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EXCLUSIVE: The National Republican Redistricting Trust isn’t letting what it terms a temporary setback in Florida prevent it from arguing that it bested its Democratic rival and has won the once-in-a-decade congressional redistricting face-off between the two major political parties.
Adam Kincaid, executive director of the NRRT, the GOP’s primary organization to coordinate the party’s redistricting strategy and build resources for its legal defense, highlights that the Democrats’ goal “was to flip the House and keep it. They’ve failed to do that. They flipped it but they’re not going to be able to keep it. The majority’s gone for them this fall and the majority is going to be harder for them to take back moving forward.”
And former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – who along with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has served as a NRRT co-chair – emphasized that the group’s successes are “going to show for Republicans in the fall elections in ‘22 and maybe even better in ‘24.”
Christie and Kincaid spoke exclusively with Fox News hours before a judge in Florida said on Wednesday that he’d partially strike down a redistricting map drawn by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis that would give Republicans considerable advantages. The judge said the governor’s map, which was passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature and quickly challenged by several voting rights groups, was unconstitutional because it diminished the electoral power of Black voters.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at Miami’s Freedom Tower, on Monday, May 9, 2022, in Miami. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier, File)
But Kincaid called the ruling unsurprising and said “we are confident Florida’s congressional map will ultimately be upheld on appeal.”
“The judge was bound by a bad precedent set last decade by a liberal Florida Supreme Court, who wrongly stretched beyond the language of Florida’s constitution to impose an unconstitutional racial gerrymander,” he argued. “The Voting Rights Act does not require a district that connects Jacksonville to Tallahassee and Florida should not be forced to impose a map that violates the 14th Amendment. Florida’s newly enacted congressional map follows the state’s Fair Districts criteria, federal law, and the U.S. Constitution. We are confident Florida’s congressional map will ultimately be upheld on appeal.”
But former Attorney General Eric Holder, who leads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), asserted that the “swift ruling striking down the DeSantis Map clarifies beyond doubt that the Governor was not trying to follow the law by insisting the legislature pass his map configuration – he was actively trying to break it. The DeSantis Map diminishes Black voting power in Florida in clear violation of the state constitution, and it is now up to the members of the Florida Supreme Court to uphold the law as it is written.”
Former Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during the National Action Network Convention in New York, April 3, 2019. (AP)
Holder stressed that “this decision is a step toward granting Black Floridians the opportunity to fairly elect representatives of their choosing to Congress. It is vital that the voices of all voters be heard and for that to be possible Florida needs a new, fair congressional map.”
Legal battles over redistricting are nothing new.
In the years following the 2010 redistricting cycle, courts tossed out maps draw by Republicans in four states – Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas – ruling that Republicans improperly used the party affiliations and race of voters to draw lines that favored GOP candidates, which is known as gerrymandering. Judges redrew the maps, giving the Democrats better chances to win House seats. Republicans argue that without the court rulings, they would currently control the House.
The NRRT was formed in 2017, amid those court rulings, to serve as the central redistricting resource for Republicans in all 50 states. That same year their Democratic counterpart, led by Holder and supported by former President Barack Obama, also formed.
Christie and Kincaid told Fox News that they’ve seen a narrative shift the past couple of months in which party’s had the upper hand in the current redistricting battle.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is interviewed by Fox News on March 21, 2022, at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Goffstown. (Fox News)
“The early media response was that we were getting our clocks cleaned and we weren’t going to be able to make a difference,” Christie noted.
But he pointed to a recent article from the New York Times, a well-known punching bag for GOP leaders, and jokingly said “when last week the New York Times actually wrote a news story that its clear Republicans have won redistricting… I said it was time to retire.”
Kincaid pointed to reports from earlier this year that suggested the Democrats were “over performing on redistricting.”
“The stories that were coming out in January. It’s like writing a story about who won a basketball game at the 10-minute mark of the second half. There was a whole bunch of scoring left to be done. What we knew was that we were in a position to go on a 20-0 run. All of the Democrat [controlled] states were done at that point. All of the commission states [where redistricting is controlled by nonpartisan commissions] were done at that point. And the only thing left on the table were Republican states and New York,” Kincaid said.
Republicans last month won a major legal victory in New York in their challenge against congressional and state Senate lines drawn by the Democratic majority in the blue state.
“We went all in on New York. We knew New York was going to be a great test case for the country,” Kincaid said. “Our point has been – the state constitutions – if they’re going to be applied to redistricting, should be applied.”
And Christie emphasized “when that map was thrown out as summarily as it was in New York, I think that was the last shoe to drop in terms of whether this was going to be a winning effort for us or not.”
With the redistricting process complete in all but five states – court cases continue in New York, Florida and Kansas, and Missouri and New Hampshire have yet to enact congressional maps – Kincaid stressed that “we’re going to be better than anybody thought we were going to be six weeks ago, and we’re pretty happy with the results.”
Republicans need a net gain of just five seats in the 435-member House in November’s elections to regain the majority they lost in the 2018 midterms, and Kincaid predicted that “with the [redistricting] victories, we’re probably at four to five more seats than we otherwise would be just through redistricting that we can go get.”
“We’ll be up a couple seats from where we were going into it and that’s a huge win considering the resource disadvantage,” he said. “We don’t have unlimited resources like them [the NDRC]. So we’ve been very specific and targeted where we’ve invested, and those targeted investments have paid off.”
“We unequivocally stopped Republicans from drawing their way to a permanent majority in Congress – they tried to gerrymander their way to power like they did 10 years ago, and we stopped them,” NDRC president Kelly Burton highlighted in a statement to Fox News.
And Burton argued that “the reason they are engaging in reckless gerrymandering in the 11th hour – like ignoring court orders in Ohio and Ron DeSantis forcing a clearly unconstitutional map upon the people of Florida – is because they failed to draw themselves into a congressional majority everywhere else. The congressional map is now fairer than it has been for decades, and these desperate, illegitimate power grabs are not the actions of people happy about that outcome.”
Kincaid points to a bigger potential payoff that he says has been underreported.
“I think the bigger win is the number of seats that we were able to shore up that were competitive, the amount of resources that we’re going to be able to take from playing defense and going on offense,” he said. “While redistricting probably gives us four or five more targets, the resource shift has been massive.”
He claimed that “there’s about 16 Republican seats in states that we control that we’ve taken completely off the board, that are no longer competitive. Those 16 seats – Republicans spent $55 million on defense in 2020 in those seats. That’s $55 million that we can take and now go on offense, or protect Republican incumbents in new places. What we’ve done is we’ve shifted not just the battlefield but the resources in that battlefield…. The resource shift is going to be a massive part of this redistricting story that I don’t think people have fully grasped yet.”
Christie stressed that “the resource shift is an important weapon we’ve now given to [House GOP leader] Kevin McCarthy. By doing these things, he can now really focus on seats that are competitive that he can flip without having to worry nearly as much about seats that he has to defend. And that I think is great service we’ve done in the ’22 cycle and moving forward.”
And Christie, who helped lead fundraising efforts for the NRRT, predicted that “our success will make donors even more likely to continue to support our efforts because they’ve seen we know how to make a difference.”