By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
State Representative Jim McClendon (R) from Springville was in Columbiana speaking about redistricting Thursday to the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce. Following his presentation Rep. McClendon acknowledged that he intended to run for the 11th District Seat currently held by Jerry Fielding if the reapportionment plan passed by the state legislature is approved by the Department of Justice (DOJ). Sen. Fielding meanwhile has switched from the Democrat Party to the Republican Party.
Rep. Jim McClendon said, “I have a lot of friends here in Shelby County.” On redistricting McClendon said that elections give you temporary changes but redistricting gives you long term changes. Rep. McClendon said that he and Senator Gerald Dial were the co-Chairmen of the joint committee on reapportionment. McClendon said that the Committee has already redistricted the state school board and the Congressional districts. McClendon said that currently underway is the redistricting of the House and Senate Districts for Alabama.
Chairman McClendon said that reapportionment is based on U.S. Census data. “The object of the census is to find out where the people are not count the number of toilets and guns in your household.” The decennial Census is mandated by the US Constitution. The population of Alabama in April 2010 was 4779,736. Rep. McClendon said that population is not a static thing. It is always changing, but reapportionment is based on that one moment in time. The legislature takes the population of the state and then divides it by the number of state representatives and state senators. The ideal Alabama House district is 45,421. The ideal Alabama State Senate district is 136,564. Reapportionment is necessary because of population movements over time. As an example Chairman McClendon pointed to Alvin Holmes’ district. Due to deaths and migration the population of his district has plummeted to 30880. Mike Hill’s Shelby County District, which includes Columbiana, has climbed to 73,181. Rep. McClendon said that Shelby County is the fastest growing population area in the state and because of that and because of how Shelby County votes, redistricting optimized Shelby County’s influence in the legislature.
Redistricting has to be approved by the U.S. Justice Department because Alabama is subject to DOJ review under the 1965 Voting Rights Act. McClendon said that it is important to avoid retrogression. Retrogression is when the minorities in the district are worse off after redistricting than they were before redistricting is a red flag to Justice Department
Rep. McClendon said that the odd shapes to districts are often due to legislators demands. The Committee set the variance in the districts at just plus or minus 1%. McClendon said there was no deviation in the congressional districts. The districts must be contiguous and must comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, there must be public input in the process, and the Committee can not do the redistricting behind closed doors. Rep. McClendon said every meeting we had is online. McClendon said that he has spent hours being interviewed by four justice department attorneys. McClendon said that he and the committee were being sued, but he expected that. The Legislative Black Caucus has sued to block the plan but the Republican did the same thing ten years ago. The redistricting bill, House Bill 19, is 604 pages long. Notable changes include House District 53 moved from Jefferson County to Madison County. It is likely to remain a majority minority district. House District 73 currently in Montgomery held by a white Democrat (Joe Hubbard) moved to Shelby County. That is a new district for Shelby County. It does not have an incumbent living in it so it is an open district in the 2014 election.
Senate District 11 was substantially redrawn. It now stretches deep into Shelby County and includes Columbiana and much of St. Clair County.
Dr. Stancil Handley (the incoming Mayor of Columbiana and President of the Shelby County Cattleman’s Association) asked, “I know this is premature. I know the election is two years from now. You have served St. Clair County and Columbiana well in the House.” Handley asked McClendon to run for that District 11 Senate seat. Rep. McClendon replied that many people have been asking for him to run and that is his plan if the redistricting plan is approved by the DOJ. “Once that is done you can expect me to run for Senate District 11.”
Following the event Dr. Stancil Handley told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that McClendon was one of his professors in school and that he was actively supporting McClendon for the state Senate.
Dr. Ben Smith also told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that he was supporting Rep. McClendon for the state in the 2014 election.
South Shelby County Chamber of Commerce member Johnny Jones said, “I have known Jim McClendon almost all my life. I am strongly supporting his candidacy for the State Senate.”
District 11 incumbent State Senator Jerry Fielding switched from the Democrat to the Republican party on Thursday. Sen. Fielding has said that he is not sure whether or not he is running for reelection in 2014 or not yet.
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