LITTLE ROCK — Retiring Congressman Mike Ross said Friday that Congress is too partisan for its own good, and he said redistricting is partly to blame.
The only Democrat left in Arkansas’ U.S. House delegation also said he supports state Sen. Gene Jeffress, the party’s underdog candidate for Ross’ 4th District seat.
Ross, who has served as the 4th District congressman for 12 years, said Congress has “become increasingly dysfunctional” and compromise has become a bad thing.
“When I got to Congress 12 years ago there were more people in the middle that understood that governing means compromise and working together,” he said in an interview Friday following his appearance before the Political Animals Club. “When I got to Congress 12 years ago, we actually created policy in odd years and played politics in even years.”
Ross said gridlock in Congress is responsible for an inability to reauthorize the transportation bill and the farm bill. He noted that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, “couldn’t even come up with a simple majority to agree to adjourn for the traditional August district work period.”
Ross blamed much of the partisanship on redistricting, which he said has led to fewer competitive districts and more seats that are basically decided during the party primary.
“Now it seems like the political game is never ending,” he said. “As soon as one election is over it’s all about the next election and who is going to control Congress, and it all comes down to about 75 districts and who is going to determine who is going to control Congress,” he said.
Ross said he thinks politics should be taken out of congressional redistricting process, which is done by state legislatures.
“I support legislation, co-sponsor legislation, that basically says the congressional districts should not be politicized … and they ought to be drawn solely on the basis of geographic and economic interests, rather than all these weird looking lines in order to make this seat more Democratic or that one more Republican,” he said.
The congressman said he he has donated to Jeffress’ congressional campaign and plans to campaign for him between now and the Nov. 6 general election. Jeffress, of Louann, faces Republican nominee Tom Cotton of Dardanelle.
“I think he is working hard,” Ross said. “I think it’s too early to know how that is going to work. He is running an unconventional campaign, a grassroots campaign.
“I’ll give him this: He puts 50,000, 60,000 miles on his car during the campaign, he gets out, shakes people’s hands and visits with the people. He is running an old-fashioned campaign and I’m picking up from a lot of people that a lot of people like that.”