Archive for Saturday, October 24, 2009

City may find itself in new district

October 24, 2009


All of Lawrence could be moved into the 2nd Congressional District in time for the 2012 election when the Kansas Legislature reconsiders its boundaries after the 2010 Census.

“It’s something to watch, and I think it would be the most-watched development when Kansas redistricts the next time,” said Allan Cigler, a Kansas University political science professor.

Redrawing boundaries is one of the most partisan tasks the Legislature undertakes. Cigler said the Republican-controlled Legislature would likely try to shift the map to try to capture the 3rd District seat in the Kansas City area from U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, a Democrat first elected in 1998.

“It’s always a very difficult process because it’s inherently political,” said Kansas Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence. “By definition, it’s about choosing political leadership, but at the same time there has to be a balance of a whole range of interests.”

The political blog Swing State Project on Friday speculated about a scenario that would move all of Lawrence and Douglas County into the 2nd District, which Republican Lynn Jenkins now represents. The 3rd District would still include Wyandotte and Johnson counties and gain the northern part of Miami County.

Cigler said that could be an option, but it also might not be a sure thing because it would put more Democratic-leaning voters from Lawrence into the 2nd District.

“It will get involved in some political give-and-take in that situation,” he said.

Shaking up Lawrence

The other main redistricting issue for Lawrence is whether it will be divided or shipped all together into the 2nd District. That would also be a historic shift because Lawrence was once all in the 3rd District.

“Our commonality is more with Johnson County than with Horton and Topeka,” said Wint Winter Jr., who represented Lawrence as a Republican in the state Senate during the last redistricting process.

After the 2000 Census, the Legislature essentially split Lawrence in half, moving the western half into the 2nd District.

Opponents in the Legislature at the time complained it was a partisan move meant to strengthen Rep. Jim Ryun, a conservative Republican in the 2nd District, and hurt Moore’s chances at re-election. It didn’t work, at least in the 2006 election when Democrat Nancy Boyda shocked Ryun. Moore has won re-election each time.

Jenkins won the seat back from Boyda for the GOP last year.

Winter said if legislators determine they have no better alternatives to moving all of Lawrence into the 2nd District, it would be OK, but he said it should not be strictly for political purposes.

“I’m still not a big fan of it, but this might be the least evil that’s possible,” Winter said. “It certainly sounds to me like at least we’re getting our community identity back in Congress.”

More politics

It’s still speculation about what can happen because the Census numbers still have to come in. It’s unlikely the state will lose a seat in Congress, but Schmidt said metropolitan areas are the ones gaining in population, meaning legislators will have to redraw boundaries to make districts even.

As Johnson County, a GOP stronghold, grows, Cigler said that could give Republicans more clout in the process.

“It will be a battle within the Republican elements, and the Democrats won’t have much to say,” he said.

But others say because the GOP often is split between conservatives and moderates, they might not be able to agree on a plan that shifts all of Douglas County into the 2nd District.

“It’s very likely that whoever gets their redistricting plan successfully passed is going to have to bring Democrats in the Senate along as well,” said Chapman Rackaway, an associate professor of political science at Fort Hays State University.

To eliminate some politics, Schmidt and other legislative leaders last session introduced a bill that would have authorized nonpartisan legislative staff members to draw up districts, and legislators would vote up or down on the proposals. But the idea didn’t gain traction in Topeka.

For the next round of redistricting discussions, the current Senate majority leader who is also running for Kansas attorney general next year expects partisan and geographic discussions to loom large.

“That’s just part of it,” Schmidt said, “and it always will be as long as the Legislature draws its own boundaries.”


Boston_Corbett 8 years, 6 months ago

Talk about watching paint dry.

This is just the first of endless articles over the next three years of endless speculation about the eventual outcome and its possible meaning, despite the obvious change which will inevitably occur do to the march of demographics.

I wished the paper would write more about how our representatives vote, compared to the ink which will be devoted to this topic.

texburgh 8 years, 6 months ago

Redistricting should never have been given to the legislature. No matter who is in control, it is about trying to craft power by manipulating voters. This was just made all the more obvious by the remarks of Derek Schmidt. Partisan hackery at its best. Democracy has become a joke.

Cait McKnelly 8 years, 6 months ago

Next year is a census year. Let the gerrymandering begin.

BigPrune 8 years, 6 months ago

Moderate Republicans in Kansas are Democrats in drag.

LogicMan 8 years, 6 months ago

Getting the City, and better yet the whole County in one district would be good. Which one is the only question to me.

gccs14r 8 years, 6 months ago

All political districts should be of a regular shape, not strung out across the countryside.

sourpuss 8 years, 6 months ago

At least city limits should not be divided between congressional districts.

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 6 months ago

Go for it. Adding all of Lawrence to the 2nd would have little impact on Moore in the 3rd and would virtually assure that the 2nd district would be democratic. The 50,000 democratic votes from the rest of Lawrence combined with those from Topeka would easily put the 2nd in the democratic column.

Trouble trouble. What are partisan GOP handwringers in the legislature to do? Go after Moore in the third and thus surrender the 2nd? Or leave Moore alone to try to keep the 2nd.

The fact is, the demographics in eastern Kansas are changing and the GOP are struggling to hold on. I think this next census and redistricting will be a big blow to the GOP no matter what happens.

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 6 months ago

Derek Schmidt is disengenuous.

He represents SE Kansas (Parsons?) but lives full time in Lawrence. I don't blame him. I would rather live in Lawrence, too.

But then, I don't represent SE Kansas.

Jimo 8 years, 6 months ago

Wouldn't it be a great thing for democracy in Kansas if the redistricting was controlled by a independent commission whose first principal was making each district as politically competitive as possible?

Instead, we'll have again a process the prioritizes politicians choice in picking their constituents over the constituents' choice in picking their representatives.

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