Congressman loses challenge to redrawn congressional districts

Saturday, October 20, 2001

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- U.S. Rep. David Phelps has lost his challenge to the state's redrawn congressional map, but says he will appeal the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Sangamon County Circuit Judge Donald Cadagin ruled Thursday that the lawsuit did not raise constitutional or federal law issues.

Phelps, a Democrat from Eldorado in Southern Illinois, joined 45 people in suing to block the new map approved by the General Assembly last spring. The lawsuit claimed the new districts are not compact, are politically gerrymandered and do not protect so-called "communities of interest."

Phelps finds himself in the Republican-leaning 15th District after the state had to expand districts to give up one of its 20 congressional seats. Illinois is losing one seat in the House of Representatives because its population did not grow as fast as other states in the 2000 census.

"Judge Cadagin, in my opinion, is wrong," said Robert Howerton, Phelps' attorney and a former Illinois appellate judge. "Ultimately, the Illinois Supreme Court will decide the issue."

Cadagin ruled that the issues raised by the lawsuit were "subject to determination by the legislature and were properly resolved by the legislature within the confines of the Illinois Constitution."

Rather than seek to represent the 15th District, Phelps has said he will run in the newly created 19th District, where the incumbent is Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville. A large part of Phelps' old district is also within the 19th District.

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