Holder talks gerrymandering and 2020 at Politics and Eggs As originally appearing in Union Leader
By Travis R. Morin
GOFFSTOWN — Amid widespread speculation about his 2020 presidential ambitions, former Attorney General Eric Holder paid a visit to the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on Friday morning to deliver an unequivocal argument against what he views as widespread gerrymandering of state and federal congressional districts across the country.
Participating in the institute’s ongoing Politics and Eggs series at St. Anselm College, the nation’s former top lawman in the Obama administration, and current chairman of the Democratic Party’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), left little room for misunderstanding his views on gerrymandering.
“It might strike you all as a bit hyperbolic, but I think our democracy is under attack,” Holder said. “We have had misrepresentation instead of representation — that’s had a real impact on our nation and it’s part of the reason we have dysfunction in D.C.
“If you’re in a safe district, you don’t have to worry about the general election. All you have to worry about is a primary. As a result, people drift further and further to the right in the Republican Party, and don’t want to interact with or compromise with their Democratic counterparts.”
While much of his criticism was directed at Republican-led redistricting efforts following the party’s state and federal victories in 2010, Holder also took aim at Democratic efforts to create safe districts.
Specifically, Holder singled out New Hampshire’s 2nd Executive Council seat, currently held by first-term Councilor Andru Volinsky. The district arcs across the width of the state from Keene to Concord, Durham, and Somersworth and is widely seen as a safe Democratic seat.
Referring to the district as “The Dragon” because of its shape, Holder designated the seat as a textbook example of partisan gerrymandering.
“If you want to look at classic gerrymandering, look at District 2,” said Holder. “The Executive Council is a very important body here in New Hampshire, and it seems to me that what you’ve got there is what you see in other states: these weirdly drawn districts that come up with partisan result.”
Holder only briefly addressed his plans for 2020.
“I’m here to talk about the NDRC. What I’ve said about the presidency is that it’s something I’m considering, I’ll make a decision on that sometime next year,” he said.
On its website, the NDRC has put New Hampshire’s gubernatorial, state House and state Senate races on their Watch List for the 2018 midterm elections. Holder said that this designation was a result political imbalance in the State House.
“This is a classic swing state, and there are 43 more Republicans than you have Democrats in your State House,” Holder said. “As we look at it, it seems to us that is a function of gerrymandering.”
Holder went on to say that the organization would likely play an active role in the state’s 2018 election.
“We’ll be doing a variety of things,” he said. “We’ll look and see how we can be most helpful, whether it’s buying ads or direct support of candidates.”
Holder stressed that the NDRC’s efforts are not an attempt to gerrymander for Democrats, but he did clearly state that one of the organization’s goals was to support Democratic candidates in the 2018 election.
“In New Hampshire, we want to make sure that we have a Democrat in the discussion when congressional lines are redrawn in 2021,” Holder said. “So, we’re up here trying to have an influence on state legislative races and your governor’s race.”
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, who was in attendance, echoed Holder’s concerns about partisan gerrymandering in the Granite State.
“I think the 2012 election showed what the gerrymandering accomplished,” Buckley said. “Then-Governor Hassan was elected by double digits, Barack Obama carried the state, Democrats won both congressional seats, yet the Republicans held the state Senate 11-13. It is a real problem, and we have it in our platform to start a nonpartisan redistricting commission. We hope Republicans agree.”
The New Hampshire Republican Party’s platform makes no mention of congressional redistricting, and NHGOP officials could not be reached for comment.
State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, expressed similar feelings about state level districts.
“There’s no question that the gerrymandering here is unbelievable and you have to be in the majority to deal with it, or you have to make sure that an independent entity is doing the redistricting,” he added.
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