It looks as if at least one New Jersey congressman is going to get coal in his stocking this year.
John Farmer, the Rutgers-Newark Law School dean appointed as the independent tie-breaker for the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission, said yesterday he expects the commission to meet from December 19 to December 21 in an attempt to complete a new congressional map before Christmas, rather than pushing up against the Jan. 17, 2012 deadline.
With New Jersey losing one congressional seat because its population grew more slowly than the nation as a whole, the commission has the unenviable task of deciding which two of the state's seven Democrats and six Republicans will wind up in a head-to-head battle in a single district in the 2012 election.
"When I try cases, I always like to have a jury on Christmas Week when I want to get a result," Farmer said in an interview at the conclusion of the panel's third public hearing in New Brunswick yesterday afternoon. "We'll see if it holds for a process as complex as this one."
Farmer said he has 17 law students from Rutgers-Newark and Rutgers-Camden conducting detailed studies of the makeup of each of the current congressional districts, and added that he would be meeting individually not only with the 13 incumbent New Jersey congressman, but also with their potential challengers.
Robert Gordon of the Bayshore Tea Party, which took an active role in the legislative redistricting process last spring, submitted a proposed map yesterday, but Farmer said neither the five-member Democratic delegation nor the five-member GOP delegation has submitted a redistricting map to him for his consideration yet. "That doesn't mean they haven't been working on them," Farmer said. "I expect we'll be seeing maps from both parties within the next few weeks." Yesterday, the leaders of the two caucuses said they were waiting for Farmer to take the lead in beginning the process of trying to bring the parties together.
"It's the job of the independent tie-breaker to try to reach out to both parties to see if we can reach a compromise," said former Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, the Camden County Democrat who heads the five-member Democratic caucus. "Both caucuses are developing their own maps and strategies, but the process is really driven by the independent member."
"It's up to the Dean," Michael DuHaime, Governor Christie's campaign strategist who is the leader of the five-member GOP caucus, commented succinctly.
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