Candidate seeks to draw foe in

By Bill Felber

One of two declared candidates for the 22nd District state Senate seat took the unusual step Wednesday of encouraging state officials to make it easier for his opponent to run against him.

Joe Knopp, a Manhattan attorney and former House majority leader, said he has asked Senate leaders to ensure that boundaries of the district are redrawn in such a way to ensure that Bob Reader’s rural Riley County home is included within the district.

There are at present three plans for a redrawn 22nd district under active consideration by the Senate, and two of them put Reader’s residence outside the district. The Senate is expected to approve redrawn Senate districts as part of its wrapup session, which began Wednesday.

Reader announced his Senate candidacy last fall, and has been actively campaigning since then. Knopp also announced early. The incumbent senator, Roger Reitz, has remained uncommitted about his own plans. Knopp said that if lawmakers select a plan that draws Reader’s home outside the district, “the candidate will simply buy (or) rent a residence in the district, just as Democrat Rusty Wilson did in 2008. Forcing Mr. Reader to go through this charade should not be necessary,” Knopp said.

The dispute over Riley County boundaries is just a small part of a broader fight between Senate conservatives and moderates being played out during consideration of the three plans, and that broader fight may have the most to say about which way the district’s lines eventually are drawn. Reader, whose home near Tuttle Creek Lake is in the boundaries of the current 21st Senate District, has identified himself with the conservative faction, while Reitz is closely aligned with Senate moderates. Knopp has made a point of not aligning with either group, although it’s probably fair to say that both the conservative and moderate factions fear he might lean toward the other side.

The two plans that exclude Reader’s home from the 22nd District were drawn by Senate Redistricting Committee Chair Tim Owens and by Majority Leader Jay Emler, both moderates. Both shape the district largely as it is today, consisting of the cities of Manhattan and Junction City. In both cases the district’s northern boundary would not stray far from its present location at Marlatt Avenue.

The one plan that includes Reader’s residence within the district was drawn by Steve Abrams, a member of the conservative faction. It relocates the northern boundary of the district to a point just south of the city of Riley.

But Knopp predicted that the Abrams plan may not find favor with Senate moderates and Democrats because it “may have other implications” for the conservative-moderate fight.

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