Christensen: GOP's turn at trough

Staff WriterDecember 19, 2010 

In 1820, Congressman Henry Walker of Buncombe County delivered a dull, irrelevant speech on the House floor on the Missouri Compromise, apologizing to his impatient fellow lawmakers that "I'm talking for Buncombe."

The term was later derisively repeated, caught on, and then was shortened from Buncombe to "bunk." It came to be used to describe pretentious nonsense and claptrap. (As Henry Ford once said: "History is bunk.")

Raleigh had its share of bunk last week on the subject of redistricting, which saw both the Democratic and Republican parties jump the fence from their historical positions.

As you probably know, after the census every 10 years, the legislature is required to draw new legislative and congressional districts. The legislature will draw new districts when it convenes next month.

Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue last week appeared before the House GOP caucus and proposed that the incoming Republican legislature create an independent redistricting commission to ensure fairness in drawing legislative and congressional maps.

In her long public career, there is no record of Perdue ever having favored an independent redistricting commission.

The reason, of course, is that until the November elections, the Democrats were in control and drew districts designed to help keep them in power.

But now that the new Republican legislative majority is going to draw the new maps, Perdue has become a born-again reformer.

When Democrats were in control, Republicans were the most vocal advocates for redistricting reform, with incoming House Republican Majority leader Skip Stam of Apex leading the charge.

GOP leaders now say that there is not time to create a commission next year but that they will form a panel to study forming one for the 2020 redistricting.

"There is plenty of time," said former Rep. Rick Eddins, a Republican from Rolesville, who served as co-chairman of the House Redistricting Committee last time.

Eddins said he has heard from plenty of tea party folks and independents who are complaining that the Republicans are acting just like the Democrats now that they have gained power.

"If Republicans want to have a chance down the road, they need to be different," Eddins said.

But the GOP has been waiting for this moment for a long time. Any move toward an independent redistricting commission would likely precipitate a party revolt.

Which reminds me of a story that political operative Ben Roney once told me about the Scott brothers - Kerr, who was elected governor in 1948, and his brother Ralph, a state senator. When Ralph wanted to use a state-owned fishing boat docked at Morehead City that was often used by Democratic bigwigs, the governor turned him down.

"Kerr, as hard as we worked to win this election," Ralph said, "as soon as we get to the trough you cut off the slop."

It is now the GOP's turn at the trough. or 919-829-4532

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