The map shifts 12 towns in South Jersey, splitting three - Haddon Township, Mantua and Wrightstown - between two districts. It also changes Republican Rep. H. James Saxton's district number from the 13th to the third.
The most controversial changes were the redrawing of the 10th District in Essex County, and the carving up of Pallone's district, which used to run along the Shore from Keyport in Monmouth County to Seaside Heights in Ocean.
Long Branch, where Pallone lives, was incorporated into Dwyer's Sixth District, with other portions divided up among Republicans Saxton, Richard Zimmer and Chris Smith. The new Sixth District stretches from north of New Brunswick to Sandy Hook, then makes a 90-degree turn to the south to incorporate a narrow band of Shore towns to Manasquan.
"The thin line along the Shore in Monmouth County connected to Middlesex County is a classic case of gerrymandering," charged State Democratic Chairman Raymond Lesniak, a member of the commission. "It shows that a
commission can gerrymander as good as any legislative body."
Gov. Florio said he was disappointed that the panel did not preserve a district composed mainly of the Shore region.
"It is unfortunate that a map was chosen which threatens to jeopardize representation of a large part of the Jersey Shore as a separate district," Florio said.
However, both parties had proposed maps that would have carved up the district of Pallone, who had little seniority and few friends in the congressional delegation. A Democratic plan would have pitted Pallone against Rep. Christopher H. Smith, the Republican from the Fourth District.
Assembly Minority Leader Joseph V. Doria Jr. (D., Hudson) said the new map could violate the law because it concentrates too many minorities in the 10th District - represented by Donald Payne, the state's only black congressman - and dilutes their strength elsewhere.
The map could be upset by pending or future court challenges.
Pallone's allies filed a lawsuit Monday in Superior Court in Monmouth County challenging the constitutionality of the redistricting commission, approved in the final hours of the legislature's lame-duck session in January. In 1982, a federal judge threw out a Democratic map that resulted in districts so blatantly gerrymandered that they earned nicknames such as the fishhook and the flying duck.
This time around, "the Hudson District looks like a frog on its back praying for help," Doria said.
But Rosenthal and Republicans rejected claims of gerrymandering.
"The shift in New Jersey's population has generally been from urban areas represented by Democrats to more suburban and rural areas represented by Republicans," said Bob Franks, the Republican state chairman.
"This product is constitutionally and legally sound and politically fair," said Rosenthal, director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics. "It's difficult to go from 14 districts to 13 districts and please everyone." Democrats now hold an 8-6 majority in the congressional delegation.
Although Pallone's home falls in Dwyer's district, panel members from both parties speculated that Pallone might seek to run against Smith. Brian Hughes, son of former Gov. Richard Hughes, also announced this week that he plans to challenge Smith.
Smith, however, seemed unconcerned by the potential threats. His new district extends farther south into Burlington County and farther east to the Shore in Ocean and Monmouth Counties.
"I'm happy with this map," Smith said. "This is the most Republican district I've had in 12 years. Every redistricting gets better for me."
None of those changes are likely to greatly affect the fortunes of South Jersey's incumbents.
Democratic Rep. Robert E. Andrews, who represents the First, gains Audubon, Haddon Heights and Voorhees from the old 13th but loses Clayton, Harrison, Swedesboro and Woolwich to Democrat William J. Hughes in the Second. Andrews also loses most of Mantua to the Second and part of Haddon Township to the Third.
Saxton loses North Hanover and part of Wrightstown to the Fourth and Washington Township and Burlington County to the Second.
"This district is essentially the same one I'm in now," said Andrews, who won a special election to succeed Florio in 1990. "That means if I've done a good job, I'll be re-elected. If I haven't, I won't.
"The commission has preserved the integrity of the South Jersey districts," he said. "It's silly to split towns, but that's not the
commission's fault. That's the law that says you have to have one person one vote."
Each of the districts is supposed to contain about 594,630 people.
The new 13th District could be the site of a bid by State Sen. Robert Menendez, who is also the Union City mayor, to become the state's first
Hispanic congressman. Now represented by Democrat Frank Guarini of Jersey City, the district will be 43 percent Hispanic.
CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT CHANGES
Here are the South Jersey towns whose districts will change this year. The numbers of the old and new districts are shown, as well as the name of the current representative for the new district.
TOWN OLD NEW REP.
No. Hanover 13* 4 Chris Smith (R)
Washington 13* 2 Wm. J. Hughes (D)
Wrightstown 13* 3,4 H. James Saxton (R), Smith
Audubon 13* 1 Robert E. Andrews (D)
Haddon Hghts. 13* 1 Andrews
Voorhees Twp. 13* 1 Andrews
Haddon Twp. 1 1,3 Andrews, Saxton
Clayton 1 2 Hughes
Harrison 1 2 Hughes
Swedesboro 1 2 Hughes
Woolwich 1 2 Hughes
Mantua 2 2,1 Hughes, Andrews
* District 13, represented by H. James Saxton (R), becomes District 3 under the new plan.