Plan shifts Indiana GOP areas to Donnelly’s district

A redistricting plan proposed Monday by Republicans who control the Legislature would shift several GOP-leaning areas into the northern Indiana congressional district narrowly won last year by Democrat Joe Donnelly.

The congressional map puts all of Elkhart County and much of Kosciusko County into Donnelly's current district and removes part of Democratic-leaning LaPorte County and all of Kokomo. The changes could make it more difficult for Donnelly to win re-election. He narrowly defeated Republican Jackie Walorski last year, and she has already announced plans to run again in 2012.

The shift is just one included in maps the Senate Election Committee proposed for Indiana's nine congressional and 50 state Senate districts.

The congressional map also would extend what has been a swing district won last year by Republican Todd Young further north to include all of heavily GOP Johnson County just south of Indianapolis. The 9th district starts in the Ohio River counties near Louisville.

The proposal also would give southern Indiana's 8th district won last year by Republican Larry Bucshon more of the counties along the Ohio River east of Evansville.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long R-Fort Wayne, said the proposed congressional districts are more compact and more representative than those drawn by Democrats when they controlled redistricting in 2001.

Long said political considerations weren't as important as keeping counties together, and he expected the districts now held by Donnelly, Bucshon and Young to remain competitive.

"We've tried our best to keep counties intact where we can," he said.

Nine of the state's 92 counties would be divided between two congressional districts under the Senate committee plan. The other 83 would be single-district counties.

Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, criticized the changes proposed for Donnelly's and Young's districts.

"Clearly those are politically motivated lines there that have been moved," Lanane said. "This was something that we feared might happen, particularly with Representative Donnelly's district."

Donnelly, who was elected last year to his third two-year term, has known significant changes to his district boundaries were possible and has been considering whether to run for the U.S. Senate or governor.

The Senate Elections Committee is expected to vote Wednesday on advancing the proposed maps to the full Senate, where Republicans hold a 37-13 majority. The House election committee was releasing their proposed state House districts later Monday.

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