Did your Democratic State Rep. vote for Pa.'s gerrymandered congressional map?
Dozens of Democratic state lawmakers voted for the Republican-drawn congressional map in 2011. We reached out to them - here's what they said.
While Democrats today seek to use the issue of redistricting to help propel them to victory in November, it's a rather inconvenient fact that dozens of Democratic state lawmakers voted for the congressional map in 2011 that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in January declared an unconstitutional Republican gerrymander.
Several Democrats who voted for it have since moved onto higher office; some are rumored future candidates for governor and mayor of Philadelphia.
Many Democrats don't like to speak about the vote. While details vary from lawmaker to lawmaker, they cite the same core reason for approving the map that would harm their party overall: All politics is local, and they believed it would benefit their local district or member of Congress.
In total, 36 Democrats in the state House voted for the map in 2011. The Inquirer and Daily News attempted to reach out to all of them, as well as to members of Congress and others who supported it. Their responses are below.
Louise E. Williams Bishop (Philadelphia)
Bishop, who resigned in 2015 as part of a plea deal after being charged in a corruption sting, said she would need time to go through her notes and recall what happened at the time of her vote for the 2011 map. She later did not return calls for comment.
Vanessa L. Lowery Brown (Philadelphia)
Brown said she supported the 2011 map because it meant two Congress members would represent West Philadelphia: U.S. Reps. Chaka Fattah and Bob Brady. (Fattah is now in prison for federal corruption crimes.) They would "fight for us in Congress and bring back resources" to the area, she said.
"At the time, I was satisfied."
Brown added that the state's new congressional district map, which was imposed by the state Supreme Court in February, is "fair" for the rest of Pennsylvania, but will give her constituents "much less of a voice, [from] two votes in Congress to now one."
Michelle F. Brownlee (Philadelphia)
Brownlee, who resigned in 2015 after pleading guilty in a cash-for-favors investigation, declined to comment when reached by phone: "I'm sorry, I don't want to talk about that."
Michael B. Carroll (Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe)
Carroll, who remains in the state House, did not return messages for comment or an email request with questions sent through the spokesman for House Democrats.
Mark B. Cohen (Philadelphia)
Cohen, now a judge in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, said "all three Philadelphia Congress members wanted it to pass," adding that he "heard from Congressman Brady" and "heard from Congresswoman [Allyson] Schwartz."
"When the overwhelming majority of the Democrats who were representing Pennsylvania supported the plan — [and] asked members of the House Democratic caucus to support the plan — I did not have reservations supporting [the map]," said Cohen. "I'm aware they would not be supporting this plan if the Democrats had been in the majority of the House of Representatives. … [but] they were not shy expressing to us that under the circumstances, this was not a bad plan given the political realities. … It was gunpoint bipartisanship. Democrats were afraid their districts would be cut up into a lot of pieces. … Bob Brady wasn't safe … and [U.S. Rep.] Mike Doyle wasn't safe."
Cohen said he would not have voted for the map if Philadelphia's Congress members didn't support it. He added that a couple other factors were at play: One, "there was not a single case throughout America of a [redistricting] plan being thrown out because of gerrymandering" at the time. And two, Democrats "were told" that a decade earlier than the 2001 congressional map would "decimate the Democratic Party," but in 2006 "the Democrats did the best they ever did in Congress."
Dominic J. Costa (Allegheny)
Costa, who remains in the state House, did not return messages for comment or an email request with questions sent through the spokesman for House Democrats.
Paul Costa (Allegheny)
Costa, who remains in the state House, did not return messages for comment or an email request with questions sent through the spokesman for House Democrats.
Angel L. Cruz (Philadelphia)
Cruz said that "Congressman Brady has not called me to vote any way on anything." Cruz said he voted for the map "because there was nothing else — we needed lines and those are the lines that are drawn up."
"Ten years later … they're trying to say they're gerrymandered. Hey, I don't know. If you noticed, even state lines, our maps are gerrymandered. So if you don't want this to be gerrymandered, then you need to get an independent commission to come in and do these lines where they have no interest. And then you won't have anything that's gerrymandered."
He added that, "Me being the only Hispanic up here, why didn't they draw lines where we could possibly have a Hispanic congressional seat? … You talk to anyone and it falls on deaf ears."
Margo L. Davidson (Delaware)
Davidson, a state representative who is currently running for the U.S. House in the new Fifth Congressional District, said she supported the map because Brady asked her to do so. At the time, she said, she had not seen the map of the entire state.
With Republicans in charge, Davidson said, things very well could have been worse.
"It would have been worse. It could have been worse. It could have been worse for my constituents and it could have been worse overall. We had to vote between bad and worse, and so that's where it was," she said. "In hindsight, I may have voted no. If I knew what I know now, I probably would have voted no. But at the time, it was the best decision I could make with the information I had."
Daniel J. Deasy Jr. (Allegheny)
Deasy, who remains in the state House, did not return messages for comment or an email request with questions sent through the spokesman for House Democrats.
Anthony M. DeLuca (Allegheny)
DeLuca said he didn't know what the statewide map looked like at the time he voted for it, only that the area he represented would remain in Doyle's district. Doyle, he said, was a good representative and DeLuca wanted him to keep representing the area.
"I voted for it because the fact is, his district was going to stay intact," DeLuca said. "I was looking at my local district, and plus the county, that was being represented by Congressman Doyle."
DeLuca said he did not hear from Doyle. If he knew then what he knows today about the map, DeLuca said, he wouldn't have voted for it.
"If I realized how bad it was, I don't think none of us guys would have voted for it," he said.
Eugene A. DePasquale (York)
DePasquale, who is now Pennsylvania's Auditor General as well as a rumored future gubernatorial candidate, did not return a message for comment.
Maria P. Donatucci (Delaware, Philadelphia)
Donatucci, who is still a state representative, did not return messages seeking comment.
John T. Galloway (Bucks)
Galloway said he voted for the map because lawmakers were running out of time to pass a map and Democratic and Republican leaders had agreed on the district lines.
"Absolutely we were shut out. Republicans rammed this down the Democrats' throat, absolutely, that is the absolute truth," he said. "But in the end, it was agreed upon."
Galloway said he was "happy to see" the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturn the map. He supports efforts to have redistricting done by independent commission.
"I do think the only way that's going to change is if we elect more Democrats this year," he said. "Everybody's for reform when you're in the minority, right? What happens when you're in the majority? And that will be interesting. Hopefully we follow through on our promises, if we are in the majority, we will change this, and that is my hope."
Michael F. Gerber (Montgomery)
Gerber, who is now an executive vice president of Franklin Square Capital Partners, declined to comment.
Marc J. Gergely (Allegheny)
Gergely, who resigned late last year after pleading guilty as part of an investigation into a million-dollar video gambling ring, could not be reached for comment.
Neal P. Goodman (Schuylkill)
Goodman, who remains in the state House, did not return messages for comment.
Kenyatta J. Johnson (Philadelphia)
Johnson, who is now a City Councilman in Philadelphia, said "back in December of 2011, I was wrapping up my last few weeks as a state representative."
"My recollection of the vote on the Republican-drawn congressional district lines was that, as a Democrat from Philadelphia, I wanted to make sure Philadelphia got the best possible deal. Some maps had Philadelphia losing a representative. The map I voted for retained three representatives for the city," he said. "My politics are always local and that was my top priority for the congressional district lines. No one told me to vote any particular way. I just wanted to make sure we were looking out for Philadelphia.
"At the time, the fact that Republicans were using partisanship as a way to draw lines was basically expected. Everyone understood that racial gerrymandering was illegal and unacceptable, but in 2011 gerrymandering on the basis of partisanship was expected and it was difficult to prove that voters were disenfranchised by it. My understanding is that since then the methods for measuring the impact of partisan gerrymandering have improved and, as a result, the courts — like the Pennsylvania Supreme Court — have been more willing to rule against it."
"I think the new lines are a big improvement. They continue to represent the interests of the people of Philadelphia and they better represent the interests of the voters statewide."
Sid Michaels Kavulich (Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna, Wyoming)
Kavulich, who remains in the state House, did not return messages for comment.
William F. Keller (Philadelphia)
Keller identified himself when reached on his cell phone. When asked about his vote for the congressional map in 2011, Keller hung up.
He did not return multiple later calls and voicemail for comment.
Thaddeus Kirkland (Delaware)
Kirkland, who is now mayor of Chester, Pa., said he voted for the map because "I was OK with what happened to my district and I was OK with the work [Congressman Brady] has done and continues to do. I have no problem with Bob Brady being my congressman."
He added that lawmakers must "take the hand that you've been dealt and play it to the best of your ability."
Kirkland said he did not recall Brady contacting him about the map. However, Brady's support of it "factored into my decision-making. Congressman Brady does not have to reach out to me for support such as that. Myself, my staff, and political leaders here in my community were supportive because we felt it was the best move for us."
Kirkland also said that he didn't want to be an obstructionist: "It comes to a point in time where you just have to cut bait or fish, and start moving it forward."
William C. Kortz II (Allegheny)
Kortz, who remains in the state House, did not return a call or an email seeking comment.
Nick Kotik (Allegheny)
Kotik, who is no longer in the state legislature, could not be reached for comment.
John Myers (Philadelphia)
Myers, who did not run for reelection in 2012, died in 2015.
Cherelle L. Parker (Philadelphia)
Parker is now a City Councilwoman in Philadelphia and is a rumored future mayoral candidate. Her spokesman, Solomon Leach, said she "made some very tough votes during her tenure in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and voting in favor of Senate Bill 1249 was one of the toughest."
"During that highly partisan time, Pennsylvania had a Republican-controlled General Assembly and, unlike today, Democrats did not have a governor who could enforce the power of the veto as the chief defense mechanism against less-than-desirable legislative policies. Republican Tom Corbett and his administration was in power," Leach said.
He added that "with this in mind, Rep. Parker relied on the guidance of all three members of Philadelphia's congressional delegation, each of whom assured her that this was the best compromise that they could reach in that highly volatile partisan environment. Each of them communicated that retaining three congressional seats in the city of Philadelphia was their main goal. And she wholeheartedly embraces the Supreme Court's ruling."
Joseph Preston Jr. (Allegheny)
Preston, who is no longer in the state legislature, could not be reached for comment.
Adam J. Ravenstahl (Allegheny)
Ravenstahl, who remains in the state House, did not return messages for comment.
Harry A. Readshaw III (Allegheny)
"At the time, as I recall, the powers that be requested that we vote yes," Readshaw said. "And at the time, it wasn't a particularly huge issue as it is now, and I just followed suit."
Readshaw said Democratic members of Congress were encouraging state lawmakers to vote for the map and from state Democratic leadership "there was no pressure enforced upon us to vote no." He recalled being contacted by a member of Congress — he declined to name which one — who sent him a note asking for his support.
"It was a request. Nobody threatened us or said 'do this' or 'do that,' there was just an appropriate request to be supportive," he said. "I don't recall whether it was email, hard copy. I know it wasn't a phone call, I have a tendency to think it was probably a note, a hard copy in the mail, which said please support the issue."
James R. Roebuck Jr. (Philadelphia)
Roebuck, who remains in the state House, did not return messages for comment or an email request with questions sent through the spokesman for House Democrats.
John P. Sabatina Jr. (Philadelphia)
Sabatina, today a state senator, declined to comment, a spokeswoman for the Senate Democrats said.
Kenneth J. Smith (Lackawanna)
Smith, who is no longer in the state legislature, could not be reached for comment. A voicemail message left at a landline listed under his name was not returned.
Edward G. Staback (Lackwanna, Wayne)
Staback, who is no longer in the state legislature, could not be reached for comment.
W. Curtis Thomas (Philadelphia)
Thomas said "we got letters from our congressmen acknowledging that the plan was OK."
The reason "why you saw so many Philadelphians voted for it" is because Brady, Schwartz and Fattah were alright with it, he said. "It was kind of hard to say to them that this plan is discriminatory and needs to be thrown out, and they're saying, 'We don't like this, but this is the best we can come away with.'"
Still, Thomas said it was clear that Brady's district became whiter under the new map and "more favorable" to him.
"This gerrymandering was dealt with based on party and self-interest rather than 'one person, one vote.' … I hated having to vote for that. That was just a bad vote, even though there was a push to go and get it done."
Ronald G. Waters (Delaware, Philadelphia)
Waters, who resigned in 2015 after pleading guilty in an anti-corruption cash-for-favors sting investigation, could not be reached for comment.
Jewell Williams (Philadelphia)
Williams, today the sheriff of Philadelphia, did not return messages for comment left on his cell phone.
Rosita C. Youngblood (Philadelphia)
Youngblood, who remains in the state House, did not return messages for comment or an email request with questions sent through the spokesman for House Democrats.
Others: U.S. Reps., House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, mapmaker
In addition to attempting to contact 36 Democratic state lawmakers who voted for the congressional map, the Inquirer and Daily News reached out to several current and former Democratic members of Congress who lawmakers said supported the map at the time: Bob Brady, Mike Doyle, Jason Altmire and Allyson Schwartz. Also contacted were Erik Arneson, a Republican mapmaker and Senate staffer at the time, and state Rep. Frank Dermody, the leader of the House Democrats, who did not vote for the map but also did not stand in the way of his members doing so.
Frank Dermody (Allegheny)
Dermody said House Democrats had no input in the map. When they met as a group, Dermody said, they could not come to an agreement on what to do, so while he personally saw it as "a very bad, gerrymandered map," he largely stepped aside as his members voted.
"I voted no and I think I told everybody I voted no and this is why," he said. "I did not run around, there was no whipping for votes here at all."
Asked about the Democratic members of Congress who pushed state lawmakers to vote for the map, Dermody said neither state nor federal Democrats could be blamed for the map because Republicans were in control of the process.
"Many members have very good relationships with their congressmen, and that's to be expected, and we all should work together," he said. "Obviously, it's a complicated issue and there's no question, the way it had been done, the way it was going to be done that year, the Republicans were in the majority and were going to pass whatever map they wanted. And the minority, it's not fun. So you can't blame our members or even the members of Congress, because they got what they could get."
Erik Arneson (Mapmaker, Senate Republicans)
Arneson helped draw the map in 2011 as an aide to state Sen. Dominic Pileggi, the leader of the Senate Republicans. During a sworn deposition for a federal gerrymandering case last year, Arneson said Brady, the head of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, provided feedback to mapmakers during the line-drawing process.
In an interview, he said details were fuzzy but he recalled Brady "shared thoughts on what portions of Delaware County it might be appropriate to include" in Brady's district. Arneson did not have direct contact with Brady, he said. Asked whether other Democratic members of Congress had similarly reached out, Arneson said he did not believe so — or if they did, it was nothing substantive like Brady.
"My recollection right now, I couldn't say this with 100 percent certainty, but I don't remember any other Democratic congressmen reaching out or providing input," Arneson said.
U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire
Altmire, then a western Pennsylvania Democrat, sent a letter to state lawmakers asking them to support the map. In an email interview, he said he believed the western portion of the map was not unfairly drawn toward Republicans. His district, which was merged with that of Mark Critz, became more Democratic, he said.
Altmire lost to Critz in the primary and Critz then lost to Republican challenger Keith Rothfus in the general election.
"I was confident I could have comfortably held the seat in the general election had I survived the primary," Altmire wrote.
Altmire said he continues to stand by his decision to support the map.
"It was fairly drawn," he said of the western half of the state map, "and I believed it was time to move to finalize the map so we could all prepare our campaigns in the new districts."
Asked whether Democratic congressmen gave input to the map as it was being drawn, Altmire replied in the affirmative: "I am sure they did, and in particular I know [Mike] Doyle and [Bob] Brady had direct involvement and input," he wrote. "Again, I stayed out of it."
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady
Brady, the powerful longtime head of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, said he was presented with two maps. One was the map ultimately implemented, which had three seats with significant portions of Philadelphia. The other would have pushed Allyson Schwartz's district almost entirely out of the city and into Montgomery County.
"It was two plans. One plan got rid of Allyson, put her way out in the county, and she had a very small part of Philadelphia, and the other plan's the existing plan," Brady said. He chose the map that gave Philadelphia more clout and "I just wanted to protect Allyson."
Brady said he made some calls to state lawmakers, as did Schwartz and Chaka Fattah. Brady said he saw only the three districts affecting Philadelphia. He said he did not ask to see the rest of the state.
"I don't care about the rest … I'm just concerned about Philadelphia, which I should be," he said. "I'm not in charge of the whole state of Pennsylvania. I'm not in charge of Pennsylvania. I protected Philadelphia. I didn't know what the rest of the map looked like, nor did I know whether or not it was good for them or bad for them."
Asked whether that allowed Republicans to thus game the statewide map — and, ultimately, the national map — Brady said it didn't. Pennsylvania was just a few seats, he said, and Democrats lost elections they weren't expected to.
"We didn't think we were going to lose those seats. We didn't think Critz was going to lose. We didn't think Altmire was going to lose … so how does that go along with what you're saying, we put a map and made the state and lose the whole country?" he said.
U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle
Doyle, a western Pennsylvania Democrat, largely demurred when asked about the map.
"I don't want to discuss something that's in the past. The courts have taken one of the worst gerrymanders in history and corrected it and now we have a map that, you know, basically is going to result in six Republican, six Democrat and six swing seats, which is about as fair a map as you can draw in Pennsylvania and I'm happy for that," he said.
State and federal lawmakers said Doyle was among the Democratic members of Congress who encouraged Democrats to support the map. Asked why he backed a map that he considered unfair, he said: "I don't know what you're speaking about and I don't really have an interest in discussing a map that was drawn 10 years ago."
He denied asking state lawmakers to vote for the map.
"No, I don't know — you're talking about 10 years ago, I mean the map was the map, it wasn't a good map for us and you know, members in the state legislature voted however they wanted to vote, so I didn't tell anyone how to vote, if that's what you're saying."
U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz
Schwartz, who left Congress to run for governor, did not return a request for comment made through the spokeswoman for Better Medicare Alliance, the group Schwartz leads. Brady said Schwartz supported the map and spoke to state lawmakers about voting for it.