News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Indiana Legislature

April 12, 2011

Valley legislators feel squeeze of tighter districts

TERRE HAUTE — A few Wabash Valley lawmakers are facing a whole new political landscape thanks to proposed new district maps unveiled by State House Republicans Monday.

One Indiana lawmaker whose district faces a likely big change is Sen. Tim Skinner, D-Terre Haute. His 38th District, if the new maps are approved, will no longer include Vermillion County or parts of Parke and Warren counties. Instead, it will contain more of Vigo County and a section of Clay County.

“I regret that I have to give up the counties that I’ve become familiar with over the years and all of the people that I’ve gotten to know and work with,” Skinner said Monday evening. “I hate to lose anybody that I’ve been working with in the past, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

Overall, Skinner believes his newly proposed district will remain one in which he would be competitive. While he lost a lot of Democratic voters in Vermillion County, he also shed Republican voters in Parke County. And while he may have added some Republicans in southern Vigo County, he may well have picked up new Democrats in Brazil, he said.

Many of the new districts proposed by GOP lawmakers appear more compact than the previous district maps, which were drawn in 2001. Skinner’s district, for example, is currently very long and narrow. Under the proposed new maps, District 38 would become almost square.

Another Hoosier lawmaker facing a big change is Rep. Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville, whose 45th House District no longer includes a large part of Greene County, which is Borders’ home county. The 45th District also lost part of Daviess County and added a large section of Knox County, including part of the city of Vincennes, which is home to Rep. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes. As a result, the 45th House District is one of about eight under the new maps with two incumbents.

“I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t happy when I saw the map, quite frankly,” Borders said Monday evening. “Kreg Battles probably isn’t really happy either.”

When it comes to redistricting, no incumbent wants to find himself facing another incumbent, Borders said. At least in his case, the other incumbent is a Democrat, not a member of Borders’ own Republican Party. In other parts of the state, some of the new districts include members of the same party, he said.

Meanwhile, Julia Vaughn, a member of the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission, which has been lobbying for less politically-determined district boundaries, said the Republican-drawn maps do appear to be more compact than the previous district lines. House and Senate Republicans get high marks for that, she said.

However, “that’s only one part of the puzzle,” Vaughn added. It’s also important that the new districts be competitive, meaning neither party has an almost automatic win. The redistricting commission has not yet determined whether the new districts increase competitiveness or not, she said.

“We’re going to dig deeper and figure that out,” Vaughn said.

Another Wabash Valley district facing a big change is Indiana House District 42, currently represented by Rep. Dale Grubb, D-Covington. District 42 currently includes parts of Vigo, Vermillion, Parke, Fountain and Warren counties. According to the proposed new map, District 42 would now include part of Clay County and none of Warren County.

Senate District 39, currently represented by Sen. John Waterman, R-Shelburn, could also see a fairly large change. The district used to be shaped like a horseshoe and is now much more square.

Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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