Portage County Democrats upset over GOP redistricting plans
PORTAGE COUNTY (WAOW) -- Election Day next year may look a lot different to voters in Portage County.
Republican state lawmakers want to move the entire county out of its longtime congressional district.
But Portage County Democrats are not happy.
"This is a huge amount of people in and out of one district," said Laura Hauser-Menting, co-chair of the Portage County Democratic Party.
Under the plan, Portage County would move to the third congressional district in the southwest part of the state. Its representative, Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, lives in La Crosse.
"We're not part of that," said Hauser-Menting. "We don't have the same issues, we don't have the same industries, we don't have the same people."
Portage County Republicans say even though the move may not be ideal, they'll move on.
"We've known that that was going to probably happen, even though thinking, hoping that it wouldn't," said Kathy Olszewski, co-chair of the Portage County Republican Party. "But we thought that it would, and we're just going to move on."
The advantages to moving Portage County out of the seventh district are clear. Portage County leans democratic, and political experts say getting rid of it will help make Republican Rep. Sean Duffy's district safer for him.
"They removed a very large democratic portion of the district, which of course is the Portage County-Stevens Point area, and Wisconsin Rapids," said Ed Miller, political science professor at UWSP.
A spokesman for Rep. Duffy, Daniel Son, released a statement to the proposed changes.
"Congressman Duffy didn't draw his own map," said Son. "The map makes modest changes to reflect statewide population shifts, but unlike what the Democrats are proposing in Illinois, doesn't make drastic partisan gerrymandering the goal. Congressman Duffy is waiting to see what happens next at the state level and will gladly represent whatever the 7th ends up looking like."
Meantime, Republicans are moving quickly to approve the maps. They plan to start voting on the changes as soon as July 19.
"To try to have it done before the recall elections so that the Republicans will clearly be able to control both houses of the Legislature and the governor," said Miller.
But the top Democrat in the Wisconsin State Assembly is urging Gov. Scott Walker to reject the proposed redistricting maps. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said if Walker tried to come up with a more nonpartisan approach to redistricting, it would go a long way toward restoring trust in the Statehouse following months of deeply partisan fights.