Brady's bunch now has fewer blacks

Posted: January 16, 2012

BOB BRADY, member of the U.S. House and chairman of the Democratic City Committee, says he was making the best of a situation over which he had little control.

It turned out well for Brady.

The state General Assembly redraws the lines for state and federal legislative districts every 10 years, based on the latest census.

With Republicans in control of both houses of the General Assembly and the governor's office, many Democrats felt pushed around in the remapping approved last month.

But Brady told state House members from Philadelphia to consider supporting the plan.

One result? Brady's district saw the biggest shift in racial demographics of any of the state's 18 congressional districts. His got a whole lot whiter and a whole lot safer for a white incumbent.

Brady's district gained 15 percent in white residents while decreasing by 12.5 percent in African-American residents and 4 percent in Hispanics.

The district Brady has represented since 1998 was pushed east in the city, away from the neighborhoods of Ogontz, Logan and Olney that cluster around North Broad Street and toward the neighborhoods that stretch along the Delaware River from Port Richmond to Holmesburg.

"I don't look at the demographics until after the map comes out, because we had nothing to do with it," Brady said when asked about the changes.

Plenty of people are looking at the map now, including former Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore, who is challenging Brady in the April 24 Democratic primary election.

Moore, who is black, has accused Brady of selling out Democrats for his own good.

"While the Democratic Party as a whole was the big loser in the redistricting process, you were among the biggest winners," Moore wrote to Brady in a Jan. 6 letter that addressed him as "Honorary chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party."

Brady dismisses the attack, saying that anybody he has served in Congress can still come to him.

"The people who came out of my district, they're still going to call me for things," Brady said. "I'm their chairman. I service the whole city."

Much has been made about how redistricting made safer the 7th District seat held by rookie U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan in Delaware County, where Brady's district also shed black residents and picked up white residents.

"This was all done for Pat Meehan," Brady said. "He got rid of his Democrats."

As big as the district boundary changes were, there were some things that stayed the same or changed only a little.

Brady and Allyson Schwartz, who represents the 13th District in Philadelphia and Montgomery County, started with districts that had more Democrats than Republicans. They still do, though Schwartz now has a few more and Brady has a few less.

Meehan's district had slightly more Democrats. Now it has slightly more Republicans.

The state was always going to lose one congressional district, due to stagnant population growth, with early expectations being - and later proved true - that it would be in western Pennsylvania.

But one early suggestion would have cut a local district, leaving Schwartz to potentially fight with another Democrat, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, who represents the 2nd District in Philadelphia and Montgomery County.

Brady said his efforts avoided that.

A study by Azavea, a local consulting firm that uses computer mapping analysis to study redistricting changes, found that Brady, Schwartz and Meehan now have the least-compact congressional districts in the state.

That can have an impact on how neighborhoods are represented if they are split between districts. It can also lead to confusion among residents about who represents them in Congress.

Schwartz said she was proud of her work in the neighborhoods along the river, which are now in Brady's district, and was surprised about the way Montgomery County was carved up.

"It was out of my control," Schwartz said. "I thought it would be more consolidated, with more Montgomery County. That didn't happen."

Brady says he doesn't worry about the new district boundaries as he makes a bid for an eighth two-year term in Congress.

"Whatever district they give me, I'm going to be OK with," Brady declared.

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