TOPEKA — A letter from Gov. Sam Brownback says the “Ad Astra” redistricting map senators began debating Wednesday has “two very troubling features” and he urged the Senate to produce a new map.
“‘Ad Astra’ is out of step with the spirit of the ‘one person, one vote’ principle, and thus would be difficult for me to support,” the letter says.
That puts a cloud over the map, which was initially approved by the Senate but later held back for more debate and a final vote next week.
In the letter, Brownback focuses on the change in population proposed in the map, which has been approved by a senate panel. And he argues, as administration officials have before, Leavenworth County should its own senate district.
That’s a flash point for Democrats because it could block two Democrats out of their current districts (more about that). The county is currently represented by Democratic Sens. Tom Holland, of Baldwin City, and Kelly Kultala, of Kansas City. Holland ran against Brownback in the past election with Kultala as his running mate.
Democrats also say Brownback indicated he wouldn’t get involved in redistricting and broke his word by having his chief of staff testify before the Senate Reapportionment Committee.
But Brownback’s letter steers clear of anything explicitly political.
When lawmakers redraw district lines to reflect changes in Census date each decade they’re supposed to make districts as equal as possible. Lawmakers set rules to not deviate more than 5 percent in population. Brownback said 32 of the state’s 40 districts would have deviations of 3.4 percent or more. He notes that the most drastically altered district, the 38th that covers Liberal and other southwestern counties, would be the most dramatically altered in size while being the least altered in population.
Brownback says Leavenworth is the only county of the ten most populous in Kansas not ot have either a self-contained senate district or to be mostly within one district.
After months of meetings and testimony, the full senate began debating redistricting maps Wednesday.
The Ad Astra map, supported by the committee, appears to have significant support from moderate Republicans. But the map draws three conservative Republican candidates out of the district they have filed to run in against incumbent Republican senators that the candidates view as too moderate.
The map would put Wichita businessman Gary Mason in the same district as Sen. Ty Masterson. Mason has said he wouldn’t challenge Masterson because their political views are similar. The Ad Astra map also puts Republican Wichita Rep. Brenda Landwehr in the same district as Wichita Democrat Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau instead of in the current district represented by Wichita Republican Sen. Jean Schodorf. Landwehr has filed to run against Shodorf in the August primary.
But a new map, constructed by Sen. Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, emerged on the Senate floor. It keeps conservative Republican challengers in the districts they have filed to run in, and it contains all the components Brownback has voiced support for.
But it died in a 21-19 vote.