House’s Senate map keeps candidate in race

By Paul Harris

The Kansas House Wednesday killed a map redistricting the Senate that had been passed by the Senate just one day earlier. Legislators voted 72-43 against the map, which was pushed through the Senate floor by a 21-19 vote.

The House’s action was unusual because members of one House have traditionally not interfered in efforts by the other House to draw its own boundaries. Publicly House members criticized the Senate map for diminishing the voice of Hispanics, although speculation was rife that the real motivation appeared to be the ongoing fight between Republican conservatives and moderates for control of the Legislature.

In place of the Senate map, House leaders promoted an alternative based on a map drawn by State Sen. Steve Abrams, a prominent conservative. The Abrams map, which had failed to draw majority support in the Senate, draws boundaries viewed as more favorable to some conservative challengers in various Senate districts. One of those is the Manhattan-based 22nd District, where the map approved by the Senate had excluded conservative Bob Reader. The Abrams map draws the district’s northern boundary in a way that includes Reader.

Rep. Sharon Schwartz, Washington-R, said she was moved to support the House revisions to the Senate map after listening to Rep. Reynaldo Mesa, Garden City-R, argue that the Senate map put Hispanic voters at a disadvantage by eliminating a western Kansas district with a heavy concentration of Hispanics.

“It was one of the strongest Hispanic districts in the state,” she said. Collapsing that district made it “very small for someone to speak for the Hispanic population.”

Schwartz, who sits on the House redistricting committee, said breaking the tradition of one House not meddling in the other House’s decisions regarding its own map “doesn’t bother me.”

The Washington-based representative said some lawmakers are drawing maps based on potential races.

“Just move on and take on the challenger,” she said. “There needs to be some certainty so people can begin thinking about running.

As of now, the House Redistricting Committee is tentatively scheduled to meet Friday. That committee will choose elements from Abrams’ latest map to guide their proposed map.

“It does not collapse any Senate districts or pit any incumbents against each other,” Schwartz said about Abrams’ map.

The map could be a blessing for a Manhattan-based candidate.

Reader said Wednesday it did not matter whether his house was in the district.

“We are in it to win it,” Reader said.

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