Archive for Saturday, June 9, 2012

Statehouse Live: Party officials scramble to find candidates for new districts

June 9, 2012


— A Republican Party official said Saturday it was like "open field running." A Democratic Party official said she expected to be on the telephone and on the road all weekend.

Welcome to Kansas politics after redistricting.

A panel of three federal judges hit the re-set button late Thursday by producing legislative districts that left nearly 30 open seats and paired up dozens of incumbents in other districts.

And the judges left in place the noon Monday deadline for candidates to file.

That meant Republicans and Democrats scrambled over the weekend to make sure they had candidates in incumbent-less districts and sort out strategies in districts where there were two incumbents. In some cases, candidates were moving to newly drawn districts.

"I have a list in front of me and a phone stuck in my ear," said Kansas Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon.

Wagnon said she would work the phone all day to line up potential candidates, and probably drive all Sunday to meet with others.

Amanda Adkins, chairwoman of the Kansas Republican Party, said she was at the graduation ceremony in Wichita on Saturday of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Excellence in Public Service Series, which is aimed at increasing the number of Republican women leaders. Adkins said some of the graduates and alums weren't there because they were out finishing recruiting efforts. "The vast network has been activated," Adkins said.

Clayton Barker, executive director of the state GOP, said he was staying in contact with local party officials to make sure empty districts had candidates.

He said the new maps "open up a lot of opportunities for people." Some Republicans may not have wanted to run against an incumbent, but with so many open seats, they are now considering a future in elected office, he said.

But some districts pitted incumbents against each. For example, state Sens. Ray Merrick of Stilwell, and Pat Apple of Louisburg, who are both considered conservative Republicans, now find themselves in the same senatorial district. Barker said he doesn't know what will happen there. "They may fight it out in the primary," he said.

The political party primaries are Aug. 7.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said he expected a big crowd when his office opened at 8 a.m. Monday. Candidates will be filing for office or modifying a previous filing before Kobach drops the gavel at noon to signal the end of the filing period.

The unprecedented shakeup by the judges occurred after the Republican-dominated Legislature failed to approve new political boundaries for congressional, legislative and State Board of Education districts. Moderate and conservative Republicans fought all year trying to gain an advantage in drawing the district lines, and finally the judges settled the issue.

Another key decision by the judges was putting Lawrence and Douglas County entirely in the 2nd Congressional District. It has been split between the 2nd and 3rd for 10 years.

This will put more Democratic voters in a district represented by U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a Republican from Topeka. But Republicans will still hold a voter registration edge. "We can live with it," said Barker.

Wagnon said she believes putting Douglas County in the 2nd makes the district more competitive.

Wagnon said she was satisfied with the maps ordered by the court. "They produced a fair plan," she said of the judges. "And we are going to have a fair fight," she added.


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