Representatives launch effort to keep area in 2nd District

By Paul Harris

Members of the Kansas House seem determined to keep Manhattan and Riley County in the 2nd Congressional District. As the House prepares to take up the issue of Congressional redistricting this week, House members have surfaced a half dozen new maps, every one of them leaving Manhattan in the Second District, and five of them assigning all of Riley County to that district.

It’s a sharp contrast to the map approved two weeks ago by the Kansas Senate, which shifted Manhattan, Riley and Pottawatomie counties into the First District.

Redistricting is done every 10 years in an effort to reflect changes in population. The 1st Congressional District needs to add around 70,000 people and Riley County can erase that deficit. Legislative leaders set a goal at the session’s outset of settling the redistricting issue by he end of February — Wednesday — although with the House yet to hold hearings that goal appears to be out of reach. State Rep. Sydney Carlin, a Manhattan Democrat, said the House will not even look at the Senate-passed map until noon Wednesday.

Manhattan has been in the 2nd Congressional District for as long as anyone can remember and the city’s leadership is solidly behind the status quo. They like the idea of being in the same district as the University of Kansas.

Rep. Richard Carlson, the St. Marys Republican who submitted one of the six House maps last week, said they also believe it facilitates support for the Animal Health Corridor, which stretches from Leavenworth to Manhattan.

Speaker of the House Mike O’Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, has already voiced support for keeping Riley County in the 2nd Congressional District, which has also been backed by Gov. Sam Brownback.

O’Neal submitted one of the maps. His would split the northern part of Riley County into the 1st Congressional District. Carlson’s map keeps all of Riley and Pottawatomie counties in the Second District.

Sen. Tim Owens, chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee, said he drew innumerable maps in an effort to keep Riley County in the 2nd District, but the move ended up splitting either Shawnee County or Sedgwick counties. That eventually led Owens to label the obstacle the “Manhattan problem.” The Senate map that shifted Manhattan into the First District was drawn by Owens.

State Sen. Mark Taddiken, who opposed Owens’ map, predicted that “Manhattan will be in the Second, wasn’t much support (for Owens’ map) in the Senate.

Rep. Tom Phillips the 67th District Republican who is less than 20 days in to his tenure after replacing Susan Mosier, said he is going to be a strong advocate for keeping Manhattan in the 2nd Congressional District.

Carlin also opposes the move, saying she does not think Manhattan deals with the same issues that face western Kansas residents.

Kansas State political science professor Joseph Aistrup, who has been covering redistricting since the 1990s, said certain things are clear about whatever map emerges. First, it won’t be drawn by a Democrat. Second, the new map has to keep Wyandotte and Johnson counties together. Of the various maps recently emanating from House members, Carlson’s is the only one that fits both of those criteria.

Aistrup gave Riley County a 60 percent chance of staying in the 2nd Congressional District when it’s all completed. He added, however, that being moved into the 1st Congressional District is not going to be the nail in the coffin that some people have predicted.

“Both (First District Rep. Tim Huelskamp and Second District Rep. Lynn Jenkins) support NBAF, both support the military,” Aistrup said. “I just don’t see the practical change.”

He also noted that Manhattan and Kansas State draw students from western Kansas. “And if you don’t like the elected official, you can rise up and run against them,” he added.

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