Gregg bails on Commerce while census redistricting fight looms large

And then there was none. Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire withdrew his name Thursday from the apparently haunted cabinet position at the Commerce Department. See the state ethics probe that derailed his predecessor nominee, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Gregg cited the coming decennial U.S. Census, as one example of irreconcilable disagreement with President Barack Obama. The census? Huh? The brewing oversight fight on the 2010 national head count promises high political drama. You think Dick Wadhams is just sticking around here for the fresh mountain air?

As we reported almost a year ago, the census could be the next hanging chad of election scandals since an inaccurate tally of residents could greatly affect federal funding to the states as well as partisan top-loading of redrawn political district boundaries.

Redistricting is called a blood sport for very good reason. Think back to 2002. The state Legislature failed to agree on new maps based on the 2000 census that created District 7, a fast-growing area just west of Denver. In the meantime the Republicans gained control of the statehouse in the 2002 midterm election and attempted to push through a GOP-friendly map.

Lawsuits ensued over the imbroglio reaching as high as the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case, remanding it back to a state court that drew the maps we have today.

And that CD 7 example still figures prominently. The competitive district flipped from Republican Bob Beauprez who retired to lose in a gubernatorial blowout to Gov. Bill Ritter. Democrat Ed Perlmutter won the seat over flamed-out rising GOP star Rick O’Donnell. Perlmutter now looks fairly well ensconced much to Wadhams’ chagrin, leaving the GOP with just two truly competitive congressional seats — CD 3 and CD 4 — in the state.