House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) Monday afternoon defended the court-mandated revised congressional map he, along with Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), submitted to Gov. Tom Wolf Friday night and called on the governor to respond to their submission in an open and transparent way, providing a map he would support in the event he decides to not approve the new map.
“We are waiting to hear what the governor’s response is. We are expecting it to be a public and transparent drawing of what he considers to be a fair map,” Turzai said.
“He has had an expert engaged for the better part of a month and nobody has seen this expert produce any map. We would like to see his personally hired expert’s map for what constitutes a fair map for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
He also took to defending the map, comparing it to a 2011 map submitted by Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), noting it has far fewer county splits.
“In addition, it’s the lowest amount of splits among counties of any map since 1971 where we had to comply with one person, one vote,” he said. “From 1971 forward, the (GOP) map submitted has the fewest county splits since 1971. We are waiting to hear what the governor’s response is.
He also stated that the map submitted to the governor on Friday did not take competitiveness of the new districts into account – noting such considerations are in direct violation of the court’s order – adding that the map was drawn with compactness and contiguousness being overarching factors in how the districts were determined.
“The order of the court does not reference competitiveness. The order of the court references ‘contiguous’, ‘compact’ – they want to see reduced county splits,” he said. “There is no standard called ‘competitive’…you should not be drawing a map based on ‘competitiveness’.”
According to Gov. Wolf’s press secretary, JJ Abbott, the governor and his team are finalizing their review.
Speaking to the map issue at an unrelated event in Pittsburgh on Monday, Gov. Wolf was less than forthcoming about whether he plans to approve the map or not, only saying he wants a “fair map.”
He did point, however, to the nearly unanimous negative reception the map had received among the General Assembly’s Democrats and nonpartisan observers.
“I’m taking a look and I’ll make my decision,” Wolf said.
Depending on the governor’s decision, Turzai noted that Republican leaders are keeping their litigation options open, potentially challenging in federal court the court’s ability to select a map or throw a congressional map out based on state constitutional grounds.
“We are reserving our rights to go back into the federal court depending on the actions taken, but the governor has until the 15th to respond, and the ball is in his court,” he said.
Jason Gottesman is the Harrisburg Bureau Chief of The PLS Reporter, a news website dedicated to covering Pennsylvania’s government.
Pittsburgh Staff Writer Stephen Caruso contributed to this story.