the vote, a 3.8% margin, while Republicans were winning most other contests in Jefferson County.

Honorable mention (for the next two closest Democrat house wins) goes to State Rep. Jeanne Kirkton (D-Webster Groves), who won the traditionally Republican district by 4.3 points, and to State Rep.-elect Mary Nichols of Maryland Heights, who held an open seat that many thought would go Republican without someone named Liese on the ballot.

Democrats aren't necessarily home free on redistricting, though, if Republicans can do enough horse trading to persuade three Democrats to vote to override Nixon's veto. As a preemptive tactic, Nixon might dangle some juicy appointive jobs to sitting Republican legislators (e.g., a high paying, prestigious term on the Missouri Public Service Commission) to entice them to resign prior to the veto session.

In the absence of Democrat defections, Nixon's ace in the hole is that the courts will draw the new map if the legislature and governor cannot agree, and most expect these judges to be Democrat-friendly. That prospect gives Republican legislative leaders an incentive to negotiate a redistricting compromise with the governor's representative to produce a new map that a majority of legislators will support and the governor will sign.

Nixon wouldn't be in this position of strength if Democrats had lost three more house seats that the final results demonstrated were in play.