Retiring state senator wants nonpartisan redistricting
Christie Taylor, Wisconsin Public Radio A retiring Democratic state senator is joining others in calling for a nonpartisan redistricting system in Wisconsin, saying that competitive electoral districts are better for voters and bipartisanship. St...
Christie Taylor, Wisconsin Public Radio
A retiring Democratic state senator is joining others in calling for a nonpartisan redistricting system in Wisconsin, saying that competitive electoral districts are better for voters and bipartisanship.
State Sen. John Lehman, whose Racine-based 21st District was in 2012 redrawn in a way that reduces the likelihood of a Democrat succeeding, isn't running again in his formerly swing district. Instead, he’s running to become Wisconsin's lieutenant governor on the Democratic ticket.
He said Monday that he’d like to see Wisconsin have a redistricting system that resembles Iowa’s, where nonpartisan legislative staff draw the maps.
“We have wonderful folks in the Legislative Reference Bureau who could do a wonderful job at creating fair districts,” he said. “I blame both Republicans and Democrats for not adopting a system like that over the last few years.”
Lehman first won the district, narrowly, in 2006, but was defeated by Republican Van Wanggaard in 2010. He then won again, narrowly, in the 2012 recall election against Wanggaard. He said he liked that the district, originally including more of Racine County, had in the past been so highly competitive.
“From the citizen point of view it’s better,” Lehman said. “You get more attention to the whole political process because people are really following it, because they know either side could win.”
“Racine has always been that district -- if you can’t win Racine you can’t control the state Senate,” he added. “So, the citizens of Racine really benefitted from that.
“That’s all been wiped out by the radical redistricting,” he said.
In addition, he said, swing districts are better for bipartisanship.
“From the candidate’s point of view, it’s not the most fun thing in the world,” he said. “You have to raise a lot of money and really work at it to get elected, but you also have to talk to the middle. You have to talk to the regular citizen.”
And in districts that swing heavily toward one party, he said, candidates who win aren’t motivated to cooperate with the other side.
“The middle disappears and then, these people get to Madison and they don’t listen to one another because they’re so sure that they’re going to be re-elected,” he said. “If you just stand back and look at it, anyone would say, 'Yeah, competitive districts are what we ought to have as much as possible throughout Wisconsin.'”