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Archive for Tuesday, March 12, 2002

New map would split Lawrence, put KU in 2nd District

March 12, 2002

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— A new congressional redistricting map would not only split the city of Lawrence, but it would put Kansas University's Lawrence campus in the 2nd District.

"This is exactly what we wanted not to happen," Rep. Troy Findley, D-Lawrence, said after the map was presented Tuesday to the House redistricting committee.

Rep. Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, and chairman of the redistricting committee, however, said the new map has the most political traction at this point and probably will be approved by the committee Wednesday.

"This does the least amount of damage," to the cores of the four congressional districts, O'Neal said.

Lawrence is currently in the 3rd congressional district, which includes the Kansas City metropolitan area, and is represented by U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, the only Democrat in the Kansas congressional delegation.

The 2nd congressional district is represented by U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, a Republican, and one of the most conservative members of Congress.

When legislators started the process of re-drawing congressional boundaries, Lawrence officials asked that the city remain in the 3rd District, citing links to the Kansas City metro area.

Thousands of Lawrence residents commute every day on K-10 and KU has a campus in Overland Park and medical school in Kansas City.

As a second choice, Lawrence officials asked that the city be placed wholly in the 2nd District, rather than being split.

But before the legislative session started, Republican lawmakers approved splitting Lawrence along Iowa Street, which would have left the KU campus in the 3rd, but put western Lawrence in the 2nd.

Now that has changed.

The map now supported by O'Neal would split Lawrence along Massachusetts, meaning everything west of Mass. would be in Ryun's 2nd District and everything east of Mass. would stay in Moore's 3rd.

Findley said Republicans are trying to gain political advantage through new political boundaries.

"The Republicans are in a quandary. They want to hurt Dennis Moore and not hurt Jim Ryun in the process. Keeping Lawrence in the 3rd, helps Dennis but putting it in the 2nd probably hurts Ryun. So they are going to split the difference and split the city.

"We should stay whole in the 3rd or in the 2nd," he said.

Findley noted that the new plan is such a dramatic change it would place Moore's Lawrence office in Ryun's district.

But O'Neal said Lawrence must be split. Dramatic population growth in the 3rd District means the district must give up population to even out the size of the remaining three congressional districts.

Placing all of Lawrence in the 2nd would have a domino effect of drastically altering the remaining three districts to make room for Lawrence, he said.

Findley, however, said there is a way to keep Lawrence in the 3rd District, and that involves placing southern Johnson County in the 2nd. But Republicans have opposed splitting heavily Republican Johnson County.

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