Redistricting kicks off ruthless year of House infighting

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Even without the available data, both parties are quietly anxious about the fate of some members in the yet-to-be-drawn new maps.

In Georgia, Democrats are already bracing for the prospect that they will be left with only one winnable seat in the suburbs north of Atlanta, where Reps. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) and Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.) live. Republicans have trifecta control in Georgia and could create a deep blue seat based in Gwinnett County, leaving the other seat skewed heavily Republican.

In Illinois, GOP Rep. Rodney Davis could be left without a friendly district if Democrats unite Springfield with the bluer parts of Republican Rep. Mike Bost’s district to the South. Meanwhile, Bost could be jostling with freshman Republican Rep. Mary Miller for congressional survival.

Still, the intra-congressional fighting for seats might not be as bad as many expected.

Alabama Republicans and the entire Minnesota delegation got a break when their states held steady at seven and eight seats, respectively. Some of Minnesota’s eight incumbents were already preparing for member-versus-member fights. Instead, Democratic Reps. Dean Phillips and Angie Craig can now each have a seat in the Twin Cities suburbs, and Republican Reps. Michelle Fischbach, Tom Emmer and Pete Stauber won’t have to play musical chairs to the north, west and south.

“I wouldn’t want to run against one of my colleagues like Angie, but I would love to run against Tom Emmer,” Phillips joked in an interview.

The Democratic and Republican congressional campaign arms typically each appoint a designated redistricting chairman, who has the unenviable job of making sure delegations keep open lines of conversation among themselves as maps are drawn.

Republicans tapped Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) for the job, but Democrats are relying heavily an outside group, the Eric Holder-led National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

The redistricting process will be foreign to most of the current Congress. Of the 435 members, roughly 160 were in the House ten years ago. But as political survival instincts kick in, they’ll learn how quickly old friendships sour.

If 2011 is any indication, Congress is about to turn into a soap opera.

It was spring of that year when former Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan lashed out at fellow Missouri Democratic Reps. Lacy Clay and Emmanuel Cleaver, who declined to oppose a GOP-led redistricting plan that placed Carnahan in the same district as Clay. “F— you. Thanks for your help,” he reportedly told Cleaver on the House floor.

In Pennsylvania, former Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire recalled taking then-candidate Mark Critz around his hometown and holding D.C. fundraisers for him when Critz ran in a 2010 special election. Two years later, they were running against each other and Critz tried to get Altmire booted off the ballot.

“You see each other in the hall in the Capitol, and you’re sitting there on the floor and different conversations get overheard,” Altmire said. “And just it’s a very difficult work environment to be able to keep those friendships.”

Perhaps the most notable redistricting spat came in the Los Angeles area between Sherman and Berman, two veteran Democrats. Sherman, who trounced Berman by 20 points, said they both tried to convince the other to run in a brand-new seat with no incumbent in Ventura County — but neither had deep roots there.

In the heat of the campaign, a uniformed security guard stepped between them at a debate after Berman suggested Sherman was “delusional.”

“We’re both very, very polite people, with the possible exception of one minute,” Sherman recollected.

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