New Senate map keeps candidate out

By Paul Harris

The residence of one of two declared candidates for the 22nd District Senate race remained outside the proposed district boundaries following narrow Senate adoption of a new map Tuesday. But the incumbent senator in that district said the candidate had assured him he would take a new residence inside the district if necessary.

State Sen. Roger Reitz said conservative Republican challenger Bob Reader told Reitz during a phone call Wednesday morning that he would relocate if the district was not redrawn to include his residence. Reitz, who has yet to decide whether he is going to run in the upcoming election, said he was not concerned about the location of Reader’s residence in regard to the new Senate map, which passed the Senate 21-19 Tuesday afternoon.

“I did not talk to anyone,” Reitz said. “I’ll just let it all work out.”

Reader could not be reached by the Mercury for confirmation of his plans. His residence is located north of Manhattan on the north side of 52nd street, which is the northern boundary of the proposed new district. That boundary is about one mile south of the existing district boundary. The Senate district map still must be approved by the House, where its fate is uncertain. But if it is not changed, Reader will have to rent a house within the boundaries of the new district in order to be eligible to run.

There is precedent for that: Democrat Rusty Wilson did the same in the 2008 election, when he ran against Reitz.

The dispute is part of a larger one between Senate conservatives and moderates that has roiled Senate efforts to complete its map. Reader is only one of several conservative Republican challengers whose residences were drawn outside their districts by an earlier map, and although revisions made prior to passage Tuesday redrew two of those conservatives back into their districts, Reader and at least one other remain outside.

Another declared candidate in the Republican Senate primary, Joe Knopp, has voiced his displeasure toward the Senate’s action in drawing the northern boundary of the district literally across the street from Reader’s residence.

Reitz said he and Reader agree on a plethora of issues, but they do have their differences. “Where we disagree is social issues,” Reitz said.

Republican leaders in the Senate said their understanding was that if they redrew the map to accommodate two of the conservative challengers, House Speaker Mike O’Neal would not block passage of the Senate map.

But O’Neal told reporters after the debate that the House and the Senate did not have a previous agreement.

“I told the Senate leadership what my problems were, and I don’t appreciate being misrepresented on the floor of the Senate,” O’Neal said.

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook said, a leader of the conservative faction, told The Mercury Wednesday that “The only agreement that can take place are the votes on the floor. Anyone saying that is likely trying to pull the wool over someone’s eyes.”

The two challengers helped by the Tuesday revisions, Greg Smith of Overland Park and Brenda Landwehr of Wichita, are members of the House. Smith will be campaigning against Senate Redistricting chair Sen. Tim Owens and Landwehr against Sen. Jean Schodorf.

Pilcher-Cook has not seen the final map, but as she understands it, there is going to be “bumps” in the revised Ad Astra map that will take in both Smith and Landwehr. She predicted trouble for that approach.

“What court is not going to look at that and not think gerrymandering,” Pilcher-Cook said.

Reitz said losing Owens and Schodorf, both fellow moderates, in the upcoming elections would be a big blow to the state of Kansas.

“Mr. Owens is one of the best senators we have,” Reitz said. “He is incredibly competent and incredibly fair. Same thing applies to Schodorf. She is a tremendous asset to the state of Kansas.”

Another issue for Pilcher-Cook is the variations in the deviations. In each of the districts there can be a deviation of five percent in ether direction from 71,000.

“The eastern districts in Johnson County are fully developed and are losing population, yet they have a deviation of negative 4 percent,” she said. “While in western Kansas we gave them a plus 5 percent deviation. Their population is comparative to the eastern districts in Johnson County. I don’t understand the rationale.”

Reitz said he is concerned about Kansas’ future in the upcoming elections.

“Aug. 7 is the key day where we see if the Republican Party is going to shake itself out or is going to move harder and harder to the right,” he said of the primary election.

If Kansas does decide to move farther right, then Reitz said Gov. Sam Brownback will be able to pass whatever he wants.

Reitz said he plans on making a decision on his own political future at the end of the session.

Information from the Associated Press was used in the story.

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