Topeka — The chairman of the Kansas Senate’s redistricting committee proposed redrawing the state’s four U.S. House districts Wednesday by moving Manhattan and Fort Riley into the 1st District.
Sen. Tim Owens, an Overland Park Republican, offered the new boundaries as the committee began redrawing the congressional districts and the 40 Senate districts.
“This is not without its controversy,” Owens said. “This is a template. This is something you put down over the terrain and then you adjust to the terrain.”
Manhattan and Fort Riley are now in the 2nd Congressional District of predominantly eastern Kansas. Owens proposes consolidating Douglas County into the 2nd District. It’s currently split between the 2nd and 3rd districts.
Dick Carter of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce said city and county leaders would prefer to stay in the 2nd District when maps are redrawn. Manhattan is home of Kansas State University and where the Department of Homeland Security is proposing to build the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to conduct plant and animal research.
“We understand that there’s always a starting point for discussion,” Carter said.
Keeping the area in the 2nd District would align it with Fort Leavenworth and Kansas University in Lawrence, which Carter said were significant “communities of interest” to consider when drawing boundaries.
Other changes include moving Montgomery County from the 4th District, which centers on Wichita, to the 2nd District, and adding all or parts of six counties in central Kansas into the 4th District.
Reno County was kept in the 1st District, currently represented by Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a freshman Republican. Sen. Anthony Hensley said that Reno was moved into the 1st District 20 years ago and that residents said during field hearings last year that they desired to stay put with their representation.
“We’ve been down that road before,” said Hensley, a Topeka Democrat.