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Government, Politics & Issues

Top officials in St. Charles, Jefferson counties lay out redistricting visions

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 26, 2011 - Amid the mingling with their fellow Republicans, the county executives for St. Charles and Jefferson counties also have congressional redistricting on their minds.

And each has a vision of what he'd like to see.

"We'd like to keep three congressional districts in the St. Louis area,'' said St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, among hundreds of Republicans attending this weekend's Lincoln Days festivities in Springfield, Mo.

But taking note of his county's gain -- and the city of St. Louis' loss -- Ehlmann added, "We don't necessarily want two in the city of St. Louis."

The city now is split between the 1st and 3rd congressional districts. The 1st District, which also takes in north St. Louis County, lost more population than any other district in the state.

Some Republicans have suggested that the 1st (now represented by Democrat William Lacy Clay) be expanded to include all the city. Many GOP leaders also have made no secret that the 3rd District, represented by Democrat Russ Carnahan, may be slated for elimination since the state is losing a congressional district.

St. Charles County is now split between the 9th and 2nd congressional districts. Some speculate that the new map might shift the 9th, which takes in the western half of the county, so that it takes in more of the eastern half. The 2nd District might then lose some or all of its St. Charles territory, and be shifted eastward and further south -- taking in more of St. Louis County.

But shifting the current 9th District into the St. Louis area might cause a problem for its member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, who resides in St. Elizabeth, Mo., southwest of Jefferson City, in the current district's southwest corner. Although members of Congress don't have to live in their districts, politically it's expected that they do.

Luetkemeyer said in an interview that he will be closely monitoring the redistricting process.

As for Jefferson County, new County Executive Ken Waller said he's hoping that the county -- now entirely in the 3rd District -- remains in one congressional district, even if the 3rd is eliminated.

Waller said that he's heard talk that the county might be split, with the southern half moving into the 8th congressional district (now represented by U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau), and the northern half going into the 2nd District (now represented by Rep. Todd Akin, R-Town and Country).

The rumored boundary line would be Highway M in Barnhart, Waller said. He added that he wasn't thrilled by such talk: "Splitting the county doesn't help anybody."

Meanwhile, state Senate and House leaders told fellow Republicans at Saturday's town hall forum that they were committed to crafting a fair congressional district map -- but would use political muscle, if necessary.

State Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, noted that the new map has to be approved by the legislature and Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.

However, state House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, reaffirmed Saturday what he has said before -- that he believes he can assemble the 109 House votes needed to override a Nixon veto, if necessary. The House has 106 Republicans.

Mayer -- who oversees a Senate with 26 Republicans and 8 Democrats -- didn't speculate on his override prospects. He would need 23 votes.

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