TOPEKA — A congressional redistricting map approved by a House panel Thursday would have little impact on the 4th District, which covers Sedgwick County and several nearby counties.
It jettisons parts of Greenwood and Kingman counties that are currently in the 4th.
The real rub is up in Kansas City. The map peels away parts of the Kansas City metro area and puts them in the predominately rural 1st District that covers the western half of the state. (Here’s an AP article that explores that.)
There are many draft maps that cut the state up in different ways. But all aim to balance the congressional districts based on new Census data. The rural 1st District has to gain people and the more urban 3rd District needs to shrink its boundaries to reduce its population.
House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, drew the map the committee endorsed on a close vote. It’s called “Eisenhower B.”
He said there’s no pretty way to draw the maps.
“If there is a better way, it has not emerged yet in either the House or Senate,” he said in a news release. “Changing Congressional boundary lines does not change or alter those historic connections. My county, Reno, has bounced back and forth between the 4th and 1st over the years without any noticeable effect in relationship to our connections with Wichita or rural Kansas, e.g."
The discussion now shifts to the House floor.
Ultimately, many lawmakers expect that redistricting maps for the House, Senate and congressional seats will be written into one bill that the House and Senate agree on — most likely after grueling negotiations laden with behind-the-scenes political drama.
Meanwhile, lawmakers on a Senate panel today are expected to discuss a new map that reconfigures Senate districts. Legislators are having trouble agreeing on a map in part because several conservative Republican candidates are challenging incumbent Republicans in this year’s primary in an effort backed by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce to unseat incumbents viewed as a roadblock to the elimination of state income taxes.
The map that has received the most debate so far would remove Wichita businessman Gary Mason from the district he planned to run in against incumbent Republican Sen. Carolyn McGinn, of Sedgwick. It would also cut conservative Republican Rep. Brenda Landwehr, of Wichita, out of the district she planned to run in against incumbent Republican Sen. Jean Schodorf, also of Wichita. (Read about that battle here.)
But Senators on the redistricting panel expect a new map to emerge today that will open a new conversation and perhaps lead to a vote to advance the yet-undisclosed map to the Senate floor for debate.