Topeka — Democrats on Tuesday trumpeted a plan that would keep Lawrence in the 3rd Congressional District, but a key Republican said he didn't like it.
The plan put forth by Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka and Rep. Troy Findley, D-Lawrence, would keep Lawrence and the Kansas City area together in the 3rd District.
It also would drop southern Douglas County, southern Johnson County and Miami County currently in the 3rd District into the 2nd Congressional District.
Hensley and Findley said the proposal was based solely on population and didn't take into account political concerns, such as voter registration numbers and previous election returns.
"It's raw census data as opposed to raw political data," Findley said.
With Republicans controlling the redistricting process, Democrats fear the GOP will try to split Democratic-leaning Lawrence between two congressional districts, hurting current 3rd District Congressman Dennis Moore, the only Kansas Democrat in Congress.
State Rep. Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson and chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, looked at the Democratic proposal and said he saw problems.
Why should southern Johnson County and Miami County be separated from northern Johnson County, he asked.
Also, the Democratic plan has a domino effect across the state that would place Fort Riley in the 1st Congressional District instead of the 2nd District.
O'Neal said Fort Riley needed to stay in the 2nd District, where it is represented by Rep. Jim Ryun, whose seat on the House Armed Services Committee has helped protect Fort Riley from attempts to close it.
But Hensley and Findley said that their proposal keeps together communities of like interests.
Aside from maintaining the link between Lawrence and the Kansas City area, the Democratic proposal would keep in the same district the Kansas University main campus in Lawrence, the KU Edwards Campus in Johnson County and the KU Medical Center in Wyandotte County.
Next year, the Legislature will redraw the boundaries of congressional districts because of changes in population.
The 2000 census showed that the 3rd District should be reduced by about 61,000 people to meet the legal requirement of equal population in the state's four districts.
Joint meetings of the House and Senate redistricting committees will start May 16 in Lawrence at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Mass.