TOPEKA – Wichita Republican Rep. Brenda Landwehr said Wednesday that a proposed Senate redistricting map gerrymanders her out of the Senate district she had planned to run in against incumbent Republican Sen. Jean Schodorf.
The map, called Buffalo 1, would also cut Republican businessman Gary Mason out of the district he planned to run in against incumbent Republican Sen. Carolyn McGinn, of Sedgwick.
Landwehr told the Senate Redistricting Committee that the map puts her in Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau’s district and that it would disrupt the demographics of both districts.
“Clearly, gerrymandering an area of Wichita where primarily Caucasian voters reside, in homes that are upwards of $800,000 and more in price, violates committee rules and federal redistricting guidelines,” Landwehr wrote in testimony to the committee.
Never miss a local story.
Schodorf downplayed the importance of the many redistricting maps being considered and said late Wednesday that her 25th District contains “few if any” $800,000 homes. She said Landwehr’s comments took her aback and were perhaps “racist.”
District 25, where Schodorf is the incumbent, includes a strip through central-west Wichita and takes in parts of northwest Wichita and Sedgwick County, including Maize. It also extends south to Pawnee in central Wichita. It is 84 percent white and 4.5 percent black. Forty percent of registered voters are Republican and 28 percent are Democrats.
Senate District 29, where Democrat Faust-Goudeau is the incumbent, stretches from roughly Lincoln to K-96 between Arkansas and Woodlawn, excluding much of College Hill. It is 45 percent white and nearly 36 percent black. Nearly half of registered voters are Democrats.
Meanwhile, Mason, who has filed to run against McGinn in the August primary election, said he would not run if the Buffalo 1 map is approved because it would pit him against Sen. Ty Masterson, who he said has similar views on core political issues.
Mason said he thinks McGinn, who is on the redistricting committee, should abstain from voting on Senate maps because it is a conflict of interest.
“To me it makes sense that they should just bow out of the discussion and let others run with it,” he said.
“I’m elected to be the senator for the 31st District and I’m expected to vote on issues while I’m up here,” she said.
McGinn and Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said a new map will likely emerge Friday. Morris said he believes the new map, which isn’t publicly available yet, is more likely to garner support.
He said it may not be realistic to protect all candidates – whether they’re incumbent or not.
“To try to draw a map specifically for two or three people so they can run against who they want to run against would be difficult,” he said.
Morris, McGinn and Schodorf are among a group of Republican senators who have been targeted by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and other conservative Republican groups in the primary election.
Those groups are providing financial backing to more conservative opponents in an effort to make the Senate more conservative and therefore more likely to support the elimination of income taxes.
The redistricting committee meets Friday and is expected to vote on a map that would advance the debate to the full Senate.
Meanwhile, a congressional redistricting plan for Kansas that divides the Kansas City area and moves some of its urban neighborhoods into a district with rural communities more than 400 miles away was narrowly endorsed Wednesday by a state House committee.
The Redistricting Committee approved the proposal on a 12-11 vote. The plan was drafted by House Speaker Mike O’Neal, a Hutchinson Republican who named himself the committee’s chairman and broke a tie among its other members.
Legislators must redraw political boundaries this year to account for shifts in population during the past decade.
Contributing: Associated Press