Barr and Thayer voice objections as compromise over congressional map comes together

02/06/2012 05:16 PM

The new “compromise” map of Kentucky’s six congressional district includes concessions made by all sides.

Democrats wanted to move Owensboro from the 2nd District to the 1st District, and that’s not going to happen. And Republicans wanted to avoid moving Ashland and the surrounding counties from the 4th District to the 5th, and at least part of that area will.

But since details of the proposed map have dripped out, the strongest opposition has come from Central Kentucky Republicans. Andy Barr, the Lexington lawyer who is making his second run for the 6th District, and state Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown, have come out strongly against the map because it would move several conservative counties out of the southwest corner of the 6th District and into the 2nd District.

Sen. Robert Stivers, the Senate Republican floor leader, said Monday that he understands Barr’s frustrations but that the map is bigger than the desires of one candidate and everyone made concessions.

The “compromise” map, among other changes, would move conservative Garrard County and western Jessamine County that includes Wilmore, as well as Mercer and Boyle counties, into the 2nd District represented by Republican Congressman Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green.

Those changes would move the district from being a Republican +9 to a Republican +7 district, meaning that a generic Republican would be favored by 7 points over a generic Democratic candidate. The problem for Barr is that he faces an incumbent Democrat in Ben Chandler who has a strong name recognition that helped him barely weather a strong challenge from Barr in 2010 — a tough year for congressional Democrats.

Barr and Thayer both have publicly said they doesn’t want to see the Bluegrass region broken up.

Thayer proposed a new 6th District that would have kept those conservative counties in 6th and moves Democratic leaning counties of Powell and most of Montgomery, as well as Estill County out of the district. While Estill is Republican, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler has fared well there historically.

Here’s what Barr said about his lobbying effort last month when he filed his candidacy papers:

Barr didn’t return a call for comment on Monday.

Barr supporters sent out an email blast Sunday on Barr’s behalf. Andy Hightower, executive director of the Kentucky Club for Growth and a close ally of Barr’s, said this in the email urging people to contact state legislators:

“…. We need you to call and email your Senator and tell them to REJECT the Stumbo proposal to gerrymander our Congressional Districts and protect incumbents! … The Stumbo plan is particularly bad for the 6th District, conservatives and anyone who would like to challenge the incumbent Representative.”

The compromise version, however, is not the plan of House Speaker Greg Stumbo. Republican senators, including Stivers, and representatives from Republican 5th District Congressman Hal Rogers have been negotiating over the map.

As Pure Politics reported last week, other features of the compromise map potentially include:

  • Shifting the 6th District east to pick up counties such as Nicholas, Bath, Menifee and Rowan. The 6th also is likely to add the nearly 6,000 people in northern Scott County who had been in the 4th District. Most of the county’s residents were in the 6th already.
  • The 4th District is likely to pick up Shelby, part of Spencer counties from the 2nd District and eastern Jefferson County. It is expected to lose some Democratic leaning areas in the eastern part of the district.
  • Owensboro/Daviess County would remain in the 2nd District. It also would pick up Republican-leaning Butler County. The district would spread east into the southern Lexington suburb counties (Garrard, Mercer, Boyle and part of Jessamine). It would lose Shelby and part of Spencer counties to the 4th District.
  • The 2nd also would lose several Republican leaning counties to the 1st District in Western Kentucky that needs to pick up population. Taylor and Marion Counties and the northern part of Ohio County would move to the 1st.
  • The 5th District in Eastern Kentucky also needs to add population. It would gain Elliott County and at least parts of Carter and Boyd counties in the northeast. And Lincoln County, which is currently split between the 1st and 6th Districts, would move into the 5th.

The legislature is expected to approve the final version of the compromise by Wednesday, Stumbo said. That most likely will extend the filing deadline for congressional candidates, which was supposed to be Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.

- With reporting from Frankfort by Nick Storm and Don Weber

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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