March 21, 2019
Scott Bland, Politico
The National Republican Redistricting Trust, the GOP’s data and legal hub preparing for redistricting after the next census, has brought on former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as the group’s national finance chairman.
Walker is jumping into the redistricting wars with a warning to fellow Republicans: The party needs to step up its focus on political map-drawing to match the organizing efforts of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the Democratic redistricting group founded by former President Barack Obama and led by former Attorney General Eric Holder.
“For donors and activists — absolutely, there is not nearly the level of intensity right of center as there’s been on the far left” surrounding redistricting, Walker said in an interview. “That’s why I’m trying to raise the issue’s importance.”
Walker said next month’s Supreme Court race in his home state is an example of Democrats’ unrelenting focus on setting up redistricting in 2021 and beyond.
The Democratic-backed state Supreme Court candidate has a massive TV advertising advantage heading into the April 2 election, according to a strategist tracking spending in the race, which also features Walker’s former chief legal counsel. Holder recently attended events in Wisconsin, and the NDRC’s nonprofit arm has pumped in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The state Supreme Court could play a major role in drawing future political maps in Wisconsin, if it has to navigate a split between the GOP-controlled Legislature and the Democratic governor in 2021.
“This is just an example of how Democrats have really put this at the forefront, and Republicans need to do the same,” Walker said.
That is Walker’s brief at the NRRT. The GOP redistricting trust launched in 2017 with plans to raise $35 million to gather and warehouse key data for redistricting and fight court battles over political maps, and Walker is now charged with raising the money to power those efforts.
“Governor Walker will be a tremendous asset to the NRRT as we prepare for the next round of redistricting,” Adam Kincaid, NRRT’s executive director, said in a statement.
The group’s budget may even grow as the intensity and number of redistricting fights ratchet up, said Jason Torchinsky, a veteran Republican election lawyer who serves as the NRRT’s general counsel.
“If anything, we might be aiming higher than that, given the resources Democrats are dumping into these cases,” Torchinsky said. He noted that court battles about the current round of political maps are still raging nearly a full decade after they were drawn.
“The fact that the Supreme Court is hearing, in year nine of a redistricting cycle, four cases that impact redistricting — that shows why we need folks like Governor Walker helping out on our side,” Torchinsky added.
The redistricting trust will not be Walker’s sole political project — he told The Washington Post this week that he will also lead a group campaigning for a constitutional balanced budget amendment, and he could also run for office again in the future.
But Walker made clear that he sees redistricting as a fight that could tilt the next decade of national politics.
“I know firsthand the impact the other side’s efforts can have on this,” Walker said.
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