New House map being drafted would have 7 Republicans and at least 1 Democrat against other incumbents

08/05/2013 11:02 AM

The latest version of the state House district map being drafted for the Aug. 19 special session would reduce the number of Republicans pitted against other incumbents from 11 to 7, according to several legislators from both parties.

Rep. Gerald Watkins, a Paducah Democrat, said the western Kentucky portion of the map has been overhauled since March, when the House narrowly approved a version that, among other things, split Graves County among four districts and crammed three GOP incumbents into the same district outside Bowling Green.

Among the changes, Watkins said, would be that Graves County would no longer be split so that Republican Rep. Richard Heath would be put into the same district as Republican Rep. Steven Rudy of West Paducah. According to Watkins and other lawmakers, those who are likely to be put into the same district, include:

  • Republican Reps. Myron Dossett of Pembroke in Christian County and Ben Waide of Madisonville in Hopkins County.
  • Republican Reps. Jim DeCesare of Rockfield outside of Bowling Green and C.B. Embry of Morgantown in Butler County. (No longer would Rep. Michael Meredith of Brownsville be put into the same district).
  • Republican Reps. Jonathan Shell of Lancaster in Garrard County and Mike Harmon of Danville in Boyle County.
  • Republican Rep. Jill York of Grayson in Carter County and Democratic Floor Leader Rocky Adkins of Cattlettsburg in Boyd County.

Here’s the interview with Watkins:

Rep. Bam Carney, the House Republican whip from Taylorsville, confirmed that House Republicans had been informed about the version Watkins described. But the minority caucus was reserving its final judgement until the details of the map are released, he said.

“The big thing is that before we make any conclusions, we need to see how many precincts are split,” he said. “Last time, the map split more than 150 precincts, which we estimated would cost taxpayers $1.5 million” for county clerks to redraw those precinct lines.

As for the political effect, Carney said it’s moving in the right direction.

“Do the math. It’s still 7-1” in terms of Republican to Democrats being pitted against fellow incumbents, Carney said. “But only seven is better than what we had before.”

The House map isn’t completely done, other House Democrats said.

The Eastern Kentucky portion of the map has caused plenty of heartburn among Democrats in this process because of its loss of population relative to the rest of the state and the number of incumbent House Democrats who are in close proximity.

That region isn’t completely finished yet, said Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, whose district that covers parts of Pike, Harlan and Letcher counties will likely remain largely the same.

“Most of the folks in the Mountain Caucus won’t be changed,” she said. “Yeah, we’ve got a couple we’ve got to work on. What that that’s going to look like, I don’t know yet.”

And what happens with that region will spill into the Lexington area. Watkins said it’s possible that area of the map could be somewhat different than the version passed in March.

Adkins, the House Democratic Floor leader, wouldn’t confirm any changes to the map.

“Our total caucus has not seen any map whatsoever yet, so for me to talk about a specific county or for me to talk about anything going on in that map, I don’t feel at liberty to do that,” Adkins said.

But generally the revisions, Watkins said, should be enough to satisfy enough House Republicans so that some of them may vote for it this time, and perhaps more importantly, Senate Republicans.

“It will not go to federal court,” Watkins said.

Gov. Steve Beshear has called lawmakers back to Frankfort for a special session starting Aug. 19 for lawmakers to redraw the state Senate and House maps using the 2010 Census data. The first drafts the General Assembly passed in 2012 were ruled unconstitutional by the courts and the House do-over version didn’t get a vote in the Senate this spring. Two lawsuits are pending in federal court aimed at forcing state leaders to act, but the suits will be moot if the General Assembly passes the new maps later this month.


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