Even signing of new legislative maps sparks bickering; talks stall over congressional map

01/20/2012 04:13 PM

Nothing about the redistricting process has been easy or pleasant.

Gov. Steve Beshear signed the bill that redrew the lines of the state Senate and state House districts on Friday, making those controversial new maps official.

And in announcing his decision to sign the legislation, he took a shot at Republican Senate President David Williams over the map’s treatment of Senate Democrats.

Specifically, Beshear expressed frustration that Senate Republicans moved Democratic Sen. Kathy Stein’s district to northeastern Kentucky and shifted Henderson’s Democratic Sen. Dorsey Ridley’s district number from western Kentucky to Lexington.

“The action directed by the Senate President to move Senator Kathy Stein’s district in Lexington to northeast Kentucky in order to keep her from being able to run for re-election, and moving western Kentucky Senator Dorsey Ridley’s district to Lexington, goes beyond partisanship,” Beshear said. “It reflects a personal vindictiveness that should have no place in this process.”

He didn’t mention anything about the House map drawn by Democrats that put eight House Republicans in districts with their fellow incumbents.

Williams, who ran against Beshear in last year’s governor’s race, quickly issued a response to Beshear.

“As with most legislative matters, he was not involved in the process and doesn’t have any evidence to support his allegation,” Williams said in his statement. “If the Governor truly believed that HB1 is such an egregious piece of legislation, he should have the courage of his convictions to veto the plan.”

Negotiations over new congressional lines stall

Meanwhile, House and Senate negotiators tasked with redrawing the congressional district lines struggled to find potential areas of compromise and have cut off formal negotiations until Monday.

A group of Republicans and Democrats from both chambers must rectify two different approaches to the districts reflected in the House-drawn map and the Senate-approved version. And House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Friday morning they’re not close.

The House adjourned Friday morning.

And Republican Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said GOP senators were looking to negotiate over the weekend.

“The Senate was prepared to continue working and is under no self-imposed constraints to pass a bill simply to pass one; the filing deadline can be extended to assure citizens’ right to participate in the process,” Thayer said in a statement.

But Thayer said Senate Republicans want to keep the map as similar as possible to the current make-up of the districts. The House version makes more significant changes, particularly to the Republican-held 1st and 5th districts.

“Any attempt on either side to gain new political advantage from the congressional redistricting process would be futile,” Thayer said.

Stumbo said he still believes there’s room for compromise, but he didn’t offer any hints about what House Democrats might decide to give up.

The House’s version of the map makes the 1st and 5th District potentially more competitive for Democrats.

It would move Daviess, Hancock and Breckinridge counties from the 2nd District into the 1st, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, while cutting off the “tail” from the current version of the district that sweeps up through Republican counties, such as Adair, Russell and Casey.

It also would shift more Democratic counties of Greenup, Carter, Boyd and Fleming from the 4th District to the 5th District, represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset — the U.S. House Appropriation chairman. And it would shed strong GOP counties from the southern part of the district, including much of Whitley, all of McCreary and Wayne and part of Rogers’ home county of Pulaski.

The Senate Republicans’ version keeps the districts roughly the same as they are now. It just nibbles around the edges of them to even out the populations.

It potentially has the biggest effect, politically, by moving several counties from the overpopulated 6th District to the 5th. Democratic-leaning Powell County and half of Montgomery County would go from the 6th, which is represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Lexington. Estill County, though a majority Republican, also would go. But Chandler has fared well there in past elections.

And the 6th District would gain the other half of conservative Scott County and part of western Harrison County.

And for point of reference, here’s the current map:


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