Analysis: Comparison of political effects of KY congressional map drafts

12/04/2011 11:02 PM

The release of Republican Sen. Damon Thayer’s proposal for the new congressional districts gives us three maps to compare: what the congressmen say they want, what the Democratic House Speaker is suggesting and now a Republican lawmaker’s version.

The Pure Politics redistricting lab has been crunching numbers to compare how those maps would change the political leanings of those districts.

To do that, I looked at how the counties in each proposal performed in 2008 — both in the presidential and U.S. Senate races. (Republican John McCain beat Barack Obama in every district except for the 3rd District that covers most of Jefferson County while Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell defeated Democrat Bruce Lunsford in all but the 3rd and the 6th District in Central Kentucky.)

Lawmakers must redraw the districts to be as close to 723,228 people as possible based on the 2010 Census numbers. Currently the 2nd, 6th and 4th need to shed population and the 1st and 5th are significantly under population.

The following is a district-by-district analysis of how the proposed lines would change the political makeup of each district using the maps proposed by the congressional delegation, Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Thayer.


The big “chip” here is Daviess County with its 96,656 people and its own media market, albeit a small one.

Democrats, most notably House Speaker Greg Stumbo, want to move the Democratic-leaning Daviess County into the 1st District from the 2nd.

That would give Democrats some hope against Republican U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield of Hopkinsville, who has easily turned away challengers in recent elections.

Stumbo’s map is the only one that suggests the Daviess County move, which allows his map to cut off the tail of the current 1st District that includes several Republican counties. As you can see, that would cut into the Republicans’ margins of victory.

______________McCAIN vs. OBAMA ____ McCONNELL vs. LUNSFORD

2008 ……………..McCAIN by 72,181 ________McCONNELL by 34,144

Congressional……McCAIN by 75,442 ________McCONNELL by 33,208

Stumbo …………. McCAIN by 58,963 ________McCONNELL by 21,659

Thayer ………….. McCAIN by 77,297 ________McCONNELL by 35,212

Stumbo’s map:


Already the most reliably Republican District in the state, Stumbo’s map would amplify that by lopping off Daviess County and adding heavily Republican counties from the 1st District (Adair, Casey, Clinton, Cumberland, Metcalfe, Monroe, Russell), from the 5th District (McCreary and Wayne) and from the 6th (most notably Jessamine and Garrard).

The 2nd District, represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green since 2009, also is the most populous district in the state right now with 760,032 constituents. Guthrie, though, doesn’t want Daviess County to leave the 2nd District.

Stumbo’s map is the only one in which the margins of victory for McCain and McConnell actually go up by more than 22,000 and 16,000, respectively.

______________McCAIN vs. OBAMA ____ McCONNELL vs. LUNSFORD

2008 ………………McCAIN by 70,526________McCONNELL by 34,703

Congressional…….McCAIN by 69,464 ________McCONNELL by 34,642

Stumbo ………….. McCAIN by 93,087 ________McCONNELL by 51,066

Thayer …………… McCAIN by 64,037 ________McCONNELL by 31,192


The 3rd District, represented by Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth covers Louisville and most of Jefferson County. The county is slightly bigger than the size of a congressional district with 741,096 people, according to the 2010 Census.

Currently some southern Jefferson County precincts with a total of 19,464 people are in the 2nd District. Obama narrowly lost those precincts in 2008 but Lunsford defeated McConnell in them(3,476 to 3,179).

The congressional delegation’s request keeps those southern precincts in Guthrie’s district. But Thayer’s would take the eastern Jefferson County area, which is more conservative.

Still, no matter how Jefferson County is sliced, the 3rd District would remain a Democratic stronghold.

Thayer’s proposed map:


Republican U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis of Hebron currently represents 22 counties and parts of two others.

Because of strong growth in the Northern Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati, Davis will have fewer counties regardless of which map becomes law.

But Thayer’s map keeps it the closest to what it is now only jettisoning the Democratic County of Elliott (one of only seven counties to go for Obama in 2008), the part of Scott County that was in the district and a couple of precincts from Bath County — the other one that’s currently split.

The 4th is probably the second-most reliably Republican district, and all the maps would keep it that way.

______________McCAIN vs. OBAMA ____ McCONNELL vs. LUNSFORD

2008 ………………McCAIN by 70,235 ________McCONNELL by 54,512

Congressional…….McCAIN by 71,753 ________McCONNELL by 58,402

Stumbo ………….. McCAIN by 72,461 ________McCONNELL by 63,087

Thayer …………… McCAIN by 70,141 ________McCONNELL by 55,689

(Note: to even out the population of the districts, I did move about 20,710 people from Jefferson County in Stumbo’s map into the 4th, which otherwise would have had just more than 704,000 people).


While the results of the presidential election wouldn’t indicate this, the Eastern Kentucky district could be a competitive one.

Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset has had a lock on the district. And it has many strong Republican counties but also some heavily Democratic ones in far eastern Kentucky.

McCain dominated by more than a 2-1 margin, and Obama managed just 75,815 votes compared to McCain’s 162,614. Lunsford, though he still lost, fared much better (105,274) against McConnell (133,403).

The congressional delegation map would make it more comfortable for Republicans by adding GOP-stronghold counties of Jessamine and Garrard, which are currently in the 6th. As you can see, that would have added more than 10,000 votes for McCain and 6,000 for McConnell:

______________McCAIN vs. OBAMA ____ McCONNELL vs. LUNSFORD

2008 ………………McCAIN by 86,799 ________McCONNELL by 28,129

Congressional…….McCAIN by 96,926 ________McCONNELL by 34,314

Stumbo ………….. McCAIN by 86,301 ________McCONNELL by 22,840

Thayer …………… McCAIN by 89,443 ________McCONNELL by 25,775

The congressional delegation’s suggested map:


In both the congressional delegation’s map and the Stumbo map, Lunsford would have increased his 4,743-vote win in the 6th over McConnell from the 2008 results. But Thayer’s would actually cut Lunsford’s margin in half: down to 1,795.

That is a result of some of the moves Thayer made that keeps conservative areas in the 6th (adding the rest of Scott and Lincoln counties, which are split in the current district map).

The congressional delegation’s map would make it the safest for Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler of Versailles. Moving Scott County to the 4th and Jessamine and Garrard to the 5th, as the delegation map suggests, would shed some GOP counties in favor of more Democratic ones: Rowan, Fleming, Carter, Menifee and Bath).

Joe Sonka of the LEO last week did his own analysis showing Thayer’s map would have flipped the 2010 election results that had Chandler winning by just 648 votes. Instead, Sonka reported, Thayer’s map would have given Republican Andy Barr the edge.

______________McCAIN vs. OBAMA ____ McCONNELL vs. LUNSFORD

2008 ………………McCAIN by 39,715 ________LUNSFORD by 4,743

Congressional…….McCAIN by 25,520 ________LUNSFORD by 14,093

Stumbo ………….. McCAIN by 27,227 ________LUNSFORD by 12,734

Thayer …………… McCAIN by 37,284 ________LUNSFORD by 1,795

By the way, here is the current map:


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