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Government, Politics & Issues

Nixon sets up politically connected panels to redraw legislative districts

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 21, 2011 - Gov. Jay Nixon's announcement of his choices for the legislative redistricting commissions means that all of the state panels are in place to draw new political boundaries mandated by the lastest census.

Nixon's picks to draw up new districts for the state Senate and House include many in both parties with political connections -- including former Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell and former state Republican Party chairman Ann Wagner, who is mulling a run for the U.S.Senate.

The governor's choices -- announced Friday -- were drawn from submissions offered by both state political parties. Both parties provided twice the number of choices, with Nixon picking half. (The process is different from that for the redrawing of congressional districts, which is primarily the job of the General Assembly.)

His notable selections for the 10-person Senate panel include:

-- St. Louis lawyer John Borbonus, (D) a former assistant attorney general under Nixon. He also serves on the Missouri Humanities Council;

-- Springfield lawyer Doug Harpool (D), a former state representative who helped create the Missouri Ethics Commission in the early 1990s, lost a bid for the state Senate and continues to be an outspoken advocate for restoring state campaign limits;

-- St. Louis County John Maupin (R), who unsuccessfully ran for the 24th District state Senate in 2006 against then-Democratic incumbent Joan Bray. (The post is now held by fellow Republican John Lamping.)

-- Former Nixon aide Jeff Mazur (D), who's now the Missouri-Kansas executive director for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. Mazur had been a key target of GOP critics during the uproar over the delayed public disclosure of e.coli contamination at Lake of the Ozarks.

-- Springfield lawyer Joe Passanise (R), a prominent Republican activist and donor.

Nixon's picks for the 18-member state House panel include:

-- Thomas Wilsdon (R), St. Louis County Republican committeeman for Maryland Heights township.

-- Cheryl Hibbeler (D), a former member of the St. Charles County Council (she lost a re-election bid last fall) who previously was an alderman in O'Fallon.

-- Wagner (R), of Ballwin, who recently lost a bid to head the Republican National Committee. Earlier, she was President George. W. Bush's ambassador to Luxembourg;

-- Jo Ann Karll (D), a lawyer and former state legislator from Jefferson County;

-- Chuck Caisley (R), of Kansas City, who handles public affairs for Kansas City Power & Light. Caisley previously was chief of staff to then-state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, a St. Louis County Republican (who coincidentally was on the state GOP's list of panel options not chosen by the governor.)

-- Maxwell (D), a a lawyer from Mexico, Mo. who served in the state Senate before successfully running for lieutenant governor in 2000. He chose not to seek re-election in 2004.

Click here to read the entire list of Nixon's choices to both commissions.

The governor's selections for both commissions do not require any legislative approval, and by law must hold their first meeting on April 5. The commissions have six months to draw the new legislative boundaries. If less than 70 percent of the panels' members approve the final maps, the job automatically is transferred to a panel of judges.

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