That old saying, Be careful what you wish for? It was ringing in David Landau’s ears Friday and giving him nausea just days before Pennsylvania’s congressional districts were very likely to be redrawn by the state Supreme Court in favor of his party.
The gerrymandering knife, he was finding out, cuts both ways. And on Friday morning, Landau was staring right at its sharp edge, the weapon pointing straight at the heart of Delaware County.
The insanely gerrymandered Seventh Congressional District is in Landau’s backyard. The laughable scribble of Republican political opportunism dating to 2011 was about to be redrawn by a Democratic-majority court.
But instead of his voters being on the verge of getting a map of democratic self-determination, Landau was starting to think another bad deal was on the horizon.
This time, the villains weren’t Republicans. The enemy was from his own camp.
“They left us on the cutting-room floor,” Landau said. “It’s really outrageous.”
The they are Democratic power brokers in the state House, Senate, and Gov. Wolf himself. All submitted proposed new maps to the court this past week as the justices prepared to redraw boundaries of all 18 congressional districts in Pennsylvania. The new map is to be revealed Monday.
Nearly all of the friendly-suggestion maps submitted by Democrats in the lawsuit that brought this case to the Supreme Court effectively gave every suburban county of Philadelphia its own congressional district. Except Delaware County. Even the one submitted at the end of the night Thursday by Wolf.
I can only imagine Landau’s disgust Friday morning. Like the moment you realize your aunts, uncles, and really fun cousins don’t really like your family, after all.
Landau is chairman of the Democratic Party in Delaware County — the political equivalent of the poor cousin in a party long dominated by more powerful Democrats in Philadelphia and neighboring Montgomery County.
For what seems very much like forever, Delaware County Democrats had been underdogs in a GOP-stronghold county bordering Philadelphia. They are now, after more than a century pinned on their backs, waging a historic takeover of the GOP machine.
Voters in that county are so supercharged that nearly a dozen want to run for the Seventh District seat held by recently scandalized Republican Congressman Pat Meehan.
It’s the closest any of them could possibly get to figuratively slapping President Trump in the face: Take back the House and thwart the man in the White House.
Meehan’s district is so preposterously gerrymandered — extending from densely populated Delaware County across four other counties into Amish territory — it played a major part in the successful court challenge leading to a redrawing of all of the state’s congressional maps.
But politics — even when you’re on the upswing — can be a bitter pill. Hence, the nausea.
On Friday, hours after Wolf submitted his proposed map to the Democratic-majority Supreme Court, Landau said one thing seemed clear.
Democratic power brokers in the GOP-controlled state legislature and elsewhere had all but left Delaware County Democrats for dead in the final stretch of the gerrymandering map battle.
“We’re the poster child for gerrymandering, and we end up shredded in most of the maps?” Landau said. “It just boggles the mind.”
The Democratic maps seemed designed to help brethren in Philadelphia (the city would hold three districts including a big chunk of Delaware County voters in one map.) One drawing would move the Seventh entirely to Montgomery County (home to the state’s Democratic attorney general, its former state party chief, and its recently embattled veteran State Sen. Daylin Leach). Chester and Bucks Counties get their own seats, too.
Rep. Robert Brady, the Philadelphia party chairman whose First District seat would, in one mapmaker’s imagining, take over Democratic sections of Delaware County currently in the Seventh, understands Landau’s anxiety.
“I don’t blame them for feeling a little apprehensive,” Brady said. It will be open season on his seat. Brady is not running for reelection.
Delaware County Democrats have no one like Brady — powerful elected veteran lawmakers who could have advocated strongly on their behalf over the last few weeks. They are still climbing the party power ladder statewide.
But party power brokers in Washington, too, have been on the Pennsylvania case. A half-dozen or so of the state’s congressional districts are being eyed by national Democrats in their quest to take back control of the House this fall.
It’s hard to buy that all these maps edging out Delaware County were apolitical. Please.
Interim state party chairman Jack Hanna said that what Landau’s Democrats have done is impressive. That doesn’t mean that someone, come Monday, won’t draw a shorter straw than someone else.
“The work that they’ve done there is extraordinary,” Hanna said. “That said, not everyone is going to get the kind of designed district that they want.”
At the end of the day, Hanna said, changing the status quo will require “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Or, in this case, Cain quite possibly killing his brother, Abel.