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Archive for Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Plan shifts county to 2nd

February 19, 2002

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— Lawrence residents would have a different congressman  one of the most conservative in the nation  under a redistricting map approved Monday by Republican legislators.

The proposal would move the city of Lawrence from the 3rd Congressional District, currently represented by Dennis Moore, Kansas' only Democratic congressional representative, into the 2nd District, which is represented by Jim Ryun, a Republican who consistently is rated one of the most conservative members of Congress.

The proposed map was approved 6-2 by the Senate Reapportionment Committee and next goes to the full Senate, though Senate leaders said they didn't know when. Minority Democrats on the committee sat out Monday's meeting.

The map immediately drew fire from Lawrence officials who have fought to keep the city in the 3rd District with the Kansas City metropolitan area.

"We feel our community of interest is more tied to looking east than looking west," said Tim Holverson, vice president of public policy for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

Lawrence officials have cited academic and economic links with Kansas City as the main reason for keeping Lawrence in the 3rd District.

'Map splits KU'

Jack Martin, a spokesman for Moore, said, "This is obviously not a map we would've drawn."

Moore has said he wants to keep all of Lawrence, or as much of it as possible, in the 3rd District.

"This map splits KU from its campuses in the Kansas City area and splits Lawrence from the businesses along the K-10 corridor," Martin said.

But because Republicans hold significant majorities in the Legislature, and Gov. Bill Graves is a Republican, "they're in the driver's seat" on redistricting, Martin added.

A spokesman for Ryun did not return a telephone call for comment.

The Legislature redraws congressional boundaries every 10 years to accommodate population changes recorded by the national census.

The fast-growing 3rd District must give up some population in order for Kansas' four congressional districts to have similar-sized populations.

A plan pushed by Democrats would keep Lawrence in the 3rd District and move southern Johnson County into the 2nd District. But Republicans say Johnson and Wyandotte counties must stay wholly in the 3rd District.

What Bush wants

Sen. Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, submitted the plan endorsed Monday. He said putting Lawrence in the 2nd District represented a compromise between those who wanted to keep Lawrence in the 3rd District and those who wanted to split the city.

Schmidt's proposal was vehemently opposed by two conservative Republicans on the committee, Sens. Tim Huelskamp of Fowler and Ed Pugh of Wamego.

Huelskamp said the proposed map would hurt U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Wichita, by moving Montgomery County, which is rich in Republican voters, out of Tiahrt's 4th Congressional District and into the 2nd.

"I wouldn't want the committee to jeopardize a seat we have,'' Huelskamp said. "This is not supported by any of our congressmen and is not supported by the Bush administration."

Huelskamp said the White House wants a plan that would elect four Republicans from Kansas.

Under the proposal, the 4th District also spreads north to take in all of McPherson County and part of Marion County.

The 3rd District also picks up a corner of Leavenworth County and expands southward to absorb Linn and Bourbon counties, along the Missouri border.

New 2nd District

Besides picking up all of Douglas County, the 2nd District would add Montgomery County in southeast Kansas and lose a few counties in far northeast Kansas.

The 1st District, which now has 66 counties, would expand along the state's northeastern tier while losing all of Osage County and part of Coffey County. The net result would be that the 1st District would contain all of 68 counties and parts of four others.

The committee made the recommendation also without any Democrats present. Democrats said they did not attend the meeting because it occurred at the usual time for their caucus meeting.

"It was clear they would pass the map irrespective of our attendance," said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka. "I'm not going to support it."

Democrats have consistently opposed moving Lawrence into the 2nd District, which also includes Kansas State University, Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth.

State Sen. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, said she could support placing Lawrence in the 2nd District. She said she would like to keep it in the 3rd District, but that isn't politically possible because of Republican opposition to any plan that would split off a portion of Johnson County.

"My goal has been to keep Lawrence whole with as much as the county together," she said.

She said the proposal by Schmidt "is as balanced as I've seen." She said pairing Lawrence with Manhattan, the home of Kansas State, produces a "higher education" district. And she noted that Lawrence has bounced back and forth for 40 years between the 2nd and 3rd Districts.

The reapportionment bill is SB 381.

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