Ex-Pa. House leader Reed: Supremes need to do redistricting in public | Monday Morning Coffee

Four years after his congressional ambitions were scuttled, Dave Reed still has thoughts

February 7, 2022 7:13 am

Former Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana (Photo via City & State Pa.)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Back in 2018 — which now seems like a lifetime ago in Pennsylvania politics — Republican Dave Reed decided to ditch his gig as the top-ranking Republican in the state House, where he’d served since 2003, and run for Congress.

By 2018, Reed had spent three years as House GOP leader, working under then-Speaker Mike Turzai, and riding herd over a caucus that had grown steadily more conservative. After talking it over with his family, he decided to try to move to Washington (which, for some reason, he thought would be less contentious than Harrisburg).

Just as he made that decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed the Keystone State’s congressional mapruling it unconstitutionally gerrymandered, and replaced it with one it drew on its own.

Reed, who found himself drawn out of the then 9th Congressional District where he wanted to run, scrapped his plans, and instead announced his retirement.

Four years later, Reed, 43, is now the Pennsylvania president of First Commonwealth Bank, a financial services company based in his hometown of Indiana, Pa.

And with it clear that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will once again handle the decennial redrawing of the commonwealth’s congressional map, Reed told the Capital-Star that he’d like the high court and its mapmakers to make the new redraw as transparent as possible, to explain the criteria they’re going to use in that process, and to hold those map-making discussions publicly.

The conversation below has been lightly edited for clarity and content.

The Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg (Capital-Star file)

Q: You explained some of your rationale for wanting to fix redistricting in an op-Ed for City & State Pa. earlier this month. But what do you think is wrong with the process, and what do you want to do about it?

A: The big thing that I talked about is an openness and transparency to the process. Everything has changed in the last couple of decades. With technology anyone can draw a map. It’s not shocking [that Gov. Tom Wolf] and the Legislature didn’t come to terms — I’m not sure they really tried. Now that it’s been punted to the courts, they clearly have to have this discussion in public.

The days of the old gerrymander should be over … We should have maps that make sense from a community perspective, and a balance-of-power perspective. That means some districts will be overwhelmingly Democrat, and some will be overwhelmingly Republican. You can’t draw a Democratic district in the Northern Tier. And you can’t draw a Republican district in Philadelphia.

For the other districts, you have to get to the closest thing to being even as is possible. As the districts get more and more gerrymandered, you get extremes coming through on both sides, and you end up having a government that’s dysfunctional.

Pa. House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny (“Friends of Mike Turzai” / WikiMedia Commons)

Q: I don’t mean to be impolite here, but I’m going to impolite: But if you were so concerned about unfair maps and gerrymandering, as you say you are, why didn’t you do anything about it when you had the chance? 

A: You have to remember, I wasn’t leader [during the last remapping] in 2011. [Former House Speaker] Mike Turzai was leader, and he drew the maps in 2011. During my time as leader, I looked for a fairer way to draw the maps. But before I became leader, it was not something that drew my attention more. For those who wanted to see government do things, it was a great hindrance to that occurring.

(Editor’s Note: Reed announced his support for redistricting reform — in May 2018just about two months after he ended his congressional campaign, and as he got ready to leave the House at year’s end.)

The system always used was not the best system out there. But you had pure politics at play. As soon as the 2015 judicial elections happened [when Democrats took control of the state Supreme Court], it was clear the Democrats would never agree to a bipartisan commission [which Reed suggested in 2018, Ed.] The Democrats had waited decades to havae control of the process. Why would they ever agree to it? It wasn’t going to happen.

The Pennsylvania congressional map proposed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf (Capital-Star file).

Q: So, all things being equal, what’s Dave Reed’s Platonic ideal? What would you like to see happen?

A: For this year, I would just like to see the Supreme Court, if they’re to be the final arbiter, publicly state that here’s the criteria they’re going to use, and have that discussion in public. And then when they choose a map, tell us why they choose a map. There’s no other way for this map to get done for this redistricting [except by the court]. I now live in a world where I can actually be idealistic a little bit. I get yelled at far less now.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
In this week’s edition of The Numbers RacketCassie Miller takes a look at where Pennsylvania falls in the Great Resignation.

In a special report, our friends at run down how states, including Pennsylvania, are safeguarding against fraud once the flow of billions of dollars in federal infrastructure money begins.

From our partners at City & State Pa., here are 10 weird laws that are still on the books in Pennsylvania.

En la Estrella-Capital: Con Pa. Ante la “escasez crítica”, el médico general del estado exige donaciones. Y las pruebas de COVID gratuitas en el hogar se le entregarán a los beneficiarios de Medicare esta primavera.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Not everyone is male or female: Two experts explain the debate over sex designation. And struggling young workers, our economic backbone, need help, Bob Lewis of our sibling site, the Virginia Mercury, writes.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks with the press. (Commonwealth Media Services photo)

Gov. Tom Wolf wants to release another $1.7 billion in federal money, which includes $225 million in aid to small business owners, the Inquirer reports.

The Associated Press previews what to look for in Gov. Tom Wolf’s final budget address (via the Tribune-Review).

PennLive delves into the details of some of Harrisburg’s unsolved homicides.

With blood in short supply, LancasterOnline runs down where you can donate in February.

USA Today’s Pennsylvania Capital Bureau caught up with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz during a campaign stop in York.

The Morning Call’s two-year quest to uncover how Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone spends its money has ended after state Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehighcrafted a change in the law that authorized it.

Local ambulance crews sometimes spend hours waiting at hospitals, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

The rise of telemedicine during the pandemic helped close an historic racial health gapWHYY-FM reports, citing new research.

WITF-FM’s Smart Talk considers the environmental threat posed by road salt.

Working from home will remain an option for Erie Insurance employeesGoErie reports.

A stopgap funding bill could go to the floor of the U.S. House as soon as Tuesday, Roll Call reports.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Undone Kombucha (@undonekombucha)

What Goes On
The House comes in at 12 p.m. The Senate is in at 1 p.m.
10 a.m, Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Senate Law & Justice Committee, hearing on recreational marijuana use
10:30 a.m, Main Rotunda: Rep. Danilo Burgos, D-Philadelphia, and others mark Dominican Independence Day.
11 a.m., Ryan Building Atrium: Southwestern Republicans roll out their policy priorities
2 p.m., Main Rotunda: Alternatives to Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
10:30 a.m.: Reception for Rep. Aaron Kaufer
10:30 a.m.: Reception for Rep. Milou Mackenzie
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward
6 p.m.: House Republican Campaign Committee 2022 kickoff event
Ride the circuit, and give at the max today, and you’re out a truly preposterous $12,000.

Gov. Tom Wolf currently has no public schedule. That sometimes changes midday.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Belated best wishes go out this morning to photojournalist Jason MalmontSusan Gobreski, of the Sedgwick Group, and Evan Jones, lately of the Reading Eagle. Congratulations, friends.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s one from veteran English techno-poppers Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark to get your Monday morning rolling. From the group’s second era, it’s ‘History of Modern (Part 1).’

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
From NHL.comhere’s a look at the sights and sounds from this weekend’s NHL All-Star Game action.

And now you’re up to date.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.