Remap leaves U.S. Rep. Rokita outside his district

2011-05-15T19:45:00Z 2011-05-16T10:40:10Z Remap leaves U.S. Rep. Rokita outside his districtBy Dan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | Indiana's new 4th Congressional District starts in Newton and Jasper counties in Northwest Indiana, runs past the windmills of White County, through Purdue University in West Lafayette and ends in the western suburbs of Indianapolis.

But one thing is missing from the newly drawn 4th District -- its congressman.

The Indianapolis home of Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita is about 500 yards outside the new district boundaries drawn by state legislators in April and signed into law last week by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Under the U.S. Constitution, Rokita is only required to live in the state he represents in Congress, not the district, and Rokita told The Times he plans to run for re-election in 2012 from his current home.

"Whether I'm in the district or 500 yards from it, I don't think it's going to be an issue," Rokita said.

As Indiana secretary of state from 2003 to 2010, Rokita championed a nonpartisan redistricting process that the Republican-controlled General Assembly declined to follow in performing its once-a-decade duty of redrawing district lines following the U.S. census to ensure equal population in each district.

Rokita, a Munster native, said he believes his "Rethinking Redistricting" proposals may have annoyed some state lawmakers who then drew him out of his district as payback.

"I think once folks realize the politics of what happened, the fact that they moved the line 500 yards from where it used to be, and they know that I was a reformer for the lines and this was kind of a comeuppance thing -- I think folks will understand that," Rokita said. "I'm not a carpetbagger."

State Sen. Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake, presided over the redistricting process in the Indiana Senate as chairwoman of the Elections Committee. She said the lines were not drawn to punish Rokita.

"I think he's tilting at windmills. That's not so, not at all," Landske said. "I didn't even know where he lived, to tell you the truth."

If Rokita wins a second term while remaining outside his district he won't be the first Indiana congressman not to live in the district he represents.

In 2002, Republican Chris Chocola, of Bristol, was elected to the 2nd Congressional District representing LaPorte County and north central Indiana, even though a 2001 remap put his home 1.4 miles outside the district.

His Democratic opponent, former U.S. Rep. Jill Long Thompson, challenged Chocola during the campaign on his residency, but Chocola won on Election Day, 50 percent to 45 percent, and was re-elected in 2004.

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