It’s easy to oppose congressional earmarks… unless funding for highways or an airport or another key facility ends up in your district. Similarly, it’s easy to fault the political game that surrounds redistricting… unless you end up in the district you believe you ought to be in.
So it is with the tug of war over congressional redistricting in the Kansas Legislature. This isn’t just a theoretical matter for Manhattan and Riley County; the Kansas Senate is to vote on a proposal Wednesday that would move Riley and Pottawatomie counties into the First District.
Doing so would go against the expressed wishes of Second District U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, the counties’ legislative delegations, local government and civic leaders and the overwhelming majority of residents.
It isn’t that we have anything against the First District; in fact Manhattan, as its biggest city, might have more clout than it now has in the Second District.
But we’re part of the Second District’s culture. Our present district is home — and should remain home – to the state’s two largest military installations, Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth. A succession of representatives over the years has served not just the district but the state superbly in battling for those posts in Congress.
The Second District also is home to the state’s two largest academic institutions, Kansas State University and the University of Kansas. That constitutes another important common thread that serves both the district and the state well.
What’s more, Rep. Jenkins has made funding for NBAF a priority. The National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility will anchor the western terminus of a bioscience corridor that will extend through the entire Second District to Kansas City. To his credit, First District Rep. Tim Huelskamp has supported NBAF, but the handoff isn’t necessary.
In short, we belong in the Second District.
We hope state Sens. Roger Reitz and Mark Taddiken, both of whom represent Riley County, can find enough allies to defeat this misguided proposal. It’s worth noting, as Sen. Taddiken did, that the change would erode Republican control in the Second District. Such considerations needn’t overly influence the outcome, of course, but if they help a Senate majority see the wisdom of keeping Riley and Pottawatomie counties in the Second District, the entire state would be well served.