Former Attorney General Eric Holder is not planning to seek the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2020, he made clear in a Washington Post op-ed on Monday. Holder, who served for six years during the Obama administration, was among the wide field of lawmakers and officials who have been rumored as possible Democratic contenders in the upcoming election.
In lieu of a run, Holder emphasized that he’ll be laser-focused on redistricting as states begin to redraw district maps in 2021.
“Though I will not run for president in 2020, I will continue to fight for the future of our country through the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and its affiliates,” he writes. “For too long, Democrats have lost sight of the state and local races that shape the day-to-day lives of the people we serve.”
Holder also noted that he “will not be shy” about offering his takes as the 2020 primary gets underway, and highlighted voting rights, criminal justice reform, and climate change among the most pressing policy priorities he’d like the Democratic nominee to address. “Now is a time to think big — but to be wary of purists,” he added in an apparent dig about certain members of the Democratic field.
Holder served as President Obama’s AG from 2009 to 2015. As Vox’s German Lopez has written, he built an expansive legacy on civil rights and reducing racial disparities in the criminal justice system while he was in this role. He was known for highlighting the country’s ongoing struggle to reckon with racial inequality, once calling the US a “nation of cowards” for its unwillingness to confront entrenched racism.
Holder told Stephen Colbert in summer 2018 that he was “thinking about” a presidential run and that he would decide in early 2019.
As Holder notes, there’s also a key redistricting milestone coming up
In the wake of the 2020 Census, state legislatures and independent commissions across the country will be involved in drawing new congressional districts, changes that could have a major impact on the kind of representation that states have.
As Vox’s Andrew Prokop explains, redistricting is a process that takes place every 10 years, after states have access to new census population data. This data helps states determine the number of representatives they have and informs how they draw districts to match up with the population living in them.
In the past, both Republicans and Democrats have capitalized on these redistricting opportunities to draw district maps that are heavily skewed in favor of electing representatives from their own parties, a process known as gerrymandering. Because of the way gerrymandered districts are stacked, a state like North Carolina has far more Republican representatives than Democratic ones, even if half of its voters actually vote Democratic, Prokop notes.
States will have another opportunity to draw these districts in 2021, and the boundaries they set will have an impact for the coming decade. Because Democrats were able to flip a series of governors’ seats and state legislatures during the 2018 midterms — the two bodies most commonly involved in setting new district lines — they’ll likely have more checks they can put on Republicans.
For now, Holder will focus on correcting that balance in different states. “I will do everything I can to ensure that the next Democratic president is not hobbled by a House of Representatives pulled to the extremes by members from gerrymandered districts,” he wrote in his Monday op-ed.