Who got big breaks and bad breaks in the proposed legislative district maps?

08/18/2013 11:24 PM

Both the proposed state Senate and House district maps are poised to get more votes in this week’s special session

But if we’ve learned one thing from redistricting, it’s that Newton’s third law applies. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

In the newly proposed maps, there are fewer drastic changes than those in the last Senate map from 2012 and in the previous House map from March . Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo joked on Friday when he revealed the new map that he was getting benevolent in his old age.

But there are still some who appear to come out better than others, at least at first glance.

Lawmakers who should be happiest about the proposed districts:

Rep. Terry Mills, D-Lebanon – No Democrat should have been able to win Mills’ current district, which covers Marion County plus the heavily Republican Casey County and part of Pulaski County, which is an unofficial capital of Republican territory in southern Kentucky. Yet Mills won two elections by virtue of his hard work and weak GOP candidates. Now he can finally breathe a bit easier. While the 24th District does pick up Green County, which has more Republicans than Democrats, it also gets LaRue County, which is 2-1 Democratic. And it’s addition by subtraction for Mills as the district loses all the precincts in the Casey and Pulaski counties. The result: instead of a district with 300 more registered Republicans than Democrats, Mills will run in one that has 19,581 Democrats to 10,262 Republicans.

Rep. Mike Harmon, R-Danville – The Democrats appear to have finally given up on trying to beat Harmon. They’ve put him on their top election target list for much of the last decade. Each time, he won. Then their previously proposed maps would have put Harmon in with another Republican incumbent – either Rep. Kim King of Harrodsburg or Rep. Jonathan Shell of Lancaster. Not only is Harmon not facing a colleague but he traded Democratic-leaning Washington County for GOP stronghold Casey County. It’s like winning the redistricting lottery.

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson – First, the sprawling 18th Districts would go from covering six counties across much of northern Kentucky to just three in the northeast corner. The district keeps Webb’s home county of Carter and Greenup County, which she narrowly lost by 102 votes in 2010. The third county will be Boyd, which is heavily Democratic thanks to the city of Ashland. In fact, the registration of the districts adds nearly 15,000 Democrats and just 635 Republicans.

Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon – The proposed 14th Districts keeps only two of the five counties it currently has: Higdon’s home of Marion County and Nelson County. But that doesn’t mean Higdon will have to introduce himself to too many more voters. The district picks up the heavily Republican Casey County, which Higdon represented for seven years in the House. Plus, the district adds Republican performing Spencer County and the southeast corner of Jefferson County.

Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville – Among Democrats, only Webb got a bigger boost in the number of registered voters of the incumbent’s party. The new 31st District would add nearly 12,000 more registered Democrats. But it also cuts the total number of registered Republicans by more than 3,000 (to 22,589 from 26,109). That was largely accomplished by jettisoning Johnson County to Republican Sen. Brandon Smith’s district. Jones will have to drive further to cover his district, which keeps Pike and Martin counties but gains Lawrence County plus the Democratic counties of Elliott and Morgan.

Rep. Mike Denham, D-Maysville – Denham was the Democrat most upset by the proposed map in March. He would have lost Democratic stronghold of Fleming County and, instead, picked up Robertson County and the very Republican Lewis County. He was the only Democrat to oppose the map. Under this version, he keeps his old district of Mason, Fleming and Bracken counties and adds Robertson. The move very well means Denham will run again.

Democratic Sens. Dorsey Ridley (of Henderson and the 4th District) and Jerry Rhoads (of Madisonville in the 6th District.) These two easily could have been put into the same district as each other. In fact Senate Republicans drew Ridley’s district the exact same as its current set-up, even though the population is more than 6 percent smaller than the ideal Senate district. They did that do avoid pitting Ridley and Rhoads together.

Honorable mention:

  • Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, who will no longer have to drive to all the way to Morgan and Magoffin counties from his home in Clay County. His district adds nearby Whitley County instead.
  • Sen. R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, likewise gets a more compact district of Clark, Montgomery and northern Fayette counties instead of six counties in the current 28th District.
  • Rep. Dwight Butler, R-Harned (In the renumbered 10th House District). The new map chops off both ends of the current district so he no longer has Bullitt or Daviess county precincts. It just includes Breckinridge, Hancock and part of Hardin counties.
    Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger. The 69th District goes from being a horseshoe that hooks into Campbell County to a compact district straddling central Kenton and Boone counties.
  • Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge. His district goes from being a swing district to solidly Republican by picking up southern Kenton and Boone County precincts and northern Scott County and losing Owen and Gallatin counties.
  • Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington. While the 12th Senate District doesn’t change too much, symbolically it helps Kerr, who is anti-gambling, by giving the western Fayette County precincts that include Keeneland Racetrack to Republican Sen. Tom Buford, who favors gambling.


The unlucky 8 * — Two pairs of Republicans and two pairs of Democrats will be put together in the same districts. As reported on Friday, they include House Democratic *Majority Leader Rocky Adkins against Rep. Kevin Sinnette of Ashland in the 100th District, and Democratic Rep. John Will Stacy, a former House Democratic whip from Morgan County, against longtime Rep. Hubie Collins — the House Transportation Committee Chairman — of Johnson County. Stacy sounds like he’s ready to fight for the new district, which includes Morgan, Wolfe and Johnson counties. He said he’s only talked “briefly” to Collins about it.

The two Republican pairs will be Rep. Myron Dossett of Christian County against Rep. Ben Waide of Madisonville and Rep. C.B. Embry of Butler County against Rep. Jim DeCesare of Rockfield in suburban Warren County. Both of those match-ups were forecast in past versions of the map. But earlier this year, 11 Republican incumbents would have been affected as opposed to just four in this version.


These lawmakers’ roads to re-election may have gotten a bit tougher:

Rep. Ryan Quarles, R-Georgetown – He has proven he can win in a swing district after defeating longtime Democrat Rep. Charlie Hoffman twice. But it will get tougher for the two-term Republican now. The 62nd District loses many of the reliably Republican precincts in the northern suburban part of the county to Republican Rep. Brian Linder’s district. And he picks up more voters in northwest Lexington and Owen County, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 5,446 to 1,930.

Rep. Keith Hall, D-Phelps House Democratic leaders have let go Hall’s controversies, such as the reprimand and fines levied by the Legislative Ethics Commission in 2011 for conflicts of interest. But they didn’t do him any favors with the map drawing. Hall had represented the eastern half of Pike County. Now, to give his district the necessary number of constituents, he’ll get Martin County, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats 5,523 to 2,319.

Sen. Walter Blevins, D-Morehead The 27th District doesn’t dramatically change by voter registration. It does add nearly 6,000 more Republicans and less than 2,000 Democrats. But registration still favors Democrats, 50,103 to 29,932. Blevins lands on the list because of how dramatically the district changed. Only Rowan and Fleming counties remain from the current district. He loses Boyd County, which was one of his bases. And he now picks up six new counties: Lewis, Mason, Robertson, Harrison, Nicholas and Bourbon. Not only is that a more sprawling district but it’s diverse in terms of the counties’ political leadership and their needs (Lewis is a rural river county, while Bourbon is a bedroom community of Lexington). Of course Blevins almost decided not to run again in 2012 before changing his mind when the last Senate map was thrown out.

Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort This is another district that makes the list less because of voter registration changes than because of geography. The 7th District keeps its heart of Franklin, Woodford and Anderson counties. But it loses its northern Fayette County precincts. And to make up for it, the district now stretches north through Owen County to Gallatin County on the Ohio River. That’s not ideal for Carroll, who would be 85 in 2016 when the seat comes up again.

Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro The only way for the number of constituents to work in the 8th District was for it to add Hancock County to the existing district that consisted of Daviess and McLean counties. The problem for Bowen is that Hancock County is solidly Democratic-performing – one of the handful of counties to vote for Barack Obama, in fact. Even though it’s a small county with just 3,964 Democrats to 2,171 Republicans, it means registration favors Democrats in the district 2-1. But Bowen defeated entrenched Democratic incumbent David Boswell in 2010 by 1,169 votes out of the roughly 35,000 cast. And he did it by shear hard work, which won’t change with the map.

Honorable Mention:

  • Rep. Ron Crimm, R-Louisville. This district changed about the most of any Jefferson County district. It now spreads to Oldham County and loses many of the eastern Jefferson County precincts. It’s still a solidly Republican district, but does a primary loom in Crimm’s future?
  • Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard. The 30th District needed to gain more people. And while it added nearly 9,000 Republicans with GOP-performing counties thanks to Johnson County, it also added 10,000 more Democrats thanks to counties like Breathitt, which is 10-1 in favor of Democrats.
  • Sen. Chris Girdler, R-Somerset. The 15th District is still solidly Republican. However it went from a super-Republican district of nearly 3-1 GOP registration to a more pedestrian advantage of 44,848 Republicans compared to 32,124 Democrats by trading Russell, Adair and Casey for Lincoln and Boyle counties.


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