With due diligence and a little luck, Kansans could end up with a Legislature whose members are wiser for the mistakes and the stubbornness of the group who contributed mightily to the present chaos.
The present chaos, of course, involves the shuffling of district boundaries for the Kansas Senate and Kansas House of Representatives as well as for the four congressional seats and the 10 Kansas Board of Education seats. The redistricting task was left to three federal judges because the Legislature, in failing to agree on maps, abdicated its authority. For that reason, legislators’ complaints deserve the same weight as the gripes of citizens who choose not to vote.
The boundaries the judges drew delighted some Kansans and outraged others. The new maps resulted in district races with multiple incumbents and other districts that don’t have incumbents. Whether their decisions were stunning or predictable, intentional or coincidental, the judges created more than new districts; they created opportunities. We hope deserving veterans prevail, but this election is more likely than most to result in new faces and new ideas in the Capitol next January.
Kansas Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon recognized that, telling the AP, “I haven’t had this much fun in years. We got this court decision that threw everything up in the air, and it came down in logical districts.”
Those districts are more logical in some quarters than others, but Kansas ought to get used to them; the lines won’t change for another decade.
Given that the 2012 Legislature was roughly 75 percent Republican, Mrs. Wagnon’s delight is understandable. Democrats in Kansas need the breath of fresh air the judges provided. Whether they can take advantage of it is another question.
There won’t just be new Democrats running for legislative seats. There also will be plenty of Republicans. In fact, the Republican primaries, which in many districts will pit conservatives and tea partiers against moderates, could be more interesting than the general election.
For all the changes statewide, local voters will recognize most of the names on legislative ballots. Happily, redistricting removed any doubt about whether Bob Reader can seek the Republican nomination in the redrawn 22nd Senate District. He is comfortably in the district. Other Republican candidates in the 22nd District are the incumbent, Roger Reitz, and Joe Knopp, who served in the House more than 20 years ago. Another former House member, Tom Hawk, is the Democratic candidate.
In the 66th House District, incumbent Sydney Carlin will seek re-election against Lee Modesitt, who challenged her two years ago.
In Manhattan’s other House district, the 67th, Tom Phillips, a former Manhattan city commissioner who finished the unexpired term of Susan Mosier, will seek election against Aaron Estabrook, a Democrat who’s a U.S. veteran of Afghanistan and a KSU graduate.
In the 6th Board of Education District, Usha Reddi, a Manhattan teacher, will face Carol Viar of Salina in the Democratic primary. The winner will face Republican Deena Horst, also of Salina.
We’re fortunate in Manhattan to have credible candidates. We hope voters elsewhere are as fortunate and choose wisely this summer and fall.