TOPEKA – A Senate panel today approved a redistricting map that would protect three Republican senators from conservative challengers who had planned to run against them in the August primary.
But it’s all subject to change when the full Senate debates the map Wednesday. And several key lawmakers predict five new maps that are not available to the public – and haven’t been reviewed by several members of the redistricting committee – will be offered up for votes with little time for analysis.
“These voodoo maps that will show up ghost-like on the floor without having had committee discussion or debate… has always seemed untenable to me,” said Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City. “Otherwise why do we have town hall meetings? Why do we have committee hearings? Why do we have conferees if something is just going to mysteriously appear?”
The “Ad Astra” map the Senate panel endorsed hadn’t been publicly available until today. It puts Wichita Republican Rep. Brenda Landwehr into central-Wichita District 29 with Wichita Democrat Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a move Landwehr has called gerrymandering. Landwehr has filed to run against Wichita Republican Sen. Jean Schodorf in Senate District 25 in northwest Wichita.
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Landwehr said extending Faust-Goudeau’s district into west Wichita would draw dissimilar communities into the same district and that the proposal draws more Democrats into Schodorf’s district.
“You tell me this isn’t a political map,” she said. “This is pure politics.”
The House has already approved a new map of House districts in a 109-14 vote. Landwehr said if the proposed Senate map gets Senate approval, the odds are high that there would be a new House redistricting map.
The Senate map also puts Wichita businessman Gary Mason, who has filed to challenge Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, into District 16, now held by Republican Sen. Ty Masterson of Andover. Mason has said he wouldn’t challenge Masterson because their political views are similar. McGinn lives in District 31.
And the proposal would protect Overland Park Republican Sen. Tim Owens, who is chairman of the redistricting committee, from a challenge from Republican Rep. Greg Smith, also of Overland Park.
Each decade lawmakers have to redraw House, Senate and congressional districts to balance new population estimates that emerge from the Census.
The Ad Astra map merges western Kansas District 38, currently held by Sen. Garrett Love, R-Montezuma, with District 36, which is represented by Sen. Allen Schmidt, D-Hays. The new District 38 would run from Trego County on Interstate 70 down to Seward County on the Kansas-Oklahoma border. The map would create a new district, to maintain a 40 member Senate, in Lenexa.
Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, said it’s not fair to the 40th District, which he represents in northwestern Kansas. He said it’s currently the largest district and gets cut up to create a new district in eastern Kansas.
“This is coyote ugly,” he said.