Rep. Costello: Map de­ci­sion ‘cor­rupt;’ im­peach jus­tices

6th Dis­trict rep claims state Supreme Court jus­tices are guilty of ‘ju­di­cial ac­tivism’

Northern Berks Patriot Item - - LOCAL NEWS - By Michael P. Rel­la­han mrel­la­[email protected]­tu­ry­ @Ch­escoCourtNews on Twit­ter To con­tact Dig­i­tal First Me­dia staff writer Michael P. Rel­la­han call 610-6961544.

U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, R-6th Dist., is lash­ing out at Demo­cratic of­fi­cials in Har­ris­burg, charg­ing that the state Supreme Court’s ma­jor­ity and Gov. Tom Wolf have col­luded in re­draw­ing the state’s con­gres­sional dis­trict map, tar­get­ing him in par­tic­u­lar to turn his dis­trict in his op­po­nent’s fa­vor in the Novem­ber elec­tion.

“I think that this was a po­lit­i­cally cor­rupt process,” Costello said from his of­fice at the His­toric Chester County Court­house. He called on the state Leg­is­la­ture to be­gin im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings against those on the high court who had voted in fa­vor of the redis­trict­ing and re­drew the map, “be­hind closed doors.”

He said the court gave the state Leg­is­la­ture lit­tle time to act on its or­der to re­draw the state’s po­lit­i­cal map, and that the gover­nor re­fused to ne­go­ti­ate with the Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity lead­ers in the two chambers of the Gen­eral Assem­bly. The two branches worked to­gether in vi­o­la­tion of the state con­sti­tu­tion, which gives the Leg­is­la­ture the power to set elec­tion dis­tricts, he claimed.

In re­sponse, the gover­nor’s spokesman as­serted that Costello had pro­vided no con­crete proof to ver­ify his claims. “There is no ev­i­dence,” said Press Sec­re­tary J.J. Ab­bott.

Costello, in mak­ing his ar­gu­ment, said that Wolf re­fused to ne­go­ti­ate with the Leg­is­la­ture over the way the new maps should be drawn; “There­fore his re­fusal guar­an­teed the court would draw the map. He there­fore col­luded with the court to al­low the court to un­con­sti­tu­tion­ally draw a par­ti­san map.”

The re­sult, he said, was a tainted new map of the state’s 18 con­gres­sional dis­tricts. “I thought the (state) Supreme Court would try to pre­tend or dis­guise their par­ti­san­ship. But, in terms of my seat, it be­comes very ob­vi­ous it was a po­lit­i­cal power play. It’s known that the jus­tices were funded by lib­eral forces. This is what they paid for, I guess.”

Cit­ing cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence, Costello ac­cused Wolf of col­lu­sion be­cause he al­legedly failed to ne­go­ti­ate with the Leg­is­la­ture over a new map. The con­gress­man sug­gested it was be­cause the gover­nor wanted the court to draw bound­aries that would af­fect his re-elec­tion.

“It was rigged,” Costello told the Daily Lo­cal News. “It was rigged from the start.”

The state’s high court, led by its Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity, im­posed a new con­gres­sional dis­trict map for the state’s 2018 elec­tions on Mon­day, po­ten­tially giv­ing Democrats a boost in their quest to cap­ture con­trol of the U.S. House, un­less Repub­li­cans can stop it in fed­eral court.

The map of Penn­syl­va­nia’s 18 con­gres­sional dis­tricts is to be in ef­fect for the May 15 pri­mary and sub­stan­tially over­hauls a Repub­li­can­drawn con­gres­sional map widely viewed as among the na­tion’s most ger­ry­man­dered. The map was ap­proved in a 4-3 de­ci­sion, with four Demo­cratic jus­tices back­ing it and one Demo­cratic jus­tice sid­ing with two Repub­li­cans against it.

The di­vided court ap­pears to have drawn its own map with the help of a Stan­ford Univer­sity law pro­fes­sor, although some dis­trict de­signs are sim­i­lar to pro­pos­als sub­mit­ted to the court by Democrats.

Most sig­nif­i­cantly, the new map gives Democrats a bet­ter shot at win­ning a cou­ple more seats, par­tic­u­larly in Philadel­phia’s heav­ily pop­u­lated and mod­er­ate suburbs. Po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors im­me­di­ately seized on the way the new map plays to Costello’s dis­ad­van­tage, as it moved Repub­li­can ar­eas of his cur­rent dis­trict away and added new Demo­cratic ones.

The new map puts all of Chester County into one dis­trict, the 6th, in­stead of hav­ing it split among three sep­a­rate ones. It erases from the dis­trict por­tions of Le­banon and Mont­gomery coun­ties that had leaned Repub­li­can, and re­draws the bound­aries into Berks County to in­clude the City of Read­ing and its suburbs, which are heav­ily Demo­cratic.

A New York Times map anal­y­sis of the new map shows Chester County to have sig­nif­i­cant Demo­cratic vote pat­terns in its north­east­ern, cen­tral, and south cen­tral mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, and high GOP turnout in south­ern, far north­ern, and western mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. “The re­sult is a dis­trict that voted for Mrs. (Hil­lary) Clin­ton by nine points,” the pa­per re­ported. “It is fair to say that the in­cum­bent rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Ryan Costello, is in very se­ri­ous trou­ble, and one won­ders whether he will even be in­clined to seek re-elec­tion.”

“Redis­trict­ing doesn’t just move the un­der­ly­ing par­ti­san­ship of a dis­trict,” tweeted Nate Cohn, who cowrote the Times’ story. “It also erodes the ad­van­tage of in­cum­bency. “Clin­ton+9” is bad enough, but it un­der­states the blow that Costello just took.”

Ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle in the Cook Po­lit­i­cal Re­port, an in­de­pen­dent, non-par­ti­san na­tional news­let­ter, the 6th Dis­trict had flipped from a Par­ti­san Voter In­dex rat­ing of R+2 — that is, it would per­form 2 per­cent bet­ter for Repub­li­can can­di­dates than Democrats in na­tion­wide re­sults — to D+2, a boon for the Democrats. The news­let­ter had ear­lier noted that Costello was num­ber five in the Top 10 of Repub­li­can mem­bers of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives who voted against their party, with 15 per­cent of his votes go­ing across the aisle.

The new map was hailed by Democrats as be­ing fairer than the pre­vi­ous “ger­ry­man­dered” map, and de­cried by Repub­li­cans as the prod­uct of ju­di­cial over­reach. Penn­syl­va­nia Repub­li­can Party Chair­man Val DiGior­gio on Tues­day vowed the GOP would con­test the map and the de­ci­sion that brought it about in fed­eral court, although a pre­vi­ous at­tempt seek­ing an in­ter­ven­tion by at­tempt­ing to get the U.S. Supreme Court in­volved in the case failed.

Costello’s likely Demo­cratic op­po­nent, busi­ness­woman Chrissie Houla­han, praised the court’s de­ci­sion.

The pair were ex­pected to wage a fierce, costly, and com­pet­i­tive race through the year, even be­fore the court weighed in on the ger­ry­man­der­ing is­sue last month. As of the end of 2017, Costello had $1.3 mil­lion on hand in cam­paign funds af­ter rais­ing $336,534 in the last quar­ter of the year. Houla­han, mean­while, had $950,390 in the bank af­ter tak­ing in $417,041 in the same pe­riod.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump urged state Repub­li­cans to chal­lenge the court’s map.

“Hope Repub­li­cans in the Great State of Penn­syl­va­nia chal­lenge the new ‘pushed’ Con­gres­sional Map, all the way to the Supreme Court, if nec­es­sary. Your Orig­i­nal was cor­rect! Don’t let the Dems take elec­tions away from you so that they can raise taxes & waste money!” he tweeted.

The Demo­cratic-ma­jor­ity state Supreme Court ruled last month in a party-line de­ci­sion that the dis­trict bound­aries un­con­sti­tu­tion­ally put par­ti­san in­ter­ests above neu­tral line-draw­ing cri­te­ria, such as keep­ing dis­tricts com­pact and elim­i­nat­ing mu­nic­i­pal and county di­vi­sions.

It’s the first time a state court threw out con­gres­sional bound­aries in a par­ti­san ger­ry­man­der­ing case, this one brought by reg­is­tered Demo­cratic vot­ers and the League of Women Vot­ers last June.

Repub­li­cans ap­pear to face an up­hill bat­tle in fed­eral court.

Michael Mor­ley, a con­sti­tu­tional law pro­fes­sor at Barry Univer­sity in Florida, said fed­eral courts are nor­mally re­luc­tant to undo a state court de­ci­sion.

“I think it will be a ma­jor ob­sta­cle and a ma­jor chal­lenge to get around it,” Mor­ley said.

Penn­syl­va­nia’s Repub­li­can del­e­ga­tion has pro­vided a cru­cial pil­lar of sup­port for Repub­li­can con­trol of the U.S. House since 2010.

Repub­li­cans who con­trolled the Leg­is­la­ture and the gover­nor’s of­fice af­ter the 2010 cen­sus crafted the now-in­val­i­dated map to elect Repub­li­cans and suc­ceeded in that aim: Repub­li­cans won 13 of 18 seats in three straight elec­tions even though Penn­syl­va­nia’s reg­is­tered Demo­cratic vot­ers out­num­ber Repub­li­cans.

Mean­while, sit­ting con­gress­men, dozens of wouldbe can­di­dates and mil­lions of vot­ers were be­gin­ning to sort out which dis­trict they live in barely a month be­fore the can­di­dates’ dead­line to sub­mit pa­per­work to run.

Some races are wide open: There are six in­cum­bents elected in 2016 not run­ning again, the most in four decades.

Costello said on Tues­day that he would not com­ment di­rectly on his plans to seek re-elec­tion, given the news of the new map. He said he would is­sue a state­ment in the com­ing week be­fore nom­i­nat­ing pe­ti­tions be­gin to be cir­cu­lated. He noted that for months, po­lit­i­cal work­ers in both par­ties had been set on cam­paign­ing in the old 6th Dis­trict.

“I had every ex­pec­ta­tion of run­ning again,” he said. “Now, I haven’t even fully pro­cessed what just hap­pened over the past day.”

Again call­ing the court’s ac­tion a “po­lit­i­cally cor­rupt de­ci­sion,” Costello called on the Leg­is­la­ture to act. “I think the court did enough in the way of ju­di­cial ac­tivism to be im­peached. And I hope that all the state se­na­tors and rep­re­sen­ta­tives who have been sent to Har­ris­burg by the vot­ers of Chester County will vote for im­peach­ment. If they don’t, (they are al­low­ing the jus­tices) to vi­o­late the con­sti­tu­tion.”


The new Penn­syl­va­nia con­gres­sional dis­tricts re­drawn by the Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity on the Penn­syl­va­nia Supreme Court fa­vor Demo­cratic can­di­dates run­ning in Novem­ber.

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