Democrats need to stop blaming a Republican gerrymander for loss of the congressional election in Indiana’s 2nd District.
Even if Democrats had drawn the new districts after the 2020 Census, there is no way the district that includes St. Joseph County could have been drawn to provide Democratic flavor for the 2022 election.
The district is surrounded by heavily Republican vote strength.
What could be added in redistricting to give a Democratic congressional candidate a better chance?
Draw a narrow corridor along the Toll Road to Lake County to grab some Democratic precincts there?
That wouldn’t stand up against a challenge. And even if it did, the 1st District, centered around Lake County, was targeted for an all-out Republican challenge. Democratic Congressman Frank Mrvan survived, with only 52.8% of the vote. Not the landslide of past elections there, when Republicans offered only a token challenge.
Also, taking some Democratic strength from the 1st District to help in the 2nd could have enabled Republicans to win there without making much of a dent in the big win by Republican Congressman Rudy Yakym.
How big did Yakym win?
He won even bigger than the late Jackie Walorski, who was entrenched in the district. He carried all 11 counties involved in district voting, including supposedly Democratic St. Joseph County, and getting 64.6% of the district vote. Walorski never carried St. Joseph County. Her landslide victory in 2020 was by 61.5%.
If Walorski had not died in that tragic accident, would she have won big? Of course.
The red wave that swept across Indiana, now in the category of one-party state, would have kept the 2nd District in Republican control even if Yakym hadn’t run the effective campaign that he waged, with backing of the Walorski organization and campaign financing for saturation TV.
A formidable task lies ahead for any Democrat seeking the Democratic congressional nomination in ’24 and beyond.
Look at Yakym’s winning percentages in the counties: Cass, 76.2; Elkhart, 68.9; Fulton, 75.7; Kosciusko, 78.3; LaPorte, 63.6; Marshall, 73.8; Miami, 75.8; Pulaski, 77.1; Starke, 72.0; Wabash, 74.9. And the killer, St. Joseph, 51.5.
Those counties will remain in the district for the rest of the decade, until the next redistricting in 2031.
Should Democrats just give up, let the nomination go again to anybody who happens to file, even if unknown, unprepared to run a congressional campaign and unlikely to attract any substantial funding and support in the district, from the state or from national sources of Democratic assistance?
They better not.
It is clear that one of the reasons Democrats suffered so many defeats in St. Joseph County was because party voters stayed home, unexcited about any of the races and uninspired by any Democratic ticket leader or other candidate.
Democrats need a congressional candidate to present the Democratic message loud and clear. One who could attract funding for the TV ads so vital in a sprawling district of some 3,700 square miles.
Paul Steury, the Democratic nominee this time, deserves praise for willingness of run and his sincere beliefs in issues of the environment. Nobody with better credentials would run. But he was not able to present a message that resonated anywhere.
There won’t always be a red wave. Indiana not long ago elected Democrats for governor and senator. It was carried by Barack Obama in 2008.
A candidate willing to take what looks like certain defeat for Congress in 2024 could build a base for future bids for Congress in a year less red or for other offices. A candidate with a resounding message could be the ticket-leader bringing back Democratic voters in St. Joseph County and elsewhere in the district.
Democrats should seek a candidate willing to lose but likely to win by losing.
Jack Colwell is a columnist for The Tribune. Write to him in care of The Tribune or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Democrats' loss in 2nd Congressional District not due to gerrymander