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By James B. Nelson July 26, 2012

Lehman says new state Senate district was drawn in secret for Wanggaard within half a block of his house

Shortly after his June 5, 2012 recall election victory over incumbent Van Wanggaard was affirmed by a recount, state Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine) said it will be tough for him to win the seat again.

Lehman told WTMJ radio listeners July 10, 2012, that the borders of 21st state Senate District were changed significantly by Republicans in 2011 when they controlled the Legislature. The redistricting is required every 10 years, based on updated census figures, and this was the first time in decades that one party in Wisconsin had complete control over the process.

The seat is up in November 2014, and Wanggaard is expected to run.

"I’m not surprised that he’ll run in the district," Lehman said. "The district was created in secret for Van Wanggaard.  It was drawn within a half a block of his house, around his house two blocks away then went out to western Racine and western Kenosha County down to the Illinois line."

Sounds like neither Lehman nor Wanggaard should unpack their boxes.

If Lehman and Wanggard face each other in 2014 (or earlier, if there is another recall), it would be the third time the two have run against  each other. Wanggaard topped Lehman to win the seat in 2010. But the next time a much different mix of voters would make the choice.

On July 13, 2011, the Journal Sentinel’s Craig Gilbert took a detailed look at the differences between the new and old 21st Senate district.

"The new plan goes to some extra lengths in reducing the potential for partisan competition," wrote Gilbert, author of the Wisconsin Voter blog. "The most striking example is the transformation of two very competitive districts, the 21st in Racine County and 22nd in Kenosha County, into one very Republican Racine-Kenosha seat to the west and one very Democratic Racine-Kenosha seat to the east.

"Republicans who drew the lines have produced a plan that favors the GOP, which is certainly nothing new for political parties," the piece continued. "Among the state's most competitive districts, the plan gives GOP incumbents Terry Moulton, Joe Liebham and Pam Galloway safer seats and (Alberta) Darling, (Leah) Vukmir and Wanggaard dramatically safer seats."

In an earlier piece, Gilbert wrote:

"The Wanggaard seat would shed most of the city of Racine and some nearby areas -- wards that voted 63 percent Democratic in last fall's race for governor. (The one section of the city of Racine that's kept in the district is the one where Wanggaard lives.)"

Gilbert calculated that the new 21st was far more Republican, based on the vote in the 2010 governor’s race. Gov. Scott Walker would have won the district by 23 points, rather than 9 points in the old 21st.

Now the map’s borders.

Wanggaard lives in the 1200 block of Blaine Ave. on the west side of Racine. The new border is 13th Ave., just south of his home. That portion of Racine -- Lehman calls it a "peninsula" -- lies within the new 21st district.

(Indeed, Lehman’s house is on Orchard St., several blocks away from Wanggaard. His house, too, lies just inside the new district.)

On the "in secret" question, GOP lawmakers were allowed to see advance copies of their proposed district maps at the law offices of Michael Best & Friedrich near the Capitol. The Republican lawmakers -- including Wanggaard -- signed confidentiality agreements in which they promised not to disclose the contents of the maps, according to a Feb. 6, 2012, Journal Sentinel article.

Our rating

Lehman says the new 21st State Senate district was "created in secret for Van Wanggaard. It was drawn within half a block of his house."

It’s common, of course, for the party in control to draw maps favorable for itself -- and the lines in question here have been approved by the courts. While the points Lehman cites may sound outrageous, even unbelievable, the record shows them to be accurate.

We rate the statement True.

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Our Sources

WTMJ-AM (620) interview, July 10, 2012

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Lawmakers were made to pledge secrecy over redistricting," Feb. 6, 2012

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Fitzgerald: Senate Republicans didn’t use redistricting talking points," Feb. 7, 2012

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Democrats’ control of Senate may be temporary," June 6, 2012

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "How the GOP redistricting plan protects 3 Republican state senators," July 11, 2011

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The loss of competition in the GOP’s redistricting plan," July 13, 2011

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Lehman says new state Senate district was drawn in secret for Wanggaard within half a block of his house

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