Prosecutorial discretion

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I have written in the past that Republicans have certain structural advantages in our nearly equally divided American politics. George W. Bush carried 31 states that elect 62 of 100 senators, and he carried 255 of 435 congressional districts while winning the popular vote by only 51 to 48 percent. But the indictment yesterday of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay points to a structural advantage for the Democrats: They have majorities in most of the counties containing the state capitals of our largest states. That means that political corruption cases are likely to be handled by prosecutors, judges, and juries that are largely Democratic.

Thus District Attorney Ronnie Earle, whose indictment of Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was thrown out of court in 1994, is reliably re-elected in heavily Democratic Travis County in Texas. And as we saw in the 2000 Florida controversy, the judges in Tallahassee's heavily Democratic Leon County tend to be Democrats. Albany County, N.Y. (Albany), Ingham County, Mich. (Lansing), and Mercer County, N.J. (Trenton) are also heavily Democratic. Historically Democratic but now less so is Sacramento County, Calif. (Sacramento), but historically Republican Sangamon County, Ill. (Springfield), and Franklin County, Ohio (Columbus) are now trending Democratic. Exception: Dauphin County, Pa. (Harrisburg).