(Kyle Gillis/NPRI) – In an attempt to give “our new congressperson a huge advantage” — and in response to a request from Democratic Party leaders — a local union’s political action committee has proposed a new congressional district heavily favoring Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford.
Nevada Journal obtained a copy of the proposed new “minority district,” drawn to include the current state-senate district of Horsford, D-Clark. The IBEW Local 357’s political action committee created the proposal at the request of the Nevada State Democratic Party and specifically identifies Horsford as the Democratic candidate for the 2012 general election.
“We wanted to create a ‘minority district’ and give our new congressperson a huge advantage,” the PAC members wrote in their proposal. “After all, this person will start their campaign with the least money and the lowest name recognition. Every member of our group believes our new 2012 general election congressional candidate will be Steven Horsford.”
IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) is a national labor union that reported donating more than $800,000 during the 2010 elections, including $50,000 supporting California Proposal 27, a failed ballot measure that would have eliminated California’s independent redistricting commission.
Local 357, located in Las Vegas, donated more than $78,000 during the 2010 election cycle — 98.4 percent to Democrats.
The proposal was delivered in October 2009. At the time, Horsford was vice chair of the Joint Committee to Study the Requirements for Reapportionment and Redistricting. He is currently a member of the Senate Operations and Elections Committee, which oversees redistricting.
According to the proposal, the new congressional district would cover all of North Las Vegas, including Horsford’s current district, and stretch up into rural Nevada before ending just south of Carson City.
Horsford’s state-senate district is a safe one. In the 2004 and 2008 elections, the Senate majority leader received over 70 percent of the vote. By including his senate district in the prospective fourth congressional district, the IBEW political-action-committee plan could give him a big leg up for Congress, also.
Committee members wrote that their plan would make Nevada “the most un-gerrymandered state in the nation,” but three of the four proposed districts would hold significantly more registered Democrats than Republicans. Only CD-2, currently held by Republican Dean Heller, would have a Republican advantage. Democrats currently hold a 42.7 percent to 35.2 percent registration advantage over Republicans statewide.
According to the IBEW committee’s plan, registered Democrats would outnumber registered Republicans by 33 percent in CD-4, 16 percent in CD-3 (currently held by Republican Joe Heck) and 13 percent in CD-1 (currently held by Democrat Shelley Berkley). CD-2, currently held by Heller, would maintain a 7 percent Republican advantage.
“From a state party perspective,” wrote the IBEW committee, “these numbers are nearly perfect. The candidate who needs the most help gets the most help. Democrats should win all three of these races. There are not enough residents in Clark County for three congressional seats, so someone has to go into the rural counties (for less than 18 percent of their votes). To reward Steven for taking on this chore, we loaded him up in Clark County.”
By catering to Horsford, the IBEW Democrats neglected at least two other rumored congressional candidates: Assembly Speaker John Oceguera and state Sen. Mo Denis.
Both lawmakers serve on their respective chambers’ elections committees, so each will have influence over the drawing process. Oceguera, being Assembly speaker, has more political visibility and has been linked by several media outlets to a 2012 congressional run. His current Assembly district is in the proposed CD-3.
Denis, a Cuban-American, would fit with the Democrats’ goal of creating a “minority district” with a large Hispanic population. Yet his name is not mentioned in the proposal and his current senate district lies in CD-4. A source, however, told Nevada Journal: “He will be running.”
If the Legislature approved the IBEW committee’s plan, the congressional district proposed for Horsford would be the closest of the four to a “majority-minority district,” defined by the National Conference of State Legislatures as a district where a single racial or language minority is the largest population.
State Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Clark, a member of the Senate Operations and Elections Committee, said Republicans also are planning a majority-minority district. She stressed, however, that their biggest goal is creating “fair districts for the state.”
Historically, courts have ruled that some majority-minority districts in Southern states were inequitable. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 required certain states to “obtain administrative or judicial preclearance to any changes in a standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting.”
Nevada is not a “preclearance state,” as defined by the Voting Rights Act, and would not need preliminary federal judicial approval of its districts. The Supreme Court has also ruled that racial gerrymandering is unconstitutional.
Individuals interested in following the redistricting session can attend one of several joint committee hearings held in the upcoming weeks. Hearings will be held March 24 in Fallon, March 31 in Reno and April 2 in Las Vegas.
(Kyle Gillis is an investigative reporter at the Nevada Policy Research Institute. For more information visit http://npri.org/.)
(This article was edited for length. To read the entire article and view redistricting maps, please visit the NPRI site. – Ed.)