Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The butterfly lands in the Allegheny Valley

If ever there was a strong example of the butterfly in politics, the news is out that Senator Ferlo is not going to seek reelection.. 

Before that, I just have to say it's hard to believe the Senator is only 61.  Seems like he has been a fixture of local politics for longer than that. 

But a few years ago a graduate student hired as an intern for Senator Jane Orie set off a chain of events that led to the unlikely news today that Jim Ferlo would walk away from politics.  First the math, it was long known that population trends within Pennsylvania would take out a couple state house seats and a large part of a state senate district from the Pittsburgh region.  Remember that the first redistricting plan had the Mon Valley district once held.  When Senator Logan left office, the newly elected Jim Brewster was the most junior senator. By longstanding precedent, the most junior incumbent, the most junior of the minority party in Harrisburg that is, was the most vulnerable.  So it made sense that Brewster's district was cut up and divided among neigboring districts. Then the long winding legal case against Senator Orie finally forced her to resign. No legal problems for Senator Orie and likely both she and Ferlo would have had safe seats for another decade. 

 Only in subsequent machinations, the whole redistricting plan was thrown out. When redone, it was Senator Orie's district that was carved up and an entirely new map of senate districts was worked out.  But since Senator Orie's more Republican district was carved up the impact was to make neighboring districts less safe for Democrats. That map was going to be made to work out in favor of the party drawing the maps of course. One truism is that all politics starts with redistricting. 

So Ferlo was left with a district that was far more Republican than it ever was before, certainly with barely much in common with what it looked like in the past.  In truth the 38th district had been stretched ever farther over several decades along the Allegheny River Valley to keep it a relatively safe Democratic district for former Senator Bodack. So it went from one oddly drawn geography that actually made some sense in terms of poltical consistency... to a more compact geography that is going to be far more split in how it votes.  

Not to skip over a long career, at the very least least the yet to be named future city finance director should thank Senator Ferlo for the $$ it does not lose the next time a major skyscraper downtown is sold thanks to the recently revised transfer tax law.  Over decades, it could be a figure not just in the 7 figures, but maybe 8?

So just as a reminder... the district is  changing from this:

to this:

Which I'll point out looks like an awful lot of red, but the population density is nearly the perfect inverse of the colors so it actually balanced out a fair bit.  Still, it's basically a North Hills district with that tumb pushing into Highland Park for the sole purpose of capturing Senator Ferlo's home. Any future race is going to be a bit divisive in that it includes some of the darkest blues and darkest reds in the county. Is there a moderate of either party in the house? 


Anonymous The Wiz said...

At least the new district is a lot less gerrymandered than the previous one. Hope that all redistricting goes so well.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 10:03:00 AM  

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