Topeka Gov. Sam Brownback wants a Senate redistricting plan that would exclude two Democratic incumbents, including his general election opponent, from their current districts.
Brownback's chief of staff, David Kensinger, told the Senate Reapportionment Committee on Wednesday that Leavenworth County deserves to be one Senate district.
"This is a data driven process," Kensinger said.
Leavenworth County has a population of 76,227, which is more than the ideal Senate district size of 70,986. Of the 10 largest counties, Kensinger said, only Leavenworth isn't self-contained in one Senate district or the predominant county of one Senate district. And he said neither state senator representing Leavenworth County lives in Leavenworth County.
Currently, Leavenworth County is represented by Sens. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, and Kelly Kultala, D-Kansas City. Brownback, a Republican, defeated Holland in the November gubernatorial race. Kultala was Holland's lieutenant governor running mate.
Holland's 3rd Senate District includes part of Leavenworth and Douglas counties, and all of Jefferson County. The 5th District, which is represented by Kultala, includes the cities of Leavenworth and Lansing and most of Wyandotte County.
Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, noted that Brownback and Holland ran against each other last year. Hensley said he was suspicious of the governor's effort.
"It seems to me there may be an underlying motive here," Hensley said. Kensinger denied there was another motive for proposing the change other than the data.
Hensley said Holland and Kultala have done an excellent job of representing Leavenworth County.
Holland, a member of the Senate Reapportionment Committee, said he enjoyed representing Leavenworth County "and hope to do so in the future."
Kensinger said neither Holland nor Kultala have won majorities in their portions of their districts within Leavenworth County in a general election. "These data ... could support a finding that the residents of Leavenworth County are effectively disenfranchised under the current Senate configuration," he said.
Kensinger's decision to weigh in on Senate redistricting on behalf of the governor was unprecedented, Hensley said. "I've never known of the chief of staff of a governor come in and basically state what his boss wanted to see in a reapportionment," he said.
The committee continued its deliberations and won't meet again until next week.
Legislators are redrawing legislative, congressional and State Board of Education boundaries to accommodate population shifts over the past 10 years.