Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder came to Philadelphia on Thursday to stump for Democratic candidates but with a greater goal in mind: redrawing legislative districts more fairly across the state.
Holder said Pennsylvania was one of the most gerrymandered states nationwide, which is why the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which he chairs, was pouring $800,000 into the campaigns for Gov. Wolf and other Democrats.
Pennsylvania "is so big and so gerrymandered that it had to be one of our 12 target states," Holder said during a Center City news conference, where he was flanked by a half-dozen Democrats running for state legislature.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court earlier this year declared the state's congressional districts to be unfairly drawn and imposed a new map. The state legislature, now dominated by Republicans, faces a deadline to approve district boundaries another map by 2021.
"We're confident we don't need to cheat," said Holder, who was the nation's top law enforcement officer in the Obama administration. "We don't have to cheat. We can have fair elections and win."
This summer, a bill to create an independent commission to draw state legislative district lines passed the State Senate with a "poison pill" amendment. But it died as both chambers left for the summer and House members filed hundreds of amendments to the bill. Democrats accused Republicans of sinking the effort.
"We have a problem now where politicians are picking their voters, instead of voters picking their representatives," Steve Santarsiero, a former state representative running for Senate in Bucks County, said as he stood with Holder and other Democrats.
Jenn Kocher, the spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) said Holder appearing with only Democratic candidates shows he wasn't interested in achieving fair state legislative lines.
"This was a partisan effort on his behalf to interfere in Pennsylvania," she said.