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Judges unveil new boundaries for Missouri House and Senate

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 1, 2011 - The Missouri judges responsible for redrawing the state's legislative seats have just issued the new maps, and the changes are dramatic -- particularly for the state Senate and in the St. Louis area.

The state Senate's 7th District, now represented by state Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, has been moved into St. Charles and Lincoln counties, among others.

Cunningham's house was moved into the same 24th District as John Lamping, R-Ladue. Lamping currently represents the 24th, which long had been rumored to be a possible target for being moved outstate. But that did not happen. The 24th District now goes farther into west St. Louis County.

Cunningham aide Kit Crancer tweeted Wednesday night that the senator planned on running in the new 27th District, which is taking in much of her current 7th District. She will move into the 27th.

The 1st District now represented by Republican Jim Lembke of Lemay, has been moved farther south into St. Louis County. Lembke's home remains in the 1st, however.

Part of Lembke's current district is shifted into the new 4th District, which is crescent-shaped and includes part of south St. Louis County as well as west and southern parts of the city of St. Louis. The eastern portion of the new 4th reaches down to Interstate 270.

Clayton has now been moved from the 24th into the new 14th District, which is represented by state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City. Part of Richmond Heights also has been moved into the 14th.

The 27th District, which Cunningham now covets, has been represented by Republican Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau and took in upper southeast Missouri. In the new map, the 27th appears to have been moved north and west so that the new district will encompass parts of northern Jefferson County and western St. Louis County.

Crowell personally won't be affected, because he is term-limited and cannot run for re-election in 2012.

The state House also faces a major upheaval. According to activists pouring over maps Wednesday night, at least 50 of the state's 163 House members have been placed in districts with one or more colleagues.

Missouri's 163 state House seats and 34 state Senate seats were redrawn in response to the 2010 census. The judges took over the map-drawing tasks when the bipartisan commissions for the House and Senate failed to meet the September deadline in the state constitution for drawing up new maps.

The judges' decisions are final. Critics would have to challenge the new maps in federal court.

According to the judicial commission's announcement:

  • "The Senate redistricting plan has an overall difference in population of 7.46% between its largest and smallest districts. The new plan has four African-American majority districts."
  • "The House redistricting plan has an overall population difference of 7.80% between its largest and smallest districts. The new plan has 16 African-American majority districts. It also has 2 districts wherein combined racial minority populations comprise a majority. Thus, the House plan has a total of 18 districts where racial minorities constitute a majority of the population."

Judge Lisa White Hardwick, who headed the judicial commission, said in a statement, "We have worked collaboratively to draw maps that comply with the constitution, the Voting Rights Act, and other legal requirements."

Partisans Debate Whose Ox Was Gored

The impact of the new maps ;is heaviest on all 163 House members, who will be running in 2012, and the 17 members of the state Senate who represent odd-number districts that also will be on the 2012 ballot. Even-numbered House districts, even though they have new boundary lines, won't be on the ballot until 2014. That means the existing even-numbered senators will represent those districts, even if the new lines put those legislators' homes in other districts.

Overall, although some St. Louis area Republicans got hurt, the new map for the 34-member state Senate appears statewide to have bolstered the GOP's hold on a majority of the districts. Some Democratic activists had hoped otherwise.

The new House map appeared to be even more confusing. Most of the districts in the St. Louis area were renumbered.

In the city of St. Louis, for example, all of the new districts have new numbers. The boundaries for all appear to be dramatically different -- and the city appears to have lost a couple districts. Legislators and party activities were busy Wednesday trying to decipher the differences.

In the city and St. Louis County, a couple dozen legislators were believed to have been tossed in the same districts, although party activists and consultants were still pouring over the new maps and legislators' home addresses late Wednesday to verify their suspicions.

At least three House Republicans -- John Diehl of Town and Country, Rick Stream of Kirkwood, and Cole McNary of Chesterfield -- appeared to have been placed in the new 89th District.

Political insiderscounted at least 11 other House pairings in the St. Louis area,including:

  • House Speaker designate Tim Jones, R-Eureka, and Paul Curtman, R-Pacific;
  • St. Louis Democrats Penny Hubbard and Jeanette Mott Oxford;
  • St. Louis Democrats Karla May, Chris Carter and Jamilah Nasheed;
  • Democrats Susan Carlson of St. Louis and Stacey Newman of Richmond Heights;
  • Democrats Genise Montecillo of St. Louis and Scott Sifton of Affton.

Some, such as Oxford, are in their last term because of term limits. But most are not.
The new Senate and House maps do make clear, however, that St. Charles County is a winner, capturing parts or all of several additional new Senate and House districts.

Jeff Mazur -- a unionofficial with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees who served on the Senate bipartisan commission -- contended that the entire St. Louis County map is "a map that was created by and for incumbent members of both parties."

"They basically lifted the map that current incumbent senators created and dropped that into their map," Mazur said. "And it's clearly an instance where the incumbent protection was the highest priority."

Cunningham, however, might disagree with his analysis.

Mazur contended that the new Senate map gives an Democrats an edge in no more than 11 of the 34 seats.

Meanwhile, former state House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, tweeted that he believed the new House map favors Democrats.

Republican consultant James Harris contended that the GOP took significant political hits with the new maps, and he accused the judges of gerrymandering some districts.

"It is hard to imagine a more brazen example of one branch of government overstepping its constitutional boundaries," said Harris, who has led unsuccessful efforts to revamp how Missouri's judges are selected for the appellate and state Supreme Court. "Not only are these maps obviously driven by a partisan agenda, if you read Article III, Section 7 of the Missouri Constitution it appears that the Senate map is likely unconstitutional."

Outstate Senate Map Strengthens Gop Hold

In some ways, the new Senate map makes it much harder for Democrats to compete in previously competitive districts. For example, among the outstate districts:

  • Senate District 3 currently represented by Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, was competitive because it included parts of southern Jefferson County, Ste. Genevieve County, Washington County and Iron County. Now, it pairs Ste. Genevieve and St. Francois counties with Republican-leaning counties such as Perry and Cape Girardeau. Mazur said that seat becomes "unwinnable" for Democrats.
  • Senate District 27's move also creates problems for southeast Missouri Republicans. For months, state Rep. Ellen Brandom, R-Sikeston, was seen as the favorite to replace Crowell in the 27th. But now that Scott County (which takes in Sikeston) is in the 25th District, Brandom may have to run in a crowded Republican primary that includes Doug Libla and state Rep. Billy Pat White, R-Dexter. Rep. Terry Swinger, D-Caruthersville, is running as a Democrat for the 25th seat.
  • Senate District 16, which is represented by Sen. Dan Brown, R- Rolla, used to be held by former Sen. Frank Barnitz, D-Lake Spring. Although that seat always leaned Republican, it likely leans even more to the GOP side with Republican-leaning counties such as Camden and Laclede.
  • Senate District 18 has ping-ponged between Republicans and Democrats over the last few election cycles. Now the seat, which is represented by Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstownm, becomes arguably more Republican with the addition of Randolph County. The seat also includes more northern Missouri counties that used to be represented by Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah.
  • Senate District 21, which will be open next year because of term limits, also may be harder for Democrats to win now that it will include GOP-leaning Pettis County. It also lost Ray County and a small portion of Clay County.

State Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, now represents the 31st District, but his residence will be moved into the new 21st District.  Pearce, who is up for re-election next year, can either run in the 21st District, or he will have to move into another part of the revamped 31st District.
Pearce's predicament, like that facing Cunningham, soon will be the situation of many others in the state House and Senate.

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