More than one year out and the race for U.S. Congress in the 5th District is already heating up.
On Wednesday morning Republican candidate Mark Greenberg released a statement calling on House Speaker Chris Donovan (D-Meriden) to step down from the state's Reapportionment Committee – the body that is working to redraw legislative districts for the state based on changes in population. Donovan for the Democratic nomination in the 5th district U.S. Congressional race last week.
“Chris Donovan is a declared candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 5th District and his participation on the redistricting commission is as blatant a conflict of interest as I have ever seen,” Greenberg said in the statement. “In fact, I’m surprised that Chris does not see this for himself."
The committee is currently working on redrawing all of the state's U.S. Congressional, state House and state Senate districts – as it does every 10 years based on the most recent census data. That includes five Congressional districts, 151 state House districts and 36 state Senate districts.
The committee is made up of four Republican and four Democratic legislators, two from the state House and two from the state Senate. When finished, it will present its recommendations to the state legislature as a whole.
Donovan countered Greenberg's call with a statement of his own.
“Every member of the committee is an elected official and therefore naturally political,” Donovan said. “That’s what the Constitution requires. Our positions on the committee are entirely appropriate. As Speaker, I have a leadership role to play and I am fulfilling that responsibility.”
All eight members of the panel are up for re-election in 2012 and each of their districts could be changed by the committee.
But Greenberg, a Litchfield County businessman who previously ran unsuccessfully to become the GOP candidate in the 5th District in 2010, says that Donovan has an unfair advantage as the only legislator vying for the 5th district on the panel.
“By not stepping down, Chris Donovan is engaging in the same old back-room politics and seeking an unfair political advantage, Greenberg said. "If he refuses to step down, I believe Connecticut voters will see right through his true motives.”
State Sen. Leonard Fasano (R-Wallingford), who is also on the committee, defended Donovan's place on the committee in a July article in the Record Journal Newspaper. He said that because redistricting affects each legislator on the committee, any one of them could be accused of making changes in their own favor – but that the makeup of the group provides checks so that this doesn't happen.
"Each of us could be conflicted for that reason. Each of us has a district that could be redrawn," Fasano told the newspaper. "He's one vote. ... we know Chris is running, and if he toys with the 5th District, I'm sure we'll take a look at it."
The state committee announced Friday that it will miss its deadline of Sept. 15, requiring the panel to find one more member to join them, according to an article in the Connecticut Mirror. It now has a new deadline of Nov. 30. The committee will add a neutral ninth member to its existing roster of four Republican and four Democratic legislators equally divided between the House and Senate.