CHICAGO | Democratic Congressman Danny Davis on Friday backed away from statements made by colleague Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. that he wouldn't help defend the state's new congressional map being challenged in court by Republicans.
Davis said he had yet to decide whether he would kick in $10,000, as Illinois' Democratic members of Congress were asked to do, to help pay to fight the legal challenge of a map that Jackson has suggested may put politics ahead of minority rights.
"I have not reached the point of saying at this juncture that I will not participate in the defense of the map," Davis told The Associated Press. "I'm actually in the process of deciding whether or not I'm going to participate." He said he would decide soon.
Davis' comments came a day after Jackson's spokesman, Frank Watkins, told the AP that Jackson, Davis and fellow Rep. Bobby Rush wouldn't contribute to the legal defense. They are the three black members of Illinois' congressional delegation, and their districts weren't overly affected by the remap.
Watkins did not return a message seeking comment Friday, and Rush's spokeswoman did not immediately comment.
Republicans have sued in federal court, arguing that Illinois' new Democrat-drawn map shortchanges Latinos by diluting their voting strength and hurts GOP voters by trying to undo recent GOP gains in Congress by making it tougher for Republicans to win re-election.
Jackson has raised questions about whether the map satisfies the federal Voting Rights Act, which protects minority districts, because it didn't create a second Latino district.
Supporters of the map have said there was consensus among Latino groups that creating two districts might dilute their vote. Others contend a second Latino district could have cut into African-American districts. The latest census showed Illinois' Hispanic population grew at a rate of 32.5 percent, while the populations of whites and blacks decreased.
Jackson's statement suggested that while some Democrats "may be prepared to tamper with and possibly violate" the voting rights act to gain partisan advantage, he said that he, Davis and Rush were "not prepared to do so."
Davis said Friday he had not yet drawn any conclusions about the congressional map. He said that the three congressmen had agreed to take a close look at the data used to draw the new map and an alternate offered by Republicans. Davis said Jackson was "editorializing a little bit" on what they had agreed to do.
"I'm not suggesting that the Democratic Legislature has done anything other than they've drawn a map that they agreed to and passed," Davis said.