Branstad says he'll sign new district maps

Hawk Eye, The (Burlington, IA) - Saturday, April 16, 2011
Author: By MIKE GLOVER ; Associated Press
JOHNSTON -- Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said Friday he expects to see multiple state legislators, as well as one congressman, move after he signs new maps of congressional and legislative districts into law. 

The maps pit dozens of incumbents against each other. With Iowa losing one of its five seats in Congress due to slow population growth, the redistricting plan places Republican Reps. Tom Latham and Steve King in one of four new districts and Democratic Reps. Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack in another. Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell would remain in his district, and the remaining district would not have an incumbent. 

But Loebsack has already said he will avoid a conflict with Braley by moving one county south to the new district that has no incumbent, and Latham announced earlier Friday he would move into Boswell's district to run against him rather than another Republican. 

Branstad said during a taping of Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program airing later in the weekend he also expects some state legislators to move because the plan puts 41 of them in districts with other incumbents. 

"It could be good for the real estate business," he said. 

Neither Latham nor Boswell will be able to use the move as a campaign issue, because Boswell moved from his southern Iowa home to Des Moines 10 years ago after he got tossed into an unfriendly district in the last redistricting. 

"It's going to be very interesting, you have two long-time incumbents, two very effective campaigners," Branstad said of the matchup. 

He said he decided to sign the plan into law after talking to all five representatives, and while all weren't happy with the plan, they agreed a second proposal could be worse. 

Part of the reason the plan has had support is the nonpartisan manner in which the maps were drawn. Under Iowa's unique redistricting process, nonpartisan legislative staffers prepared proposed new maps that lawmakers can't alter, but can only approve or reject. Those staffers are banned from considering voter registration numbers or where incumbents live in preparing the new map. They are supposed to make the districts as equal as possible in population. 

"Although nothing is perfect, they did a very good job of keeping the variance between the districts very minimal," Branstad said.

The Republican governor said he will sign the legislation as soon as it arrives in his office, which he expects to happen early next week. 

"I think our system really is pretty nonpartisan," Branstad said. "I don't think it really gives an advantage to either side. There may be an advantage to one party or the other in a particular district where you have incumbents thrown together." 

He said he expected all four congressional districts to have competitive races, although he conceded King has an edge in his northwest Iowa district. King announced Friday he will seek another term in next year's election.