Topeka Kansas Republicans Tim Huelskamp and Lynn Jenkins filed Monday for re-election to Congress, even though the boundaries of their districts remain unsettled amid a legal fight over redistricting.
One issue in a pending federal lawsuit over whether Manhattan, home to a planned $1.14 billion federal biosecurity lab, remains in the 2nd Congressional District of eastern Kansas. It is represented by Jenkins, a two-term congresswoman and the senior member of the state's all-GOP delegation in the U.S. House.
Jenkins, local officials, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and many GOP state legislators would like to keep Manhattan and the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility site in the 2nd District. But one bipartisan legislative proposal — approved by the Senate and rejected by the House — would have expanded Huelskamp's 1st District of western and central Kansas to take in Manhattan.
Three federal judges handling the redistricting lawsuit will redraw the state's political boundaries to reflect shifts in population over the past decade because state legislators failed to do it before formally ending their annual session Friday. The judges had a two-day trial last week.
Supporters of keeping Manhattan in Jenkins' district have argued relationships she's forged in Congress and with other federal officials will protect funding for the lab, which will research deadly animal diseases. Huelskamp, a freshman congressman, said his focus on agriculture while representing his rural district would make Manhattan and the biosecurity lab a good fit for him.
The state's entire congressional delegation strongly supports the project, and Jenkins told reporters after filing, "We're going to go to bat for them, no matter whose district they're in."
Both Huelskamp's and Jenkins' campaigns paid a $1,760 fee and filed paperwork in the Kansas secretary of state's office to guarantee their spots on the Aug. 7 primary election ballot. Jenkins is seeking her third term and Huelskamp his second.
Neither has drawn a primary opponent. No Democrat has filed in the 1st District. In the 2nd, Scott Barnhart, an Ottawa farmer, has filed for the Democratic nomination, and the Rev. Tobias Schlingensiepen, of Topeka, a United Church of Christ pastor, has announced that he'll run as a Democrat.
The state's two other incumbent Republican congressmen, both freshmen, filed for re-election late last month. They are Kevin Yoder, who represents the 3rd District, centered on the Kansas City metropolitan area, and Mike Pompeo, serving in the 4th District of south-central Kansas. Democrats have filed to run in both districts: George York, of Overland Park, in the 3rd, and Robert Tillman, of Wichita, in the 4th.
All four incumbents had been expected to run again, and they're all favored to win re-election in GOP-leaning Kansas.
The filing deadline for state and congressional offices remains June 11, despite the lawsuit over redistricting. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican named as a defendant in the case, has urged the judges to postpone the deadline if they can't set new boundaries this week.
The 1st District must grow because it is nearly 58,000 residents short of the ideal population of about 713,000. Jenkins' district is slightly under-populated. The 3rd District, centered on the Kansas City metropolitan area, needs to gain more than 54,000 residents, and the 4th, in south-central Kansas, is slightly overpopulated.
The proposal to expand Huelskamp's district to take in Manhattan would have left Jenkins with a slightly more Democratic district — something many Republican legislators disliked. Jenkins acknowledged that with her district between the shrinking-in-population 1st and the growing 3rd, "I'm going to get shoved around in the process."
"We trust the courts will do a good job," she said.
The Kansas House's conservative Republican leaders favored various proposals giving Jenkins a more Republican district. But those plans also would have expanded the 1st District into heavily Democratic neighborhoods in Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City, Kan.
Huelskamp objected, arguing his district should continue to "highlight agriculture."
"Hopefully, the 1st District will retain its traditional character," he said after filing. "I think the district ought to represent that key, primary industry."