ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A new Republican group on Thursday launched a campaign to ensure the GOP is well-positioned to draw the political boundaries that will determine future Congresses after the 2020 census.
The National Republican Redistricting Trust said it will raise $35 million over the next three years so that it can fight future redistricting battles. It is designed as a counterweight to an organization headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder and backed by former President Barack Obama.
Republicans have used their control of a majority of statehouses to fashion boundaries that favor their candidates. The GOP claimed more than 55 percent of the seats in the House in the last election even though they edged Democratic candidates by just 1 percentage point in total votes.
Guy Harrison, senior adviser for the new group, said Democrats want to blame redistricting for that difference, but he views it differently.
"You will notice how many Republicans are sitting in districts that Clinton won, districts that Obama won. Yet we still win those districts. That is not a cause of redistricting," said Harrison, a former executive director at the National Republican Congressional Committee. "That is a cause of us having quality candidates that can win the unique circumstances of those districts."
One difference with the Democratic-leaning group is that the GOP organization will focus on advising Republicans on using data and the law to shape districts, rather than spending money on individual candidates. One priority will be ensuring that a city that tends to vote Democratic remains in a single district and its voters are not divided among several districts.
The Republican stranglehold on power in Washington after the November elections has sparked a resurgence of Democratic interest in state and local elections. Holder's organization aims to marshal the resources of the former president, liberal advocacy groups, the Democratic Governors Association and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in gaining the power to recraft often creatively drawn districts in a manner that benefits their party.
Harrison said the Republican group plans to be active in Democratic-leaning states where he said large cities and counties are split up to help Democrats elsewhere in the state. He cited Chicago and Baltimore as examples and said "we believe the right way to do it to make sure one portion of the state is not running the rest of the state."
"It's amazing how much they had to carve up Baltimore to make sure they reduced the Republican congressional district down by one," Harrison said.
He said the group would actively explore where it can legally challenge such moves. "One of things we failed to do last cycle was go on offense in some of these states," he said.